Are you new to the art of photography and wondering where to start when it comes to editing your photos? I am new too and on a quest to learn all things photography. And with all there is to know about this craft, the journey has only just begun! Scroll down to uncover step-by-step the basic editing tools I used to transform this batch of portrait photos.
Here are Some Before and Afters:
What is Post-Processing?
The fancy term for editing your pictures is "post-processing". Photography is an art, so editing depends entirely on your personal style and vision. Some photographers live by a strict rule of NO post-processing! While others have been using techniques like blending to create an HD quality image. I'm currently somewhere in the middle of these two extremes and I expect my style to evolve with my craft over time.
What Program Should I Use?
I currently use Apple’s photo editing program called Aperture. Unfortunately, Apple has ceased production on Aperture and will develop no more updates on the software. The company wouldn't even budge after plees from professional Aperture users who created the facebook group, "We Wanted Aperture 4!" This means within time the program will become irrelevant. I will ultimately need to switch to another.
Learning how to use software takes a lot of time, so choosing a reliable one that will stick around is important and worth the investment. I have begun to do some research and discovered Adobe Lightroom closely compares to Aperture, so that is definitely a promising possibility for me. Besides Adobe Lightroom, some other professional editing softwares to consider are Photoshop, and Aurora HD Pro. I definitely plan to do extensive research before I upgrade my editing software. This will perhaps be another blog post someday!
Where do I Start?
Below is a summary of the post-processing method I used for this shoot. You will see step-by-step the effect each edit had on the picture with a before and after pic.
In general I enjoy a more natural look for portraits. Because Ryan is such a charming subject with flawless skin, that greatly helped keep the edits to a minimum! Plus, I knew Ryan would be using these photos for a resume, which was more of a reason to keep editing basic. If you’re taking pictures for someone else, always get their input of what they want. Remember it's not about you.
1. Upload and delete
In this first step you will pick the best of the best. This is crucial because the more pictures you delete the more time you save on editing! I took about 150-pictures during our short 1-hour shoot. I let Ryan scroll through and delete the pics he definitely didn’t like first. Then I uploaded the remaining 100 onto the computer. Once I saw them on a bigger screen I could easily identify the sharpest image. Ryan only needs 2 for his online resume, but I wanted to provide him with good variety to choose from. So I kept deleting until I was left with the finest 30!
NOTE: I cannot stress enough the importance of uploading THEN deleting. I have made the mistake of judging the pictures by my tiny camera screen. Then upon uploading I discovered the picture I thought was the brilliant winner, was actually blurry or someone had their eyes closed! Unfortunately I had already deleted my other options from the camera's memory card... :(
2. Auto Enhance
Perhaps when I get more advanced in my craft I will turn my nose up to the auto enhance button. But for now, I start here because usually it makes the obvious lighting and color enhancements, without being over-the-top. If you try auto enhance and don't like how it turns out, it's super easy to undo. Simply go to edit, scroll down to undo, and start fresh again!
3. Crop and Straighten
Is your photo for a resume, Instagram, christmas card, or fun? If you’re not sure yet, then under-crop for now and stick with the standard “3 x 2” landscape and “2 x 3” portrait dimensions. Crop out as any distracting background objects and use a straightening tool to check that all horizon lines are straight.
Always keep the rule of thirds in mind when deciding how to crop the photo! Because there’s already a lot going on in the background, I got rid of the distracting window. But I chose to keep the dynamic temple to convey the subject's unique story of living abroad in Taiwan. I knew from communicating with my subject that this is something he wanted.
5. Lighting and Contrast
The lighting will ultimately make or break the photo. If you happen to catch the golden hour of sunset then chances are your photos will naturally have a balanced glow. But find and get very familiar with the exposure, brightness, highlights, shadows, and contrast buttons in your editing program. Also recovery, black point, and mid-contrast will be valuable tools.
I have never had professional training on the proper way to go about balancing these levels. So therefore I have no rules! I just slowly adjust all these levels until I find a desired balance that looks flattering.
Because this batch of photos came out dark, I had to enhance the shadows and brightness in basically all of them. This was partially do to the rapidly setting sun. But I also realized my manual camera settings could have been better. Thankfully Aperture saved the day for me and they turned out okay!
6. Finer Details
The finer enhancements you do can really make a picture sparkle. A good editing program will allow you to fix flaws with the click of a button, such as a speck of dust that got on the camera lens and shows up in the picture. Or perhaps your subject has a blemish they’d appreciate you editing out.
Spot & Patch. For Ryan’s photo I noticed there was a white spec on his hair, so I used this tool to take care of that. It also came in handy for a background object in the upper left corner that was bugging me.
Quick Brushes - Dodge (lighten). I enhanced his natural eye color by using this tool to lighten them up a bit. This will only work if there was already natural light reflected in the subjects eyes.
Quick Brushes - Sharpen & Blur. I painted some sharpness into his eyes. I then blurred the background and softened some areas of his face. This created a more penetrating intensity in his gaze!
Noise Reduction. Noise in a photo appears as an unflattering grainy texture, especially when you enlarge the picture. Reducing noise leaves areas of the photo with a more silky consistent texture. For a better understanding of what noise is and how editing it out makes ALL the difference, watch this short You-Tube video!
Vignette. Use this tool to darken the radius of the photo to frame the subject's face. What a difference this little tweak makes!
7. Saturation and Color
This is completely a matter of preference. The amount of color you add or take away will change the entire emotion of the photo! This editing step is the most intimidating to me. I know I have not even scratched the surface of what is possible with color. Luckily my Nikon D7100 camera already produces rich vibrant colors so this step was a simple one. I recommend you play around with adjusting the saturation, vibrancy, and white balance to start.
My subject really liked the way he was posing here (above), but I was not crazy about the dull blue lake water. So I changed the picture to black and white. Color can be manipulated in endless ways. Below is another example of how fun painting with color can be. The possibilities are endless.
Okay so I have a confession to make. This photoshoot was my very FIRST one! I have taken thousands upon thousands of photos before. But this was the first time someone relied on me to produce a gorgeous photo for something important. Yes it's true, the subject is my boyfriend. Hmmm is that cheating, what do you think?
Regardless of if it was a “real photoshoot”, I felt so invigorated and alive as I snapped away with my camera in hand! The editing is also fun, but I see how it can be tedious for a professional editing hundreds of photos. I look forward to uncovering many more tricks of the trade!
Thank you so much for reading. Are you into photography? If so, I'd love to hear from you in the comments below.
What is one go-to editing technique or trick you use to make your photos pop?
What is one post-processing technique that you want to know more about?
Any other feedback of how I can make my post-processing work flow better?