Something we do not think gets talked about to beginning photographers enough is managing expectations.
So many times have we heard “your camera takes great photos.” We don’t take offence to that. We both shoot with amazing cameras that do have the ability to take some really amazing photographs even on auto. People buy a DSLR and expect it read their mind. What sets it all apart is that we know how to control that camera to produce consistent results and then how to shape our vision in post processing. You can too.
Neither of us share unedited images. It is not that we spend all of our time fixing images, it is just that even images from fancy cameras need a little love. The point is not to rely on editing to save bad photos, but to use it to make good photos great.
Sure, you can point, shoot, print and skip the processing, but you are here to learn so we are here to show you what can be done.
We both use Photoshop to edit our photos (Rachel also does some RAW processing in Lightroom when shooting RAW files). Photoshop takes a lot of time to learn, but the control it gives you over the editing is huge. However, if Photoshop isn’t in your budget, there are other programs out there that will help you achieve some good results. Elements is the best program for beginners, iPhoto comes standard on Mac computers, and Google’s Picassa is a good free option.
So much can be done in processing, but the main areas we tend to for every shot are contrast and brightness, color balance and saturation (a light hand is best here), sharpening and often some ‘cloning’ of distracting bits.
To illustrate how we ‘eyeball’ an edit, we will walk you through what we would do with this shot of Rachel’s
- A little too dark – We would brighten the midtones in levels
- A bit too cool (common in open shade) – What makes an image too cool is too much blue/cyan in color balance. To counteract this we would add some red/yellow, the opposite end of the spectrums, in color balance in Photoshop
- A little dull - If the image is lacking contrast (almost all Straight out of Camera images need a bump in contrast) an ‘S curve’ will usually combat this. In the curves adjustment in photoshop, you make a slight S by dragging at two points on the line. A light touch is best here. It’s better to go in and add more if it’s still too dull, than to overdo the contrast.
- Color still needs a bit more of a “pop” – Add a tiny bit of saturation. To avoid making skin tones too orange it is often best to adjust these separately for each color. Photoshop allows you to do this in the Hue/Saturation adjustment panel. Where it says Master, is a drop down menu of each of the different colors it takes to make up an image.
A little sharpening, maybe some cloning, and you’re done.
A little peek at a few more of our before and afters. As you can see, the editing isn’t a ‘miracle worker’ the images didn’t need a whole lot of work, but the small amount that is done really takes them up a level.
It may be a smart little camera that you have, but you are smarter and when you learn the controls, you can take even better photos.
We will be releasing details on our online course and in person workshops soon. Those are the forums where we will be able to answer your questions and go into more detail.