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What goes into editing raw photos? I’m glad you asked.

mother and son hold carved pumpkins in front of them on wooden bridge in the woods for halloween, heads digitally removed

In a world where phone cameras are getting better by the day, why would you hire a professional photographer? Well, the same reason you would go to your favorite sushi restaurant for sushi. Can you make sushi at home? Yes. Will it ever be as good as the sushi chef who trained for years just to make rice? No. Is there a world where both can exist happily? YES! The same goes for photographers.

I have spent years honing my craft, invested thousands of dollars in my equipment, hundreds per year on software, and constantly am teaching myself new techniques in editing, shooting, and designing my sessions. I am 100% also on board with teaching everyone out there how to take better photos at home! However, there comes a time when everyone should be in the photos, when you shouldn’t have to worry about the kids, and your hair, and finding the perfect location and lighting. That’s where I come in!

In this post I want to show you what my camera captures vs what I send to you. Editing software is absolutely incredible and I love that even if the lighting isn’t great during the photoshoot I know I can edit the photos later. I know that if I get caught up in the moment because the kids are *finally* smiling, but the sun just came out, I can fix the lighting in post because I forgot to change the shutter speed. This all comes with experience, but also takes a lot of skill.

The editing process is different for every photographer, and every photographer has their own style. Some like dark and moody, others love light and airy. I tend to sit in the light and airy camp, but I also love to let the photos tell me what they want. If you come in wearing a beautiful magenta dress, I’m not going to dampen the magenta in the photos because obviously you feel good in that color and want to show it off!

Below are some side-by-side examples of what the camera captures vs. my final edits:

These adorable Richardson girls were telling secrets in the lavender fields, but you could barely see their faces because of the lighting! I softened the colors and balanced out the shadows so you can see that little smirk!

The Buzo family had the perfect weather and perfect lighting during their photoshoot, but I wanted to create a softer feel than what the camera saw. I also muted the green in the photo so it wasn’t so overpowering!

If you took this photo at home I don’t think anyone would bat an eye if you shared the first photo with your friends and family. But, that’s not why you hire a photographer, you want the best you can get! So I lightened up the shadows and edited the colors to make a cute photo even cuter!

When dealing with backlit photos your subjects will tend to be in a deep shadow. This means you’ll need to play with the lighting a lot to balance it all out. That’s what I did here. I also muted the colors a bit and brought down the redness so skin tones were closer to reality.

Sometimes you don’t only want to change the colors, but you want to change the crop! The fall colors were so beautiful to the eye, but the camera decided that they were fairly dull, so I boosted the yellows and oranges in these amazing maternity photos! I cropped the photo so it would seem more grounded and follow the golden ratio.

And then sometimes you need to remove heads (digitally of course). I’m here for it, but probably only around Halloween. For Mary and Miles I also spookified the colors to feel like they were in a Poe nightmare.

This is probably one of the most dramatic transformations. If your house is dark, I edit your photos so it looks like you have all of the windows! Sometimes I show my clients the photos I’m taking in the moment just to appease their worries, but always remind them, “it won’t be this dark!” This is a perfect example of “it won’t be this dark!”

Don’t forget, you’re hiring a person with years of experience. Your photographer knows what they’re doing and they may make it seem easy, but I can tell you that years of trial and error went into those photos.

Which raw to edited photo was your favorite? Let me know in the comments!!

If you’re ready to book a photo shoot of your own, you can do just that on my website by choosing a either a Full or Petite Session!

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Hi I'm Emily! The Ann Arbor, Michigan based photographer behind Emmy & Ollie Photography, mama to two littles Oliver & Violet, and lifelong partner to my husband Ryan. I'm here to share about my life, my photo journey, beautiful moments, and tips to help you have the best photo session!

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