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Photo Editing 101: The Need for Speed

Author: Libby - Printique by Adorama

By Jessie Parker
One of the most frequent questions I get from other photographers is “How do you edit your photos?” The glib answer is “as quickly as possible.” While that’s sort of a joke, it’s also VERY true. I edit about 150 weddings a year, including all of mine and quite a few shot by other photographers I work with. So, let’s assume each one has an average of 1,000 photos after it’s been culled (for the uninitiated, by “culling” I mean “to remove anything you don’t intend to edit”). Given that, let’s say I edit about 150,000 photos per year. That’s actually a very conservative estimate, as most of our weddings have quite a few more than 1,000 images, so, horrifyingly, I suspect it might be more like 200,000. And that’s just weddings. I’m not even counting portrait sessions!
It’s the end of the year, and I’ve been editing basically all day every day trying to get as many jobs as possible completed and to the clients before the holidays. Therefore, unsurprisingly, speed has very much been on my mind. So, how do I streamline my editing process?
Be consistent.
There are certain photos you do every time, right? Make it easy on yourself and edit them the same way every time. While I make allowances for different lighting and color in the photos, I can pretty much tell you how I’m going to crop a pose and what effects I’m going to use without even looking at it. I know some people might think that’s lazy, but if it works, it works. You don’t need to try to reinvent the wheel every time. I also get asked, “Don’t your clients notice?” Short answer, “NOPE.” Or, if they do, they don’t care. I’ve done the weddings of three sets of female twins and one set of male twins, and none of them have said anything about the poses OR the editing being similar and you’d think they of all people would be sensitive to that! The fact is if they like your “look” that’s what they want. Knowing how you’re going to edit a photo takes the thought process out of it, which at a minimum cuts your time in half, maybe even more.

Get Actions and Set up Hot Keys.

If you’re working in Photoshop, find a set (or sets) of actions you like and invest! Actions are prerecorded sets of commands that achieve an effect with minimal effort on your part. In short, they are absolute lifesavers. Want to make a photo black and white? Don’t mess around with saturation, gradient maps, etc. Click one button and be done with it! Once you’ve got your actions picked out, set up your “F,” or function keys to run the actions. It’s much faster to keep your hand on the keyboard and jab the right keys by memory than it is to scroll through your actions tab looking for the right ones. I can tell you without looking that I have F1 set as flatten and save, F2 is a curve bump, and F3 is a black level bump. I have all of my keys set and then different combinations of command, shift, and F keys set as well. It’s a lot, but you’d be surprised how quickly you’ll find yourself hitting the right ones without looking or thinking about it.

In the end, don’t over think it. If it looks good to you, it’s done. It’s as simple as that.
For more photography and editing tips, click here.