Wedding Photography Image Enhancement Techniques

We talked about how to manage all those photos that you shot for your client on their wedding, sorting the good from the bad, batch processing and copyrighting in our previous post. We also did talk about choosing some best of the best images of that shoot as your feature images. Let’s dig a little deeper into the what, why and how of feature images.

What are feature images?

When you are rating and sorting out your images into the good and the bad, you should review your good lot once again and choose the best and your most favourite images. These will be your feature images. Normally, photographers choose candid and some staged shots of the couple as their feature images. The most important thing that you should be looking for here is emotion. Candid shots of the couple kissing or sharing a nice moment with each other, reaction of their parents when they see their daughter for the first time in the bride’s dress, little kids having their own fun time; basically those shots where they couple would see and go “Aw….” or may be shed a tear or two and may be think of actually printing and framing it. These are the kind of shots that you should look out for and you should also make it a point to get such shots during your shoot. Spend enough time thinking how creatively can you enhance the image to make it look better than it already is.

Why should you choose feature images?

Because, these images are your money makers. There will be people on the guest list, some close family member or friend who will have a camera of their own and they will be taking pictures too. There are awesome smart phones these days that can take amazing pictures and come with apps where people edit pictures on the fly. So ask yourself, why should they hire you?

They hire you because you are the specialist and you are the best at what you do. While others take pictures on their devices just because they have one, you have the ability, the creativity and the skill to capture moments, memories and the emotion behind them. That is why you should take great images from your lot and make them even better by enhancing them in post processing.

impressing clients

It is also a good idea to show a few samples of such images to your prospective clients and let them know that you are capable of delivering more than just photos of an event. Let them know that you can beautify their memories to their liking.

Technology has improved a lot and has had a significant impact on various art forms, because of this the audience is also becoming aware of the art and is developing a stronger taste. Unless you adapt to these changes, you will fail to meet the expectations of your audience, in this case, your clients. That is why it is important that you make peace with the fact that enhancing your images in Photoshop and lightroom is an important part of your wedding photography business.

How should you process your feature images?

There is no exact right way of processing and enhancing an image. You need to go by your gut here. However here are a few of the methods that most of the seasoned wedding photographers use on their images.

  • Basic colour correction: Very simple and subtle adjustments to basic elements of an image like contrast, saturation, exposure and sharpening can bring a huge difference in your images. You can add a vignette too if it’s a portrait that you are editing, but remember to keep it subtle.
  • Black and white: If you ask me, black and white editing is where you remove the distraction of colour from your images to show true emotion. This works brilliantly on candid shots where you have captured true emotion which is not planned or staged. Decrease the saturation to remove the colour. Adjust the contrast and exposure. In some cases, adding a sepia or cyan tone will add more aesthetic beauty.
    black and white wedding
  • Dramatic black and white: You will start with the same steps as with black and white. Then you can take the editing a step further by adjusting the shadows and high lights a bit so you can preserve those sharp details. This kind of processing works best when you have included a lot of landscape in the background. Avoid doing this for close ups or portraits because it will actually enhance the details on any spots, wrinkles or blemishes that one might have on their skin. You don’t want to make your clients look like that in their pictures.
    dramatic black and white wedding
  • Film effect: A popular effect that you can see a lot these days on Instagram. This gives a bit of old timey film camera effect to your images. A little bit of desaturation (not as much as black and white) and adding a colour cast is where you can start off to bring this effect in your images. Different colour casts work differently on images. You can experiment with various colours like red, green, blue, yellow, cyan to see what works best for you.
    film noir wedding
  • Vintage: Another popular effect these days. There’s isn’t a photo editing app that doesn’t have this effect. The primary step of this effect is split toning. It’s where you can add a colour cast to the shadows and another colour cast (of a different colour) in highlights. This can be done using the split toning sliders while editing raw images. Alternatively, you can over lay a texture and add a slight vignette for a typical old photo print touch.
    vintage wedding

A word of caution

Like I said before, there is no right way of editing an image but there are definitely some wrong ways of doing it. Just steer clear of them and you should be fine. Some points that you need to remember.

  • Never over-do any effect. Too much of anything is bad. The key to post processing is that you are not showing that you can add these effects, you need to show how these effects can beautify your images. Good editing is when your audience actually doesn’t realise that there has been some editing done.
  • As you progress with your career in wedding photography, your number of clients will increase and so will the magnitude of your editing work. Remember that your time is money. Show samples of your work and be clear with your clients about how much will you be charging them for such editing, chances are that they might like your work so much that they may ask you to do the same on almost all the pictures. I once corrected the skin of a bride in one particular portrait to remove some blemishes and they asked me if I could do that to all the images. Biggest mistake. Clearly mention about this as well when you are signing up your clients for your services.
  • I would like to recommend the Nik plugin suite for Photoshop and Lightroom. It used to a paid software but recently, after google took over, the plugins are now available for free. Every plugin creates a different impact on your images. Each plugin has a lot of presets that you can play around with. Just look it up on google and download it for yourself.

That’s about it

Just don’t forget that through post processing, you are enhancing your already awesome shots that you have taken and is not to be mistaken with correcting mistakes that you made while shooting. Ideally, you should just sort those images in the bad pictures lot and move on.

A lot of times you will get request from your client to change the editing you did. For example, they may ask you to restore colour on a particular image where you have done black and white editing. Be open to such criticism. Their perception of that particular shot may be different. It’s best to deliver how the client expects the editing to be. After all, customer is king.

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