October has just flown by, and now it is time for a new Better Pictures Project Muse: Heather from Closet Case FIles! But first, a BIG thank you to Jenny for being our October muse, and to all of you who shared pictures this month of you spinning and jumping!
I had the pleasure of meeting Heather this summer (and playing with her cats, because I’m an unashamed crazy cat lady). It was neat to see how her patterns are an extension of the laid-back-but-pulled-together, casually-sexy Montreal atmosphere – and yet, what’s more universal than a pair of jeans, pyjamas, or a knit dress? I think her patterns are so successful because they are well-drafted basics that also let us dream of being our most stylish selves!
Heather wrote two posts last year about shooting and editing pictures, so I thought she was the perfect person to ask about how to make good pictures better! I’ll write more later this month about free editing software, phone editing apps, and how I edit photos, but for now, here’s the master in her own words!
1. You’ve written in the past about how you edit your photos in Lightroom. Has anything changed about your process or preferences since then?
I’m still a dyed in the wool Lightroom proselytizer. It transformed my photo editing practice, and I highly recommend signing up with the Adobe Cloud service if you’re serious about blog photography (it’s about $10 a month). Lightroom is most excellent because it’s extraordinarily easy to import, catalog, rate and edit photos in a short amount of time. After importing photos and applying the appropriate tags, by using keyboard shortcuts I can make my way through hundreds of photos in a fraction of the time it used to take using iphoto or whatever junky software came with my digital camera.
Bad photos are eliminated quickly using “X” and good photos are flagged using “P”. I then view only the flagged photos and winnow those down using star ratings. Once I have my ten or so pictures for a blog post, I put them in their own collection and figure out the editing settings, which I can quickly copy and paste to all the photos in the collection. I then import to sRGB jpeg format (the best for web viewing) in my blog photo size, at about 75/100 quality. Finally, I run them through TinyJPG to further compress them without compromising quality, which is important if you’re concerned about page load speed.
Lightroom screenshot: Photos are flagged and starred to help edit a large batch of photos quickly.
2. In general, what changes do you do to most of your pictures?
I try to have a light hand with photo editing. When I first started blogging I liked having fun with filters (this example is particularly egregious) but over time I’ve tried to create a more uniform style that won’t look dated a few years from now. It seems funny, but photo editing is effected by trends as much as anything else. Lately we’ve been seeing a really faded style where blacks are muted and almost matte. I like the look, but I try not to mimic the style too much, since everything starts looking a little generic.
I’m trying to refine my own personal editing style; I’m aiming for something clean, modern and bright, with lots of contrast and texture to highlight the fabric. In general, I will play with the exposure and contrast a little, and then tweak the Highlights, Shadows, White and Blacks so that the bright areas really pop, while the dark areas feel deep and rich. I add a very slight matte effect using the Tone Curve, bump up the Clarity, Vibrance and Saturation a smidgen, and sharpen the final photo so it feels as crisp as possible. I will very occasionally tweak colours but I try to keep things as realistic as possible. Reality, with polish. If I have a big honking zit, I might airbrush it out in Photoshop, but 99% of the time my photos go directly from Lightroom to the blog.
The key to all of this is automation; once I have an editing style I like, I save it as a preset and can then apply it again and again, with subtle modifications as necessary. I’ve also automated the export process to be as efficient as possible. All in all, a standard blog post might take me under an hour to edit and export, when it took double or triple that before I discovered Lightroom.
3. It’s easy to be heavy-handed with editing – how do you know when enough is enough?
I’ve figured stuff out by sheer repetition. I’ve been blogging for a while now, and when I look through my archive, the photos that I over-edited really stick out and drive me a little crazy. The pictures I love the most are the ones with the lightest hand. Also, I should give credit where it’s due; my boyfriend is a photographer and he has a very classic, old school approach to editing his photos that I think has rubbed off on me.
4. Where do you look for inspiration when you are editing photos to get a modern feel?
I have a Pinterest board I use for saving images that I like the feel of. I also read A LOT of blogs, and a few have had a huge influence over the years. I think Sea of Shoes, Ann Street Studio and Atlantic Pacific are all masterful when it comes to editing photos; their photos are clearly put through their paces in Lightroom or Photoshop, but highlighting the content of the images is really the focus.
5. Any other thoughts on editing, or photography tips and tricks?
Definitely experiment to see what works for you! It gets to be second nature after a while but I think it’s important to try different stuff to see what resonates with you over time. If you have the budget, it’s totally worth it to invest in a program like Lightroom, and a good camera with a nice lens that can export to your computer in the RAW format, which is much better for editing. If you are using Photoshop or Lightroom, there are lots of resources for free filters and actions which can help you find what styles you like without tinkering endlessly with the controls. Finally, try and keep photos in their original state along with your edited, exported blog photos, just in case you need them down the road. This whole process should really be part of the fun, and once you’ve gotten comfortable with your editing software, it just gets easier and easier.
All photographs belong to Closet Case Files – Take a look at the “Makes” section for more inspiration, and also to see how her photography progressed over time! I don’t know about you, but it’s comforting to see that even the pros started with hallway shots and balcony pics!
Here’s what I take away from Heather’s answers: A little editing goes a long way, so use a light hand. Find a way to make it fast and easy, and keep your editing consistent from post to post.
And so, here’s this months homework assignment:
Try a new editing method, and show us your pics before and after! You could try editing on your computer, using iPhoto, Snapseed or Lightroom; online using PicMonkey; or on a device using any photography app. You might try copying the style of a blogger whose pics you admire (dreamy, graphic, black and white, etc) or maybe just play around with one picture edited 4 ways! Editing photos is a really personal process, and I think it gets easier the more practice you get. This is our excuse to play around and see what we like!
Do you edit your photos, and how? What part of Heather’s advice resonated or provoked though for you?