A wedding is often one of the most important days in a couple’s lives, and as the wedding photographer, there’s a lot of pressure on you to capture those memories in the best way possible. In the last lesson we looked at how to edit down your shoot into a set that tells the story of the day and looks great. This lesson looks at how you can keep a consistent style when editing your wedding images.
Wedding Photography Post-Production: Editing and Style
The first step for me would be to edit in Adobe Camera Raw. The process will look similar in Ligthroom, Capture One, Gemstone, Pixelmator, or whatever program you use. The idea at this stage is to correct everything so that it all looks to about the same level: exposure corrected and you can see all the details in shadows and highlights, saturation adjusted, lens corrections applied.
I usually start with a Lens Profile Correction in Lens Corrections. You can see it picks up the lens and it adjusts any barrel distortion (particularly important as it’s a wide lens) plus reduces the heavy vignetting.
The image is too dark, so in the Basic menu, the shadows can be lifted and the exposure increased to help balance that out. Even though the Adobe Camera RAW interface has changed since these images were edited, the options in the menus are still essentially the same.
Vibrance has been increased here too. I works in a similar way to saturation but it only picks up on already-saturated colours so it's a little bit less intense than if you use the saturation, and you won’t then oversaturate already bright colours, like the greens of the bouquet in the picture.
If you find you’ve got a colour cast or your image is too warm, you can go into the Colour Mixer (HSL/Greyscale in older versions of ACR) and adjust the saturation or luminance to tone down whichever colour is overpowering.
If you were going to make an image black and white, it makes sense to do it here too.
Raster Editing With Actions
A lot of photographers like to do their main editing in a raster image editor like Photoshop, Affinity Photo, Gemstone, Pixelmator, or whatever, because it can give you a little more control.
Actions can speed up the editing process while still keeping the editing of each image flexible, but if you don't use them that's fine – you’ll just need to make similar edits to each photo to keep a sense of continuity.
Photoshop actions are widely available around the net, either for free, one-off purchases or via subscription at Envato Elements where you can use as many as you like for one monthly cost. The actions for this tutorial are from Paint The Moon and Greater Than Gatsby. They offer quite a bit of flexibility while still keeping the quality of the image.
Starting With a Base
You can run actions on top of each other and if you’re doing that then you’ll usually start with a base action.
This action is called ‘Subtle Edit Color Base’. When you press play on an action, it’ll run through a bunch of processes and then finish up like the image above. You can see it’s far too much, and that’s okay, most of them are. You’ll usually have to dial down the opacity a bit.
Here it is down to 56%, so reduced quite a lot and it looks much better.
Customise Your Action
If you open the folder associated with the completed action, you’ll see all of its component parts, the layers that make up the overall effect.
There are things like Rescue Highlights, Brighten Shadows, Sharpen and so on. All of these have a mask associated with them so you can brush the effect on and off in a targeted way.
A ‘Top Coat’ Action
Once you’ve made all of your changes to your previous action, you can run another one. The great thing about buying ‘packs’ is that quite often they’re designed to be used with each other.
Here, you can see the option ‘WRITE A RECIPE’ which, if you run it, will actually go through all the ‘top coat’ or enhancement actions and apply and then hide them.
You can see above there are a lot of folders now and each one of those is an action. Doing this means you can make each one visible one at a time and see its result on your image. It saves you having to run each action individually. You can also then have more than one action on the go at a time, and reduce the opacity of each to reduce the effect to suit.
The more you add on to your photo, the more it the more it can degrade the quality of the picture because you’re just layering these effects and really stretching what’s available to you.
Then just like you did with the base coat, you can make adjustments within the folder associated with the action, to fine tune the result.
Before and After Actions
The original (post-RAW editing) image is on the left and the same image with a base coat and top coat applied is on the right, and it’s looking a lot more stylised now.
Editing for Continuity
The trick now is to keep the continuity as you edit the pictures. Try and keep all your photos moving through each stage of your post production process together; ie., don't start Photoshopping a few while you figure out your selection. Keep everything moving in unison.
It is also useful to make notes of important stuff to remember, like which actions you used, the percentage you had the opacity at, and so on. Doing it over and over again will get you into a routine where you likely won’t need to refer to your notes, but chances are you won’t do all your editing in one day, so if you’re coming back to it later, you might forget exactly what you did.
Some pictures might not look right with a particular action; likely your indoor and outdoor shots will require different treatment, and that’s fine, you might use several different looks, just try to make sure they’re not drastically different and keep the overall look of your images similar,
More Tutorials for Wedding Photographers
About the Authors
Marie Gardiner created the video course that includes this lesson, and wrote the updated text version. Marie is a writer and photographer from England, with a background in media.