How Do You Edit?

The most common question I get is, "How do you edit your photos?" So today I am going to address that question. Each type of photo I take will require a different edit, so today we will focus on my cityscape images. Let's start from the top. (DISCLAIMER: Editing RAW files from different camera companies will yield different results.).


Here is a before and after of one of my most recent Chicago images. As you can see the difference is quite dramatic. The first thing you'll notice is how dark my RAW files are. I tend to underexpose then bring the detail back in post processing. Note it is much easier to under expose and bring detail back than to over expose and try the same. Let's look at the basic adjustments first.

Basic Settings.PNG

From the top, I tend to leave a cooler temp in my moody images as I prefer the blue look. Otherwise I tend to stay as neutral as I can with my images. Lots of folks like to over warm their photos, but I am not a fan. I move the tint more to the magenta side as well due to my tone curve creating a more green look (this can be solved in other ways, I just choose to fix it this way). Exposure is brought up usually due to the dark RAW and preferring the blacks in my image to remain dark. I add a little bit of contrast as well just to make things pop since you'll see I tend to flatten the image with highlights and shadows. This is to bring all of the detail back in the photo. Whites are brought up to achieve a more natural look and then blacks are dropped to keep that dark black look.

Clarity is brought up a bit again to bring out some detail but this will all depend on the image, some images I will soften. Lastly you'll see I crank the saturation a bit globally. This is offset in the HSL though later.

Next is the RGB Tone Curve. You'll notice I bring my black point WAY up and then drop my white point a tiny bit. Mid-tones tend to stay neutral with not much contrast. I also use the individual RGB curves but they are more complex and I would struggle to explain so I will leave those out.

The HSL is the next step. This stands for Hue, Saturation, Luminance. This panel is purely photo dependent. Certain images have certain colors that I am trying to make stand out, so I use this panel to cater to these needs. Every photo is unique after all. You'll notice my favorite color is cranked to 83 saturation. The Hues affect the actual color itself, so you can change blue to aqua for example as you see in the photo. Saturation refers to the intensity of the actual color itself. Luminance refers to how bright or dark the color is. I often tell my friends that color luminance is one of the most important tools for editing.

Split Toning is adding color to the highlights and shadows of an image. Often I add a lot of blues to my shadows which is a look I rather enjoy. Occasionally I will also add orange to the highlights for sunset or sunrise shots.

Camera calibration is another way to play with the individual primary (I know Green isn't a primary color) colors that can make them pop in interesting ways.

This is really it for my LR editing process. Cropping can be important as well, most of my images are cropped to 4x5 as this is what Instagram uses. Make sure you are leveling your horizon as well. One thing that I didn't include in this is the touching up I do in Photoshop. For this image I de-saturated the color on the overhangs of the train station so that the color cast didn't distract the viewer from the rest of the image. It's important to think of yourself as the viewer of the image when editing it, figure out what pleases you and what displeases you. Everyone has a unique style, so don't think that you have to follow this. I just wanted to provide some insight to my curious followers.

Stay true to you,