Decoding Wedding Photography Lingo, Part V: Post-Processing :: Editing, Retouching, and Color-Correction

01 | 14 | 2010

bride-color bride-bw bride-toned

Nowadays, there’s so much being said about photography and digital photography and digital wedding photography, that it sometimes makes my head spin.  And I’m on the inside!  So I imagine it’s quite intimidating to feel like you have a handle on what you are actually getting when you invest in professional wedding photography.  The advent of digital photography has changed not only how we photograph weddings, but also how we talk about photographing weddings—and especially how we talk about “post-processing” them.  In the olden days, I’d photograph a wedding, then wait with breath held and fingers crossed for the film and proofs to come back, toss out the few proofs I didn’t really like, and give them to the client.  Now, it’s much, much more involved.  There’s a workflow.  And although I don’t want to get into the whole long-drawn-out process right now, I do want to highlight some of the lingo that goes along with it.

**Other photographers may use these same words differently, so if you’re unsure about what any one photographer means, just ask!!

I. Editing

Editing is probably the most-used and least-reliably-defined word to describe post-processing.  For one thing, “editing” can encompass the entire process of getting images ready for a client.  When photographers say they’re “editing” a wedding, they could mean that they’re cutting out all the crummy images, or they could mean that they are color-correcting individual images or they could mean they are retouching individual images.  Or they could mean some combination of all of the above.

Personally, I like to stick to using these words how we used them when we wrote essays in grade school.  Editing meant organizing the whole piece, keeping the good stuff and cutting what didn’t work.  (Retouching is more like revising, but we’ll get to that in a minute).   So when I say editing, I mean organizing the images into categories that make sense, keeping the good images, and ditching the ones that don’t work (like accidental shots or ones where your eyes are closed).

II. Retouching

Retouching is kind of like revising an image.  The photographer alters the image in the interest of improving it.  Usually, we think of cosmetic retouching, like removing blemishes or whitening teeth (no, I’m not kidding!), but clients sometimes request other sorts of retouching, like removing extraneous people or shadows … or “exit” signs from the background of photos.¹  We do not retouch images as a matter of course, only by client request.  We’re all for beauty, but we’re also all for reality, however “imperfect,” being the beautiful thing.

III. Color-correcting

The great thing about digital photography is its flexibility and creative freedom.  I love it just as much as the next girl.  However, I do wish all the livelong day that I could have the creative control I get from my digital cameras with the picture perfect color I get straight-from-the-camera with film.  It’s just not possible, at least not yet.  I find images that come straight from a digital camera to be a bit dull.  They need a little color-correcting, a little pizazz, some finessing.  Some photographers really style their images a lot, others hardly at all, according to their own personal aesthetics.  There are no strict rules about color-correcting.  But images that are called color-corrected should look good and be print-ready.   We color-correct every image we show and give our clients.  As much as you want to look good, we want you to look good!

photos: Gia Canali


¹ Better yet, don’t plan the events of your reception in front of an “exit” sign.  Toasts are usually the culprit and it’s so easy to avoid it’s almost laughable.  But lots and lots of folks have their toasts in front of an exit sign anyway.  It baffles me.


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