May 19, 2020

My Editing Style | Light & Airy vs. Dark & Moody

I’ve been asked about my style countless times over the years, and I’ve always had a little trouble describing it… Usually, I just pull out my phone and show some examples, haha.

That being said, it’s something that I’ve spent a long time thinking about. I figured that I would try to put it all down here, sort of like a modern artist’s statement:

Two distinct editing styles have arisen over the years — light & airy and dark & moody. I don’t wholly identify with either, but my work definitely shares qualities with both.

The light & airy style tends to exaggerate highlights and desaturate portions of the color spectrum. The dark & moody look tends to prioritize shadows and add an earthy hue to everything.

Additionally, light & airy edits often lean towards the cooler side while dark & moody ones typically gravitate towards a warmer tone.

So, what’s my style? I describe it as punchy, polished, and timeless. It’s vibrant and true-to-life with lush hues and clean skin tones. It’s like taking the brightness of the light & airy aesthetic and combining it with the dimension of the dark & moody version.

Here’s a visual to give you a better idea of what I’m talking about:

Both the light & airy and dark & moody photos (pictured above) were edited with well-known “one-click” presets that are extremely popular within the photographer community.

Consequently, the resulting styles have become extremely prominent in the industry as a whole. And there is a bit of a line in the sand when it comes to identifying an individual photographer’s style…

Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that! It’s the natural way of things and it’s awesome that each style lies on the opposite end of the spectrum. Both have some fantastic facets!

When it comes to my own work, I prefer a happy middle of the two. I could never find a specific preset that did everything that I wanted, so I ended up creating my own. I think of them as starting points; they evolve with each & every session.

Many of my specific editing techniques are derived from the darkroom: dodging, burning, and color channel adjustments. I LOVE the contrast of warm and cool — especially when it comes to the highlights and shadows.

Here’s another sample set of photos, all edited with the same settings as before:

The range of tones and character of light can only be adjusted so much in post-production. The biggest factor is how the photo was taken in the first place. And that involves a countless amount of decisions & variables.

Personally, I always try to maximize the amount of information in an image. In bright light, I’ll underexpose significantly to retain all of the highlights. In dark light, I overexpose slightly to keep some detail in the shadows. The direction of the light is also a major factor in all of this… Sometimes you can control it, and sometimes you just have to roll with it.

All in all, I love a golden, sun-kissed vibe with rich greens for outdoor & nature sessions and a warm, romantic tone for indoor & nighttime photos. The best of all is soft natural light, especially near sunset. (They call it “magic hour” for a reason!)

In addition to all of that, my style is full of juxtaposition and balanced composition. I look to surrounding scenery to frame and complement my subjects. It’s that symbiotic relationship that gives context and adds a sense of place and time.

It’s a beautiful thing when all of the elements coalesce and work in harmony together. And sometimes that happens in the least expected of ways. That’s my favorite — finding beauty in unusual places. ✨


This is the editing style I’m going for but struggled to find presets and or tutorials on how to edit this way. If you could share some pointers I’d be forever grateful

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