Shooting and Editing Photos Part 3: Editing Styles and Preparing Your Files

Shooting and Editing Photos Part 3: Editing Styles and Preparing Your Files

Shooting and Editing Photos Part 3: Editing Styles and Preparing Your Files

Shooting captures the moment. Editing recreates the feel

These pictures of Shanghai were captured about a year ago. I was pretty jetlagged thanks to the 10 hour time zone difference, and I figured I’d have a better time exploring The Bund at sunrise rather than sleeplessly staring at the ceiling of my hostel. I’m glad I headed out – the series of shots I ended up with have become some of my all time personal favorites.

The shots were well exposed (see Shooting and Editing Photos: Part 1 and Part 2) and the moments were captured as I had hoped (see The Difference Between Snapshots and Photographs). I came home with some quality RAW files that were ready for editing. As you can see, different styles of post processing dramatically alter the feel of the photos from that morning. I usually have some idea of the feel I want to create with an image before I begin the editing process. This gives me a goal as well as a sense of direction as I work.

Shanghai Original

One of the original, unedited shots

A Retro Look

A retro look is attained through vignetting and subtle color adjustments

Colors and Shadows

A natural look

Black and White

A dramatic look is achieved with high contrast black and white


Choosing your photo software

On one hand it’s nice to have options. But you can’t learn all the programs out there, so at some point you’ll have to pick one and stick with it as you learn the ins and outs. If you’ve been shooting for any length of time, chances are you already have your photo editing program of choice. A growing number of people are using Adobe Lightroom. It’s fairly well equipped, and you can edit shots in bulk which is especially useful for travel, sports, and wedding photographers. I like Lightroom a lot because it’s a fantastic photo organizer that’s easy to use, but I’ve found it to be a bit limited for photo editing. You simply can’t achieve the kinds of adjustments that the full featured Adobe Photoshop allows.

Personally, I use Canon Digital Photo Professional for organizing, Adobe Photoshop for editing, and I’m a fan of Photomatix for HDR processing. I also use Photoshop plugins from Topaz Labs and Nik Software. The editing examples in this guide series will feature screenshots from those programs. But fear not! Even if a Photoshop-ism isn’t directly applicable to you, it’s very likely that you can achieve a similar edit with your own respective photo editing program.


A word of caution

Photo editing programs are powerful, and small adjustments can effect big changes. Use discretion or your photos will quickly start to show photographic no-nos: halo effects, posterization, and excessive noise. When you want to add some pop to a photo while maintaining a realistic look, less is most definitely more.


An overdone, fake looking HDR edit. Notice the halo effect and the overly darkened sky


Let’s get to it: Prepare your images for editing

I edit single shot RAW files and multiple exposure HDRs essentially the same way. Keeping my methods consistent reduces complication and allows me to work faster. The only real difference is how I save the photos.

For a single shot RAW, I first open the RAW file in Canon’s DPP:

Digital Photo Professoinal

Canon’s Digital Photo Professoinal

I’ll then save three different files at exposure settings of +2, 0, and -2 EV. I save all my files in 16 bit “.TIF” format. Here’s what that looks like:

Plus 2 EV

Saving the file at +2 EV

For a multiple exposure HDR series I simply save each file “as is”, no need to adjust the exposure. With DPP you can batch process your files to save time; find it in “File->Batch Process…” Here’s what it looks like:

Batch Processing

Batching Processing a 5 Exposure HDR Series

That’s it! When you’re finished saving your files you’re ready to do the first step of processing with Photomatix. One final note, though.


Organization is important

By now you have at least 3 files saved to your computer, and you’re soon to have more as you follow this guide. Between those files and all the editing programs you might use, it’s easy to see why organization is important. Saving your files to a new folder will help keep things organized as you move on.


If you liked this article, take a look at the others in this series:

Shooting and Editing Photos Part 1: Your Camera is Hungry
Part 2: Capturing High Dynamic Range (HDR) Images
Part 4: Finding Realism with HDR Editing
Part 5: A Comprehensive Photoshop Guide

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