Behind the Scenes: How I edit photos (with before & after examples)

Have you ever wondered what a photographer means when they say they edit the photos? Do they click on a button to add a filter and hey presto? Well not quite. There's quite a bit of prep to do before any final tones can be added.

As part of my service, I provide beautiful edited photos for all my clients. Obviously, the raw ingredients have to be there in the first place (the subject, moment, lighting, composition), but the editing process is what brings out the magic in the photos.

It can be time-consuming work but it’s part of the process and part of the photographer’s vision. And I want my clients to get something really special.

My Equipment

In my teeny weeny office (aka my editing suite) I have:

  • A huge 27" screen so I can see what images will look like when printed in a large size (essential for not missing any details)
  • A Wacom pad (editing tablet)
  • A laptop
  • Adobe Lightroom
  • Adobe Photoshop

The Process

My editing process includes:

Tweak the colours and exposure

The aim is to be the batch of photos looking similar so they look like part of the same set and can be displayed together. You'd be surprised how much colours can change in one outdoor shoot, with constant light changes.

Here's a photo taken outside and another, just a few seconds later.

Dodge & burn the image

This means paint over various parts of the image to lighten or darken parts of the image to enhance the subject or help tell a story. This process used to be done using chemicals in the dark room but now it’s done in Adobe.

Touch up skin

Smooth out uneven skin tone, remove any blemishes and shadows and make them look beautiful. It's a natural looking edit that doesn't look overdone. I don't touch anything permanent (scars) unless you ask me to.

Remove distractions

Sometimes things in the distance can help to tell a story but if they're a distraction, I might remove them e.g. people in the distance. In this example, I liked the moment but wanted her to appear surrounded in lavender so I added more.

Remove stray hairs

Then I edit out any stray hairs. I take care to avoid these when shooting but they’re not always easy to spot at the time and there’s always one (and it’s usually right over an eye).

Add finishing touches & tones

In the first image, I wanted to emphasise her beautiful lashes and pink cheeks. I also edited this shoot in black & white which were gorgeous too.

Repeat 39 times

(for a shoot with 40 images)   

There can be lots more parts, but these are the main ones.

*disclaimer, I use the editing process to bring out the best from an image but my goal when shooting is always to get the main elements of shot right, in-camera, in the first place.

Effective editing is subtle and will add to the overall look of an image, rather than make it look over-done, but it can be very time-consuming and therefore 'extras' may incur an additional fee.

Please don't presume I will edit something out without checking beforehand. E.g. removing a tattoo as it may not be possible and / or it may be very time-consuming. However, if it can be done, I'm happy to give you a quote.

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Paula Deegan Photography

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