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Here is an MCP thought of the day. Since I teach photoshop (both one on one and on my blog), I get asked certain questions frequently. I get asked, “how do I do …” or “oh no, … happened. How do I fix it?” The most frequent to questions I get are “how can I see color casts better and fix them?” and “How can I get my photos looking more like …”

Today’s thought deals with the 2nd. “How do I get my photos looking like (insert photographer name)?” When I ask what they like about whichever photographer they mention, I am usually told that they love their clarity, color, crispness, sharpness, creamy skin tones… Well the list goes on. Usually the thing that I do not hear surprisingly is “STYLE.”

To me, what differentiates many of these photographers is their unique style. Sure, many of them have really amazing technical skills. Sure, many of them have amazing clarity, color, crispness, sharpness, and creamy skin tones. But actually some do not. Some of the people I get asked that question of have color casts, blown whites, etc. In many cases, right or wrong, it has actually become part of their style. In any case, as much as I would like to, I cannot teach you how to get your own style or to copy someone elses. Style is something that evolves over time. Sometimes style is intentional and self directed. Sometimes it just develops.

I think the other thing that many of these well respected and admired photographers have alongside their own style is the ability to consistently see the light. This is in my opinion the biggest difference between a good photo and a great photo and often between a good photographer and great photographer. So make this a goal. Work on seeing light everywhere you go, even when you do not have a camera. Look for the light in people’s eyes, look to see where the shadows fall. See the light!

So where does photoshop fit in, and can I teach you to just take your so so photos and make them great? Yes and no. Having the ability to save photos in photoshop is an phenomenal skill to have. It is nice to know that if you mess up, you can “save” something. I would guess that many of these photographers people admire do “save” a photo every now and then. But I am 100% sure they do not use photoshop to rescue all their work. Photoshop is best used as a tool to enhance what you captured.

You can increase crispness, sharpness and clarity – but if your photo is blurry or out of focus – photoshop cannot save you.

Your can brighten and smooth skin, make colors more vibrant, and increase contrast, but if your photo was way over or underexposed, or if you have harsh shadows or no definition, photoshop cannot make your photo magical.

I could go on with examples. But my point is that most of these photographers that so many of you look up to use photoshop as a tool not as the only tool. Their cameras, lenses, creativity and the light guide them.

So next time, before you say to me “how can I edit this to look like like Skye Hardwick, Tara Whitney, Jinky, Cheryl Muhr, Audrey Woulard’s, Jessica Claire’s, Brittany Woodall, Amy Smith, Brianna Graham’s (and this list goes on and on)” think about what you want to achieve while holding the camera. Figure out how you want the light to fall (control it, do not let it control you), get the technical parts down (exposure, focus, etc) and get the look you are going for (style).

Then my actions and/or training can help take you to that next level by enhancing what is good to make it incredible.

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  1. maya on August 5, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    nice post.i have largely stopped trying to save my photos in photoshop these days. it has significantly cut down the amount of time i’m spending in photoshop. ha about those color casts…they’re driving me crazy!

  2. Kate O on August 5, 2008 at 10:39 pm

    Great post. I am often reminding myself to get the photo right in the camera. learn my camera. Then I can use photoshop and your actions as accessories to my image not a saving piece.Can you give some tips on finding/looking for/at the light? Where do you want your subject and you in natural light?thanks

  3. Johanna on August 6, 2008 at 12:21 am

    I’ve seen a number of before and after photos, and the difference can be amazing. Yes, the fabulous photographers you mentioned are taking wonderful exposures, but they are also doing some great stuff in photoshop to make them look so much better. Better color, better contrast, sharper, etc. Most every photo (at least the ones we’re seeing) is enhanced or tweaked. This stuff can be taught and learned and a number of photographers are happy to share their secrets, some for free, others at a cost by offering workshops, etc. You’re right about style. That is something each photographer must develop on his or her own with practice. However, there are a number of photoshop tips and tricks that can greatly improve everyone’s photos. As for me, aside from striving to get it right, or as close to right as possible in camera, I struggle with color casts – recognizing them and fixing them, and am always striving to improve in this area. Look forward to your post regarding these issues. Thanks!

  4. sandrar on September 10, 2009 at 9:16 am

    Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

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