5 Photography Mistakes That Cost You Time In Editing
And How You Can Avoid Them
As photographers, we love getting the shot. Typically we aren’t just taking one shot either. We are creating a series or capturing a variety of poses and expressions. For many photographers, the act of capturing images is far more exciting than sitting down to narrow and edit. Even for those who enjoy manipulating their images in photoshop, fixing redundant avoidable issues is time-sucking and annoying. And if you don’t do your own editing, it still takes extra time for your retoucher to fix.
I've spent much of the last decade working as a professional retoucher, managed a portrait studio with half a dozen staff photographers, in addition to editing my own work as a photographer. In that time, these are five of the biggest mistakes I’ve noticed that could have been avoided to save on time in editing. As well as what you can do to avoid them.
*As a side note, photography is an art I don’t consider anything the wrong way to shoot so much as not the best way to achieve the look you're going for in-camera instead of in editing.
1 - I’ll Fix It In Post
No matter how big or small of a production it is, I can’t even tell you how often I've heard a photographer say something along the lines of “we’ll fix it in post” or “it’s ok, the editor can take care of that later”. Frequently I hear this in response to a model or client catching something like a hair tie on a wrist, a cell phone bulging out a pocket, or a client forgetting to put on the right color of shoes (I wish I were kidding). For every time I've heard this on-set, there are many more times photographers have thought this to themselves. Often opting to continue shooting rather than taking a moment to fix something they noticed.
Something like that hair tie on the wrist that now needs to be photoshopped out of every single image that this person is in, which could be a lot of images if it’s a family portrait session. Having to mask off an item for color correction over and over. Or having to smooth out the same bit of tangled hair, one of my personal least favorite things to edit. All of these edits may not be that hard on their own. However, if the only other edits needed are some minor contrast and color changes or light airbrushing, you may have just tripled the amount of editing time for that image. And if you have 20, 50, or 100 images to edit that time adds up. Having it take all day to edit what could have only taken a couple of hours.
Solution: Take an extra moment to do visual once over on your subject to make sure everything is in place. If you’ve already taken a couple of shots and notice something you didn’t catch earlier, pause and fix it. It may seem like it’s stopping your flow for something so small but you’ll be thanking yourself later when you don't have to edit out that hair tie for the tenth time.
This goes for any kind of shoot, not just portraits if that piece of trash is going to have to be edited out of your landscape shot, pick it up. If the rug is crooked in your real estate photo, adjust it. Remember less time editing means more time to shoot. Plus your clients will appreciate the attention to detail and see you as a professional.
2 - Not Considering The Time of Day For Natural Light Shoots
This one is more for traditional portrait photography and really depends on your shooting style and the look you are going for. Just because your client suggests noon on a rooftop deck for a group shoot with eight people, does not mean it’s a good time of day to do so. You might not have any other options but I’ll come back to that. As photographers, it’s our job to know how to use and manipulate light. Planning your shoot without consideration of how soft or harsh r light will be could mean the difference between making minor contrast adjustments and hours of correcting unwanted harsh shadows.
Shooting to very early in the morning or late in the evening may not have enough light. Potentially causing blurry images from a longer shutter, too shallow of a depth of field from too large of an aperture, or grainy images from too high of an ISO. Often photographers will just push one setting to compensate for the low light. These really early and really late times can also have very little contrast. Conversely, shooting in the middle of the day can leave you with blowout highlights and harsh, unflattering shadows.
Solutions: If you are shooting without an assistant, try scheduling your shoot to start between 7 am - 10 am for the morning or 2 pm - a couple of hours before sunset for mid-afternoon. If you can, visit your location(s) ahead of time at different times of day to get familiar with the lighting conditions. The times will vary by time of year and how long the days are in your city. Google sunrise and sunset times if you are going to be shooting in a new city.
If you do have to shoot at a time that is darker or brighter than you would like, there are some things you can do to help:
•For darker light conditions, practice shooting in low light to find a balance between your shutter, ISO, and f-stop that won’t be too grainy or blurry. Bring reflectors or a bounce board to cast some additional light on your subject.
•For bright midday sun or direct sunlight, you can cut down harsh light on your subject with a diffuser or scrim, held by an assistant for best results.
•Make your shoot a mix of natural light and flash. Adding some diffused flash to a low light situation not only allows you to use a faster shutter but can help isolate your subject from the background as well. If you want to try to get rid of some of the harsh shadows in your environment, you can use a high powered flash to balance out the sun. Just make sure your camera can handle very high shutter speeds to avoid blowing out your subject.
3 - Forgetting to Adjust Your Settings As The Lighting Changes
Sometimes as photographers we can get so caught up in the action that we’re capturing that we can sometimes neglect to make sure we are capturing things at a consistent quality. I’ve edited many shoots over the years, including some of my own, where the first few shots are great then the clouds change or the subject moves and suddenly there is a series of over or underexposed images.
Solutions: Get in the habit of glancing at the light meter in your viewfinder before each shot. If the lighting conditions are changing and your subjects are moving in and out of shadows, for example at an outdoor midday wedding.
Let the camera help you by shooting in aperture priority. This way you can still have stylistic control over the depth of field while the camera helps you tackle the changing light. Just make sure you familiarize yourself with how your cameras light metering setting are set to avoid getting consistent but still off exposure. Another quick fix for this is to adjust your exposure compensation if you are consistently having over or underexposed images when shooting in an automated mode.
4 - Cropping Too Tight In-Camera
Cropping in-camera is generally a good thing to practice especially if you shoot on a lower megapixel camera and are concerned about resolution. However, cropping too much can hurt the usability of your image or result in sometimes tedious or fake looking background extensions if you have a lot of detail around the edges. Remember even just straightening a crooked image cuts a little off of each edge and if your subject is too close to the edge it will get cut off too.
Solution: Try to keep your final usage of your images in mind when shooting. It’s always easier to crop in on an image than it is to add to the image. If you are shooting with the intention to print, especially portraiture, make sure you leave room to print out 8x10’s or 5x7's of an image. The same is true for digital platforms like Instagram. Even though you can post images that are don’t have to be square anymore you still will still have some of your image auto cropped unless you want to add edges in photoshop or an editing app.
For practice, take an image and crop it as both an 8x10 and a 5x7 and take note of the difference. If your images are getting cut off on either the long or short edges, you may need to zoom out or pull back just a little when shooting. This will help your images look great at either common aspect ratio.
Same goes for special aspect ratios if you know you are going to want your end result to be specific dimensions, test crop some images to get familiar with what that looks like.
5 - Keep Your Lenses And Sensors Clean And Dust-Free
This last one may sound like an obvious part of general camera maintenance. But this is one that frequently gets neglected until it becomes an annoyance, especially in high volume studios. A dust spot on your lens or sensor may not seem like much until you have to edit it out of all 700 images you took of your last wedding or every image from a full day of family portrait sessions. Every time you change lenses, you have a chance of dust getting on your sensor or rear lens element. Not to mention there is always a chance of dirt, dust, or even water getting on the front of your lens. And if you aren’t the one editing you images dust on your lens or sensor, aka camera spots, can take days and hundreds of images later to catch.
Solution: No need to drive yourself crazy inspecting your lens constantly. Make it part of your routine to glance at the back element of your lens every time you change it. Some newer cameras have self-cleaning sensors but it doesn’t hurt to visually inspect them from time to time as well. If you have been changing your lenses a lot use a lint-free lens paper, to gently clean the back lens element and sensor. You should do this at least every week if you shoot frequently. Don't use a microfiber cloth for these areas as they can hold oils from your hands that will be harder to clean later. Check your front lens element frequently too, at least once per shoot, or more if you are shooting in a dusty or rainy environment. A microfiber cloth is safe to use for this front element, as it’s easier to see if oils are getting transferred to the lens and can be wiped away or lens cleaner can be used if needed.
I hope you find these tips useful, or even just a nice reminder, and will help save you some time and frustration.