The First Year // Editing

While I was in the throws of learning how to use my camera and properly expose a photo, I quickly discovered that I couldn't do two really important things with the pictures I was taking.

1) I couldn't shoot in RAW* because I didn't have a program to open up those file types with and

2) I couldn't really edit a photo successfully with the meager programs I had on my computer. 

*I should mention that during this time, I also learned what it meant to shoot in RAW as opposed to JPEG. At first I was slightly intimidated because everything I read mentioned how the data for the picture was captured separately and not compressed into an actual image. I thought I would open up a RAW image and see a bunch of weird code that I wouldn’t know what to do with. I could not have been more wrong. Once I had a program that could open RAW files, all of my fears were put to ease and I realized why shooting in RAW was so important.

Enter Lightroom (LR). 

I knew LR was what a LOT of photographers used, but had heard some interesting things about PS Elements as well.  After trying out 30-day trials of both LR and PS Elements, I dove in and purchased LR.  LR was very intuitive and easy to use and I took quickly to it and began watching video after video of how to import, organize and edit my photos.

I also learned the difference in presets and actions. Presets are used in LR and actions are used in PS or versions of PS. They both do pretty much the same thing, just in different ways. They apply a set of changes to your photo based on what sort of look you want to achieve. All of the things can be done individually, but a preset or action is basically a saved set of steps so you don’t have to do everything individually to each photo each time. They can save you a ton of work.

I discovered early on that editing was really fun for me. It is where my artistic and creative side can really come out and flourish. I enjoy taking pictures immensely, but when you are taking photos of people, there is a whole other set of things you are focused on in addition to the actual picture taking, so editing gave me the opportunity to really sit and focus on being creative in the moment without having to think of a million other things at the same time.

I fell into the trap that a lot of newer photographers do as well and ended up purchasing a few different presets from some different companies. While they are generally fun to play around with, some are just not anything you would ever use for a client or not really your style. In the early days, I also think that since the preset made my photo look “different” that meant that it looked “good.” Since then I have really grown into my style and look back at what I thought looked great and shake my head and grin a little bit at my naiveté. 

I will say that using presets did teach me a lot about how to edit without them. With most presets once you click on it, you can see what it has done to your photo. You can see what happened to the contrast, vibrance etc…and by messing with the sliders back and forth you can see what aspect of the photo is changing.

In December of 2013 I signed up for Creative Cloud subscription, which gives me LR and PS for a set amount per month. All updates are available for download as well. There is a lot of controversy over this but I felt it was right for me at the time. Who knows what the future will bring. However, with the addition of PS, a whole world of editing was opening up to me by way of actions. Plus, you can do SO MANY things in PS that are more focused on design rather than photo editing that it really opens up the way to do some cool things for your business.

For the past 6 months I have learned a lot about PS. I still prefer to do most of my work in LR, mostly because it’s just so quick. You can make batch adjustments to photos in seconds. You can export quickly and with different settings that are easy to understand.

I mostly edit by hand. There are maybe three or four presets that I do apply here and there but most of my other adjustments are done by manual adjustment. The gradient tool is probably my favorite editing tool so far. I use it ALL THE TIME. Spot healing and some light skin softening brushes are also commonly used. When I do take a photo into PS its usually because there is a specific look I am wanting to achieve that cannot easily be done in LR.

During this past year I have learned a lot about myself and my art. I study intensely what others do as well and find it so interesting how others approach their art as well. It is a constant challenge to remind yourself that as an artist, you are not aiming to recreate someone else’s work, you are aiming to create your own unique vision. I feel my eye has become more fine-tuned to pick up on these nuances when looking at others work.  

The First Year // The first few months


The first few months of my photography journey were exhilarating, somewhat frustrating and a fury of learning and growth. I started my journey with a Canon Rebel t3i and a couple of kit lenses. This was all a gift from my loving parents for my birthday. I was so intimidated by all of the buttons on the camera that I bought a book that was more extensive than the camera manual itself in order to learn what they all meant. I spent weeks and weeks googling, reading and researching all I could on "learning digital photography." 

I discovered the exposure triangle, aperture, shutter speed and ISO and how they all worked together. Even though I "got it" through reading, actually taking a well exposed photo was another story. I went on walks around my neighborhood over and over again looking for things to photograph. 

Through more research and study I learned about metering and this is where a lot clicked for me. Understanding how the camera meter worked and the different types (spot, evaluative, partial etc...) and then adjusting shutter to achieve proper exposure just "made sense" to me and my photos all of a sudden became much better. I could properly expose a photo the first time instead of constantly seeing an all-white or all black screen (overexposed or underexposed) and then having to try various settings over and over again to get it right.

Figuring out how to properly expose a photo in camera will probably be a lifelong journey. So much artistic vision goes into the exposure alone! There are many reasons for this, but here are the main two that I have discovered during this past year: 

First, to understand how to properly expose a photo you have to understand light in a very profound way. You have to understand where it is coming from, how it is hitting your subject, what temperature it is and how your camera will react to it. That may seem simple, but in reality is extremely complicated. Every time you pick up your camera, the light is different. The variables are constantly changing. 

Secondly, you have to understand HOW you want to expose the photo. “Proper” exposure is somewhat misleading. What does that essentially even mean? That your highlights aren't blown and your blacks aren't clipped, sure, but those affects may be what you WANT to achieve.

Maybe you have a beautiful stream of light barely hitting your subject and you want that portion to be properly exposed to reveal detail, but you want everything else to be shadowed. Maybe you want a portion of the photo to be blown. You are the artist, you have the choice. Therefore, “properly” exposing a photo to match my vision for the photo will, in my opinion, be a lifelong pursuit. 

At this stage, a year and a half in, I feel comfortable with my camera. I shoot only in manual. I have tried other settings (AV, TV) and proceed to confuse myself, so I just stick with what I have come to know. Exposure is something I work on every.single.time I shoot, for fun or for work.

The first few months were a photography whirlwind. I spent the majority of my time reading and practicing. While that hasn't changed a TON since then, I find that WHAT I read now and WHAT I practice on now are very different. But that's how progress works right? Right. 

Next time we will talk about editing. Till then,