What makes a photo professionally edited?

I was driving to work the other day, thinking about marketing content.  This, friends, is what I do when I don’t have the kids in the car with me, distracting me with a game of “Would You Rather,” or serenading me with “Peanut Butter Jelly-Time.”  I know, I lead a glamorous life!  A thought occurred to me, and I decided it would make a great blog post topic.

Today, I’m going to talk to you about “professionally” edited photos.

This is one of those services that most photographers list as part of their session packages.  But, I wondered, what do our clients know about photo editing?  Can you distinguish between an edited image and one that comes “straight out of the camera?”  Photographers are artists, so how they edit depends on creative taste, programs they use, and the time they put into their work.  That leaves a really wide scope in terms of editing.  Some people like really clean, natural edits.  Other people prefer the fine art look, with added sunflares, or magical bubbles or butterflies to enhance the effect of the image.  Some photographers have a light and airy style, while others are dark and moody.  When you’re considering hiring a photographer, this is why it’s so important to take a good look at his or her portfolio.   Consider your personal tastes  in decorating, fashion, and art.  I bet if you studied your house, you would get a good sense of what whether you are a “light and airy” person, someone who likes bold colors, or someone who likes dark and muted schemes.  You want a photographer whose body of work appeals to your tastes!  I mean, sure – I understand that price is a big piece of the puzzle, but if you really want to be happy with your photos, you want them to appeal to your tastes, too.

But beyond the photographer’s artistic style, what makes a photo professionally edited?    To give you an idea, I’ll share some of my images SOOC (straight out of camera) with the finished versions.  This is going to be a humbling experience.  I am a crooked shooter, amongst other things, even on my best days.

Here is the cover image of my website.  It’s an image I love, for the warmth and the moment, particularly Mom’s smile right at the camera.

Here it is, in all its SOOC glory.  I shoot in Kelvin and I did not change during our session, so it’s a bit cool.  It’s also a little dark because I really wanted to retain the light I filtered through the branches left of Dad, and also to catch it in the little one’s hair.  Also, it’s a super wide shot.  I like shooting wide, but during the editing process, I decided that this image could do with a crop.

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As you can see, I cropped in to focus on the family more.  You may notice, now that you can spot the differences, that I warmed the image up quite a bit and did some tweaking to the contrast and colors that matches my personal preference.

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Here’s another recent image.  I shot it so wide I managed to get other people in the background.  And – okay – getting four kids to face the camera all together is a challenge.  This mom had already told me she didn’t expect all her children to be smiling at the camera (or even be present in all of the shots – LOL) – but it was one of the better “grandparent” photos I got in the 20 minutes we were together.  (This is what I call the images where everyone is posed nicely and looking at the camera, because Grandma wants to see their faces!)

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So, adding some warmth, contrast… I got this:

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But no, that still wasn’t terrific, so I did an infamous head swap.  Or here, it was head and some shoulders.  I had taken several images together, so I could salvage that upturned head!  I can’t always do this seamlessly, but when I can, I take the time to do it in at least one image.  Oh, and yes, I removed the gentleman on the edge of the frame.

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And one more – to show you, yes – I shoot crookedly.  This was once the sun was setting behind trees – so again, it needed a boost of warmth, contrast, and serious, serious straightening.

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Afterwards, it turned into this!  Instead of being distracted by the crooked shapes, you can really appreciate all the lines and shapes adding interest to their little moment!

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So, hopefully now, when you’re looking at hiring a photographer, you have a better idea of what makes an image edited, what goes into photo editing, and how editing styles can differ.  My personal style, as it’s developing, tends to be on the warmer side, with a good contrast between light and shadow, as well as bold colors.  It takes time to edit your images to how I want them, and I do factor that into my session price.  But now you know why, and what kinds of things you can expect when I “professionally edit” my photography.

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