Editing vs. Retouching

Categories: Tips for Clients.

There’s so much that goes into photographing a wedding and there are so many steps and stages to preparing the final files to be delivered to the bride and groom. In my contract each of my couples signs, I outline the difference between editing versus retouching, and I thought that it would be good to pair some images with my explanation to use as a future reference.

It’s important to note that while I’m defining the different stages of the file, these are simply MY definitions, not an industry standard, and the amounts of preparation and tweaking each photographer does may differ drastically. Also important to note: I inform my clients that they will get approximately 100 images per hour of shooting. So for an eight hour day, that is around 800 images, but obviously this number can fluctuate depending on if there is a second photographer, first look, large family/wedding party, etc.

First, let’s start by defining what I consider the three stages each wedding image may get to:

SOOC – Straight out of camera. Depending on the file type, most images come straight out of the camera rather cool in temperature (lots of blue tones) and with a slightly greyish looking tint. The SOOC images you see below are just that…straight out of my camera, not yet touched.
Edited – Edited images are cropped, straightened, corrected for exposure, and adjusted for temperature and white balance. I do this editing in a program called Lightroom which allows me to make these adjustments using several different types of sliders. Every single wedding day image is edited and something I would be proud to share with the world. Unedited files are never delivered to the client.
Retouched – Retouched images are typically album images, or for clients who did not order an album, the images that make it to the blog. Basically for the best of the best…the images you’d want to put on canvas or have hanging in your home :) There may be anywhere from 80-150 retouched images in the final collection. Basic retouching includes further adjusting exposure, removing blemishes, decreasing the severity/removing under-eye circles, or removing distracting elements from the background.

This example is from Lindsey & Chris’ wedding this time last year. While the SOOC image is pretty correct exposure-wise, sometimes this isn’t the case and more work is necessary. In this case, the edited image is cropped in a bit closer, exposure corrected slightly, and a bit warmer. The final image below has had the pole on the pier removed from above their heads, I did a little work under Lindsey’s eyes, and adjusted my curves slightly.

Here is another example from Lindsey and Chris’ wedding. This SOOC image is slightly crooked, so during the editing stage I straightened it, cropped in just a little to remove the piling on the right side of the image, corrected exposure, and warmed it up slightly. The retouched image has also had the pole behind their heads removed and I added a very subtle vignette around the edges to give a little pop to the center of the image. Now in this instance that pole is rather distracting, so I would go ahead and remove it from each final image where it is directly behind their heads like that or really causing a distraction in the frame. In this case, I think Lindsey and Chris had 10 or so portraits that the pole made an appearance in, so removing it from those 10 images (regardless of whether they got an album or not) is definitely the way to go.

Here’s another example, this time from Maile and Archie’s wedding last fall. The SOOC image is pretty overexposed, so during the editing stage I brought the exposure down and brought some color back into the image. The final and retouched album/blog image has had further curves adjustments, I added a very subtle vignette around the edges, and did a little work under Maile’s eyes. Of course these are web resolution images so the difference and detail in their faces are not as easy to see, but high-res there is a pretty significant but natural looking difference.

Since this adjustment is pretty drastic from start to finish, it’s helpful to see all three side by side.

There we have it! My definition of editing versus retouching :)

2 Comments Sweet As Tea

  1. This is some GREAT information Britt!!! Thank you for sharing!!

  2. Julie says:

    Love this post, thanks for sharing your SOOC and final images! Do you do the same for pet portraits?

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