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How to Assess an Image – What Needs to Happen Before you Begin Editing

We’ve all been there before; you want to know how to edit an image but first you need to determine how to assess an image to prep it for edits.  Assessing an image is like planning a road trip; if you want to know what destination to go to (ie: the edit) you need to know which roads to take to get there (ie: the assessment).

Here is an example of a recent glamour photography shoot that I had the pleasure of attending alongside one of my new mentor students, Kimmy.  This is the final result of some of my favourite poses!

toronto glamour photography by ten2tenphotography

The image looks polished, flawless and is simply aching to be printed and displayed!  But what journey did this photo take?  What did it look like in camera and what kind of editing did I do?

Below is the 3 step journey the photo took as it was taken through the editing process:

how to edit a picture by toronto glamour photographer ten2tenphotography

Here’s what was going through my mind as I assessed the image:

There are times when you want to use Lightroom and times when you want to use Photoshop.  I won’t get into the details of it here, but if you’re unsure of when to use lightroom vs. Photoshop, read the post on the topic!

First, I brought my raw file into lightroom, opened it in a full window and took a good hard look at it.  These are some of the questions I asked myself:

  • Do I like the crop?  Is there too much space at the top of the photo for my liking?  
  • Do I like the exposure?   Are there any areas of shadow or highlight that are too extreme?  The left hand side of the photo is a little dark, perhaps a gradient exposure correction can lighten that a tad… and maybe even a gradient exposure correct can darken the highlights on the right hand side ever so slightly
  • Do I like the skin tone?  What happens if I play around with the orange and red tones – can I achieve a more pleasing skin tone?  Her skin is pretty great so nothing major is needed now; perhaps just some small adjustments to specific areas later on in photoshop
  • Do I like the contrast?  Is it pleasing and giving a “wow” factor or is it too harsh and causing me to lose details in my shadows?
  • Sharpen this bad boy!  Always sharpen… always.

After I finished asking myself these questions I was left with an image that was pleasing, but given that this is glamour photography, I wanted to blow pleasing out of the water and create a breathtaking image!  So I exported a .psd file and opened in to photoshop in order to put some magazine style retouches on the finished product.

In photoshop, you’re capable of working in layers and choosing to mask areas of layers to only show an isolated portion of the photo.  Layers are great for correcting small areas of a photo while lightroom is great at overall corrections.

With the file opened in photoshop, this is what I asked myself/my thoughts on the image:

  • Are there any shadows that I can lighten? (under the eyes, near the hairlines, around the mouth, etc.)
  • I want her eyes to brighten and intensity – let’s make that happen
  • Her hair needs more contrast and a slight increase in vibrancy
  • Her black dress looks a tad drab; let’s burn those shadows
  • The skin colour on her arms does not match the skin colour on her face, let’s even that out
  • Refine the skin and smooth it out (while keeping the natural texture)

So now that you have a little insight as to what goes through my mind while I assess a photo and navigate through the editing process hopefully you’ll find your editing process a tad easier!  Remember, practice makes perfect!

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