Marcie Meredith

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5 Mistakes When Editing Light And Airy Photos!

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The goal at Heirloom Presets is to provide resources that will create stunning images, develop a signature style, and help edit with ease. Here you'll find tips and tricks about ALL things editing, as well as feature some amazing photographers.

Hi, I'm marcie

Ready to discuss the right and wrong ways to edit light and airy style photos?

If you have been feeling that your images are falling flat, then there are some mistakes that you need to avoid in order to get the right look.

If you would rather learn these tips from a video, watch below or go straight to the YouTube channel!

Light and airy style is a soft, bright, and ethereal style of photography. It is inspired by film photography that uses (sadly no longer available) film stock like Fuji 400h. People often criticize this style, saying that it has a flat or dull look, but that is not the case. Sometimes, people are not choosing the right ways to edit to achieve this look.

So here are the 5 tips to achieve a light and airy editing style!

1. Tone Curve

One of the major mistakes that people make while editing light and airy style photographs is not using the tone curve. It is essential to achieve a dynamic range and dimension in your images. But you need to use it in a different way; otherwise, it will be super contrasty or rich and colorful. If you want to avoid the flatness in your photos, make sure that you maintain the balance of the whites and blacks that give it that dynamic range.

2. Skin Tones

Another mistake people make is washing out skin tones, which makes them look unrealistic. Even though you want the skin to look light, you still need to maintain the natural look of the skin, even if you have this style. 

Photo: Tanya Menoni

3. High exposure

The next mistake is bringing up the exposure way too much. Watch your histogram, and make sure that it is not too far to the right. When you bring the exposure up too much, you lose all the details of the surroundings, the subject, the clothes, the landscape, everything, not just skin tones.

4. Highlights in camera

Blowing out highlights or not recovering highlights is another mistake that people make. When you shoot, make sure that you capture the right exposure on the subject. If you completely blow out those highlights while shooting, then you can’t recover them in post. So it is better to underexpose a little bit because it is better to keep data in the raw file that can be changed and pulled back if needed.

*Side note: Some Lightroom presets will actually combat a bright image by saving highlights and adjusting some of the settings for you. Don’t rely on them to always save you if you’ve completely blown all your highlights, but be picky when choosing your editing presets. Hint hint…Heirloom One does this very thing 😉 It was important to me that I create some sort of built in highlight saving feature. Check them out here!

5. Better on-location choices 

The last big mistake people make is making the wrong choices when it comes to location, lighting, camera settings, and clothing. 

  • Choose low contrast, lighter background and clothing. Dark spots and elements will distract from an overall lighter look. It will allow you to brighten up the overall image more evenly
  • Shooting backlit is a great choice because you will end up bringing up the light in the whole image in order to have subjects and skin tones at a proper level. This also allows for your subjects to be evenly lit which is important
  • Shooting at fairly wide open apertures will give a softer “airy” look. Under 2.8 is best depending on the lens and how close you are. Consider using an 85mm lens (or another between 50mm and 85mm) to get a softer background with smooth bokeh that is closer to the medium format film look. 
  • Avoid getting light directly in the lens. (Unless you want the artistic effect.) Haziness is sometimes harder to edit, especially for skin tones. If you want that haziness for the effect, let the light barely touch the lens and you’ll get a nice soft glow without the flare!

Overall, there are definitely some mistakes that you can try and avoid while editing (and shooting!) in a light and airy style. Following even a few of these tips can pretty much guarantee your experience will improve little by little!

Get some efficient and easy-to-use Lightroom presets to help you achieve that look right here!

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photos: megan wallach, katie james, something minted


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