before and after how i edit my photos amelia renee photography des moines iowa

THE most frequent question I’m asked (after, “Is photography really your full time job?” …which it really is!) usually is, “So, how much time do you spend editing/do you like editing?” And while so many photographers dislike editing, I really really enjoy it. Perhaps it’s thanks to my intense computer lab classes back in college, where we spend hours learning the in’s and out’s of Photoshop & proper editing. HUGE thanks to Troy from StudioU. I loved class then, and I still have a passion for editing and growing in my craft.

before and after photography edits

As much as I enjoy editing, I do have other things to do with my time! Sessions don’t take me that long to edit but a wedding can take a full 6 hours to cull and edit. SO, the closer I am “in camera”, the better! If you hire me for senior photos or a family session, you’ll definitely hear me say, “Ok, I’m just going to test the light real quick!”. That helps me pin down my camera settings—even though I’ll be constantly changing them as we move around & the light changes.

On the left, you’ll see the SOOC photo… aka Straight Out Of Camera! You’ll notice that they are all darker than my edits. I typically shoot just a little under-exposed on the skin so that when I edit, I can keep some of the depth that you get in the shadows and blacks of the photo. When I open up to edit in Adobe Lightroom CC (my preferred editing software), I can play around with the exposure, and soften some of the shadows, without losing the highlights (whites) completely!


It takes time to figure out what your style is. And it’s ok to change it, down the road! I used to edit super vibrant and contrast-y. And compared to some, I still do. ;) But I’ve pulled back on the contrast and vibrance for a slightly more understated look. After all, our eyes don’t see like this… haha!

bad example of editing

I have tried and used a variety of presets. Over time, it’s been clear that I’m drawn to the tones of film-inspired edits. They feel the most timeless and classic to me, changing the tones just enough to feel magical while still looking fairly “true to life” with colors. The following photos from my trip to Washington DC were edited with a VSCO Portra preset— I just bumped up the exposure, warmed it up a bit, and straightened it out!

how i edit my photos with VSCO and Mastin presets for lightroom

I love how simple the changes are in the following photos from Kristen’s winter wedding in Cedar Rapids! notice how the whites are a little more pure (I shot a little yellow, or warm, in-camera) and their skin tones pop! I used VSCO desktop presets for these. I’ve used VSCO from the beginning and can’t get enough of them.

editing photos to look like film VSCO and Mastin

The only other major editing I do in Lightroom is fix any horizons, and remove any blemishes or major distractions. Sometimes, I’ll pull photos into Photoshop for any extra touchups. But I usually only need to do what Lightroom can handle, which simplifies and speeds up my editing quite a bit!

des moines iowa wedding and senior and family photographers AMelia Renee

Is my editing anything like you’d have guessed? I’m curious! Feel free to leave any questions in the comments below or shoot me an email, and I’ll be happy to chat with you!
Amelia Renee