Incase you missed it, my last post was all about taking better travel photos on your phone. Now that you know how to capture the goods, here are a few golden rules for how to use your editing application to make your photos more awesome.
Brightness and Contrast
If your shot came out a bit too under or over-exposed, this is where you fix it. The contrast setting is useful for creating drama, and look excellent in black and white images for example. However overdoing it can create harsh lines in your image, which aren’t always wanted.
Shadows and Highlights
Phone cameras are good, however it’s not always easy to get the light exactly right, especially when there are harsh shadows and bright spots of light. This tool allows you to lighten the shadows so that you can retain some of that detail, and also soften the highlights. Don’t go too far though, especially in decreasing the highlights, as it can look unnatural, even turn a slightly different colour (usually green!)
The white or colour balance of your image is how warm or cold it looks. Usually your phone camera will be able to pick up the right colours, however if it doesn’t look quite right on screen - it’s too blue for example - you can increase the warmth. This allows you to do a little bit of cheating too, if you took a photograph at sunset for example, but want to make it a little bit more dramatic, you can turn the colour up so that it has a more pink, red tone to it.
This is one of the most powerful editing tools you can use. The curves panel shows you how much of your image is light and dark, contrast, tone and colour. You can manipulate all of this in your image by moving the line of your curves up or down. You can grab the line in multiple different areas to manipulate different levels of your image too - the highlights first, then the shadows, for example.
Dodge and Burn
This is the main edit that will make your images really pop. Dodging and burning originated in the darkroom when printing from film. Dodging decreases the exposure, burning increases it. Any areas of your image that have texture or shadows, such as in rocks, foliage or undulating landscape, use this to darken the already dark areas and lighten the highlighted areas. This will turn your image from 2D into 3D, creating depth and texture.
If there’s something in your image that you want to remove, this is the easiest way to do it. If there are people in your photo of Stonehenge or the Taj Mahal, or rubbish on the ground. Be wary though, it does make things look at little blurry, so use it sparingly.
There are heaps of great filters you can use to enhance your images in different editing applications. There are filters that create blur, change the tones, contrast, make it intentionally grainy, give a soft glow or make the image look like old school film.
The golden rule when using filters is to scale it back to about 50%. This will obviously change from photo to photo, but scaling it back from 100% gives your image the effect without it being too overwhelming, which prevents the photo from looking over-edited.
Clarity and Sharpening
I always leave this one until last. It can be easy to sharpen the image at the start, but once you’ve done your other edits, this sharpening may actually hinder the photo by creating more noise (graininess). Once you’re happy with the way everything else in your shot looks, you can see how much sharpening you really need, and I often find it’s less than I thought at the start.
Selective Tool & Brush
You will likely get to a point while editing when some parts of your image are right and others not quite. This is when you use the selective tool. This tool allows you to choose one part of your image, whether it’s the shadows beneath trees or the highlights in the sky, and then manipulate only the parts of your image that are the same shade. So you can darken the mildest shadows without over-darkening the already darker parts of the image.
The brush tool is also useful for allowing you to choose the exact areas you want to manipulate without affecting anything else. If, for example, you want to darken the shadows on one side of your photo but not the other. It’s great for creating vignettes using the natural shades of the image.
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