Any experienced artist, whatever their medium, will tell you that the journey to finding their personal style was one of the most difficult moments in their career, and photography is certainly no exception. It sounds like a simple idea, but it carries such weight.
Our artistic styles define us. They are what make our creations recognizable as our own and set us apart from others in our field. In photography, our stylistic identity is twofold: we first have to find our style of framing what the camera will capture, and then to find our style of editing what our audience will see. For now, let’s focus on the latter.
What is a photography editing style?
In a creative sense, an editing style is the way we modify a photo to look just right or to be the way we see it in our minds. In a technical sense, an editing style is a combination of certain types of adjustments on a photo:
- Lighting adjustments, like contrast and exposure
- Color adjustments, like saturation and tone
- Other effects, like grain
These adjustments can be combined in infinitely many ways to create an infinity of finished looks.
The good news is that this means there is a personal style that will someday belong to you, just waiting to be discovered, and it may never have been claimed before. The bad news is that your future style among all the possible styles may be like a needle in a haystack if you don’t know how to get started with looking for it.
So, we’re going to help you with how to get started. First, let’s look at some examples that could be used as a beginning reference point.
Examples of common photography editing styles
It’s not like there’s a list of standard editing styles that you have to choose from, but there are a few categories that popular styles often fall into. Thinking about what’s popular may give you some ideas of what to try yourself or a gut feeling of what kind of look you enjoy.
Natural and Clean
This is probably the simplest style of editing, and it’s popular because, when done right, it looks like no edits were made at all. It puts all the attention on the shot you took and the work you did with your camera.
Normally, making a photo look clean and natural involves tweaking the clarity and sharpness, as well as adjusting the color temperature and contrast to make the image on the screen look more like what you saw when you were looking at the subject.
Black and White
Obviously, black and white is a pretty wide category, and there are many styles of black and white editing. It’s easiest to group them all together for now, since we could talk about the ways to play with grain, tone, and contrast in black and white photographs for days.
This category is pretty versatile and could be used for any kind of photography. Even the adjustments available without color can really change the feel of an image, and the images seem different and timeless in a way that you couldn’t capture by using the same adjustments on a color image.
HDR stands for High Dynamic Range, which essentially means that there is a long range between the photo’s lightest tones and its darkest tones. This makes the image “pop” and makes even minor details easily visible.
Although editing programs may have an HDR setting, the effect can also be achieved by adjusting the shadows and highlights manually.
It’s quite popular to edit photos to look a few decades old, as evidenced by the overwhelming number of vintage filters on social media and even phone camera settings.
There are a number of ways to achieve the 70’s or 80’s photo look, but they usually involve faded or washed-out colors and heavier grain.
How do I find my photography editing style?
There are other categories of editing style besides the ones we’ve talked about, and even within these categories, there is a lot of room to play with smaller adjustments to get precisely the look you want to create.
But how do you figure out what that look is and how to get it to happen? There’s certainly some trial and error involved, but making random aimless adjustments is likely to be fruitless.
That’s where presets come in.
What are presets?
Presets are a configuration of settings and adjustments within editing software, like Adobe Lightroom, that are designed to create a certain look. They give you the opportunity to try on a style with a single click, rather than making lots of time-consuming adjustments to see if you can get a combination you like.
Once you’ve applied the preset, you can adjust the settings manually to make it your own. It’s sort of like trying and altering different recipes until you find a version of the dish that is personalized and perfect for you.
But surely there are endless options for presets, too, so how do you get started with using them?
Whether you are just starting out or looking for a way to change things up, it will be really useful to have access to a large library of presets. It will allow you to explore and compare different looks, and you might find multiple styles that you’d like to use for different purposes.
I created Embrace Presets because I wanted to offer my different collections as the best way to do this. Each collection offers a distinct look so you can pick the collection that most effortlessly matches your creative style.
A few weeks ago, I launched my brand new All Access Embrace subscription service, where I release a new and exclusive collection of presets every two weeks. The styles within a pack work around a central theme and this subscription gives you access to all of them!
The subscription also includes editing classes and how-to videos, so even if you’re a newbie to the world of editing, you won’t be relying entirely on just my presets; you’ll be learning and developing your own talents, too. I wanted to do something that gives you the option to subscribe monthly or save a little money with an annual membership. You can sign up now for 9.99 a month or annually for $99
Learn more about joining my All-Access VIP membership today.
Although finding your own style can be a daunting process when you start out with it, it will be made much easier with the help of industry experts and the presets they make. Don’t be afraid to try new ideas, play outside of your comfort zone, and explore what feels right for you and your work.
Try not to fall into the trap of wanting to wait until you know who you are and what the core of your art is to get started. Start now, and let the experiences you have guide you as you figure these things out. Your personal style is out there, just waiting for you to find it!
Ready to discover your own unique style?