Shooting For the Edit and Blowing Your Clients’ Minds

January 8, 2016

By Oli Sansom

For photographers, the phrase “shooting for the edit” centers around two main questions: How can we create a vision in our head that goes beyond the scene we see in front of us? And how can we photograph so that we have the most flexibility in post-production to fulfill that vision?

One time-saving solution is to expose or craft an image in the most minimal way possible that allows us to execute the vision later on. By understanding your gear, arsenal of techniques and processing tools, you can create images that go far beyond what clients expect.

All photos © Oli Sansom. For this image, Sansom stitched together 540 individual images.

Large-Format Lookalike

Perhaps the most extreme example of “shoot for the edit” that I can bring to the table is this one. This image comprises 540 individual images stitched together, to emulate a large-format look more prevalent a century ago. This technique was pioneered some 10 years ago and called “expansions,” and more recently popularized by wedding and portrait photographers. The bride sat still for 2 minutes while I photographed her.

When you have a willing and excited subject putting their trust in you, it’s almost doing them a disservice to not exploit it, and the results here speak for themselves. (For a better idea of the post-production work involved, there is a 3-minute condensed time-lapse video of the entire 3-hour editing process for this image on YouTube—you can check it out on my channel.)


Autopano Pro will make the initial stitch super easy.

The Brenizer Method is one of the better, more in-depth guides—everyone goes about panoramic stitching differently, though, so just do some experimenting and see what works.


CAMERA: Canon 5D Mark III LENS: 85mm f/1.2L

EXPOSURE: f/1.2 at 1/200 sec. ISO: 800

Abstraction and Tonality

Time was short and we were racing out to the ceremony from wedding prep in a residential house. I had to be wired and ready to exploit any opportunities, and have the vision to look carefully for hidden gems on the way.

As the bride was in the hallway about to head out, I noticed a simple arch that lead to the bathroom. Immediately, I saw it not for what it was (standard issue plaster arch) but for what it could be by capitalizing on the symmetry available, and knowing what I could do in post-production. I told her to stand in front of it, look down, and (as is often key) to just trust me.

This is a great example of “shoot for the edit” because the scene itself wasn’t inspiring, and wouldn’t normally warrant a second thought: what was inspiring was what it could turn into, with some carefully considered post-production work.


High Pass Filter in Photoshop

This lets you apply detailed tonal contrast, which can be masked in using a layer mask to draw attention to specific areas of detail—in this case, the dress and head. Experiment with the radius, and then set this newly created high-pass layer to the Screen blend mode. Adjust opacity until the desired pop is achieved.

Shadow Dodging

Shadow dodging can give a wonderful, targeted ethereal look. By washing out shadows in some areas but keeping them rich in others, we create focus and an illustrative look. One of the quickest ways to shadow-dodge is to simply use the dodge tool, set the target to shadows and brush away.


CAMERA: Canon 5D Mark II LENS: 35mm f/1.4L

EXPOSURE: f/2 at 1/250 sec. ISO: 1000

Related: Three Approaches to Personalized Beauty Looks