Over the course of learning photography, I've come to realize most people don't realize how much behind the scenes work goes into creating beautiful photos. I've also learned there are a lot of great photographers who don't spend a ton of time behind the scenes on post production. Being a graphic designer, spending a bunch of time in Lightroom tweaking each image to get every tone, shadow and detail just how I like it is half (if not more) of the fun for me. Color theory, contrast, brightness, hue, saturation are all the elements that define a photographer's style and I thought I'd give you a glipse into my post production process.
My goal is to educate new photographers, help clients understand what they'll get from me and give people some insight into the value of professional photography. Hopefully you'll learn something that will help you in any photography decision on improving your own style or figuring out which photographer is right for your wedding (it's me.)
Casey & Ericka
Muir woods, california
5D mk iii | sigma 35 1.4
I went to Muir Woods last summer with my mom and went midday only to find a lot of hard brights and spotty light. I took a bunch of photos that day, but literally never exported a single one, due to brutal lighting. So when Casey told me they wanted their photos in Muir Woods, I decided to go later in the afternoon when there wouldn't be any direct light streaming through the trees. However, when we arrived I quickly realized I would face an entirely different problem.
Because the trees are so tall and the valley the woods thrive in is so deep, even the ambient light was filtered through the leaves and spotty. Plus, because the sun was so far down already, there was no warm glow coming through at all. As you'll see below the RAWs were cold, had harsh contrast, not much color and generally did not have the intimate feeling I was hoping for.
Thanks to the power of RAW files, I was able to really transform these images into bright, vibrant, warm, intimate images that I knew my friends would want.
The most important change I made to these was white balance. Pulling that slider waaay up until I got rich greens and vibrant oranges really made the difference with this photos. What's amazing about white balance is as you adjust it, you'll start to see new colors come into your image, not only can you dictate the mood of your image but you can also drastically change the hue (or tone) of the colors in your images. If you prefer warm yellow greens or crisp blue greens, adjusting white balance and tweaking with the HSL (Hue, Saturation and Luminance) sliders can help you achieve the look you're after.
Did you take anything away from this? DM me on Instagram (@cole.mgkra) or email me on the contact page of this site and let me know if this was helpful, insightful, boring or generated any other emotional response. I plan on doing more of these and perhaps going more in depth on this session in the future.
jackson hole, wyoming + more
6d mki | sigma 35 1.4, Tamron 24-70 2.8
Fly jackson hole | sunset flight
I took this shot during a sunset flight with Fly JH. The light was already pretty incredible, but there was too much pink for me. I toned down the pink by adding more greens overall, which gives the blues more of a turquoise tint, that I like.
greta eagan | fashion shoot
Greta and I went out into Grand Teton National Park for get some photos for her blog. There was nice even light but I really wanted to pull Greta out from the background. I lowered the shadows on the whole image, which made the trees give more of a solid dark background. Using a local adjustment brush I painted raised shadows and exposure over her face and body to help her standout from the dark mountains.
canyon kids | tiny deck concert
My friends have a band called the Canyon Kids and every fall they play at what we call the Tiny Deck Concert. A bunch of us gather at a friend's house and listen to our play into the evening. The biggest issue in a setting like this is the dynamic range is pretty tough. The dark areas are especially dark while there's a ton of contrast with the brighter areas. For this edit, I brough the highlights way down, while bringing the shadows way up. To help balance the lights and darks even more, I used the tone curves (which I think are the most powerful tool in Lightroom) to close the gap between the brights and darks to make them each a bit flatter.
DJ Cut La Whut | melvin brewing
Melvin Brewing is a local brewing that is blowing up quickly. With numerous gold medals at the last few Great American Beer Festivals in Denver, Melvin is making it's mark on the industry. Last summer I was down at their brewery in Alpine, WY for a party where I took this shot of Melvin DJ Cut La Whut. Unlike the last photo, I wanted to accentuate the highlights to really emphasis the sunlight sneaking between the building and van. I brought the shadows up to see the DJ more and also raises highlights to blow any color out of the sky and let the color of the van take over. I also tinted the oranges and yellows towards the red (as opposed to green) to give the van a more golden yellow tone.
Double arch | Arches national park, utah
In September 2017, I took a road trip through Colorado and Utah with some friends. We stopped at the Double Arch in the late afternoon for some photos. This was a tough edit with everything back-lit and in shadows. I decided to blow the sky out warm the image up to let the amazing color of the arches take center stage.
Port gamble | puget sound, washington
For Christmas I went out to Seattle to visit my family. My cousin took me on a drive around the surrounding islands on a little photo tour. We found this dark back road on a typical PNW day of wet fog and cool temps. I let again let the colors of the forest show through by bringing the shadows up and increasing the orange and yellow saturation and tinting both green and yellow towards orange.