Blog Archive

Editing: The Unseen Art

People expect to hire a photographer and receive pictures but many times, not much thought is given to that period of time between snapping the shutter and delivering the image. When I tell a client the amount of work that goes in to editing an image, they often walk away with a better understanding of the entire photographic process and a deeper appreciation for the depth of skills that we as artists possess in order to produce world-class imagery.

Since this is something I've found myself explaining time and again, I felt it would be useful to post a series of images taking you from an untouched image to the finished product. Also, this is just an example. Sometimes we do less editing and sometimes more...this is just to give a general idea of what go into a headshot portrait session. 

1. First of all, we have to take our picture. If you're hiring a pro, you're paying for years of experience, resulting in someone who has learned to properly expose an image in all sorts of settings and under the pressure of time and - sometimes - an overbearing mother of the bride (but not your mother, of course!) Here's an image I took today while shooting for the UConn School of Business. This is no editing, straight out of camera. Confident and natural pose.

2. The first touches are adjusting the exposure and lighting. I like my ambient exposure to be 1-2 stops below my light, so I dropped the exposure in lightroom and upped the highlights. I also started to drop the contrast to preserve some of the darker areas in the image. I also use a gradient filter to drop the exposure of the concrete to our subject's right (camera left) because as I upped the highlights, it was competing with the highlights on her face and I wanted her skin to be the brightest spot in the image, so as to draw the viewer's eye. Lastly, I did a basic rotate and crop to have our subject take up more of the frame while keeping her hands (interesting pose) and head within the image.

3. In the next image, you'll see that the contrast was dropped more, so we can preserve her jawline and some of the details in the brick. This is also the step we did skin retouching. We use a custom brush in lightroom to soften the skin. This isn't a reflection on her skin, but is a typical part of the process we take with any commercial shoot. This is in part because it helps distribute the light more evenly across a face. Some people take offense thinking there's something wrong with their skin but it's just part of our retouching process that ultimately results in a more pleasing image. We also zoom in to 200% and make some adjustments on the eyes. Here, we brought up the highlights/exposure of the white and did a separate brush for the iris to bring out the natural eye color but adjusting clarity and highlights. From a distance, this really makes a difference. We also did a slight increase in overall sharpness at this point.

4. Our last adjustments are personal color/style preference. We chose this image because it has that semi-serious CEO-look to it, so we dropped a bit of the overall warmth by reducing vibrance. We brought overall clarity up just a touch to give a slight push to the edges and called it a day.

Here's a comparison photo for you to review. You can see the image we began with and the final image to the right. This isn't the same treatment we would use on any image, it just happened to be the feel we were going for in this photo.

So there you have it! Not every photographer takes the time (or has the skillset) to do this, but it's an integral part of my workflow. Not for nothing, but this is why we don't deliver RAW're getting something that is only half-done in my eyes and doesn't represent my brand or your photos in the best possible way. 

Breakfast Blend: The Rise of Fall

New England is super unique and that's why I love living here. But sometimes I catch myself gazing into utopian Colorado scenes on Instagram or myriad vintage photos streaming from Seattle. I get lost in the cool leather boots and endless flannel with misty mountains as a backdrop. I start to think I'd prefer to be there, amidst the sea of photographers, moving with the masses like one small thread on faded and ironic denim. 

For the record, I tried the hipster thing…once. Because aren't all photographers hipsters? You'd think so if you spent enough time on social media. Anyway, I went to some shop that sold expensive skinny jeans. They didn't go over my calf muscle. Seriously. I was sweating just trying to get them up my freakishly large lower leg. It was the beginning and end of my short-lived hipster dream. I was happy though, because as silly as this story is, the last thing I really wanted was to fall in line with some new trend - even if that trend tries really hard not to be a trend.

This post isn't about dissing skinny jeans, oversized sock hats and big glasses you don't have a prescription for (though it is kind of fun). I have lots of stylish friends who take drool-worthy photographs. This post is about learning to be satisfied where I am, when I am and with who I am. It's been an interesting journey to 26, with some serious life changes in my early 20's, and lots of important questions going half-answered until now. I'm trying to fill in some of those spaces now between two jobs, two kids and a receding hairline. It's not easy- but then again I never expected it to be.

Once life hits warp speed, you realize how important it is to be mindful and focused on the things that matter most. God and family come first, always. Climbing city skylines and road trips might call out my thirst for adventure but fade into the background as the kids get fevers or have soccer practice. Wishing to be somewhere else, or someone else, even mildly, causes us to miss the most significant moments happening right here and the adventure never leaves, it just looks different.

I don't want to be in Colorado right now, as beautiful as it is. I want to be here, in New England, a few miles from the trails I used to ride my bike on as a kid. I want to walk under the trees with leaves the color of fire, holding the still small hands of my children. Lord knows they only get bigger from here. I want to be with my wife, sleepily going over our budget and schedule, trying to make ends meet and still go to bed with a smile. I want to seek the trails early in the morning with a few good men, before the children wake, to catch the sunrise over our mostly small hills in Connecticut. I want this adventure, the one God has given my family, here in New England. I am happy here and I hope you are too, wherever you are, whenever your are, whoever you are. Make today count.

Kelly + Nick: Oronoque Country Club, CT

I remember getting coffee with these guys a few months back. It was the kind of meeting that quickly turned into simple conversation and laughs, with a little business thrown in. Kelly and Nick are the couple to hang out with. They're relaxed and in love and that was reflected on their wedding day! Mark and I were honored to be a part of this wedding and are super excited to share some images with you!