Thursday, November 13, 2008

Business Day Thursday: Editing For the Best Image Presentation

Good morning everybody,
And welcome to another episode of Business Day Thursday. Earlier this week, at my studio, we were having a discussion about how to edit wedding photographs for our clients. We had three people looking at an event and that meant three opinions on how it should be done and how the images should be laid out.

We put our heads together and came up with these 10 points when editing and laying out the final order and presentation of the images.

I think it's important to keep in mind how our images are perceived. If they are laid out in a tight, exciting presentation, it comes across polished and professional. That’s why we want to give time to this discussion.

Here are my 10 tips for laying out a great series of images for your client so that they can best enjoy them and have a great viewing experience.

1. -- You dress up when you go out to someplace special don't you? Well we should dress up our pictures when they go out to someplace special to. And that someplace special is in front of the eyes of your client. Make sure that your presentation and edit order is a top priority when posting your images online.

2. -- Do a good edit keeping it fairly tight. If you've taken six pictures of the wedding party only show the best two. Don't be too concerned about taking 15 minutes to find which the best two are. Pick two that are representative of the group. You can do the fine tuning on the back end after the client places the order on that particular image. We typically shoot about 4000 images on the job and I like to show about 1500 to 2000 images to the client.

3. -- One of the main rules we discussed at my studio the other day was this. Never show an image of a person with an expression on their face that you would hate to see on your own face. Ask yourself the question, “If I were that person in that picture, would I be embarrassed to see myself online looking like that? If you would, cut the picture.

4. – Remember, we've got a large body of work to show our clients. Even though we arrived on site and just started shooting about anything that looks interesting, let’s remember that our image order is not necessarily 100% shooting order. We’ve got to spice things up with the final edit and sequence of the images we present to our client.

It is important that we lead off our image series with some very strong images. These images can be great to scene setters, dramatic interior views of the church, beautiful scene setting images of the client's home - anything that says WOW! when the client sees the images for the first time.

This is a fairly long post. You can read the rest of it by hitting the Read more... link below.

5 -- Just as important as the series starting with strong, impacting images is the fact that we must go out of the story strong too. We must go out on the crescendo, the high point, with the rockets red glare. Pick some great shots to end with, not just the guests waiving good-bye as the bride and groom drive away.

6 -- Remember, also that within our large body of work are several subplots within the larger story. For instance, we may have the bride getting ready at her home. We may have a series of images of the groom at the church. We have the entire series at the church and ceremony images - guests arriving, wedding party processing down the aisle, the entire ceremony and the bride and groom coming back up the aisle at the end of the religious portion of the celebration only to be then followed by the receiving line images.

We, of course would have the entire series of group photographs of the bride and groom the families, and the wedding party. Then we would have the entire series of reception photographs, the cocktail candids, reception room details and overall views followed by photographs capturing the fun the excitement and the spontaneity of the party.

Each of these subplots must be presented in the same way as we sequenced the large, overall presentation. Each subplot or chapter of our story must start out strong and end strong. The less impacting photographs can be positioned between the strong entrance images and a strong exit images. I like to think of these “in between” images as being like “tinkle music” in between the strong crescendos.

The final edited and sequenced images are then selected, a Presentation Collection is created, and all these images are added to the Presentation Collection.

7. -- We also like to show a sampling of black-and-white images. The black-and-white images, usually around 100 images, make up an overall view of the entire presentation.

Some images make better black-and-white images than others. I think the best black-and-white images are always some of the best candids of the shoot. For instance the bride and her father coming up the aisle, the bride and groom back up the aisle at the end of the ceremony, the cake cutting, the bride and groom dancing, the bride dancing with her father, the groom dancing with his mother, fun spontaneous, emotional candids of the bride in the groom with some other special friends and guests.

The cool thing about black-and-white photographs is that they either “sing” or they don't “sing.” I found this to be true over many years. We present all event images in my studio via a computer and data projector, so when I change a color photograph to a black-and-white photograph it either sings or it does not -- I can see it work and so can my clients.

8. – Here is our B&W procedure. After we've edited all the images, tweaked them for color and density, and then place them in “User Order” in Lightroom, we then start at the beginning of the series, click on the first image that we want to be black-and-white, hold the control key down scrolling and clicking through the entire series of images selecting what we think are representative of the entire event and will make great B&W images.

With these images selected, we then create a new collection asking Lightroom to use the selected images and creating virtual copies of these images via the optional check boxes on that screen.

We have found that the easiest way to create these black-and-white images is to simply de-saturate the first image, and sync all the other images in the collection with only the Color and Saturation box selected on the “SYNC” Choices screen. We think we just get a better result than using the Grayscale button in Lightroom’s HSL/Color/Grayscale toolbar Library mode.

You can also add a few "fine art" images too. This is just one more way for you to visualize for your client all the exciting possibilities you can offer for their images. You can set this up in Lightroom, make virtual copies, and create your new works of art making a special collection for your clients and then drop them into your presentation.

9. -- After creating our series of black-and-white images, we then edit through the entire series of images one more time. Typically we will find that we over select the number of B&W images that we really need for our presentation. We may inadvertently select about 150 images but I really only want to show the client about 100 black-and-white images. It is a simple and quick matter just to click and edit through those images and reduce it to a much more manageable number of images to view.

After this edit process, we drop all the black-and-white images into our Presentation Collection and then re-sequence all the black-and-white images to the beginning of the presentation.

10. -- The last thing that we do before presenting our images is to create a beginning title and an ending title for the entire series. We select one of the more striking images of the day, usually a fantastic image of the bride and groom in church or in a beautiful outdoor location and make that our entrance title slide.

We do the titling in Photoshop. The titling reads, Line 1: Mary and John, Line 2: Our Wedding Celebration, Line 3: Wedding Date. I find that I prefer gold colored text and believe it looks best. We add two special effects to the text layer. The first is “Bevel and Emboss” and the second is “Outer Glow”. We simply accept the defaults as they are presented in Photoshop.

The final step is to sign the signature title image. With the image opened in Photoshop, I create a second layer, grab my signature brush, and “sign” the image in the bottom right-hand corner of the image adding “Bevel and Emboss” effect as the final touch. Here is my tutorial on how to create a Signature Brush right here.

The last title is basically our business card. We select one of the most striking images from the wedding reception. For me that very often is the back-lit dance photograph of the bride and groom. We add the studio name and address to that image and then sequence it as the last image in the entire event series.Folks, that's pretty much it. It's always about getting the best presentation of your images in front of your client. It's always about putting our best foot forward. We want our clients to relive the high points of the wedding/celebration. We want those high points to carry them from the beginning to the end. We want them to be thrilled when they get to that last image – looking at each other knowing they had a beautiful wedding and a great series of images to remember their wonderful celebration.

It's important to get those great images in the first place but it's just as important in how we present those images to clients. This is our formula here at my studio. It's worked beautifully over the years and our clients love what they see.

Because of the exciting, flowing image layout, we many times are easily able to offer and sell our clients a playable DVD for their DVD player at home of all the images we present. They can see it would be a great remembrance of their entire wedding day. I have to say - when they play that DVD - it brings tears to their eyes, and mine too sometimes.

Hey folks, that's it for me today. I hope you enjoyed the post and I hope to see again tomorrow for Gear Bag Friday. Tomorrow's topic: My Favorite Lens for a Full Frame Sensor DSLR Camera. See everybody tomorrow. -- David


  1. Lenghty but so many interesting topics covered, I read it so fast I have to read it twice. Or three times. :)
    Thanks for another inspirational and instructive post, David.

    Best regards,

  2. Good stuff David. Thanks for sharing your methods with us... Gav

  3. We typically shoot about 4000 images on the job and I like to show about 1500 to 2000 images to the client.

    Just curious: once you have all 4000 (or so) images loaded into Lightroom, how long does the entire editing process take?

  4. Very valuable information, David . . . thanks for posting!

    I'll jump on board with czemike, I'm also curious about how long it takes for you guys to edit 4000 images? Do you guys use a lot of develop presets in LR?

  5. Thanks so much for this. Very useful information as usual!

    I am curious of what you use to put your slide shows together. I can't seem to find an option I am completely satisfied with. I often want to format the slide shows for different uses, such as DVD and web but I can't find something that I feel is efficient both in production and output.

  6. A little long, but a darn good workflow. I've starred and shared this post in my google reader account. I'll be coming back to this post again and again.

  7. Really i appreciate the effort you made to share the knowledge.The topic here i found was really effective
    digital image editing