Before and After

Many of you have asked me about my photo editing process, so, this month I’d like to walk you through editing a photo from my session with our cover model Sally. 



I chose this image because there’s both a lot I like as well as things I wish were different.  Please keep in mind, there are few right or wrongs in photography.  So my changes represent just one of a great many equally valid approaches; take what fits your style and leave behind what doesn’t appeal to you.

My first step is to analyze what I do and do not like in the photo.  That’ll guide me in deciding how to edit the image and also inspire ideas for things to try or to avoid in future photo sessions. 

I love Sally’s joyful energy and expression, combined with the pastoral setting.  I like how the light is spotlighting the red horse, Sally and the wood, and how they are set off by the contrast of darker areas around them.  I also like how those three elements line up along a major diagonal, helping unify them and enhancing the feeling of movement. 

I also like how the warm orange/red hues play against the cooler greens of the trees and grass.  Warm colors tend to appear closer to us while cooler colors recede.  So, warmer-colored subjects pop against the cooler background elements, creating a 3-D feel. 

I started my editing by upping the color saturation to enhance the warmer/cooler effect and to give the image more pop.  I also increased the contrast (making dark areas darker and light areas lighter) to emphasize the spotlight effect of the sun.  I also made small changes to color to heighten the sun’s late afternoon warmth. These changes focus the viewer’s eye on our subjects, increase the image’s depth, and heighten the spring afternoon feeling.



I felt the background trees at left were too bright and distracting, so I darkened them.  Sally’s face was also too dark, so I brightened it to bring focus to her.  I also got rid of the second highlight in her left eye and brightened her right eye some. 

My biggest disappointment in the original image was the brightness of the lighter-colored horse, which kept pulling my eye to that big white area.  So I darkened (“burned”) the horse considerably.  Then I got rid of the distracting white strips in the fence.  My most dramatic change was to use Photoshop’s clone and healing tools to move the fence post that was crossing the horse’s face.  I don’t often make that degree of change — but I hope seeing me do it will give you the freedom to consider bold moves.

I added a “glow” effect to the image to add a slightly painterly feel.  And finally I cropped the image.

This month I’m teaching an intro to pet photography class at Stay Pet Hotel June 21 and 28.  Please visit  to register, or email me at ( for details. 

David ChildsComment