I really dislike editing. Sitting at my desk for hours makes me pretty sad. I have to bribe myself with Snacks & Netflix, to even get me into my editing cupboard. Yes my iMac is in a windowless cupboard… so I’m all about spending the least amount of time editing as possible.
Editing, in my opinion, should be used to enhance and tweak but not to fix a bad image. That’s why I’ve left editing to the last week, because I really wanted you to think about and try and create the image as correct as possible in camera.
I love people who do amazing things with Photoshop and create ethereal images but for food photography, I feel the food should look like food. I’m not personally a fan of adding filters to food, desaturating or saturating the image so the colours look unreal. That’s not my style. That of course can be YOUR style but I can only tell you how I approach things.
The thing I LOVE about flicking through a cook book or a foodie magazine, like Food & Travel Magazine or Donna Hay (I hear she’s working on a new title!) is that pretty much every page stops me in my tracks, I’m salivating over those images, they are so sumptuous and inviting and look so real that if I could reach into the page and scoop out a fork full I would!
Yes, I tweak things and play around a little with colour, sometimes I will reduce the red if I feel it’s too over powering but it’s so subtle. I never fade or dilute the colours so that we are seeing an almost monochromatic scene. It just doesn’t feel inviting to me, I have no desire to lick the page. And I want to flick through and be inspired to cook, eat something new or just get lost in the image. Again this is my approach, my style and my view of my work. It doesn’t mean this is the only way or you should just copy this, I love a range and variety of work out there, I just don’t want to produce MY work that way. So please do follow whatever style or editing technique that makes you happy.
I use Lightroom to do all my main editing.
I’m going to walk you through how I’d edit an image, because I shoot RAW not JPEG for work purposes, when you download RAW files, they can be a little flat so they do actually need a little boost in contrast to make them pop again.
(basically RAW files are huge files that come out of the camera containing pretty much all the information captured, it’s uncompressed. A JPEG is a smaller file because the information within, has been compressed. A JPEG can be opened by most computers, phones etc but a RAW file needs to be reformatted, by specific software like Lightroom or Adobe Bridge, into a readable JPEG/TIFF file. For more in depth differences between the two just ask Google)
Below is my Italian Ingredients images, on the left it’s a screen shot of the RAW file, unedited in Lightroom. On the right, a screen shot of the edited image.
The differences are subtle, but the Right side definitely pops more.
When I open an image in Lightroom, I go through the following checks. In the Basic Menu I work through the following:
WB White Balance - Is the image too warm / too cool?
Contrast - because RAW files are flat I always add a little contrast
Highlights, Shadows, Whites & Blacks - I check there’s info in my blacks and that the whites aren’t blown out. I adjust shadows accordingly or leave things as they are
Clarity & Vibrance - I add a little of both as this gives a bit of a pop to the image
Saturation - I rarely add this
HSL / Color / B&W
Saturation - this is where I might reduce red or orange if those colours are too overwhelming in the final image
As you can see my tweaks are very small.
I will then go down to the Lens Correction section and make sure the image is straight.
Then aside from Straightening, I will copy and paste those adjustments to the set of images. I leave out straightening as that can differ from one image to next if I’m hand holding the camera.
And that is pretty much it in Lightroom! If there is a blemish or something that needs to be removed I’ll open the image in Photoshop
Before I moved to Lightroom for the bulk of my editing, I used to just use Photoshop. Now I only use Photoshop to ‘touch up’ my photos, I find it easier to do things like remove blemishes on someones skin or clean up a background (remove trash from the street or road signs) in Photoshop.
On my Phone
I use the VSCO app for my iPhone, I know lots of people love ColorStory, so if you haven’t used either maybe check out both to see which you prefer. I just love VSCO because it’s very similar to Lightroom in how it’s set to edit. I pretty much do all the same tweaks as I do in Lightroom and just replicate them in VSCO. I then just copy and paste the settings from one image to the next so I don’t have to go through the step by step process each and every time!