Learn my photo editing process from beginning to end for a bridal image.
I use Photoshop for all of my editing – starting with the RAW images from my Nikon D700 in Adobe Bridge to completion in Photoshop.
In Adobe Bridge:
- Turn the Brightness down to +40 (I tweak until the histogram is more evenly distributed). There is a little more bright than dark to begin within this photo, so it won’t be completely equal, but you don’t want anything climbing the right side of the histogram.
- Under “Detail” I pulled luminance up to +5 under noise reduction. It’s very effective for both reducing noise and softening. Next I open the photo in Photoshop to complete the editing process.
Step 1 (Cropping): I don’t like the column on the left or the way she is centered completely in the photo, so I’m going to re-crop. Generally it’s a good idea to get your crop right in camera so you can maintain the most information possible. Sometimes, however, it’s just not as easy as others. This picture for instance was taken while I was 2nd shooting at a wedding. So the main photographer was directing the bride, and I am literally just shooting a 2nd perspective. The bride may never look at me, and in this case was only standing here for about 30 seconds.
Step 2 (Cloning): Now we have our basic composition to where we like it. I do NOT however, like the big gaudy black hand rail running through the pretty white column. So that has to go. We’re going to get rid of it by cloning. Be precise when cloning, and always do it on a separate layer. Once you clone, you delete the data that was in that spot. Duplicate your background layer. You should always do this before editing so that you can always undo whatever you have edited. I named this layer “Handrail Clone.” This fix is all I will do on this layer.
Click on your “clone” tool from your tool selection. We’re going to start on the column and work our way left. You want to do this in as few and correct motions as possible. So make your clone tool the size of the rail. You’ll find the sizing selection at the top left corner of your screen. Also make sure your opacity is at 100% for this. So you don’t have to go over and over to get the desired look. Once this is done, find the spot on your photo you want to replace the rail with and click on it while holding ALT. You can see the preview of that you’re going to move over when you hover. Just make sure any lines, or designs match up how you want them to.
So far we’ve gotten rid of the bar completely that was on the column. All of our lines match and you can’t tell it was ever there! Finish your cloning. Try not to clone using the exact same place as your source the whole time. It will look good as you go, but when you finish and look at the whole photo you’ll see an undesired pattern or repeat in your photo, and it won’t look natural. Just to make sure all of my bushes blend together, I’m going to select my blur tool, which is under the little button that looks like a tear drop. Select about 50% opacity, and blur my bushes a little. I also cloned the small portion of the white column that remained on the left side of my photo. I wanted to keep this size, but don’t want the column.
As of now, this is what we are working with.
Step 3 (The Eyes): I want to make her eyes a little more clear. For me, in a portrait, the eyes should always be the focal point. I use the MCP Photoshop Action “Spark” from MCP Fusion set. It also automatically creates a new layer which I love. After running this action, I painted on her eyes to activate at 50%.
Step 4 (Teeth): I like for everyone to look their best in photos, so I generally whiten teeth and clear up and skin issues as well. MCP has an action called Eye Doctor and Dentist and another called Magic Skin so check those out for action based retouching. For teeth, I do it manually by duplicating my last layer and call it “teeth.” I like to just use the DODGE tool. I put it at about 17% opacity, and on midtones to start. zoom in close enough to see the teeth, and make your brush about the size of one tooth.
Step 4 (Lightening and Darkening): Now I want my subject to pop a little more off of the backdrop, so I want to darken behind her, just a LITTLE. To do this I’m going to use the MCP Fix Overexposure Photoshop action in Fusion. It automatically defaults at 0% opacity, so you just increase it to suit your needs. In this case I’m going with about 30%. Remember this layer is masked, so you only want to judge it based on the area you want darker, were going to erase this action over the rest of the photo. So now just use the mask, (a soft black paint brush, while the fix overexposure layer mask is clicked on).
Step 5 (Enhancements): I like to do as little as possible. LESS IS MORE! For this photo, I ran the Sentimental and the Fantasy actions in Fusion, but turned off One Click Color. I added a mask over the Sentimental layer and turned the opacity up to 57%. I used masking so that it only affected the surroundings and not the skin tones.
Below is the before and after bridal image:
Jenn Kelley is a VA Wedding and Lifestyle Portraiture photographer in Chesapeake Virginia. In business for 2 years and studying photography for 8. More info on Jenn and her photography can be found on her website/blog at WWW.JennKelleyPhotography.com.