Nailing the in-person engagement photo session is the most important thing for a wet-behind-the-ears photographer, but post-production comes in a hot second!
If your clients feel relaxed and taken care of, and you’ve worked some fun prompts during the photoshoot to get natural-looking pictures, then all that’s left is editing engagement photos and finally, delivery.
Hopefully, your couple will get that link in their inbox, open your photos, and pass out because your pictures are exactly what they wanted, but let’s nail the editing first, shall we?
Things To Do Before Editing Engagement Photos
The most important thing to remember is that you can’t fix everything in post-production.
Say it louder for the people in the back.
Sure, editing is a beautiful gift we modern-day photographers are given; Lightroom and Photoshop are a photog’s best friends, right?
Well, they’re probably more like the solid third-down-the-list friends. Your camera and *light* should be the first two on that list. And maybe a bit of charisma.
Yes, some can work wonders in Photoshop, but if you’re just starting, don’t assume that a bit of correction will fix bad in-camera work.
Sound harsh? Maybe. But if you’re taking your client’s sweet, sweet memories into your skillful little photog hands, well… they better be somewhat skillful.
So, what are some things that you should think about before you get shooting?
Choose a Style
You’ll want to have a goal before you shoot the engagement session.
Of course, there will likely be a gap between how you want your photos to look and how they’ll turn out, but you’ll get there quicker if you have an idea in mind.
Your clients will also have an expectation, probably based on your portfolio.
Do your best to shoot for the style that you want, which should also coincide with the style that you advertise. That way, your clients will be happy, and you’ll feel like you’re moving towards your goal.
Watch Your Exposure
Yes, you can adjust exposure in post-production, but only to a certain extent. A blown-out photo is a lost cause, as is a severely under-exposed photo.
If you’re looking to grow in your photography career, you need to get a handle on lighting. Don’t worry if you have to check the photo on the back of your camera one thousand times.
It’s better to do that and help yourself get it right in camera than to plow ahead only to find that you have endless unusable photos.
Pay attention. Grow. Learn. And please don’t think editing will solve all your problems.
Think About Your Frame
This is another one you’ll want to work on getting right in camera. When you frame up a photo, pay attention.
Is the angle weird? Did you cut off the top of someone’s head or amputate someone’s hand in a strange spot? Maybe there’s something in the background that just really shouldn’t be there.
You don’t want to spend a zillion hours in Photoshop trying to recreate someone’s hair or remove a pole that looks like it’s sticking out of their head.
Work on honing your eye for things like this, so you don’t have to try to salvage the photo later.
How To Edit Engagement Photos
Okay, mental checklist – you’ve nailed the in-person engagement session, your style is on fleek, your lighting is impeccable, and your framing? **Chef’s kiss**
Now it’s time to get into how to edit these engagement photos!
Pick Your Editing Software
If you haven’t decided where you’re going to edit your photos, I’d say that’s the first step.
There are endless choices when deciding how to edit, and it ultimately comes down to what you’re trying to accomplish.
The top two choices are almost always Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop. Okay, Adobe… quit showing off.
Depending on your style and goals, you can use these programs individually or together.
Lightroom is fabulous for touch-ups, light and color editing, and just general photo editing. You can import RAW photos directly into Lightroom for even more precise and high-quality photo editing.
Photoshop is fabulous for more heavy-lifting. If you need to remove or add things in the photo, heavily edit skin texture and tone, or dramatically alter the image in any way, Photoshop is your best bet.
Adobe software is certainly not the cheapest, however, so if you’d like to look around for something free (or cheaper), don’t be afraid to do that.
Just make sure the end product is something you’re proud of.
Remember Your Style?
Remember way back when (ya know, earlier in the article?) when I said to pick a style? Well, now you need to edit for that style!
If you’re going for a more moody vibe reminiscent of the PNW, then you should have shot your photos slightly under-exposed in-camera. When you’re editing, you can work those shadows and create an engagement photo your clients will *swoon*(are we still using this word?) over.
If you’re more of a light and airy photographer, then you’ll try to get your lighting spot-on in-camera and then lighten and brighten the whites while you’re editing.
Fix the Skyline
If you forgot to stay on top of the framing situation when you were having a ball with your clients, no fear.
There are some things you can do in your editing software of choice to correct the mishap. One thing you should be paying attention to is the skyline.
Unless you purposefully shot with the skyline askew, then you should consider keeping it straight. Adjust the photo in the crop tool, and spin it until the horizon is, well, horizontal.
It’s this kind of attention to detail that will make your photos look top-notch, even when you forget to consider them during the actual engagement session.
Your clients won’t know why the photos look so good; they’ll just know they’re in love.
Less Is More
This may be a personal preference here, but when it comes to editing, less is more.
I know it can get tempting (especially when you’re new to the software) to want to use all the tools and gadgets and filters and oh, look, what does that do?!
Try to avoid this.
Your clients are getting their engagement photos done. They want pictures that they can look back on and cherish for years to come.
You don’t want them pulling the ol’ album out a few years from now and hard cringing, do you?
Your artistic flair is absolutely valid, and if you have a vision (and your clients are on board), you should see that through.
What I’m saying is, avoid the puppy dog excitement and odd sense of power that comes with an editing tool like Lightroom.
Take it easy. Take it slow.
You want it to look natural, not like you’re testing all the new filters and brushes.
Remember What You Promised Your Client
I know all of that was a lot to take in, but what I want you to remember is what you promised your clients.
What are they expecting to receive, and what did you promise to deliver?
As a budding artist, your style will continue to grow and evolve, and that’s a beautiful thing. But as an engagement and wedding photographer, you also need to consider what your clients want.
Styled shoots and personal projects are wonderful to make big leaps in your style, but when you have a paid engagement session, you need to make sure to deliver something close to what is in your portfolio.
So, let the creative energy flow, have a blast with your clients, and when it comes to editing that engagement session, make sure to stay consistent and deliver something that your clients love.
And when all else fails, YouTube it!