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  • Joe

Tips for the at home photographer: Part 2

Now that you’ve read our first article on tips for the at home photographer and you’ve no doubt tried them out ;) Now I want to bring you to the next step in the process of improving your photos. If you’ve been practicing and mastering the big 4 (aperture, shutter speed, ISO, & white balance) you’ve likely noticed a marked improvement in the quality of your photos!

If you now find yourself wanting to take those photos from good to great, then you’re in the right place! This is where photo editing and photo editing software comes in. Rest assured, I won’t get into too much detail on this in terms of all the technical aspects as it could go on for hours, but I want to give you a simple glimpse of what this can do for your photos and how it relates to the previous tips.

First, you need to figure out a software program to use, to edit your photos. For simplicity purposes 3 examples are Iphoto (which comes standard on many Apple computers) and probably the most popular two Adobe Photoshop & Lightroom. For those on a budget, we would suggest Iphoto or “Photos” as it’s now called. Since it’s already on your computer it shouldn’t cost anything extra. Once you’ve uploaded photos onto your computer, you will now be able to start editing. Simply double click the image inside of Photos that you would like to edit, click edit in the top right corner and now you’re ready to start! The simplest edit you can start with is the “enhance” button. Similar to “auto” mode on your camera, enhance is going to read what’s going on in terms of your images exposure, white balance, and contrast and automatically make adjustments based on what it thinks will make your photo look better. For those of you familiar with this option, you already know, that’s not always the case. Now that you’ve tried that, it’s time to dive in and make your own edits to see how you can modify a photo and create some amazing images.

After you’ve clicked edit, now scan down until you see the icon on the right that says “adjust”. This will allow you start modifying all the particular elements of your photo. The easiest thing to start with and what I would suggest is exposure. By adjusting the exposure up, it will brighten your photo. By lowering the exposure it will dim the amount of light and overall brightness of the photo. Easy as that! So let’s say you’ve taken a photo that you really like but it seems like it would look better a little brighter, adjust the exposure ever so slightly until you get the desired look. The second modification I would recommend learning how to use is “contrast.” By adjusting the contrast this will usually help soften or sharpen certain aspects of the photo dealing with the light. Lastly, I would encourage you to try out the “shadows” adjustment. This can help tremendously if you think you photo is on point in terms of lighting, and detail, but you want to remove some of the darkness hiding some of those details, without dramatically brightening the entire photo. Here let’s try it out and see how a few subtle changes can really change the look and feel of an entire photo. In our first example here, we have a photo from a recent engagement, unedited. It’s a good, cute photo, but it could be better. Just utilizing exposure, contrast, and shadows let’s see how we can improve this photo just a bit more.

In our second example, we raised the exposure 20%, increased the contrast 19%, and increased the shadow reduction by 32%. Notice the subtle differences in the lighting and detail of the overall photo.

Now, real word scenario, before we would ever deliver this image to a client, there would be a few more adjustments. In fact, Photos allows you to adjust not only the 3 previously mentioned aspects of the photo but it also allows to modify the highlights, brightness (of the colors themselves, different than just exposure), black point, saturation, white balance, sharpness, definition, noise reduction, cropping, re-touch tool, and more. imagine if we adjust all of these the difference it can make in a photo! Here’s an example of us adjusting all of these aspects to create a different look and feel to the same image.

Granted we don’t edit every photo to this level but with this particular image we wanted to have some fun and give the couple a slightly different look. The point is, even with just a few small changes such as in the second photo, you can really impact the overall quality of an image without having to wrap your head around too many things.

Lastly, I recommend shooting and editing with the 90/10 rule. We’ll assume you’re getting familiar the concepts featured in our last blog on tips for the at home photographer and your comfortable making these adjustments before the picture is taken. This all basically means, plan for the photo to be 90% done when you snap the image and it only needs about 10% editing (sometimes less depending on the look you’re going for and your level of mastery). What this all means and how it relates to the previous so you can connect this knowledge. If you find that you keep editing your photos by increasing the exposure a lot, which is causing you to adjust several other items just to get a simple crisp and colorful look, maybe try increasing the exposure beforehand by shooting with a wider aperture or a longer shutter speed. Or maybe you notice that you’re having to really add a lot of contrast and reduce the exposure when you’re editing, maybe try reducing the aperture, or ISO in this case. Either way, the more you practice with both, the better you will get and eventually you’ll start being able to think about exactly how you want an image to look and be able to make that happen just as you have it in your head. Thankfully my wife was an amazing photographer long before I ever thought about picking up a camera so she has been able to teach me these concepts and I hope with these simple tips that I’ve given you that you’ll be able to dramatically improve your images over time!


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