One of the frequent questions I get is how I keep my photos so light and clear, so I’m answering that today! First off, that’s just the style I prefer and not the only right way to edit. Everyone has a different style! Here are some helpful tips I’ve found help my images look so clear and light.
1. Focus. It’s so important your focus is right on point. I shoot at very high apertures (between f/1.4-2.2), so it can make a big difference if I’m focused on a subject’s shirt rather than their face (or even their ear instead of their eye!). It is a little easier if you’re shooting at a lower aperture (larger number), but still important to be right in focus!
Here’s an example. These images have basically the same edit. One image is sharp and in focus and the other isn’t making it soft and not as clear.
Here they are zoomed in more. See how much clearer his eyes are on the left?
There’s very little you can do in editing to make an out-of-focus image look very clear and in focus!
2. Correct exposure in-camera. This means that without any editing, your image is well exposed (how light or dark an image is). I use an ExpoDisc to really nail my exposure and White Balance, which has saved me hours of editing time and helps me achieve such a light look! This was a huge game changer for the style I was trying to achieve! The ExpoDisc measures the light actually hitting your subject rather than bouncing off so it’s a lot more accurate. I don’t do a heavy edit to my images now because I don’t have to! Below is a before and after of my edit. No, my before and afters aren’t anything crazy drastic. The edit is very light (exposure +.05, contrast up, highlights down, and a few changes to the tone curve) since the image was properly exposed in-camera. One photographer explained to me that if you shoot under-exposed and lighten it way up after, you’ll lose contrast and your images will look flat (Thanks Alyssa!). So it’s really, really important to my style to shoot properly exposed in-camera for a light, consistent look.
3. Shutter-Speed. If your camera is still stuck on auto, use the rest of this summer to get it on manual! You won’t be able to do steps 2 & 3 unless your camera is on manual. Shutter-speed is how fast the camera takes the pictures. A higher shutter speed means the camera takes it quickly and can capture movement. A lower shutter speed means your camera will catch movement, and your photo won’t be as sharp.
I always use a high aperture (low number) which means a lot of light gets let in. To compensate, I use a very high shutter speed to let less light in so it balances out. But while it balances out the exposure, it also gets rid of any slight movement from me or my subjects.
Here’s an example with my camera settings included (click the image to enlarge it). The family was actually walking here, so a slow shutter speed (under 100) would probably have not captured them clearly. I used my 50mm at f/1.4 and the sun was coming up, so a lot of light was able to get in. I set my shutter speed at 1/1250 or my image would have been over-exposed. So for me, I like a faster shutter speed for 2 reasons: to balance out my high aperture, and to capture moevenemt. But even if it hadn’t been so light out, I don’t like shooting with my shutter speed lower than 1/200 so that no movement is seen.
Another example. The sun was setting, and there wasn’t as much light left. I wanted a higher shutter speed still, but even shooting at f/1.4 I still needed my image to be lighter. So I put my ISO up (to make the image lighter) then I could continue to use a faster shutter speed of 1/200.
As always, I hope this was helpful for you! Email me at anytime (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have any questions! Good luck shooting!
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get the guide