Still not sure where you stand on whether or not to edit your photos?

If you do edit, should you edit all your photos the same?

What questions can you ask yourself as you make decisions in your editing?

Let’s give another nod to Shakespeare as we pursue our topic of editing or not.  I found a very helpful video by Mitchell Kanashkevich, who is a travel documentary photographer from Australia. He is helping me understand all the more why I want to edit and that I need to do it intentionally.

I would suggest that you view this video all the way through without stopping or taking notes.  Then read this post. Be aware that Mitchell will talk about his Lightroom editing class that he sells at the end of the video. I want you to know that I am not saying you must purchase his class.  That is for you to decide. I just wanted to share this video because he is so thoughtful in the way he decides how to post process each and every photo he takes. He shows the before and after of several photos in the video, explaining why he did what he did while editing. Essentially, he uses post-processing to better communicate his stories and better convey emotions.

The foundation of his method is to ask why should one edit? Not, how? It’s important to think of post-processing logically, avoid trends, and understand that visual communication needs to reflect the intended message. Photography is highly subjective and how you choose to edit a photo is unique to you. It seems that Mitchell does a lot of selective editing in regards to this.

Deal with the technical first

Mitchell suggests that before you even touch a photo, ask yourself some questions:

  • Is the image technically okay?
  • Is the exposure okay?
  • Is anything obviously odd?
Deal with the storytelling aspect and the emotions involved next
  • What’s the story, what’s the image about?
  • What’s distracting from the story?
  • What needs to stand out more?
  • In other words, what does this photo require to fulfill its intended purpose?
  • How did I feel at the scene and how do I want the viewer to feel?

In the light of the answers to the questions above, you can begin to make some editing changes:

  • Should the temperature of the photo be warm or cool?
  • Should the contrast make the photo “punchy” or soft?

This all depends on the atmosphere and the feelings you want the viewer to feel. Too much adjustment might even cause negative feelings in the viewer.

Take a look at Mitchell’s photos above.  The first photo is the unedited version and the next one is the final edited version. Mitchell explains in the video what changes he should make to tell a better story in this photo. Moving from left to right in explaining the arrows:

  • The yellow basket is a detractor from the story of the coffee ceremony, it needs to be darker/obscured
  • The face of the girl in the foreground needs to be lightened so you can see her better because she is one of the main subjects.
  • The area around the fire needs to be brightened so you can see details.
  • The woman’s dress and the foreground dirt in the right corner is too bright and detracts.
  • Finally, the smoke could be brighter as that is also key to the ceremony.

Different types of images require different approaches.  Sometimes you have to expose, while taking the photo, with the editing in mind. In the first unedited photo below, the sky is slightly overexposed and the men’s faces are slightly underexposed.  However, there is still enough information in the raw file to edit and bring back some detail in both the sky and the faces. Exposing is often a balancing act and its important not to lose certain details.

Another approach, which is a more advanced technique,  might be to capture 2 different exposures of the same scene (one overexposed and one underexposed) and do layer blending.  Then you can use either an HDR program/software or use an image editor like Photoshop to blend the two exposures and work on specific areas of an image.  In this case you must use a tripod to get the images to blend well. In the first photo below, you will see the two images that were blended in this way.  The final blended image follows and is also the featured image above.

Mitchell also addresses the question of whether one should use presets in editing.  If you want to know how he answers this question, you will have to watch the video yourself!

Final Takeaways

Mitchell leaves us with 9 final principles to remember and follow when editing.

  1. “Good post-processing is not about making it obvious that you are great at Lightroom or Photoshop”
  2. “Be aware, thoughtful, and intentional with your post-processing..”
  3. “Before all else, see if the photo is technically ok.  If it’s not, work to make it ok.”
  4. “Ask yourself: What is the story I am trying to communicate?”
  5. “Ask yourself: What feel/mood am I going for?”
  6. “Only make adjustments when there is a logical reason behind them.”
  7. “You can’t post-process all photos in the same way. Different images require different types of post-processing.”
  8. “Expose with post-processing in mind.”
  9. “When using presets, ask yourself the same kinds of questions I’ve mentioned throughout this video.”

If this thinking about editing/post-processing resonates with you, please contact me so I can help you learn how to edit. Go to the What I Do page on my website and check out the free consultation tab to sign up for a free consultation call.

If you are thinking to yourself that you could never do this kind of editing, you’d be wrong! Everyone can learn this and I’m here to help. I would love to help you meet your photographic goals!

Please also add your comments below to keep the conversation going about editing. I love to hear everyone’s opinion!

Enjoy the gallery below of more of Mitchell’s compelling photos!

Grandma and baby looking out a window

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