I like to think of myself as the guy who escaped Ohio… The Army took me across the ocean, where I spent nearly five miserable years in Iraq and Afghanistan… Yeah, I didn’t like it there. Afghanistan and Iraq are just way too hot for people to get along; I think if there was a country-wide AC unit on full blast everyone would be a lot happier. But it was there, in that unrelenting heat, that I purchased my first DSLR camera and found my passion for photography.
Now, I’ve set my roots down in Portland, OR. I get to travel the world with my best friend and love, Sara, I’m a father of two wonderful cats, and I’m a wedding and portrait photographer.
Between the different types of shoots I do - weddings, engagements, and portrait sessions - I take a lot of photos. A lot. But my editing workflow stays the same no matter what kind of session it is, and allows me to keep things running smoothly. How long it takes me, is another story.
For a portrait or engagement session, it’ll take me up to 90 minutes to edit everything - if I’m fully caffeinated, my WiFi has been turned off, my cats don’t need to be cuddled, I have the perfect playlist, and I’m fully determined to edit (yes, lots of things need to line up perfectly for me to edit). A full wedding takes a day, from culling to delivering. After about eight hard hours, I have to take a break to avoid eyeball fatigue. I’ll go work out, go on a walk, anything to get away from the screen.
No matter what type of shoot I’m working on, my first instinct post-shoot is to edit photos or cull a session immediately. But I always hold myself back and let it rest for at least 24 hours. I find that I have some weird expectation I have for photos right after I shoot them. The process and experience of shooting influences how I view the images - I become jaded and I’m never happy with the images when I look at them right after a session. So, I let them simmer on a hard drive for a day or two and let my brain unwind before tackling them.
The first step in my editing workflow is sorting through my images. I use Photo Mechanic to do this, trying as hard as possible to not to have too many repeat images. Then, I’ll take those culled photos into Lightroom where I do the majority of my editing. Sometimes I’ll pull images into Photoshop if I need to remove larger elements of the image.
My biggest goal when editing images to to make sure that they stand the test of time. I don’t want clients to look back at them in ten, twenty years and say they look dated. That’s why I created my own personal set of presets for all things editing and toning. I designed my presets to prioritize skin tone and keep my editing time to an absolute minimum. Here’s how I prioritize using the different presets I’ve created:
These presets have allowed me to seriously streamline my workflow. My editing process has boiled town to applying one of six presets to my photos, adjusting exposure, white balance, tint, and contrast. Easy peasy. Once that’s done, I’ll export them, upload to ShootProof, and deliver them to the client. After I deliver the images, I export the session for web-resolution so I can use them on my blog, site, and social media accounts.
My workflow might seem simple and effortless now, but it certainly didn’t start out that way. I’ve learned a lot over the past few years, and I’d like to share that knowledge with you. To cut down the time you spend editing, make sure your first cull is a good one. Be pickier when culling; no one needs 800 shoe shots. Pick your favorite image, a maximum of three, and move on. And honestly, I think that having a solid preset that works on the majority of your images is key. The less time you spend tweaking and adjusting your presets to get your photos where you want them, the faster you can get through your edits.
Phil Chester is a wedding, engagement, and portrait photographer based out of Portland, Oregon. His journey began by purchasing a DSLR camera while overseas in the army. The rest is history.
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