Pocket shot edit breakdown

Don't get me started on the art and science of taking a proper pocket shot. That'll be a tutorial for another day. As it turns out though, my very first pocket shot post also serves as a pretty great example of how I edit most of my watch photos. That's today's tutorial.

There's a certain zen-like feeling of going through the motions of editing a photo. Each one unique in its own right, yet each one fluidly rolling through the same satisfying ritual to take it from raw to Insta-worthy. Preset. White balance. Exposure. Local adjustments. A million healing points. Rinse and repeat.

For your own dose of serenity, I thought I'd share a high level breakdown of how I edited this shot and many others like it. Enjoy!

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The raw

Here’s the raw photo straight out of the camera. Not bad to start, but feels pretty flat.

Pocket shot edit breakdown


As you might guess, the process begins with importing the raw into Lightroom.

Pocket shot edit breakdown


The heavy lifting is done by applying my own preset first, which I’ve been tweaking for years to suit my taste.

Pocket shot edit breakdown

White balance

I then like to get the white balance sorted first sometimes so I can dial in the color tones.

Pocket shot edit breakdown

Custom white balance

I find the steel of the watch often gives me the neutral grey I’m looking for.

Pocket shot edit breakdown

Color mix

But I’ll also spend some time tweaking specific colors to ensure my skin and other tones are the way I want them.

Pocket shot edit breakdown


Over in the light panel, I might make some small tweaks but my preset takes care of most of these settings.

Pocket shot edit breakdown

Tone curve

My preset also adds this custom tone curve. The black point being lifted slightly is key to my aesthetic.

Pocket shot edit breakdown

Default curve

Here’s what it looks like without custom tone curve settings. The photo just looks slightly flatter.

Pocket shot edit breakdown

Local adjustments

Finally, to finish things off, I’ll add a few adjustments to select parts of the photo to intensify the contrast.

Pocket shot edit breakdown


This is all about helping the eye focus on what matters. Feel like I could do a whole tutorial on just creating focus.

Pocket shot edit breakdown


A couple more minor tweaks and I’m done! In total, a shot like this usually takes me a few minutes to edit.

Pocket shot edit breakdown


A softer image with flatter shadows and saturated tones.

Pocket shot edit breakdown


A crisper image with more dramatic shadows and saturated tones.

Pocket shot edit breakdown

Thanks for joining this edition of Study Club! Have a question? Drop a comment below!

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