Most people know that having great content is the key to success, so its vital to know some of the most useful photo editing tips and tricks for quick improvement of your images.
Getting accustomed to any photo editing software can be quite challenging, let alone choosing which software to begin with. Whether you’re a casual smartphone shooter or a professional photographer using a SLR camera, software can help you get the most out of your images.
Why do you need Photo Editing Software?
Whether you are shooting with your smartphone or you are a professional photographer, at some point you will need software to help organise, optimise and edit your photos. Camera technology is improving as an ever growing rate, however photo editing software provides even more power. For a detailed comparison of available photo editing software, see PC Magazines “Best Photo Editing Software for 2020” article.
For newbies the good news is that there is plenty of free photo editing options available. Whether you are using a smartphone, Apple Mac or Microsoft system, there is likely a suitable application to try. Believe it or not, you can even achieve complex photo edits from your smartphone, but really who wants to be staring at such a small screen for tedious photo editing tasks?! – not me! I’m personally happy to do quick adjustments via my smart phone on the fly, but for more serious editing I’ll use desktop software on a much larger screen.
Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop (including Adobe Camera Raw) remain the standard in professional photo workflow, each offering their own unique set of tools.
Which file type should I work with?
If you do not yet know the difference between .RAW, .NEF, .CR2, .JPEG, .JPG, .PNG, .TIFF, etc… then you really should dig a little deeper into understanding the difference between each.
These articles both explain the differences well:
Ideally you should be working with the raw version of any file which your camera produces. Each camera manufacturer uses its own format and file extensions, so its best checking your camera user guide to be certain you are using the right settings for optimal results. Keep in mind that the raw file format is uncompressed and much large in file size so requires more storage space. The additional file size however provides better quality and most importantly enables complex manipulation.
Quick fixes & tricks you should know about:
1. Cropping (and zooming in)
We are used to seeing the world from eye level. Unusual viewpoints and closeups can make an object look more detailed and interesting. If the primary subject in your photo has a distracting background then changing the crop to focus in on the key element can make a dramatic difference. You may also not have a super long telescopic lens on your camera, but you can still crop in on a far away key element to draw attention to it.
2. Colour correction
Boosting the strength of weak colours without over-saturating can provide a completely different look and feel to an image. Presets (or actions) for Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop can offer quick ways to switch between different colour modes such as applying a more “tropical” colour palette to a beach scene or a dark & moody tone to a streetscape shot.
3. Lighting correction
Due to weather conditions, location, objects in the frame, camera settings, etc you may have an image which is under-exposed, over-exposed, dull, flat or over-saturated. Lighting correction can help resolve most of these issues.
Sometimes an image can be taken a low quality or out of focus, sharpening it can help create a bit of clarity and definition on the subject matter.
5. Removing objects and backgrounds
Anything from removing an obscuring tree branch to an entire person, this is a handy tool to use when you have an almost perfect shot except for 1 pesky thing in the scene. The objective of removing (or adding) objects is not necessarily to change an image, but more-so to take focus away from any distracting elements.
6. Image blending & merging
Was the landscape scene too wide for your camera to capture in one shot? Do you need to join multiple photos together? Or did you take a photo of the night sky and the foreground separately and want to blend the two into one photograph?
7. Lens correction
This is a tool which attempts to auto-fix lens problems such as distortion, chromatic aberration, vignetting and perspective… “non-destructively”. It really is a must with digital photography as it helps clean up minor defects generated by various lenses.
8. Grey-scale / black & white effect
You may find a particular photo dull and life-less, but again with some colour changes or even converting to grey-scale (also known as black & white or monochromatic photography) it can bring new life to the photo.
9. Red eye reduction / removal
In flash photography the light of the flash occurs too fast for the pupil to close, so much of the very bright light from the flash passes into the eye through the pupil, reflects off the back of the eyeball and out through the pupil. The camera records this reflected light. The main cause of the red colour is the ample amount of blood in the choroid which nourishes the back of the eye and is located behind the retina. The use of red eye removal helps resolve this issue, attempting to restore natural eye colour as best as possible.
Its not always easy getting a photo with a straight horizon, trees or mountains lined up neatly or a moving object (animal, persons, vehicle, etc) as intended; so this is where the straightening tool comes in handy, you can easily correct the alignment of your photo and make it much more visually aesthetic.
Do you think these 10 photo editing tips are the most essential ones? Or do you have some alternative suggestions you think are more important? Please let me know in the comments below.
Oh and what about Presets and Actions?
Yes, presets and actions can help do some of the tasks above, however in most cases they will not work exactly as desired across every single photograph you wish to edit. Each photo will likely have differing requirements to be presented at its best. There is no doubt that presets and actions have their place in making some tasks quicker and easier, but its a matter of determining when and how to utilise them appropriately. For more about presets be sure to read my blog post “What are presets and why you should consider using them?“