Discussion: maintaining objectivity in editing vs 'emotive' editing ;-)

Sorry for the heavy title. :crazy_face: I couldn’t think how to phrase the question!

I’m wondering how you approach editing in relation to mood and context…

Case in question I’ve recently been experimenting with a fairly heavy lo-fi kind of look (you may have noticed!) and have got to the point where I like it and am now slapping this style on everything and chortling with glee at the result. :laughing:

Which is all very well, but this can obviously go too far - I fully expect to be disgusted at some of my results when I look back in say a month’s time.

Do you find this kind of thing happening too? Or am I just too easily swayed by cheap thrills? :kissing_smiling_eyes:

Obviously this is personal ‘work’ - if I was on an assignment or something I wouldn’t be doing it anyway, but still, I share on social media etc. and I suppose there could be benefits to maintaining a more consistent style. I couldn’t care less as to followers and so on though, so it’s a bit of a moot point.

Fire away! I’m not easily offended btw :wink:


I’say, looking back after a while and realising that that particular edit is “over the top” is part of the learning process. Helps if you keep a “neutral” edit to compare while doing the more extreme edit, and if you have a good idea of where you want to go.

As for creating a specific personal style: doesn’t that happen anyway over time, without any conscious effort to “create a style”? That may be a better way to get there than trying to develop it. And, not all images want the same treatment, some may work best with a “natural” style, others benefit from more extreme edits.


Yes, I agree about that 100% - I gave up trying to find a ‘style’ ages ago :smile: Actually, I suspect that there may be a subtle (and unintentional) style if my stuff is viewed as a whole, which if so is perhaps good, but as you say, it doesn’t really work to develop it ‘on purpose’.

That definitely makes sense - I do actually quite often like to refer to the OOC JPEG. Gives a pretty ‘default’ reference.
As to the second part, I think probably the advantage of the more extreme experiments is that it gives one ideas on what’s possible for future reference… if one remembers.

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It happens to even the best of artists. Between 1900 and 1904 Picasso had what is referred to as his blue period, when he mainly painted in shades of blue. He couldn’t sell many at the time, so he may have regretted this period but history has vindicated him.

Looking at your style of editing in this collection of images suggests to me a desire to replicate the look of film. Possibly Kodachrome?

Keep enjoy the art of editing.

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Interesting… :smiley: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=68ugkg9RePc

Yes, you’re right there, although haven’t been aiming at any particular stock, more the general feel of it…

One of my favorite parts of non-destructive editing is not needing to make a definitive decision one way or the other. I’ll frequently be “taken in” by some new technique, or LUT, or set of defaults, and go back and re-edit my favorite old photos using that style.

When I look through my history of “official” photos (those I’ve exported, uploaded, and shared) I can see my overall style develop/change, but also periods of time where this type of “heavy-handed lo-fi look” is more pronounced. Sometimes it just fits the subject so well!

As an aside: do you have a style or preset for the images you posted that you’d be open to sharing? I think they all look great!


Very good point. I’ve returned to old images too, on occasion.

Doesn’t it? :grin:

Sure, and thanks!

I would save it as a style, but the problem is that drawn masks aren’t saved in a style, unless I’ve forgotten something. It’s just a couple of radial gradients, but it’s all wrong without those, so I’ll just share a (darktable) xmp file if that works for you. You might need to reset/adjust one or two bits (like color calibration and maybe white balance).

Note that I’m slightly abusing color calibration by using it to introduce a colour cast… I should really be using a separate instance of rgb primaries for that but hey, it works! :face_with_peeking_eye:
P7060213.ORF.xmp (14.8 KB)


I think that’s a question, most of us ask ourselves from time to time. I think one has to put some emotions in his edits, otherwise we could as well just take the ooc jpgs. Anyway, it’s always a question of balance. And therefore many aspects have to be considered. In first line the question is what do you want to do withe the pics. Has the photo a documentary character? Is it meant to be art? Is it just a play with the possibilities, etc.

A photo with documentary character has to be in my opinion more objective. Bigger retouch works are a no go for me. If it is meant to be art. Everything is allowed. Looking at your shown pictures. I don’t see anything wrong no matter in what category they are sorted in. It is just a style you applied. For some of the pics it’s just a style on top, for at least the second one I think it’s a way to make the pic interesting. Without any style it would probably look somewhat boring.

All in all I really like all five pics and i find the style absolutely fitting. Only on the last one I would prefer something different.


Thanks Uli! That sounds very sensible and I think I agree with all you say, including the lack of interest in pic no.2 :slight_smile:

I do actually personally like the last one too - the sunset colours are weird… but I like them. Probably the first is my least favorite… :face_with_raised_eyebrow: :smile:

I vary between sorta scene-referred and rather silly.

Sigma SD1 Merrill

Composite of three Sigma SD14 images


The first four of the five shots have a strong stylistic relationship. I like 'em.

Something I think needs to be considered: if your work is seen en masse, the more distinctive of a style you use, the stranger it will look if you abandon that style for a few images, like if the 2024 version of James Popsys were to suddenly post some dark and moody shots.


I think its dangerous as an artist to say “this is my style”; it leaves you cornered with nowhere else to go.

I think one should think about style as it pertains to a series of photos. The series should be coherent, then you can move stylistically from series to series.

The second thing one should consider is, do the editing decisions made for these images match what I trying to communicate? Does the ending enhance the subject and the message?


Occasionally yes. But this is part of the learning process. That said, at least since I am using Darktable I have become more conscious of what I am doing to the image.

My style at the moment is rather bland and closer to vintage. I have become tired of the “phone” look (colors over the top, insane dynamic range compression, clinical uniform sharpness without actual detail) and want to do the opposite.

So I cull and process in B&W first, make sure I got the tone range where I want it, purposefully de-sharpen the edges of my images to focus on the subject, and then turn on colors for very mild correction (mosly harmony, and maybe pushing the middle a bit where it makes sense).


But isn’t that a big problem? I think it’s always the same. Many people tend to like things, but become tired of them after a while. So the try the next thing and this process is starting again. So you just have to wait, until the vintage fashion is over and people will move in another direction.

I often wonder if this behaviour was indoctrinated to us by industry, just to sell their new stuff.

Just look around, driving a SUV is the thing at the moment, no matter how stupid this is in times of climate change. Or why is nowadays everybody so keen on having a vintage style camera. I want a camera that is ergonomic. Why should I be interested in a camera that looks like if I ripped it from my granddads hands. It’s just a tool which helps me creating pictures - or are there already design hammers and saws around.

The same counts for the style of pictures. People now are starting to make every picture looking vintage style. Why should I do that. The pictures from the past look like that, because the equipment wasn’t that good as today, and because time changes film material. That’s exactly a thing I do not want.

Yes, I have sentimental feelings when looking at old pictures. Of course, they are somehow representing my youth. But I can’t bring back my youth with making photos which look like they were made in the past. At least for me, this just doesn’t work.

If one likes this style, I have no problem with it. But if I see it is just a fashion, where everybody wants to take part, I have my doubts, if that’s the way to choose. Great artists often became great artists, because they just made their thing and haven’t cared what others are doing or saying.

Just my 2 cents.


I don’t think it is because of habituation. I always disliked the “phone look”.

I think that good photos tell a story, which frequently requires emphasis on a subject. This can be done with light, composition, texture, color, focus, etc.

But when everything pops with color, nothing does. When everything is sharp(ish), thanks to algorithms, nothing draws the eye. And so on.

I think that some vintage lenses had the kind of imperfections (vignetting, loss of corner sharpness) that served to emphasize the center region without postprocessing. I am currently leaning towards recreating this in postprocessing (quite easy in DT) with recent MILC gear.


To have a specific style means an artist becomes predictable, and that is never a sought after position. An artist should remain unpredictable. The treatment of a photo should be a representation of his mood at that moment.

Having an unpredictable style also helps in getting new clients, because he is not typified.

My thoughts


For an artist, maybe, although I’m not convinced. For a commercial photographer, however, having a recognisable and consistent style is absolutely essential, since that is what you get hired for.


Sorry, I think I was imprecise. I didn’t refer to the phone look, but to the problem that people tend to do things, just because they are fashionable. I dislike the phone look most of the time as well (sometimes anyway I find it fitting to the scenery). But I see it as well quite critical that at the moment a lot of people try to achieve a vintage look. Even young lads that have no reference to that times they are simulating.

I can underline all the statements regarding colour and sharpness. When everything is the same, nothing stands out (probably the phone manufacturers know that as well as the try to build in some fake focus levels) . But on the other side this counts as well for styles and fashionable looks. If nothing stands out, everything looks the same.

I agree as well on your statement about old lenses. One reason, I hardly use any lens correction. Even newer lenses have some character. :wink: But I have problems when somebody just tries to simulate an old lens.

I drive very old cars for that reason. The cars nowadays are quite often nearly perfect, but unfortunately even most sports cars have become horribly boring. For that reason, manufacturers started to build in misfires and simulated double-clutch, or they simulate an V8 via speaker system.

This is simply ridiculous. If you don’t want to have a boring car, build a car which concentrates on what is meant to be. A sports car doesn’t need to have noise isolation nor pneumatic shock absorption. And a Landy doesn’t need to have 500 hps or road tires. My old Lotus Elise is more sports car and has more character than all the high-powered Porsches and AMG or M class models. Even so these are obviously faster (at least on the motorway).

Anyway this is just MY PERSONAL opinion and I’m no reference at all. Especially when it comes to things like photography which for most of us is just a hobby and everybody should do, what he likes to do, even if it means following every trend. The pleasure should stay the most important thing, as long as you don’t try to gain pleasure by cheating with faked photos which pretend to show reality.


Edit: all sorted thanks @paperdigits!


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