To Edit Or Not To Edit

 Recently I participated in a great discussion on my friend's blog about photo editing. Before last year I didn't know really anything about editing, except that I loved photos that were in sepia. I thought I was in the purest group, where there was no editing, only the raw truth. What you see is exactly the way it is, and the way it should be. But then I was asked by a friend to photograph her son's wedding. So I started doing some research and reading about wedding photography. And what did I read? You have to edit. Especially if you want those beautiful black and white shots or lovely sepia enhancements. After experimenting, I saw that editing really did help my photos. And oh my goodness, if you are shooting a wedding, you really want these photos to turn out good so I did edit every photo I shot. And now I do put almost every photo I take through my editing program (Adobe Elements for those of you that are wondering), but I still have my own set of rules that I follow.

 First, editing really is cool. I am not a great photographer at all, especially with light. And in many cases, editing my photos can bring the brightness up.

Take for instance these photos of our family taken last year.

This first one is right when the sun was setting and is pretty dark.

 So I bumped up the brightness and contrast. Much better.

You can see why this one did not make the cut...Dasher looks like she is about to fall asleep.

This next photo I shot last weekend at our church's Reformation party. It is not a bad photo; but the colors look a little washed out.

But when I asked my photo editing software to 'auto smart fix', this is the result.

This really helped the photo by giving more contrast between the grass and the other colors in the photo.

Like I said, light is one of my problems. This picture of the river rocks in our backyard is dull and colorless.

When I bumped up the brightness and contrast of my rock shot, this was the result.

Much better! All of a sudden you see the individual rocks and their colors.

There are more reasons why editing is so much fun. This shot was at an historical site in our area. I just loved this bell and its simplicity.

But I felt that if I did this.....

It gave it more of an aged sense. (I made it black and white, then gave it a 'old paper' layer.) But did you notice that on the bell in the color picture, there is this worn area that is not as evident in the edited photo? It all depends on what you are trying to portray in your photo.

And that is what I am realizing, photography is art and art is very subjective. One person might take and edit a photograph and make it look incredible to them, but then I would change it in a very different way and make it look great to me. All of the photography contests on Pioneer Woman are really fun to look at, but sometimes I do disagree with her favorites. It is all a matter of opinion.

But you are still taking images of real things, like people. And now that we have digital cameras and incredible editing software, the statement 'a photo never lies' is not necessarily true anymore. And that is where I draw the line; with people. Now if I am taking a senior photo or something like that, I will cover up certain blemishes. Facial blemishes are temporary anyways, so 'hiding' them is not something I have a problem with. But changing someones features to make them look different then they really are is something I can't do. And really, I can't do that because my editing program is for beginners and doesn't manipulate photos that way. But every single one of those billboards, magazine covers and advertisements that we see every day has been seriously, heavily manipulated. And I really have trouble with that.

I still don't know how I feel about taking landscape shots and making them look like they came out of a Polaroid camera, or giving the entire photo a blue tint, or boosting the color so much that it does look unrealistic. At first I was not wanting to do this with any of my photos, but photography really is art, and art can be anything. So far I have not tried any of this heavy editing, mainly because I am a busy momma and wife and have not had the time to explore my editing program and figure out how to do it. But there are some photos I see that I know are really edited that I love, so it is still a dilemma in my mind.

So I will edit my people photos, to give them a little more light and color; but I will not manipulate them to the point where the image has changed. Landscape and object pictures are still up for debate in my mind.....someday I'll have time to think about that and play around more with my photos.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this if you are willing to share them.......


  1. This subject popularity surprised me when I read Erin's blog post, but its a subject I can't stop thinking about now. Who knew?!
    I pretty much 100% agree with you. I don't mind at all when color or lighting is enhanced, or even a blemish taken out, but I don't care for the people in photos being totally changed from WHO they are. I don't want to sit and wonder "IS that what she looks like, or was she made to look that way by the photographer?" I think the shots you took through your editing program turned out great. And, in my opinion, your program made them look more true to life - not fake. When we get the darker spots or the shaded areas, its often times because of the camera and didn't look that way at the time the photo was taken. I'm planning on taking a photography and then editing class next year and I can't wait to learn how to do some of the lighting/color enhancements! I love to make things look as true to real life as possible. Where you feel like you could reach right out and touch it.

    good post, Charlotte - I like the photo examples you gave!

  2. You said it very well, Stef....I do feel like when I edited it actually makes the photo look more like real life. Cameras are finicky, and change even what we see in the viewfinder. (Probably because I had it on the wrong setting or something.) But I am still not sure about over-editing non people. Someday, I'll have an opinion about that one.... :-)

  3. Thanks for showing all of this Charlotte! It was so helpful for understanding the correction of lighting, rather than the manipulating of lighting. Great job!

  4. Erin, when I wrote this post I looked up the definition of editing and manipulating....trying to express the difference between fixing something and actually changing it. But I really like the word you used: correcting. Because at this point that is what I feel I am doing, correcting the photo to look more realistic. Thanks for the compliment!


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