Green/Nature [Nurture Photography Challenge]

A recent light rainfall began to bring out all of the greenery in the neighbourhood from its winter hiding place. Over the course of the week that light rain turned into rumbling storms, heavier rainfall, and flooding throughout the city of Chicago.

We aren’t particularly happy about the flooding in the area, but it has been nice to see a little green popping up here and there after such a long season of drab browns.


The Importance of a Clean Edit

What is a Clean Edit?

A Clean Edit is when you take your SOOC (Straight Out Of Camera) image and edit it  to fix any problems with the original without adding any creative processing. With a portrait this might be a little more involved and include editing the skin tones so that they look more realistic. With non-portraits a clean edit might do things such as lightly adjusting the contrast.

It is still always important to get the image as correct as we possibly can in-camera, but sometimes we might make a mistake when exposing or our white balance could be off. Sometimes our lighting conditions (such as backlighting without a fill light) may cause parts of the photo to be under exposed and we want to brighten them up to be more in line with the rest of the image. SOOC photos often also can look a little flat, even when exposed correctly. Doing a Clean Edit on your photos before you do anything else to them is a good way to make a batch of photos or session look more cohesive and to get your images to the very best that they can be.


During a Clean Edit, using your favourite editing software (I personally use Adobe Lightroom for my Clean Edits), you should pay attention to the same things as you would while shooting. It is the time to use your editing software to correct exposure and white balance, add a little contrast if needed. I am often guilty of using auto white balance on my camera instead of adjusting it manually, so I always make sure that I check that first when I am editing. I then go on to using the sliders in Lightroom to adjust my exposure, as well as contrast.

With portraits you may want to correct skin tones or remove any blemishes. For a Clean Edit, the aim is to be subtle and have your photos look realistic. You can then add any extra creative edits you might want to do afterwards, or leave them as they are for a bright and clean looking image.

Each person’s editing program of choice is often different, so you should try out different things in your favourite editing program to see how you can best use the tools you have to create the image that you want.

A Clean Edit as a Base for Creative Edits

It is best to have a good base for when you use creative Photoshop Actions or do Creative Edits. Creative Actions that you may purchase are usually designed to work on a well exposed photo with correct white balance. By doing a clean edit first, your actions will have a better base to work from, making the most out of your purchased actions and causing the overall final image to turn out much more like the creator intended, or the examples used on the website you purchased them from.

In the image below I have shown the progression between my SOOC and the Clean Edit. You can mostly see the difference between the two in terms of contrast, but I also slightly edited the colours and brightness as well. The edit is subtle in this case, the image was mostly correct SOOC, but the clean edit gives it a little bit of a boost.

Below the SOOC and Clean Edit is my usual Matte colour edit and a Black and White Edit done using the free Black and White Actions that I made last year for 2012’s Winter Challenge.

I then used the clean edit as the base for both the Matte colour edit and also for the Black and White.


*Photos taken with the Lensbaby Composer Pro with Sweet 35 Optic


I’m teaming up with Kristi of Live and Love Out Loud and Alicia of Project Alicia for another inspiring adventure as we photograph our way through spring with the Nurture Photography Challenge – a seasonal photo challenge series chock full of tips and tutorials, inspiring weekly prompts, personal feedback and encouragement.

Just a few details:

All are welcome regardless of skill level, camera equipment or geographic location.

Share your favorite images inspired by our weekly prompts each Friday and grab our lovely button while you’re at it!


The linky will remain open from 9am Friday – 9am Thursday CST. Don’t forget to visit and comment on the previous entry in the linky list.

We’re sharing the photography love and showcasing our talented photographers by pinning some of your lovely photos to our Nurture Photography Inspiration Board.

The Nurture Photography Challenge has taken to Facebook! Stop by, “like” our new Facebook fan page, ask questions and share your work on our wall as well.

We love Instagram just as much as you do! We’ll be on the lookout for your beautiful winter photos, so be sure to use the #nurturephoto hashtag. We’ll share a few favorites on Instagram each week, sending a little bit of love your way.



    • Oh that’s funny! I was talking to my husband about writing this post, his background is in photojournalism so his response was “Isn’t that just called *editing*?”

  1. Lashawn

    Yes, I learned the hard way about clean editing! I try very hard now to get it right SOOC now to cut Downton my editing time. I don’t have enough time now that I work full time! Also, what really helped me was to get white balance correct in camera too. It makes my clean editing go so much faster! I love your matte processing! I can never get mine right, so I just stick to my own version of clean!LOL

  2. Lynn

    Beautiful black and white actions! I also love the matte color edit. Thank you!

  3. Sandra Bacon

    Your photos and tutorials/tips are always so helpful and inspiring for me and my students. We are back again for the Spring Challenge so I hope all that visit your site will stop by our blog, westlandhighschoolphoto2.wordpress.com to see our photos. We’ve been knee deep readying artwork for competition and working with our amazing student teacher. Please stop by and take a look!


  4. Pingback: Nurture Photography Challenge {Spring} – Green/Nature

  5. Thank you for the tips. I just ordered Lightroom a few days ago and I’m eagerly awaiting it in the mail. Currently, I use PSE9 and I’m hoping that editing will be much easier and faster on Lightroom.

    Blame my untrained eye, but I don’t see the difference between the Clean Edit and the Matte Edit. Could you tell me the difference please? Thanks!
    Janice´s last post ..GREEN/NATURE: Nurture Photo Project

    • Hi Janice,

      You’ll love Lightroom! I can’t believe how much it has sped up my workflow, and it’s also great for using to archive and keep track of all of your photos.

      As for the matte edit, it’s a very subtle edit and the one I usually prefer. If you compare the shadows on the clean edit and the matte edit you should be able to see that they are lighter (grey rather than black) on the matte edit.

  6. beautiful edits Rebecca and great tips! love your b&w actions too. i thought i downloaded them last winter, but i can’t seem to place them. i just re-downloaded them. looking forward to using them. thanks!!
    Tish´s last post ..Green/Nature | Nurture Photography

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