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Hiring a Photographer: Why Editing Style Matters

Ok, so you’ve narrowed your search down to a few favorite photographers, you’ve gone over budget numbers, you know which photographer’s personality aligns most with your own. Have you considered how their editing style will look on you?

I’m here to tell you that this is one of the most important things you should consider when hiring a photographer. When you receive your gallery and see a photographer’s editing style (colors, tones, mood) on your photos, *it is too late* to change your mind. You are not just hiring a photographer for the posing and the captured moments. You are hiring them for the post-process as well: the enormous amount of time that the photographer spends to EDIT the photos.

 

wedding couple in front of evergreen trees in winter wedding

How does a photographer portray color and mood in their editing? Are the tones desaturated or do you see a full range of color?

Style is different from technical editing skills (which are also extremely important) – and in this case I am specifically referring to the tones, colors, and overall feel or mood of the photos. Finding the right photographer with your ideal editing style *before* the session happens is going to be infinitely better for everyone than asking a photographer to change the mood, tone, or feel of a gallery after the fact (and probably getting a “no” on that ask).

Here are some things to consider:

  • Does their portfolio show a variety of lighting (so you know they can handle editing photos taken indoors, outdoors, at night, day, overcast, harsh light, etc.?)
  • Do they only edit one way for every situation? For example, do ALL of their photos look like they were taken in the middle of October, or at golden hour during sunset? Are all of their photos matte, or high in contrast? My personal preference is to edit my photos based on the situation and the light. Trying to force a mood on a situation that doesn’t fit is a red flag to me, but maybe that’s what YOU like. I encourage looking at a photographer’s versatility in editing, and if you have questions, ASK your photographer about their editing process before a session.
  • Does a photographer emphasize warm or cool tones, and is it ever to the detriment of a person’s skin tone? Even if a photo looks amazing at a glance, imagine if you were receiving it and you were the subject. Despite the incredible pose or light or feel of the photo, would you be happy with your own skin tone if it looked that way?
  • Are you planning to print your photos for hanging or putting in an album? Consider if you want moody or airy, colorful or desaturated, realistic or enhanced photos on your walls or in your albums. One style isn’t inherently better than another, but one style will definitely be better than another FOR YOU.

This brings me to another important point: liking a photographer’s editing style does not necessarily mean that that style is going to be what you want for your own personal gallery. I follow, love, and appreciate DOZENS of photographers on instagram who I would never hire for my personal photos because of the way they edit. Think about what you want up on your wall or in your albums.  Take a look at a photo that you think is gorgeous and think about it as if it were being delivered to you. Do you see yourself in it, or is it something that you admire but wouldn’t necessarily want? Think about the colors, and look at the photographer’s full portfolio. If you can see yourself in those photos – if you can picture that style of editing on your memories forever, then lock that photographer in.

woman posing in bright sunlight wearing a mask

How does the photographer handle different lighting situations?

Editing is *so* valuable – it’s a skill that photographers hone over an entire career. We spend hours learning different styles and perfecting our own flavor. I’ll say it again – you’re not just hiring a photographer for the session – you are hiring them for the editing, and a photographer who has an editing style that matches your needs is worth every penny.

Do you like how a photographer’s edits look indoors and outdoors? Will that matter for your session or wedding?

I’m trying hard to write this without putting forward that one editing style is better than another, but I do want to throw in a word of caution especially to couples looking for a wedding photographer. Be aware of and sensitive to trends in photography, because those trends often boil down to editing style and they do change quickly. Absolutely hire the photographer whose editing style speaks to you, but also consider how those photos will come across several years down the line. And that’s not to say that trends are bad – your opinion is the only one that matters when you look at these photos in decades to come. Just make sure you are listening to yourself and not the influencers when it comes to locking in a photographic style for your most important events.

Are the colors vibrant? Desaturated? Does that matter to you?

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