• The Power of Practice

changed in four years…. so much. Four years ago I was working on a beat up 17″ macbook pro, doodling in InDesign and trying to launch my career in graphic design.  Now look at me. What in the world?! This is not what I thought I would be doing! I had other plans for my life that I thought were going to be great… but God had other things in mind… and thankfully, He knows best:).  I am REALLY thankful that God brought photography into my life when he did. I started young. I was in college, I was already into the whole “graphics/techy” world so I wasn’t totally blindsided by the lingo and the complexity


of Adobe’s Creative Suite! I made my own logo, I taught myself how to shoot manually within a year and I created a little blog to really give my business a BOOST! (haha oh how embarrassing!) …. It seemed like I had it all together… and in some areas, I did…. kinda.  But it wasn’t all unicorns and rainbows.  I didn’t get where I am today by floating on the clouds… it was hard. Very hard. I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t have a “business mentor” or ANY business training and so I learned from trial and error…. which means that I FAILED a lot.  Failure is necessary for growth and I believe that wholeheartedly but that’s for another blog post!  Today I just want to remind newer photographers that this takes TIME.  My blogging style, my brand, my editing style…. NONE of it happened overnight….. ESPECIALLY not my EDITING STYLE!!


So many photographers ask me “Well how can I edit to make my pictures look bright like yours?”  and they get frustrated when I say “Well, I mainly use Lightroom… and I’ve spent three years learning what works for me and I just repeat it over and over”.  They want a quick fix and a “easy” button for editing… and while that would be nice, it would be detrimental.  Why? Because finding your “style” is a process…. you can’t just make something YOUR STYLE overnight…. it’s a gradual learning curve. If I sat down with a photographer during my first year and said “show me how to edit like you edit” and then just replicated that over and over…. I would be a “mini-me” of that photographer. Instead, I learned the hard way. I went through phases of over-editing…. I went through phases of not understanding white balance… and I went through phases when I just desperately wanted to email my favorite photographers and say “Can you just teach me to do what YOU do?! Please?! I’m tired of this!!!”.  But luckily, I kept going. I kept trying new things and playing with EVERY dial that Lightroom had to offer and I started to understand how certain controls would change an image.  Eventually I began to notice a pattern in my editing and I liked it…. so I kept exploring.


After two years I came to a point where I knew MY STYLE and I was confident in it. Am I still learning?! Yes! Daily!  But I’m learning through EXPERIENCE…. not by copying and pasting another photographer’s presets.  So am I mad that new photographers have QUESTIONS and use PRESETS?! Heck no!!! I once was that photographer with questions and I started with actions before I knew what I was doing in Lightroom!! I understand that new photographers NEED advice and guidance from those that are more experienced. However, when it comes to editing and the growth of one’s business…. I just want to remind photographers that it takes TIME and PRACTICE… SO much practice!! And it would be harmful to you if you decide to just take the easy route.  I can look back at weddings just one year ago and think “Oh my blacks were too heavy…. my highlights were blown…. that image is too “magenta-y”…. and today, I would know how to fix those issues because I’m learning the BASICS of editing, not throwing a bunch of actions on a image and just hoping it helps.  I PROMISE you… if you learn the BASICS of editing instead of just purchasing a bunch of Actions or presets… you will save yourself TIME and FRUSTRATION down the road!


So here’s my advice to the new photographer who is struggling with editing:



– Relax, you’re in control of this and you WILL find your style and master it!


– When you get overwhelmed, walk away and start over 10 minutes later. If you stare at one image for more than 10 minutes you may start to over edit and then all of a sudden you realize “Ew! What have I done?!” .  It’s ok to take a break and some back with a fresh set of eyes!


– Almost everything that you can accomplish with actions in Photoshop, you can accomplish in Lightroom. Play with the dials and sliders and LEARN how curves, contrast, shadows, highlights and blacks affect the look of your images.


– When you find an image that you LOVE and then edit it masterfully (is that a word?)… SAVE it in a “My Style” folder and study it! Why do you love that image? Is it the color that draws you in? Is it the Depth of Field? Is it the Light? Figure out what makes you love that image so much and start replicating that. Eventually, you will start to see more and more images in that Style folder and they will become more consistent! 


– Remember that editing is just for ENHANCING… not SAVING. If an image in not so hott IN CAMERA… you can’t edit it to death and make it a masterpiece. Never allow editing to become a crutch! When you start to get great shots SOOC, editing will become easier and easier and easier!!




24 Comments Photography
  1. Gabby / En Route Photography reply

    Totally agree with you, on learning by failing!!! however still wouldn´t mind seeing a photo of yours edited step by step… just out of curiosity´s sake! ;D

  2. Retha reply

    I second that. Always ready to learn from the best!

  3. Deborah Zoe reply

    TRUE!!! But I still think you somehow have a magic Lightroom button or something;)

  4. Danielle reply

    “Make your art. Do the stuff that only you can do. The urge when starting out is to copy, and that is not a bad thing. Most of us only find our voices after we’ve sounded a lot like other people. The one thing you have that no one else has is YOU. Your voice. Your mind. Your story. Your vision. So write and draw, and build and play and dance and live as only you can. ” Neil Gaiman said during his speech to the graduating class of UofArts in Philadelphia

  5. Kimber Wassenberg reply

    Thanks for this post! I start to get frustrated that I’m not really sure what my style is (so I don’t know how to brand my photography) and wonder if I’ll ever find what I really like…your post was a great reminder to stay patient and keep going. Personally, I’ve only used a preset in Lightroom once..I’m not a huge fan of presets at all! I prefer the simpler dials. :) Thanks for the inspiration!

  6. Annetta reply

    Thanks for this post, Katelyn. I’ve been asking this very question lately. I think I’m getting to my style because the editing is getting easier. I have used presets a couple of time but don’t like the result I get. I agree with Deborah. :))

  7. Kathryn Grace reply

    The thing I’m trying to figure out right now is how to get rid of the greenish skin tones that come from shooting in very green outdoor locations. Haven’t found that yet but I’m relatively new to Lightroom!

  8. jamie reply

    love your encouragement in this post to practice and learn. it does take time and patience. thanks!

  9. Jessica Morrisy reply

    I stumbled across you site awhile ago…Love it! I couldn’t agree with you more:) I also look back at some of my older work…yikes the colors are scary! ( I wish I was kidding, on my first internship, I interviewed with a technicolor portfolio) I also believe that the only way to really make your work better, is to practice, practice, practice and you will find the combo that works for you:)

  10. Abby Grace reply

    Amen to everything you just said! I look back on my old images that I simply threw an action onto and shudder. I remember the tipping point about a year ago, though, when I finally edited a session in a way that REALLY pleased me, and it was SUCH a helpful starting point! I’m still learning how to tweak my images, but my photos are requiring less and less work, meaning I can spend more time doing what I love (actually shooting!) or hanging out with the hubs. God is good!

  11. Kristin Rasmussen reply

    Thank you so much for this!!! This has been on my mind so much this week. You’re awesome!

  12. Carrie Logan reply

    ohhh katelyn, i’ve said it before and i’ll say it again, you are a gem!! thanks for your treasured encouragement to keep at it! :)

  13. Lydia reply

    Sometimes I look at my business and wonder why I’m not farther along and why it’s taking so long. Thanks for the reminder that growth happens over time! If I look back, so much has happened over the last couple of years, and new changes will come if I keep on keeping on!

  14. Faye Bernoulli reply

    Oh man, I look back on my work when I was just starting out…actions at 100%? HECK YES! ::cringe:: I’ve definitely improved and am starting to really hone in on my style of editing; just need to keep it consistent across all photos.

  15. Rici reply

    Thank you for the reminder!! I totally need to be more patient with myself and remember that it takes time. and never give up up practicing! Thank you for the insight and tips! Saluti.

  16. Kyla reply

    This is a fantastic post…thank you so much for putting this out there and encouraging those of us who are new <3 You're the best!

  17. katie yuen reply

    LOVE THIS! Somehow, I felt like your pictures came out perfect straight from the camera! Editing is such a powerful tool!

  18. The Special Occassion | Everyday » reply

    […] just finished reading Katelyn James Photography’s blog on The Power of Practice ( I love Katelyn and her realness. I follow her work day in and day out. In this particular post she […]

  19. Lauren Winstead reply

    I love this post so much, Katelyn! I’ve been reading your blog for about a month now, and I just love your enthusiasm and unwavering honesty. I’ve been photographing professionally for about a year now, and I shudder at my old photos, too! Sometimes I even re-edit a whole session just so I can breathe easier! :)

  20. Linda reply

    Thanks for this! I too started out as a graphic designer except I’m still in the transition after I fell in love with photography, I’m hoping that one day I can fully take it on because I’m realizing quickly that it’s my true passion as much as I love design. Thanks so much for this post! And I also loved your workspace post on Jasmine’s site :)

  21. Paulina reply

    “you can’t make something your style overnight.”– THANK YOU Katelyn for saying this. So relieving to hear for someone like me who’s in the midst of starting her business and initial branding and shooting and finding her style. (See, I just tried to fit a all those things in one sentence! Haha.) It’s always nice to be reminded to enjoy the process. =)

    Thanks for being so helpful!


  22. Photography for beginners reply

    […] Katelyn James‘s post, The Power of Practice […]

  23. Sophia Jordan reply

    Thank you so much for this post Katelyn. It is nice to know you “have been there” starting out as a new photographer like us. Great blog and company!

  24. Michelle Williams reply

    Katelyn I must thank you for this post. I came across your blog a few weeks ago and this post CHANGED. MY. LIFE.!!! I made it a point to come back and comment on this post, because of its impact. I was completely trying to be someone else in photography style, but longing so to find MY style. I can’t say how it all clicked in this little post, but it did. I was consumed with what others would think of my work so much I was playing it safe and eliminating the risk. As I look to begin my own business, how can I possibly be successful without a style of my own?! Some people may not be a fan of my style (when I find it), but that’s okay! There will be people looking for my particular style (I hope). So I can’t even begin to tell you how much this has changed my world. I have stopped using presets and begun applying the knowledge I have gained from them and am loving what this is turning out for me!

    I have a one-year-old and I spend a lot of time rocking him. In that time I have been pouring through your blog posts and learning so much more. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us all and I will be stalking you much more :)

    In Christ,

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