Before and After Editing

April 1, 2014

This post could also be titled, “Why does it take so long to get my pictures back after our session?”  ha!  (And as a side note, for any interested future clients, my processing time is fairly average–from what I gather in talking to other photographers.  I usually post the online proofing gallery a week after the photo session, then once my clients make their choices on their favorite images, I send the final edits to them in about 2 weeks.)

So what exactly happens after a session?

First, I upload all of the RAW images to my Lightroom Software.  I take a lot of photos in a session.  A LOT!  I can’t help it.  Ideally, my priority would be quality over quantity, but when you are dealing with fast-moving children, there are so many facial expressions and changes of movement and pose from one second to another.  If you don’t snap quickly and often, you miss so much!  If I were a food photographer, and my subjects didn’t move (or smile), I would probably take far fewer shots.  ;P

Here’s what my screen looks like as I’m staring at the results of my heavy shutter finger.

Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 8.14.03 PM

So culling through my abundant photos takes some time.  I delete any obvious ones:  blurred/out of focus pics, blinks, grimaces, etc…. get tossed out.   Then I start flagging any obvious keepers.  My favorites get added to my special folder for posting on facebook or adding to my portfolio later.  Last, I flag several options from each pose or setup to send to the client proofing gallery.  So if I take ten photos of a certain pose, maybe I delete one (blurry or someone was blinking), add one to my favorites folder and the client gallery, and also add four or five to the client gallery.  I really like clients to be able to choose their favorite images.  My favorites are not always client favorites.  My eye is looking at the photography and overall beauty of the image, but sometimes clients have personal preferences that have nothing to do with the photographic technique.  Maybe little Tommy makes a certain funny expression with his tongue sticking out after he smiles, and that is what his parents want to get captured.  At first glance, if I didn’t let clients choose their own images, I might never pick the tongue-photo.  To me, it might not mean anything special if I don’t know all of the little quirks and charms of your children.  Or, when it comes to adults, many people have certain angles they prefer of themselves, or maybe they are self-conscious about a certain trait and want to choose the images that best minimize it.  It would be much faster for me to choose your images for you.  I take 200-400 images at a session and usually send at least 100 images to clients in the proofing gallery.  If I were to choose and edit my 20 favorites, it would be immensely more efficient and time-saving.  However, I have heard clients tell me time and time again that they love being able to choose.  So I’m willing to put in the extra time so that my clients are happy!  🙂

After I have chosen all of the images for the client proofing gallery, I use Lightroom to do basic edits on them.  This is where I adjust exposure, light balance, contrast, and some general edits that affect the overall photo (meaning, I don’t do any hand-edits here).  This is not my final edit, but it brings the image to a nice clean base for showing to the client.  I wouldn’t have time to do hand-edits on over 100 proofs, and it would be a waste of time since clients won’t be keeping these un-edited proofs.  These are what you see when you get the proof gallery.

Below is an example of a RAW image in Lightroom BEFORE I have done anything to it.  Yikes.  I would like to ideally take every shot with perfect exposure and white balance, but in some cases (like this one, especially), I was literally running around after a very busy toddler in and out of different lighting settings and did not have enough time to adjust my camera settings.  I wouldn’t want to present this to a client, because they might not have a good vision of the final product when seeing it.  Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 8.23.09 PM

After I do my basic Lightroom edits, I bring up the exposure, add some warmth and a few other little touches here and there, and I end up with this as the proof.

Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 8.14.56 PM

It’s certainly better, and good enough to show a client in the proofing gallery, but by no means is it the final product.

Here’s a side-by-side for comparison.  RAW image vs. proof:

Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 8.16.25 PM

Then, once my clients send me an email with their favorites, I export those proofs to Photoshop and do the final editing. This is where I remove scratches, blemishes, stray hairs, soften wrinkles (but not always–only if clients want it!), remove background distractions, swap heads (Sometimes in group photos, one person is smiling in only one of the shots, but everyone else is smiling in a different shot.  In Photoshop, I can copy his smiling face and paste it onto the other shot to get a final product where everyone is smiling.  Voila!)  In this photo, I didn’t like the green sunflare on her head, so I removed that in Photoshop.  After “fixing” or touching up the images, I add a series of sharpening, depth, and stylized edits to the photos that make them my own artistic style.

Here is the proof and the final photoshop edit:

Phoenix Baby Photographer_0370

And here is a larger version of my final edit.


So there you have it!  My workflow from beginning to end.  🙂


Excellent article!! It was really helpful to know how a professional photographer handles this issue. Lovely photo, by the way!

Thank you Ariel!