Before and After: A Look at My Workflow

With lots of technology and editing software at our fingertips, I've found that many of my clients are curious about my post-processing techniques. How much editing goes into each image? Are my images heavily photoshopped? 

I recently posted a mini version of this blog post on Instagram, and after receiving positive feedback, I've decided to go more in-depth about my post-processing workflow.

 

First off, I import my photo(s) into Lightroom. I exclusively use Lightroom for all of my post-processing. 

For me, it is extremely important that what I shoot in camera turns out very close to what I give my client. That being said, I try to keep my workflow as minimalistic as possible. Not only does that allow me to have a faster turnaround on my photos for my clients, it also forces me to be precise and thoughtful when shooting.

 

Once my photo(s) are uploaded, I chose a preset as a way to do some color correction. I have a few favorites that I use depending on the lighting in the photo, and for overcast skies the S - FUJI 800z+ is one of my favorites.

Photographers have varying opinions when it comes to the use of presets, but it works well for my workflow and so I continue to use them. Specifically, I use the VSCO Film 01 preset package from VSCO. It's basic, minimalistic, and great for portrait photography. 

After I've selected my preset, I do minor adjustments to its contrast, exposure, and clarity. 

Typically, I increase the contrast to anywhere between 9-25. When it comes to exposure, what I do varies per image. I try to expose my images exactly as I want them to be whenever I'm shooting, but if for some reason I am unable to do that, I underexpose my image in camera and do a small increase of exposure in post-processing. 

While softer images have their place, I prefer most of my images to be clean and clear, so giving a slight increase to the clarity (about 3-5) has become a regular part of my workflow.

As you can see in the image above, I try to match the actual color of the subject. The stairs (pictured above) have a rose hue to them, but due to the overcast, gray skies, that rose hue got washed out. Through use of the preset, I was able to bring back the rosy hue to the stairs (as you can see on the back railing) and still maintain the true colors of the other objects in the image. 

Once I finish doing my minor contrast, exposure, and clarity adjustments, I go over the image again to make sure that the colors are close to their true color, and that there aren't any glaring errors in the image (such as an eye being out of focus, something distracting at the edge of the frame, etc.). When I feel comfortable with my image, I export it using a User Preset I've input into Lightroom. 

 

My User Preset "For Instagram," is the preset I use for all of my photography work unless I'm sending off images to an editor or other online source (other than social media). The preset expedites my workflow so that I don't have to edit the file setting information every time I'm exporting photos. 

If you're interested in what export settings I use, I've included them in the image below.

When it comes to sharing my "sneak peeks" with my client or posting on social media, I tend to stay away from watermarking my images. Watermarking is completely a personal preference, so take time to weigh out the pros and cons of using one and decide what works best for your business. 

When I started out in photography during my freshman year of high school, I quickly realized how much I had to learn. With few physical resources in my area, social media--specifically Instagram--played a huge role in helping me develop an understanding of the market. Not only that, following successful, talented photographers also helped me understand good lighting, composition and posing.  

Building your workflow and developing your style is a process. For fun, below I've included an image from one of the first senior photoshoots I ever did.

As you can see, my style and shooting capabilities have grown and changed a lot over the past six years. Looking back on old images reminds me that, as creatives, there's always something to be learned. One of the best ways to stay relevant and appealing to clients is to always be a student of your trade. Doing so allows you to not get stuck in a rut, to adapt to your client's needs, and to have space to grow and develop.

One of the easiest ways to learn is by seeing what other photographers are doing, and I would love to get your feedback and hear about your post-processing workflow or things you've found work well/don't work well for you. If you have any questions or thoughts, please comment below!