Saying I Love You with Editing

Here’s Tom Reese’s finished window seat portrait of his granddaughter.

I’m not sure I quite remember a twist like this one on our HTPYL page but we’ve been going so long at this point it’s probably happened several times; one photographer inspires another photographer inspires another photographer and so on. Come to think of it, it’s probably the main reason we are even here.

One of our dear friends from our HPTYL community, Tom Reese, was inspired by another old friend from our Facebook page—Renee Hall and her lovely photo she posted of a baby in a window sill. Tom screen grabbed her shot and sent it to his daughter hoping she would pick up the ball and run with it. She did. They got together with the world’s most beautiful baby and made some music.

Anne saw Tom’s original post and suggested that his photo and the story was worthy of sharing. I was going to describe what happened then but, as always, it’s so difficult for me to top Tom’s words. It’s just seems silly to try.

Here’s what Tom said:

Hi Nick – Below is my ‘window seat’ photo, before and after editing. This was a very fun time with our two year old granddaughter.

I got inspired to do this when I saw Renee Hall’s Facebook post of a child in a window seat with stuffed animals. (One of the things I like best about the NKGM page is getting inspired by seeing others’ photos here.) 

Here’s the year’s old shot by Renee Liddick Hall that Tom never forgot.

As I often do, I took a screen shot and sent it to our daughter, Rebecca, asking her to bring some stuffed animals over when she brought Reese to our house. Rebecca is very into photo ideas like this. I think I have told you that Rebecca always wanted a girl, and got Reese after Austin and Harrison (each child is ten years apart – 1996, 2006, and 2016!). Rebecca is almost using Reese as a dress up doll to have me take photos of her in really nice dresses that she buys and sells over the internet. 

Putting Reese in the window seat produced spectacular lighting, and we got her in a good mood for the photo shoot by explaining what we were looking for. She is often quite uncooperative, but she fully understood and appreciated the objectives of this one. She was especially happy knowing that she was wearing the dress that her Mom wore at this age.

I set up my camera on a tripod, and used the settings that I specified in a comment on the post in your GM page.* The original is way too dark, but I don’t worry about that since LR does such a great job of bringing raw files to life during editing. 

Here’s the straight-out-of-camera original with no editing. Amazing!

And look what editing can do! (*The discussions among our Going Manual Course graduates in our alumni FB group often get quite detailed so when another group member asked Tom about his settings, he generously shared his reasoning behind his chosen settings and editing workflow: “I used ISO 800 (had to go this high because the light was dim on this really overcast day, and I was shooting using only the window light), 68mm lens (24-70 mm zoom on my full frame Sony a7R iii camera), f/4.0 (stopped down from f/2.8 widest aperture to make sure I had wide enough depth of field but still letting in as much light as possible), and 1/250 second exposure (I guess I could have moved down to ISO 400 at 1/125, but I had moved up to ISO 800 because she was moving in some of the photos and I wanted to get a sharp capture). Raw file edited in Lightroom, +1.75 exposure, +15 contrast, -82 highlights, +82 shadows, -40 whites, -30 blacks +15 clarity, +13 vibrance, -1 saturation, 35 luminance for noise reduction. Some of those LR settings come from using the Auto button, then going back to increase the contrast and clarity, then the exposure, then setting the black and white points. I also set the white balance, and increased the noise reduction as needed for ISO 800 and increasing the exposure by that much.”)

Nick, I did think of you during the shoot, since this was definitely ‘finding nice window light’ as you always suggest. We took quite a series of photos, with Rebecca coaching and Reese cooperating. Some had Reese looking at the camera, but we were mostly telling her to look at the stuffed animals like Renee Hall had in her photo. After I loaded all these photos into LR, I organized them into ten stacks. I always do stacking first, to isolate only the best photos to work on. It is quite unusual for me to have ten stacks, since I am usually looking for only one or two good photos, but this was such an amazing photo shoot that there were so many different good expressions. After I had processed the ten photos, I then compared them one pair at a time, like I do for selecting the top photo in each stack. After this exercise, this version rose to the top, and I fell in love with it and now see it as the clear best single photo from this shoot. I will be making a framed 8 by 12 print of this for Rebecca for Mothers Day.

Thanks for you and Anne noticing my photo. That thrill never goes away!

Tom Reese


Well, thank you, Tom. And thank you, Renee. And all of you who like, share, question and comment on this and so many other photos posted in our How To Photograph Your Life community. And all of you who share your photos that delight and inspire others. (And all of you who now, I hope, will post in the future! 🙂 And for the conversations you have with each other to share photography ideas and information and settings to encourage and help each other.

Like I’ve always said, I think we have the most wonderful photography community on Facebook—so if you’re not already following us, click here to join and follow us. I guarantee you’ll appreciate the photography fellowship and be glad you did.


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