Just like every photographer has a different aesthetic perspective, every photographer has a different editing philosophy.
When I edit in Photoshop, I try to only make minimal adjustments. I use levels to make the darker shades darker and lighter ones brighter to manually add contrast. If there’s an extremely distracting spot, I’ll use the spot healing brush to make it disappear.
My favorite tool is the underwater photo filter. For photos with a yellow cast (usually indoor tungsten lighting does this), the underwater filter adds a teal tint that downplays the warm tones while maintaining their integrity, unlike a basic cooling filter which adds a dark blue tint to the whole photo and often overpowers warm colors entirely.
After getting my beloved DSLR, I took a photography class at Portland State University. It was a 200-level class and included some instruction about how to balance aperture, shutter speed, and ISO to get a certain look for a photo. It was also very Photoshop-heavy, though, and made me dependent on editing to produce a good picture.
The next summer I took another photography class, this time at Portland Community College. My professor for that class had a completely different editing philosophy than my professor at PSU. She discouraged editing entirely; too many people use it as a crutch, she said, and never actually understand how to create the best photo using existing light sources and their camera’s settings. At first it was hard for me to avoid my standard editing practices, but I learned so much more about how to create a great photo when I let go of the “oh, I’ll just edit that out later” mindset.
Photoshop is vital to some photographers’ conceptual work; adding drastic effects or layering two photos on top of each other is part of their process and it creates an interesting, dreamlike aesthetic that I love.
But I’ll never be that photographer. My aesthetic is much more about real life, which is why I love street photography. Even for a styled shoot I aim to capture the in-between times when my subjects forget that the camera is on them. Smiling at the camera only satisfies me for so long. I’d rather get up close and capture a moment that becomes more poignant through the lens.
Photographers and lovers of photography: tell me about your aesthetic, either one you aim to create or what you most like to look at.