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Photo Editing Before and After

***PLEASE NOTE*** My editing style has changed TREMENDOUSLY in the 2 years since I posted this tutorial and the above picture^. I currently hand edit 98% of the time, which means I'm not using someone's presets/actions to make decisions about the picture for me -- I have full control over editing. Occasionally I will add a small touch of a "famous" action here or there, but mostly it is all me. I was also shooting with a completely different outfit back then. I was using a Nikon D40 with its kit lens (highly, highly, HIGHLY discourage anyone from using a kit lens as they are not sharp and full of weird color casts that take AGES to correct, especially over skin tones). I then moved on to a Nikon D200 and a 50mm prime lens. I am now using a D700 and a Tamron lens. I still always shoot in manual, which is how I get my images to be exposed properly. However, now I make white ballance adjustments in-camera as I shoot if I'm not happy with the white ballance I'm seeing.

Shooting with:

a.) a good lens purchased separately from your camera

b.) in manual mode

c.) with the proper white balance (not overly blue/green/pink/yellow)

will make editing significantly easier. This is what EVERY professional does, there is no magic to getting pictures that are correct technically. Get a good picture IN CAMERA and then you are free to add modifications that reflect your personal style without having to first deal with a ton of corrections.

If anyone is interested in knowing more about how I shoot, how I work with clients, how I edit, manipulating light, legal issues, etc. etc. Please inquire about mentoring sessions.
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 (From 2010)
I decided to write up a little tutorial about how I edit my images for anyone who might be curious as to how I go about post-processing. The "original" photo above is a pretty standard example of what my photos look like coming straight off the camera. I shoot mostly in manual mode (occasionally auto; I know, I know, but sometimes I'm in a situation where metering would take too long (What I Know Now In 2012: if there is a situation where metering takes "too long," either your camera isn't sophisticated enough to meter a wide enough range of situations OR you need more practice metering. Manual mode DOES work.)) because I like to under-expose my images. I like how it gives me smoother, richer tones when I edit the photo later. I'm not really into trendy, bright, high-contrast images. If you look at photos from the all-time greats, you see that they shot and processed their images so that tones were smooth and rich. I'm always trying to achieve those tones in my photography. And now that we've got all that out of the way...

I edit my photos first in Adobe Lightroom. I've tried Photoshop various times in the past and also just downloaded the free trial of CS5, but I just can't get into it. I actually prefer Gimp to Photoshop. Gasp in horror if you like, but it's true. :) For this photo, I used SarahJi Retro Warmth preset and then spent time fiddling with all the settings (exposure, brightness, curves, saturation, etc.) until I got the tones and level of brightness I like. Then I put on the rounded corners and export.

Next I opened in Gimp. The tones were to my liking after editing in Lightroom and did not need any further curves adjustments so I proceeded on to painting with light. I don't usually burn, but I like to dodge areas that need brightening, usually the subject's face.

After that, I make a duplicate copy to resize and watermark for the web and I'm done. And that's my current method. Which could change at any time, lol.


 Ashlee Lauren is a photographer in Fort Wayne, Indiana specializing luxury fashion senior photography. Step out of cliche studio portrait photography and into a world that is dazzling with light, motion, and beauty. Experience the difference of on location photography in Indiana!


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