How to Experiment with Different Editing Styles to Find Your Own
Photography is an art form and like every art form, it goes through its fair share of evolution. Hence, it is only fair that as photographers (artists of this trade), we too go through an evolution process of defining and redefining our artistic flair. This redefinition can take place in many different ways. It can be technical (going from digital to film or vice-versa) or it can be business (changing genres of what you photograph). Another way you can evolve as a photographer is with your editing style. And it is perfectly okay and acceptable to make one or all of these changes in your personal photographic journey.
For a photographer, his or her images are the art form. Experimenting with the images is creatively satisfying.
There comes a point in one’s career when you really take a hard look at what your journey has been. What you have been through to get here and where you are headed. While you may call this a mid-life crisis of some sort, I call it reassessing your strengths, talents, and goals.
A few years ago, while I was searching for what style of photography appealed to me, I was instantly drawn to bright and airy images with lots of light and emotion. This kind of images really inspire me and make me happy. But of late, I have been drawn to more moody contrasty images that are still full of emotion. I don’t consider this a flaw or a failure of my part but instead, choose to look at it as a natural evolution in my journey as an artist.
The same subject shot two different ways. I love them both equally and feel like both represent the message/story I wanted to convey about summer’s favorite produce – blueberries!
If you are at such crossroads, I encourage you to fully explore each of these paths and find a way to integrate it with your existing work. I have found that, if done correctly, your clients (or fans) will also value this evolution process as a sign of internal growth of your talent.
There are a few ways to go about this discovery.
1 – Identify your personal editing style
What style of images are you most drawn to? In other words, when you seek inspiration what sort of images do you gravitate towards? For me, images that are full of emotion and personality really call out my name! That is my first requirement; what story is the photographer trying to communicate.
Then I look for processing – is it dark and moody, or full of light and crisp? I like airy, light images just slightly more than dark and moody ones but they both appeal to me. My personal opinion – I am not inspired by sepia or warmer toned black and white, it’s just my personal preference. If that is what moves and motivates you, you own it and rock that style!
A clean, crisp, bright edit brings out the freshness of the florals against the blue backdrop of the chairs.
2 – Research all other styles that inspire you
There are a few common editing styles that seems to surface over time. This is by no means a comprehensive list, just some that I noticed as I browsed through the internet and Pinterest for inspiration.
Those images that appear as if a slight hazy filter has been placed consistently over the image.
Matte style typically has blacks which are not sure 100% as if the image was printed on matte paper. (see original image below)
A slight haze like finish that is predominately seen over the florals (especially comparing to the earlier image).
Images where all the colors are very muted. This style seems to be quite popular lately, especially images where the greenery (i.e. trees and brushes) are toned down in the saturation of green tones.
A desaturated look where all the colors are muted from the original vibrancy seen in the first image of this series. The reds are toned down, the greens and blues are also muted (reduced in intensity).
As Per Wikipedia, HDR or High Dynamic Range is the effect to reproduce a greater dynamic range of luminosity than what is typical of standard digital imagery. I have seen this typically with urban night shots but in theory, this effect can be applied to any image.
HDR here almost has the opposite effect of desaturated colors…the greens, reds, and pinks seem to pop in this image.
This quite simply means single color and is most commonly used in black and white images.
3 – Identify artists that do these things well and follow them
There are many artists that excel at one or more of these types of editing styles. Once you have identified the ones you want to experiment with, find those artists and follow their work. You will begin to see a pattern in their shooting and editing style that may provide you with the right amount of motivation to try and achieve a certain look for your own portfolio and images.
4 – Shoot for a particular style and close to your vision
This ties in with the above two points. Once you have identified the type of look you want to achieve, take the time and effort to set up all the parameters needed to achieve it. For example, if I am aiming for a dark and moody look to my image I will look for lighting, textures, and tones that will support that type of imagery. I will not set up the shoot in the brightest part of my house where sunlight fills the room.
This food editorial shot was set up in my basement studio on a dark cloudy day to minimize the amount of light hitting the overall scene. Additionally the dark tones of the bread and the wood board compliment the look, feel, and tone of this image.
5 – Invest in LR presets or PS actions or experiment
There are numerous editing aids out there for almost every style of photography. Just google the kind of look you want to achieve and chances are someone has created a template/preset/action for that effect. Some editing aids are free while others cost money. Depending on your personal preference, you can choose to use these aids or not. My primary editing software is Lightroom and sometimes I will use a free preset just to see if I like that style of editing before I go down the path of additional research and experimentation with my own shooting style.
At the end of the day, there are many different ways to look at your creativity and your photography style. There will always be those of us who go through life with the mindset of – Don’t fix what isn’t broken – while others follow the logic of – Change it up, mix it up, rock that boat…fall in the water and you will learn to swim! No matter what camp you belong to, the message I want to leave with you is that do that what makes photography fun, interesting and creatively challenging for you!
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