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10 Rules for Editing Digital Images

During the week one of our readers – wedding photographer Martin Whitton – shot me a list of his ’10 rules for editing digital images’. I thought I’d share them today as a discussion starter for readers.

Martin comments that ‘these ideas may seem a little elementary, but sticking to the basics keeps our editing focused, maintains consistency from image to image and keeps our clients happy’.

  1. Tone of space (a room, for example) should be balanced and neutral, with no overall bias;
  2. Blacks (like tuxes) should be black;
  3. Whites (like wedding gowns) should be white;
  4. Don’t over-saturate images (my personal pet peeve)! Final edited image should be representative of what the human eye saw when photographing occurred;
  5. Flesh tones should be realistic and consistent. If he looks red and she looks pale white, something’s probably wrong;
  6. Image should be level or straight. Use reference points within image to determine this;
  7. Fix and remove any “red-eye” issues when flash is used;
  8. Sharpen all images last, and do it sparingly;
  9. Save images based on their intended use; images being posted online can be as small as 500 kb. Images that will be printed should probably be 1-2 mb (minimum);
  10. For easy tracking and identification, rename/save images based on the event, like – “Jane & John Wedding 1”.

These are Martin’s 10 ‘rules’ and no doubt they’ll be debated by readers- what are yours? Do you have any? What would you add or subtract from Martin’s list?

Of course there’s no wrong or right in this as personal style and approach comes into play – but we’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

If you enjoyed this article, you might also like...

Guest Contributor This post was written by a guest contributor to DPS. Please see their details in the post above.

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  • http://jasoncollinphotography.com Jason Collin Photography

    I agree with the ten rules in the post. I am also not a fan of oversaturated or sharpened images. This goes especially for HDR images.

    I would add a note about getting the exposure correct and removing the “dull gray film,” as I call it, then seems to be inherent in a lot of digital photos.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/andybrannan/3894223791/in/set-72157622276521556/ andy brannan

    I agree A pretty poor list .Not everyones taste is the same .As not evert image is the same …….

  • Paul Christopher

    I agree with the list for people who need a guide. But as photographers get more seasoned and the artistic juices start to flow, you want to get a little outside of the rules, stretch them a little as was stated by Matt and Dean.

    Here are a few breaking the rules and being creative examples…

    [img]http://www.flickr.com/photos/40322209@N07/3921682998/in/set-72157621240744322/[/img]

    [img]http://www.flickr.com/photos/40322209@N07/4099228963/in/set-72157621240744322/[/img]

    [img]http://www.flickr.com/photos/40322209@N07/3925420660/in/set-72157622384591186/[/img]

    [img]http://www.flickr.com/photos/40322209@N07/4094516113/in/set-72157622659028554/[/img]

  • http://www.carollundeen.com Carol Lundeen Photography

    Love Dean’s comment about breaking rules. It’s a creative practice that has lasting impacts on our work.

  • Josh

    I think everyone has gotten the tone of this post wrong. I think the problem comes from the title of the article. By saying “rules” everyone has assumed you are talking about things that have to be done. If you rename the article “10 suggestions for basic editing of digital photographs” I think that you would have recieved a better response to it. Of course we are all going to take creative lisence with the pictures we take. It’s our art. I don’t think Martin ever intended for this list to be an absolute must when editing photographs. I see this list as being more of a set of guidelines for beginners. In that context, I think it’s a good list that can help some people learn about editing.

  • Tom

    I agree with Josh…

    And I don’t think too many people actually read what the original poster said:

    “These are Martin’s 10 ‘rules’ and no doubt they’ll be debated by readers- what are yours? Do you have any? What would you add or subtract from Martin’s list?”

  • Briana

    this is more of my list of general photography. having a list of editing is very touchy. Its like discussing polotics or telling people what type of music they should like – people like what they like!
    My list:
    1) Be yourself
    2) Be unique and different with your photos. weve all seen those cliche beach photos a thousand times shake it up!
    3) Dont be shy – get bold and be out there. If you never take the shot, you may never see if it was good or not.
    4) dont expect great shots every time- we learn from our mistakes, and if every single photo you take is
    extraordinary, then.. well you must be amazing yourself.
    5)Take tons of photos- if you take more photos, it will force you to be more creative with them and you might get
    some great shots you wouldnt have expected!! Here is one I took randomly as I was taking thousands of photos at a flower garden. I turned around and just snapped the photo. I was surprised by the results but it can show what could happen! :)
    [img]http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3276/3415366755_da3a5ecea2_b.jpg[/img]

  • L.Tait

    These rules may work for studio or wedding. . . but for other forms of photography . . .no. Rules are made to be broken and. . .6 and 4? no Tilt is a workable option and in landscape and macro you want to enhance detail that may need some saturation and various means to bring out detail. If I listened to these rules I’d never sell anything.

  • Marc

    Photography is art, art means beeing creative (most of the time), and that doesn’t go along with rules very well. Sure, there were always rules in art, but they change all the time, and they get broken consistently anyway. However, although I’ve seen young photographers take beautiful creative shots without any thinking, I realised your photography can benefit from thinking what you’re doing, whether in composition or post-edit. These 10 things are good things to think about (but not all of them by far) but I must disagree with #4 and #6.

    And speaking of 4, there’s no real basis for it, with a digital camera your pictures get saturated by the software anyway, and sometimes not enough so you need to saturate them to be equivalent to what your eyes saw (all my pictures get extra-saturation in-camera) – another reason not to count this as a rule, and why this is art, every photographer sees the world differently…

  • Rob

    Excellent list. Simple and straight forward. I don’t like to mess with my images and like them to look exactly like I saw it. Too many manipulate to death and I’m not keen on that myself. KISS..cheers..Rob

  • john john alabata

    Amen, sharpening must always be the last step in post-production….

  • steve ricketts

    before i do anything, i ensure that the resolution is well managed; for instance, if you open your image into photoshop it may measure for example 1500mm x 1000mm at 72ppi, 72 being an unsuitable res. both for editing and printing. At this point i un – tick the resample box, reduce the size for instance down to A3 or similar which will give you a real resolution of over 240ppi ( inkjet optimum ), change to 16 bit then save as a compressed tiff.

  • http://www.cathysphotogrpahy.com Cathy

    Simple.. save the original image, play around with the duplicate. High school seniors love dramatic effects, and sometimes that over saturation, or special effect on a wedding photo is nothing short of ‘fun’ . As long as the original image remains in tact, the rest is up the the person with the software and the one purchasing it. I love working in Corel Painter and printing on canvas. That certainly changes the original image, It’s everyone’s personal approach to photography. Isn’t it great that there are so many options and so much fun breaking all the rules.

  • Kim

    Wow .. its a wonder anyone posts ANYthing useful, considering the way “some” of you rip the guy a new one … If you disagree fine, if you have other guidelines, post them, if you’re such a professional, why are you here anyway…

  • jef n

    as well as specific naming of pictures, also specific naming of directories. At last count I had over 450 directories. First directorys are Pictures2009, pictures2008, etc, picturesClients, picturesOther, picturesPrint, picturesNew. From their you can go where ever. I have family, friends and clients asking for past pictures all the time, so I’ve written an MS Access data base to cover the date, event, directory, and comments to assist in finding something specific.

  • Remi

    “These are Martin’s 10 ‘rules’ and no doubt they’ll be debated by readers- what are yours?”

    Come on guys, it’s 10 of his own rules. He’s just sharing his way of working. It should not be debated at all. If you like, take it. If not, just keep quiet dan follow your own rule. Out of 10, there must be 1 or 2 that you can appreciate. Personally I like no. 2, 3, 4 and 5.

  • Paul Christopher

    I am personally grateful for DPS and our Guest Contributors as Martin Whitton. I hope my previous stateent did not indicate otherwise. Again I would like to reiterate that “I agree with the list for people who need a guide.” No matter what level each one of us are at, from novice to pro, we can testify of learning something new from the suggestions of others.

    I respect Mr Whitton’s rules and they are a great for photographers to use especially those who came unto this page looking to step up our game. Hey, that’s what landed us here in the first place. Let’s not forget the purpose of the site and its contributions to us and others, that’s why we’re here.

  • http://www.matthewhall.info Matt

    My rules for design, photo, working in general:

    Always, always, always, keep a copy of your original files, your working files, and your final file, together and within reach of each other. You will need one sometime, make sure you have it now.

    If possible, mask and never delete anything. (Keep everything you will need it.)

    ONLY use convert to grayscale after you have desaturated the image properly with the black and white feature. (And saved a copy of the original.)

    Always remember to embed your contact info into any file. So when someone is sent your file and needs to change it—I’m talking about commercial work, or advertisements—they can pay you to do so properly. Rather than hack it apart themselves. They don’t want to bother and you want to get paid for your work.

    In a magazine, know your layout palette, and tone your image with those nearby. They will affect the final image, whether you like it or not.

    Time Machine is your friend, but he’s more like the party guy that knows everything, and everyone. He’ll remember that one thing the one time, but every now and again he’s passed out when you need him. Back up your files.

    If it’s not good enough, keep working. If you’re not good enough, keep working. If anything gets in your way, keep working. The best way to excel in this business is to keep working, your best work will go unnoticed for years until someone notices later.

    So to sum up my rules: Back up your work and keep everything.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/40322209@N07/ Christopher aka Paul

    I appreciate Matt’s input.

  • Brad

    Great pointers, but I tend to lean towards and agree with point #4 Don’t go Gonzo with the Saturation Adjustment. HDR is great , when used properly, and takes in a lot more image components than just someone pulling up basic photo software and cranking the saturation to the max. Otherwise, why would you need HDR functions or software?… Just to clarify, a little adjustment of the saturation level and others can make an image pop, but there is a point when you notice that every sunrise posted by the same self proclaimed pro or hobbiest photographer has virtually the same, unnatural orange’ish glow to the entire sky and every object… in every image in their portfolio. My point is even a child knows that no two sunrises have the same color tones. These “self proclaimed” photographers either don’t know the difference or use it a their sole trademark, more a as a crutch than anything else, and likely could not take natural sunrise / sunset image if their life depended on it.

Some older comments

  • Brad

    March 28, 2013 10:01 am

    Great pointers, but I tend to lean towards and agree with point #4 Don't go Gonzo with the Saturation Adjustment. HDR is great , when used properly, and takes in a lot more image components than just someone pulling up basic photo software and cranking the saturation to the max. Otherwise, why would you need HDR functions or software?... Just to clarify, a little adjustment of the saturation level and others can make an image pop, but there is a point when you notice that every sunrise posted by the same self proclaimed pro or hobbiest photographer has virtually the same, unnatural orange'ish glow to the entire sky and every object... in every image in their portfolio. My point is even a child knows that no two sunrises have the same color tones. These "self proclaimed" photographers either don't know the difference or use it a their sole trademark, more a as a crutch than anything else, and likely could not take natural sunrise / sunset image if their life depended on it.

  • Christopher aka Paul

    June 3, 2010 04:57 pm

    I appreciate Matt's input.

  • Matt

    January 6, 2010 08:18 am

    My rules for design, photo, working in general:

    Always, always, always, keep a copy of your original files, your working files, and your final file, together and within reach of each other. You will need one sometime, make sure you have it now.

    If possible, mask and never delete anything. (Keep everything you will need it.)

    ONLY use convert to grayscale after you have desaturated the image properly with the black and white feature. (And saved a copy of the original.)

    Always remember to embed your contact info into any file. So when someone is sent your file and needs to change it—I'm talking about commercial work, or advertisements—they can pay you to do so properly. Rather than hack it apart themselves. They don't want to bother and you want to get paid for your work.

    In a magazine, know your layout palette, and tone your image with those nearby. They will affect the final image, whether you like it or not.

    Time Machine is your friend, but he's more like the party guy that knows everything, and everyone. He'll remember that one thing the one time, but every now and again he's passed out when you need him. Back up your files.

    If it's not good enough, keep working. If you're not good enough, keep working. If anything gets in your way, keep working. The best way to excel in this business is to keep working, your best work will go unnoticed for years until someone notices later.

    So to sum up my rules: Back up your work and keep everything.

  • Paul Christopher

    December 3, 2009 01:33 pm

    I am personally grateful for DPS and our Guest Contributors as Martin Whitton. I hope my previous stateent did not indicate otherwise. Again I would like to reiterate that "I agree with the list for people who need a guide." No matter what level each one of us are at, from novice to pro, we can testify of learning something new from the suggestions of others.

    I respect Mr Whitton's rules and they are a great for photographers to use especially those who came unto this page looking to step up our game. Hey, that's what landed us here in the first place. Let's not forget the purpose of the site and its contributions to us and others, that's why we're here.

  • Remi

    November 30, 2009 03:04 pm

    "These are Martin’s 10 ‘rules’ and no doubt they’ll be debated by readers- what are yours?"

    Come on guys, it's 10 of his own rules. He's just sharing his way of working. It should not be debated at all. If you like, take it. If not, just keep quiet dan follow your own rule. Out of 10, there must be 1 or 2 that you can appreciate. Personally I like no. 2, 3, 4 and 5.

  • jef n

    November 29, 2009 02:11 am

    as well as specific naming of pictures, also specific naming of directories. At last count I had over 450 directories. First directorys are Pictures2009, pictures2008, etc, picturesClients, picturesOther, picturesPrint, picturesNew. From their you can go where ever. I have family, friends and clients asking for past pictures all the time, so I've written an MS Access data base to cover the date, event, directory, and comments to assist in finding something specific.

  • Kim

    November 28, 2009 05:50 am

    Wow .. its a wonder anyone posts ANYthing useful, considering the way "some" of you rip the guy a new one ... If you disagree fine, if you have other guidelines, post them, if you're such a professional, why are you here anyway...

  • Cathy

    November 27, 2009 11:42 pm

    Simple.. save the original image, play around with the duplicate. High school seniors love dramatic effects, and sometimes that over saturation, or special effect on a wedding photo is nothing short of 'fun' . As long as the original image remains in tact, the rest is up the the person with the software and the one purchasing it. I love working in Corel Painter and printing on canvas. That certainly changes the original image, It's everyone's personal approach to photography. Isn't it great that there are so many options and so much fun breaking all the rules.

  • steve ricketts

    November 27, 2009 07:45 pm

    before i do anything, i ensure that the resolution is well managed; for instance, if you open your image into photoshop it may measure for example 1500mm x 1000mm at 72ppi, 72 being an unsuitable res. both for editing and printing. At this point i un - tick the resample box, reduce the size for instance down to A3 or similar which will give you a real resolution of over 240ppi ( inkjet optimum ), change to 16 bit then save as a compressed tiff.

  • john john alabata

    November 27, 2009 04:00 pm

    Amen, sharpening must always be the last step in post-production....

  • Rob

    November 27, 2009 06:36 am

    Excellent list. Simple and straight forward. I don't like to mess with my images and like them to look exactly like I saw it. Too many manipulate to death and I'm not keen on that myself. KISS..cheers..Rob

  • Marc

    November 27, 2009 04:43 am

    Photography is art, art means beeing creative (most of the time), and that doesn't go along with rules very well. Sure, there were always rules in art, but they change all the time, and they get broken consistently anyway. However, although I've seen young photographers take beautiful creative shots without any thinking, I realised your photography can benefit from thinking what you're doing, whether in composition or post-edit. These 10 things are good things to think about (but not all of them by far) but I must disagree with #4 and #6.

    And speaking of 4, there's no real basis for it, with a digital camera your pictures get saturated by the software anyway, and sometimes not enough so you need to saturate them to be equivalent to what your eyes saw (all my pictures get extra-saturation in-camera) - another reason not to count this as a rule, and why this is art, every photographer sees the world differently...

  • L.Tait

    November 27, 2009 03:50 am

    These rules may work for studio or wedding. . . but for other forms of photography . . .no. Rules are made to be broken and. . .6 and 4? no Tilt is a workable option and in landscape and macro you want to enhance detail that may need some saturation and various means to bring out detail. If I listened to these rules I'd never sell anything.

  • Briana

    November 25, 2009 02:31 pm

    this is more of my list of general photography. having a list of editing is very touchy. Its like discussing polotics or telling people what type of music they should like - people like what they like!
    My list:
    1) Be yourself
    2) Be unique and different with your photos. weve all seen those cliche beach photos a thousand times shake it up!
    3) Dont be shy - get bold and be out there. If you never take the shot, you may never see if it was good or not.
    4) dont expect great shots every time- we learn from our mistakes, and if every single photo you take is
    extraordinary, then.. well you must be amazing yourself.
    5)Take tons of photos- if you take more photos, it will force you to be more creative with them and you might get
    some great shots you wouldnt have expected!! Here is one I took randomly as I was taking thousands of photos at a flower garden. I turned around and just snapped the photo. I was surprised by the results but it can show what could happen! :)
    [img]http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3276/3415366755_da3a5ecea2_b.jpg[/img]

  • Tom

    November 24, 2009 10:41 pm

    I agree with Josh...

    And I don't think too many people actually read what the original poster said:

    "These are Martin’s 10 ‘rules’ and no doubt they’ll be debated by readers- what are yours? Do you have any? What would you add or subtract from Martin’s list?"

  • Josh

    November 23, 2009 07:40 am

    I think everyone has gotten the tone of this post wrong. I think the problem comes from the title of the article. By saying "rules" everyone has assumed you are talking about things that have to be done. If you rename the article "10 suggestions for basic editing of digital photographs" I think that you would have recieved a better response to it. Of course we are all going to take creative lisence with the pictures we take. It's our art. I don't think Martin ever intended for this list to be an absolute must when editing photographs. I see this list as being more of a set of guidelines for beginners. In that context, I think it's a good list that can help some people learn about editing.

  • Carol Lundeen Photography

    November 22, 2009 11:11 pm

    Love Dean's comment about breaking rules. It's a creative practice that has lasting impacts on our work.

  • Paul Christopher

    November 21, 2009 08:00 pm

    I agree with the list for people who need a guide. But as photographers get more seasoned and the artistic juices start to flow, you want to get a little outside of the rules, stretch them a little as was stated by Matt and Dean.

    Here are a few breaking the rules and being creative examples...

    [img]http://www.flickr.com/photos/40322209@N07/3921682998/in/set-72157621240744322/[/img]

    [img]http://www.flickr.com/photos/40322209@N07/4099228963/in/set-72157621240744322/[/img]

    [img]http://www.flickr.com/photos/40322209@N07/3925420660/in/set-72157622384591186/[/img]

    [img]http://www.flickr.com/photos/40322209@N07/4094516113/in/set-72157622659028554/[/img]

  • andy brannan

    November 21, 2009 03:54 pm

    I agree A pretty poor list .Not everyones taste is the same .As not evert image is the same .......

  • Jason Collin Photography

    November 21, 2009 01:23 pm

    I agree with the ten rules in the post. I am also not a fan of oversaturated or sharpened images. This goes especially for HDR images.

    I would add a note about getting the exposure correct and removing the "dull gray film," as I call it, then seems to be inherent in a lot of digital photos.

  • Briana Tobin

    November 21, 2009 12:29 pm

    I, for one do not like this list. At all. It basically telling us photographers how to take photos, and how to work. Every photographer has their unique style, so they should stick with that. Isn't photography all about being creative, unique, and breaking the rules anyway?

  • Make the Moment Last Photography

    November 21, 2009 12:26 pm

    I don't edit with a lot of 'rules'. There are certainly some general guidelines I follow but it has so much to do with what and how you're shooting.

  • Chelsea

    November 21, 2009 10:33 am

    I agree that the discussion needs to lighten up a bit, I can tell the post was meant to get a conversation going about everyone's personal "rules", and people are by far reading into it a little too much. And these were meant for wedding photography, not all photos.
    Also, I might be wrong but by #6. I don't think he meant don't use ANGLES and different points of views, he probably meant make sure things are straight, if you have a window ledge in the background and you're meaning to take a straight on picture, try to make sure the ledge isn't sloping when its obvious it shouldn't be, or keeping a horizon line or ground straight and not all wonky.
    And oversaturated images? I'm sure we've all seen what happens when you slide the saturation slide up all the way =p, it doesn't look pretty.

    I've only shot one wedding so I don't have a lot of wedding photography "rules", but I did learn to make sure to take lots of candid shots, they came out better than a lot of the posed ones!
    Take lots of shots of little details
    I don't rename all my files usually, but I do keep them in a named folder.
    Oh and an overall pet peeve of mine, is poor selective coloring!! I've seen PLENTY of good ones, but also plenty of bad! My general selective coloring rule is if you're going to do it, only do ONE thing, unless its in multiples (eyes, leaves, pumpkins in a row), but pleaaase don't have a b&w picture with the blue shirt, orange shoes, and pink flower in the hair or something, pretty much everything except the face black and white.

  • Greg Taylor

    November 21, 2009 07:36 am

    The thing that made John Coletrane such a brilliant musician was he knew all the rules (music theory) but when he went out and played he threw them all away.

    Knowing in your mind what is fundamentally right is one thing - but exhibit something that feels good to you.

    GRT2

  • Ariana Murphy

    November 21, 2009 07:25 am

    Thanks for the list and the comments! I'm a beginner, and as usual, I learned a lot from DPS. This list is a great place to start when I turn my attention to post production. One thing I've learned is to pay attention to the negative space around an image. I find it really impacts the overall impression conveyed. http://www.flickr.com/photos/arianasart/4119995875

  • Stefanie

    November 21, 2009 06:36 am

    This is a good list. Not to sound harsh, but it is surprising to me how many "professionals" do not follow this list when editing their photographs.

  • Craig

    November 21, 2009 06:04 am

    this discussion needs to lighten up :)

    I enjoyed the list and I'll keep some things in consideration. I took the list for what it was as his guidelines for what he does. As so many people have pointed out that he breaks those all the time, but as another pointed out, rules are made to be broken :)

    I use the rename functions for my photos to keep them organized on most of my photos, it's quite simple to do really and the same thing holds true with a folder, but it's all in personal preference.

    Thanks for sharing your guidelines, even though I won't use them all, it's nice to see what other people do or say.

  • Sarah

    November 21, 2009 04:54 am

    I think this was a good "lesson" because so many people can't help but add to it or argue. :) For me, #6 meant more that if you want it to be straight, make sure it really is. But that's definitely not the same as when someone goes for an angle on purpose.

    But I definitely never rename all of my images; I'd never get done!

  • Martin

    November 21, 2009 01:27 am

    I must admit that these rules are not necessarily universal. To be honest, when I wrote them I was thinking of making a list of guidelines for my 2nd shooters/assistants who help me when shooting weddings. These rules also greatly restrict creativity and the artistic element in photography which, like many of you, I cherish and is what drew me to photography. Unfortunately as some of you may know, we as professionals find ourselves sometimes short-changing artistic elements in our photography when money gets involved. I hope you can find at least one useful tidbit in my list that you can take home, but if not then that's ok too. Thank you Darren for including my article! I'm always glad to contribute.

  • Emily

    November 21, 2009 12:36 am

    @Cheezman "Instead of renaming image files, what about relocating into a descriptive file? Can anyone point to a downside to this? I used to rename edited images, but it was very time consuming. I’ve got 20,000+ images saved in like-files and also tagged in an organizer. What am I missing? Should I really go back to renaming individual files??"

    I totally agree. I leave all my files with the original name and never reset the number in my camera. This way when you give clients a CD they can tell you exactly what file they are referring to. It is a very efficient method of filing especially if you are looking for images from old jobs.

  • bcarter

    November 21, 2009 12:21 am

    Photography is art. Drop the rules, and know your client or final presentation.

    Rules you do need should be rules like...
    1) Rules for Ethical Business Practices
    2) Rules of Organization
    3) Rules of Professionalism
    4) Rules of Conduct

    [...]

  • Joe

    November 20, 2009 11:36 pm

    Not for nothing, but the title is misleading. It should be "10 rules for boring wedding photography".

  • Eric Mesa

    November 20, 2009 10:39 pm

    I think a lot of grief can be avoided by renaming the blog post 10 Rule for Editing Digital Images of Events. To me this is a great set of rules for a photojournalist or a wedding photographer. This is a horrible list for anyone doing photography as art. If you're doing art there's no reason why your vision might not include over-saturation, under-saturation, too much or too little contrast, the "wrong" white balance, and so on and so forth. If your photos are art, then there can be no wrong answer. (Although, philosophically, I feel that if you just twiddled dials and didn't have at least a slight clue of what you were going to get out - that's not art. Otherwise a kid's scribbles deserve to be in a musuem with those other scribble paintings I see by famous artists).

    However, no bride and groom want to look like smurfs because your white balance is off. So follow these rules for something like that.

  • Alex Suffolk Photographer

    November 20, 2009 08:51 pm

    rule #1 - get it right in camera as much as possible.

    That more than anything else will reduce the amount of PP work.

    As for colour balance, go and buy a 10quid grey card and say yourself hours and hours of hassle.

  • Mark Daams

    November 20, 2009 06:53 pm

    A somewhat conservative list indeed. Everyone has there personal taste (and pet peeves). I personally like very sharp and colorfull images so I'd disagree with #4 and #8. Heck, I like glamour style wedding photography so I'd probably can #6 as well. But I'm glad we don't all think the same because it would be a very boring world.

    My number one rule is to edit the image in such a way that it looks best to you personally. If I don't love my own work, who will?

  • Fred Johnston

    November 20, 2009 04:58 pm

    That's a pretty limiting and elementary list. It takes a lot of the artistry and fun out of photography. Horizons, color balance, tone - they are all tools for the artistic process. Perhaps item #11 should be "Break these rules."

  • Scott Smith

    November 20, 2009 04:35 pm

    Don't HDR human beings and animals. It just looks wrong.

    In fact, avoid HDR unless you know final result adds something to the over all picture.

  • Richard Skoonberg

    November 20, 2009 02:56 pm

    I think shooting RAW is important and since I shoot RAW, I color-balance everything in post.

  • Kevin Halliburton

    November 20, 2009 01:32 pm

    Very generous of Martin to share part of his work flow - Thank you. It got me thinking about my own work flow enough to write it down and evaluate it a little more closely. The post got involved enough that I decided to blog it rather than drop it here. My work flow probably wouldn't be a good fit for Martin but my number one rule is that every rule, every process, every tweak or alteration MUST be motivated the client's story. Thanks for the engaging post. You made me think. That made me better.

  • Lee

    November 20, 2009 01:01 pm

    Martin must have forgotten to peruse his own portfolio before creating this list of rules (Rule #4 Broken. Personally, I think the photos on his website are fantastic. He must have created this list to throw other photographers off, thereby eliminating the competition. Well played Martin, well played.

  • Tyler

    November 20, 2009 12:19 pm

    I am going to echo the comments about site content. It's like finding edible bits in a puddle of puke. I do indeed find useful content here, but too often I am a little disappointed by the posts. Maybe the digital folks should recycle some old school knowledge. I have been reading about and implementing the zone system into my practice, although much of what I do as of lately is not digital.

  • White Hot Phoenix

    November 20, 2009 11:39 am

    This list is great for people with OCD. If you don't have OCD, ignore this.

  • OsmosisStudios

    November 20, 2009 11:06 am

    I have issues with #1-7: These are all very subjective and may not hold true given a certain style.

  • Chelsea

    November 20, 2009 10:11 am

    i disagree on #6. most the time pictures d olook bettter when there slightly off center.

  • Lenni

    November 20, 2009 09:43 am

    Some good things to keep in mind, but what good is knowing the rules but to figure out how to best break them? #6 I particularly disagree with. Some of the best photos I've taken have been "crooked." Saturation has it's place in the portrait photo world as well (as long as it's selective and not turning people's faces orange...). Following this list to the T would make the work of every wedding photographer in the world look exactly the same. It's bending (and breaking) these rules effectively that make a photographer stand out from the crowd.

  • Steve

    November 20, 2009 09:41 am

    Look Martin's website. He breaks nearly every single one of his rules, crooked pictures, oversaturated, toned, HDR. . .

    Guidelines, maybe. Rules no.

  • Shaun

    November 20, 2009 09:33 am

    Mat Packer has it right. Wedding photography might have rules but Art does not. You absolutely cannot apply this list to photography as a whole.

  • ZeGerman

    November 20, 2009 09:29 am

    These rules, like any other set of rules, have their limitations. They work in some situations, but not others. That's just the way the world works.

  • Andrew

    November 20, 2009 09:28 am

    I like to add a TAD more saturation than my camera captures, but I have definitely seen it overdone.

    I have to disagree with #4 though. How does that include texturing, B&W, partial desaturation, selective coloring, etc.?

  • Darren Rowse

    November 20, 2009 09:25 am

    Jeff - this was posted as a discussion starter not a definitive list - you're welcome to share your own rules if you have them :-)

  • Floridagizzi

    November 20, 2009 09:15 am

    I disagree with #4 as well, and it has been somewhat of a philosophical problem for me of late. Are we really just to capture what with see with our eye or what we see with our mind. If Van Gogh or Picasso had stuck with realism as a discipline the art of painting would not be nearly as rich. I think the possibilities that they explored through texture, line quality, and impressionism is possible for us as photographers as it never has been before. Not only through digital manipulation in photoshop or lightroom, but also through the tangible process such as using fisheye lenses to purposefully distort reality or cross processing film to achieve surreal colors and effects. To say that photographs should capture images as they appear to the eye I find dreadfully abhorrent.

  • ron

    November 20, 2009 09:05 am

    Not bad ideas to be used sometimes...although I couldn't help but notice the white dresses in the first 3 photos on Martin's site all have some sort of color cast on them. As soon as you start making rules like this, you will either break them or drive yourself to create boring, repetitive images.

  • Greg Taylor

    November 20, 2009 08:58 am

    Since most of the times I photograph concerts image editing is a little tricky. (Not that this is right but...) I try to be a purist and keep my edits or manipulation to a minimum. The things I'll do when I edit live music photos are: Crop - make sure the composition is superb.
    Adjust exposure - make sure nothing is too over exposed or under exposed - the lighting I have to work with is usually terrible
    Straigten - to a point that makes sense. Some time the most dramatic stage shot has a little tilt to it.

    Great topic! I like any topic that opens a real forum for discussion.

    Cheers~ GRT2

  • Todd Eddy

    November 20, 2009 08:20 am

    I think this should be titled "10 rules that Martin Whitton uses for editing digital images." Every photographer is going to have a different set of rules and it will continually evolve. If you're not happy with how your current photos turn out, decide why YOU don't like the image not what a bunch of other people don't like about it. Likewise look at images you like and YOU determine what is good in the picture not others. That's how everyone creates their own "look." If everyone stuck to certain rules 100% of the time things would be pretty bland.

  • Steven Lilley

    November 20, 2009 08:18 am

    I'm not a fan of editing photographs - I feel that I'm cheating a little if I do. (but I do though)
    If I had to add a rule: don't touch the original.

  • Tate

    November 20, 2009 08:12 am

    Very conservative list. More "business", less "art". But if you look at his web-page, it makes sense - it seems more information, less eye-candy. I'm not slamming him, just making a point -he's probably booked solid every month.

    Some customers would be disappointed if they were looking for edgier stuff but generally speaking this list could help people avoid over-editing or missing something like white balance problems.

  • Dean S.

    November 20, 2009 07:31 am

    My #1 rule - If I'm not breaking the rules I'm not being creative enough! ;-)

  • Mat Packer

    November 20, 2009 07:24 am

    I have only one rule, edit the photo however you want it viewed.

    Screw all the must do this, must do that, mustn't blah blah blah, rules. That's the beauty of photography as an art, break all the rules....and really really break them!

  • Alan Nielsen

    November 20, 2009 07:23 am

    pet peeve for me is vignetting every image. I do like to silghtly burn my corners, but not every image.

  • Cuchulainn

    November 20, 2009 07:09 am

    "Whites (like wedding gowns) should be white"

    You need to be very careful of that one. Most wedding gowns are in fact a shade of off-white. Pure white isn't flattering to most skin tones so very few gowns are in fact truly white. The fact is, very few women look their best in a bright white gown, so you need to be *very* careful in setting a white point to a wedding dress and causing the color to be whiter than it truly is or should be.

  • Jeff

    November 20, 2009 07:05 am

    Totally disagree with #4, mainly because it's impossible to define. "What the eye saw" - how accurate is a sensor at capturing what you think you saw? Gorgeous red sunsets that I see with my eye are often pale, flat images when they get in to an editor.

    Besides, most of the professional work you see is quite saturated. Instead of 'over' saturated, maybe the problem is with 'poorly' saturated . . like people just moving the saturation slider up. Getting *good* quality, highly saturated pictures is technically difficult, but look at what comes out of professionals' works and you'll see very saturated pictures most of the time. Ya just gotta learn how to do it right (start with "The Canyon Conundrum" book)

  • Jeff

    November 20, 2009 07:05 am

    A pretty poor list really. They are perhaps guidelines for some particular instances but very, very far from rules.

    A you getting a bit desperate for content DPS?

  • Lucas Simmons

    November 20, 2009 07:01 am

    1 rule: Be creative.

  • Mike

    November 20, 2009 06:51 am

    Just Three Rules:
    Composition -- is it visually good. It's at this point the technical features such as focus and blur are assessed as well as the background to be sure there are no branches sticking out people's heads, not obscene words or images, and nothing that distracts from the subject.

    Crop -- Get it to the size of what you are going to work with. There's no reason to work a photo and all it's shadings and colorings if you're just going to crop out some of it. Crop first.

    Color -- Are the white's really white and the black's really black? Set the black points and white points before going any further.

    From there, it depends on use

  • Ken

    November 20, 2009 06:50 am

    #4"Don’t over-saturate images (my personal pet peeve)! Final edited image should be representative of what the human eye saw when photographing occurred"

    Oh really? Does Martin have a magic HDR eye?

    http://www.mwwphoto.com/Weddings/LaurenandGil/9786761_XAPDr#664538196_Hn2dr-A-LB

  • Cheezman

    November 20, 2009 06:49 am

    Instead of renaming image files, what about relocating into a descriptive file? Can anyone point to a downside to this? I used to rename edited images, but it was very time consuming. I've got 20,000+ images saved in like-files and also tagged in an organizer. What am I missing? Should I really go back to renaming individual files??

  • Bobby S

    November 20, 2009 06:40 am

    I too disagree with #6. When I shoot weddings or portraits, I tend to tilt the shot occasionally for a more artistic approach. My clients have liked it, so it's become the norm for me. I also somewhat disagree with #4 and #5...somewhat. In most cases I think the image should represent what the eye sees, but I also tend to play around with saturation and image tones, which has had positive results from the clients :) For me I think it comes down to knowing ahead of time what my clients like, and my own personal tastes :)

  • the clubhouse kid

    November 20, 2009 06:14 am

    @Matthew Dutile: ditto.

    a personal favorite.

  • the clubhouse kid

    November 20, 2009 06:12 am

    I personally have a mega pet peeve really hard time concentrating on the image when there's a picture frame (such as a wooden-like representation of an actual picture frame).

  • Matthew Dutile

    November 20, 2009 06:11 am

    Not a bad guideline, but I am going to have to completely disagree with #6. Crooked horizons don't work well for landscapes, but they are excellent in providing a creative angle in lifestyle, wedding and often portrait photography.

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