The subtle differences in processing my wedding images

Here’s a quick little trip through my processing ‘style’ over the last few years. Every season I make a new preset that is applied to all my wedding photos – a certain ‘look’ that I want to carry through all of that season’s photos. Similar to how film shooters would choose certain films because those films had the various characteristics that they like, I wanted to apply a ‘look’ to all my photos across the entire season.

So here’s the last 5 years’ processing, all applied to the same image, so you can see the differences.

This is the original, out of camera image (whoops on the white balance haha). That light on the right edge of Stephanie’s face is my flash (Alien Bee) bouncing off the wall at the very back of the room. This ceremony was at City Hall in Kingston (as opposed to a church where I generally don’t use a flash) so I was jazzed to be able to use a light during the ceremony for once (and LOVED the results).

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This is 2007’s look, where I went crazy on bringing down the highlights and bringing up the shadows – making the whole photo more mid-toney (i.e. muddy haha). I also had a tendency to white balance things a little warm, so most of my images from back then tended to have way too much orange goin’ on. *cringe*

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In 2008, I stopped cranking the highlight/fill light sliders, but still tended to keep the white balance warm. I also liked the look of deep blacks and extra-saturated blues and greens. This had the unintended effect of blocking up the shadows, leaving very little shadow detail and too much overall contrast. It also made mixed tungsten and daylight photos really hard to colour balance because the already bluey daylight would go SO blue. Too much trying to be like Ben Chrisman haha :)

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In 2009, I stayed with the same skewed blues and greens. but softened up the shadows a little more in an attempt to get mote detail in the blacks. It mostly worked, but the skewed colour still muddied up my shadows and made my skin-tones still too orange/red/harsh.

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Oh the advances of 2010! The latest version of Lightroom made possible the easy correction of lens defects like distortion and vignetting (fabulous!) and had better processing of shadow detail and noise reduction. I also stopped with my tendency towards warmer white balance and tried to make white be ACTUALLY white. I also tended to skew the tint towards pink a little more often, to make the skin-tones better. I really tried to focus mainly on skin-tones – both in regards to colour and exposure. I wanted people’s faces to be nice and bright. I wanted detail in the shadows and nice, crisp highlights. I just wanted it to be clean and simple.

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That brings us to this coming season. This year I wanted more of a ‘film’ look to my photos. Not that I’m trying to EMULATE film – more that there are certain characteristics of film (specifically Fuji Pro 400H) that I wanted to see in my own photos. Less saturated skin-tones (less orange and red saturation), brighter highlights (so the skin pops more), nice rich shadows (that still have detail), and greens that skew more to blue than to yellow. And film grain – I tried to emulate the lovely film grain of Pro 400H – which really smoothes things out. When noise reduction and sharpening is added underneath the film grain, it looks REALLY great – right up to ISO 6400. So this is what I’m going with this coming season.

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