As a photographer, achieving a consistent and clean photo editing style is important for developing your work.
Depending on your photographic niche, the way you choose to post produce and edit your images is a key factor in achieving cohesiveness in your portfolio. Utilizing editing software such as Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop can help you develop a style and aesthetic that is personal to you.
Let’s discuss some of the necessary elements for achieving a consistent and clean photo editing style.
Focus on Lighting to Achieve a Consistent and Clean Photo Editing Style
In order for your images to look polished and professional, you will want to focus the majority of your edits on making lighting corrections. It is important to note that shooting in camera RAW mode will allow you to make the most of your editing process. If you have this capability, change your image capture mode prior to shooting.
Lighting corrections in post-production include changes to exposure, highlights, shadows and adjusting your black and white points. By shooting in RAW mode, you can bring details back into the image that may have been lost while shooting by increasing or decreasing some of these lighting values. This allows you to set a base for your images that define your editing style.
Whether you want to create bright, airy images or darker, moody edits – these can all be achieved by manipulating your lighting.
Take a look at the clean photo editing style in the before and after of the images below.
Avoid Harsh Color Edits
While using editing programs including Lightroom or Photoshop, it can be easy to over-manipulate the color of your image. With tools such as the RGB curve, HSL or Split Toning, these capabilities can be very powerful and effective when used properly. When aiming to create a consistent and clean photo editing style, avoid harsh or dramatic color edits that appear inauthentic to the original image.
In order to stay true to the original tones of your image, consider adjusting your white balance to ‘AUTO’ within your camera before shooting. You can manually adjust this using Lightroom if your images are shot in RAW format. The white balance ‘Auto’ mode on your camera is designed to achieve the most authentic and true-to-life color under most shooting circumstances. During the editing process, color adjustments can be made by changing values such as temperature, tint, saturation, hue and tone.
Each photographer has a colour editing style that is specific and recognizable to their work. Whilst you can create a color style that is unique to you, be sure to remember that professional images maintain accurate color consistency. You want to make sure to change your image color values with intention, and use this same method across your body of work.
Eliminate Distracting or Unnecessary Elements
Another tip to creating a consistent and clean photo editing style is to remove distracting elements from your images. This may include background elements, imperfections of your subject, or even poor composition. Many of these imperfections can be fixed by utilizing removal tools such as healing brushes or the clone stamp.
The overall composition of the image can also be improved by altering the cropping and fixing alignment problems with straightening. In order for your work to have a professional appearance, you must remember to fix the imperfections and pay attention to the smaller details of your images.
For example, in the image below, I wanted more of the sky and less of the tree branches. Using the Lightroom Clone Stamp tool, I was able to remove some of the branches by replacing it with the blue detail of the sky. You can change your image as you see fit to avoid an image with distracting or unnecessary elements.
Create Tools for Consistency
The most effective way to create consistent editing in your post-production workflow is to create tools such as presets in Lightroom or actions in Photoshop. These capabilities were created so you can save edits and reapply them across multiple sets of images. Depending on the editing software you prefer to use, presets and actions are both fairly simple to create and integrate into your editing workflow.
Presets are used in Adobe Lightroom to copy and paste edits from one image to another. In order to create a preset, you must first make edits to an original image. To do this:
- Open your original image in the Develop Module in Lightroom.
- Apply the color edits and lighting adjustments you want to make.
- Once satisfied with your results, navigate to your keyboard and press ‘Command + C’ (the shortcut for copy).
- The Copy Settings dialog box will appear, guiding you to choose the settings you would like to copy. Make your selection and press ‘Copy’.
- Navigate to the left tool bar and find the tab labeled ‘Presets’
- Press the ‘+’ button and choose the option of ‘Create Preset’ or alternatively, go to the menu bar, choose ‘Develop’ and then select ‘New Preset’.
- A ‘New Develop Preset’ box will appear asking you to name your preset and choose the settings you want to save.
- After you have determined these values, press ‘Create’ and your preset will now show in the ‘User Presets’ tab in the Develop Module.
- You can now apply this preset to any of your images with one simple click to paste the edits.
Here is an example of a before and after edit with one of my personal Lightroom image presets.
Actions are created in Adobe Photoshop by recording adjustments made in the program. Unlike presets, actions are developed by pressing the ‘RECORD’ button while editing your image. Once satisfied with an edit, press the ‘STOP’ button and your action is created. Actions are used for specific adjustments to an image such as color, light and retouching.
To create an Action, you will need to go to the right side panel and find the ‘play’ button denoted as a triangle pointing to the right.
- Choose the paper icon to ‘Create New Action’.
- Name your Action and press ‘RECORD’.
- Photoshop will record your adjustments and save them to your new Action.
- When you are satisfied with your changes, press the ‘Stop’ button to save it.
- Once your Action is complete it can be applied to your images by selecting the name of your action and pressing the ‘Play’ button.
Actions can be very effective for portrait photographers who need to retouch and fine tune the facial features of their subject. You can create actions to smooth skin, remove blemishes and even for methods such as frequency separation.
Here is an example of a before and after edit with one of my personal Photoshop Color Actions.
As you can see, a consistent and clean photo editing style is achieved through integrating techniques such as; lighting adjustments, natural color edits, and the elimination of distracting elements. It is also achieved by using tools such as Lightroom Presets or Photoshop Actions. In your body of work, having an editing style that is cohesive and visually appealing will give your images a truly professional touch.
Do you have any tips for creating consistent and clean photo editing styles in either Lightroom or Photoshop? Share with us in the comments below.