They say photography is an art form, and I couldn’t agree more. There are so many elements that go into making a great piece of art. Not only do you need to know your gear and the environment you work in, but you also need to know how to put the finishing touches to your art, that takes it from good to great.
This can be quite challenging especially to a beginner. But like any great artist would say, all of this can be done with a lot of practice and patience. Great photos tend to have universal appeal. They are technically sound, and also have an editing style that appeals to the mass majority. While most photographers, including myself, advocate getting it right in camera, there are some basic steps that you may need to follow just to add the right amount of oomph to your images in the post-processing stage.
Choosing the right type of editing software
The type of editing you apply to your images does depend on the type of software you use. There are many different options for editing software on the market. Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom are two of the most popular ones for serious amateurs, and professional photographers. But if you are an absolute beginner they might be cost prohibitive for your needs. There are some good free editing software, like PicMonkey and Picasa, that work great at a basic level. If you are a cell phone photographer, then most smartphones have built-in editing software that does the job fairly well too. Apart from the basic editing steps they also have a ton of filters for adding some really cool effects to your images. But just be careful of the audience and the purpose for these cell phone images before applying funky filters.
Adjust the horizon
This was taken from the passenger side of the car – I really loved the leading lines but knew the horizon was way off.
In Lightroom, I adjusted the horizon, increased the contrast gently, and warmed up the image by adjusting the temperature slightly.
Adjust or crop out any unwanted elements
I loved the texture of the brick wall but hated the stains on the wall right near the chair.
I chose a closer crop for the chair, and cloned out the stains using the spot removal tool in Lightroom. I also brightened the image a tad.
Remove any dust spots
Adjust the exposure and contrast
While I adore this pose of my clients, the image is a little too dark (underexposed) as the light was changing very fast.
As part of my edits to this image, I increased the exposure, warmed up the image by increasing the temperature and also adjusted the contrast a bit to add a little more umph (punch) to the image.
I love this image of fresh snow on the blades of tall grass near my home. But, because everything was so dark and gloomy due to the snow, the image appears a bit flat and dull.
I wanted to exaggerate the colors of the blades of grass to show that they were extremely dry and also pop-out the white snow on the grass. So I adjusted the saturation and vibrance sliders in Lightroom, and also warmed up the image by adjusting the temperature.
Export for web or print
Depending on what is the final treatment for your images, you can either save them as low resolution JPEGS or high resolution JPEGS. There are many other formats as well like TIFF, BMP, and GIF. JPEG are more universally accepted, and is the format that I use for all my images – the ones for print as well as for the web. Typically an image approximately 72PPI (pixels per inch) is considered as a low resolution image, ideal for the web. An image of 150DPI or 300DPI is considered a high resolution image ideal for print. DPI stands for Dots per inch. Per wikipedia, it is used to describe the resolution number of dots per inch in a digital print.
Ultimately how you process your images is an extremely personal decision. Choose the style and the tools that best describe your photography style. It is okay to experiment with the latest fads, filters, and looks but keep in mind that you may want your images to have a timeless look and feel so that years from now when you look at them, they still evoke an emotion.