Photography tips – the making of a memory

Last week I was asked to share more about my photo processing.  I thought I would add a bit to what I have already shared on this subject.

I think one of the main steps in editing a photo is choosing which one to edit.  I don’t know about you, but I take a LOT of photos.  When I download them from my camera, I go through them once and delete the out of focus, bad compositions, closed eyes, over/under-exposed shots and ones that have various flaws that I know I can’t rescue.  The only ones in those categories that I will keep are those that have priceless-what-a-moment-too-cute-for-words-expressions.

Next, I go through the survivors and decide which ones have the best focus, best compositions, best color, best expressions, etc.  There may be ten similar photos that are all cute, and I will just choose the cutest one with the best of everything to edit.  I try to pick ones that I don’t have to crop off too much just in case I want to enlarge it someday.

Once I have that perfect photo, I open it up in Photoshop and start editing.  One of the wonderful things about CS3/4/5 is that you can write actions that do all the editing steps at the click of a button.  I can even do batch editing having it edit all the pictures that are open in the program at once.  It is a nice time saver…but not worth the full price of the program.  That is just crazy.  Lightroom can do similar things, too.

After I run my action, I start adjusting and tweaking.  Every picture has different lighting, coloring, contrast, etc.  It is hard to say that just one setting will cover all those scenarios.  If a picture needs a certain amount of contrast, but in adding that contrast will create blowouts in the highlights, this means I will have to erase parts of that adjustment layer to bring back the detail.

I usually do a bit of burning and dodging to add some drama, and if I want the colors to pop I may sweep the saturation tool (lightly) over those areas.

I think one important thing to keep in mind is look at your photos and make sure there isn’t a lot of clutter in the shot.  I try to take my pictures with the least amount of clutter as possible.  I will move around them until I find a good mostly-clean shot.  Let’s face it, kids are messy.  I’d rather not have a picture of them with lots of the mess photographed…it’s not exactly appealing, although quite realistic. 😉

Sometimes you just have to look through the clutter.


This is where it started out:


Having to crop so much out means that I can’t blow it up huge, or else it will be a bit pixelated.  I didn’t have much choice, though.  I was standing in the barn and there were two humans and two other horses in my way…and I was holding Anya.  Sometimes you just gotta take the shot and hope you can fix it later.  Never hurts to try!

I must say, though, it would be hard for me to justify the amount of time I spend monkeying around on my photos if I did this professionally.  I think some photographers spend barely anytime processing their photos.  A friend of mine had a photographer deliver her 800+ photos from her wedding and nary a one was processed or possibly even deleted.  They were expensive in the first place and not having any processed seemed a bit much to me.  It was also pretty overwhelming to have to weed through that many photos, some of which were duplicate shots and should have been deleted.  Tons of blowouts, too.  Isn’t that what they get paid to do?

So, that’s a bit more on my process.  I think I have detailed most of my process in the various tips I have already posted.  Some of what I do is a mish mash of everything, it just depends on what the photograph needs.  When I have a photo that I truly love it isn’t unusual for me to take a half-hour to tweak it.   These are our memories, and I love bringing out the best in them.

My best advice is just practice with the program and see all the things you can do with it.  That is how I learned, with lots of hours spent at the computer trying different things and seeing what looks best.  It also helps you develop your own style, and helps you find out what you like best.

As always, let me know if you have any questions. 🙂

7 Replies to “Photography tips – the making of a memory”

  1. I am working on this whole processing thing. I have barely scratched the surface of PS Elements, I generally use the “quick fixes” because I don’t know what else to do. I’m slowly learning how to use layers and finding where the “tools” actually are. I’m getting there! And I will try the textures sometime, I have the post starred, so I can come back to it sometime, but right now is not the time for me to try elaborate editing. SO anyway, I guess it is early and I am rambling on cause it’s either blabber about PS or allow the cartoons in the background to intrude on my peaceful computer time. So, I’ll blabber.

  2. I mostly do the same as you. I immediately delete anything that’s out of focus or just bad. Then I look through my duplicate shots (I often take 10 of almost the exact same landscape) and choose the best 3–then I delete the rest of those, too.

    I don’t do as much processing as you do, though. Everything I post on my blog and on Flickr has been opened in Photoshop, and generally I’ll run a defog action and maybe crop some. But often that’s all I’ll do. If I’ve messed with it, you’ll likely know it, because it won’t look like most of my other photos 🙂

  3. I actually had a friend once who wanted ALL of the photos I took of her without editing or deleting – I said NO WAY!!!! There were too many that needed to be axed! I’m surprised a “professional” would hand over 800+ unedited pictures. Yikes.
    Fun theme and GREAT advice 🙂

  4. you, my friend, are a processing rock star! I don’t have Photoshop, i use corel pro photo, but my dodge/burn/saturation NEVER turns out like that! WOW!


  5. it’s good to know i’m not the only one who does this, though i don’t know if i would’ve thought it was worth it to “save” this picture. i’m so glad you did though – it turned out soooo beautifully! 🙂 it would’ve been a shame to have been tossed aside just because it wasn’t awesome SOC. hope that makes sense. it’s definitely meant to be a compliment. 🙂

  6. Sounds very similar to my process! I may start with 100 photos and end up with only 15 “keepers.” 🙂 I do crave the full version of PS for actions and batch processing – would be a big timer saver. I have also thought about the fact that I could never spend this much time editing if I were to go pro. I need to streamline my process.

    And, wow, amazing that you saved the horsie shot! You are the queen!

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