The Style Spotlight: Elise Sterck

by Lex van den Berghe

posted on 10-12-2018

We caught up with photographer Elise Sterck to get a glimpse into what drives her unique photography style. Snuggle up and follow along with her warm, autumn tones below, and download her six free Lightroom presets here.

Nature photography at its best is so much more than images of mountains, trees, and horizons. It tells a story through a combination of the world you see in front of the camera and the unique view of the person behind the lens. In our newest installment of the Style Spotlight, we focus on one woman in particular who shapes every photograph she captures in a style that is distinctly her own.

Elise Sterck is an adventurer, backcountry sportswoman, and photographer. Growing up at the base of the mountains in Wyoming, she is no stranger to the outdoors (as you can probably tell from her photography). Like the true adventurer she is, Elise learned to ski, climb, sail, and even fly a helicopter, which put her in the perfect position to travel the world and, as she puts it, “to capture unique moments from the wild.” But that’s only part of what makes Elise so special.

Image source: Elise Sterck. Edited with preset Eastern Sierra.

Finding your style

Initially attracted to photography for the beautiful landscapes she could capture, Elise has since developed a deeper connection to the medium. Her passion grew out of the stories that photography allows her to share. More than just memories of her adventures, her photography “focuses on documenting the connections and interactions between humans and the natural world.”

Image source: Elise Sterck. Edited with preset Grand Teton.

With regards to her unique style, Elise says, “My style is constantly developing as I continue to learn more about photography and editing.” But from the beginning, she has been attracted to warm, earthy colors. For her, “fall offers some of the most ideal conditions for photography.” The bright yellows and oranges from fall leaves make for an easy and natural way for Elise to focus on the complementary color model.

Image source: Elise Sterck. Edited with preset Fall Forest.

However, Elise’s connection to fall photography is not reliant on the season — it is present across all of her work. Wherever she is (which, for this travel fanatic, truly could be anywhere), Elise focuses on bringing out the autumn tones of any environment.

Style in focus

Many of Elise’s shoots are on the peaks of mountains, so getting to the location sometimes requires a bit of a trek, to say the least. Instead of lugging loads of equipment with her, Elise brings her camera and maybe one extra lens, though she does occasionally use a tripod for landscapes or night imagery when light is low.

Image source: Elise Sterck. Edited with preset Tuolumne Meadows.

When it comes to planning her shoots, Elise loves to experiment. She says, “I love wide-angle lenses for capturing big scenes, but I’ve also been getting more and more into using slightly tighter prime lenses.” For her, using lenses with a fixed focal length forces her to get creative and lets her expand her expression.

Lightroom in style

Once she moves all of her images onto an external hard drive (which she never fails to backup to yet another external hard drive), Elise can begin her editing process in Lightroom. To achieve her signature style, she uses the Tone Curve Panel in Lightroom on nearly every edit to soften the blacks. “I also like to bump the clarity down a bit to achieve a ‘dreamy’ look,” she says.

Image source: Elise Sterck. Edited with preset Utah Red.

To simplify her workflow, Elise also creates custom Lightroom presets. You can download six free presets from Elise here.

Having trouble getting presets into Lightroom? Follow these instructions:

For Lightroom Classic CC (must have version 7.3 or later):

  1. Download the presets here.
  2. Unzip the zip file on your computer.
  3. Go to the Develop Module with an image.
  4. Click on the + icon in the Preset Panel. Select “Import Presets.”
  5. Navigate to the downloaded presets from step 1.
  6. Click “Import.”

For Lightroom CC (must have version 1.3 or later):

  1. Download the presets here.
  2. Open Adobe Lightroom CC.
  3. Select File > Import Profiles and Presets.
  4. Select the downloaded preset file and click “Import.”
  5. Open the photo you would like to edit, click the edit toolbar on the right-hand side of Lightroom and then you’ll find the imported preset when you select the “Presets” button.

The love of photography

After hearing about Elise’s many stories and inspirations, we asked what keeps her coming back to her camera. “I love photography for its subjective nature,” she told us. “It’s something that is easy to make your own, and I love that it can be whatever you want it to be.”

Image source: Elise Sterck. Edited with preset Zion Rim.

Start refining your own photography style in Lightroom today.

Topics: Creativity, Photography

Products: Lightroom, Photoshop, Creative Cloud