While a picture may look good at first glance, post-processing can bring it closer to perfection. This is why photo editing is an integral part of the photographer’s work.
Despite an excellent mastery of the techniques required to create beautiful photos, photo editing is defined as an essential step that allows you to go beyond the primary objective. This second approach offers a new perspective, but also the possibility of adding a personal touch. The post-processing stage highlights the photographer’s attention to detail and enhances the image. In this way, it is easy to modify a detail or an area, to intensify the luminosity of a beautiful landscape in order to reveal its reliefs, but also to bring out the fine features of a portrait. There are various tricks that, once mastered, offer a visual result worthy of a professional photograph.
Table of contents
Choosing a photo-editing software program
First of all, you should choose a photo-editing software program. This step is based primarily on the photographer’s needs and not the performance of the software. In order to determine the ideal tool, it is therefore relevant to ask a few questions:
- Will the photo editing be done on a Mac or a Windows device?
- How many photos need to be edited?
- How often will the software be used?
- Will it be a matter of simple and quick edits or more advanced, creative modifications?
- What are the primary functionalities essential to the desired result?
Once the answers to these questions have been obtained, and depending on the budget devoted to the purchase of image processing software, a field of possibilities opens up. Among the various high-performance software, the most popular are:
- Capture One;
- Apple Photo.
There are basic principles that simplify the task and avoid pitfalls. Before each processing stage, it is essential to:
- save the original photo and ensure you are only working on copies;
- crop the image in order to perform editing on a photo with perfect composition and framing, without unwanted elements.
In addition, it is strongly recommended to duplicate and save the original images in RAW format and on different media (hard drive, cloud, computer, etc.). At least three different methods.
When the copy has been generated, the cropping has been done correctly, and the composition is balanced, there is still one crucial step left to do.
Calibration of the work screen
Photos edited using editing software must be shown as they appear on the screen. It is possible for the work to be carried out on an incorrectly calibrated screen and for the result to differ from one medium to another. Whether the images are posted online later or exhibited, the colors must match reality and be identical to those perceived by the viewers.
A correctly performed calibration cannot be done by eye, at the risk of obtaining a skewed result. The ideal solution is to use an efficient software program to calibrate your screen before editing photos. This ensures that the work can be carried out in the best possible conditions.
Adjusting the white balance
A seasoned photographer is able to consider the amount of light emanating from a scene. The light that arrives on the digital sensor of their DSLR, hybrid or bridge camera. The adjustment of white balances is one of the major alterations that can be made, because the camera captures different lighting from that which is perceptible to the naked eye.
Mastering the white balance is one of the first technical skills to be acquired. While taking pictures and during the post-processing stage, it makes it possible to intensify the blacks or to force the whites according to the desired effect.
The alteration of the contrast between light and dark areas highlights what the photographer’s eye has not perceived, but wishes to show. Good contrast management can be achieved in two stages: when taking a digital photo, but also in post-production to enhance the quality and atmosphere of a photo.
At first, contrast adjustment can be primarily used to improve a shot, but in a second step it allows to create a very specific emotion and impression. Changing the contrasts offers the possibility of:
- making the subject stand out against the background;
- dissociating white areas from dark areas;
- creating a play of texture between the subject and the background;
- changing the clarity and definition of the image.
This multitude of modifications creates a harmony of colors and contrasts, guaranteeing a superior-quality result.
The more saturated a photo is, the brighter the colors of the photo. On the other hand, low saturation reduces the sharpness of the image and increases gray levels. Depending on the degree of saturation adjustment, the photographer can change the overall atmosphere of the photo.
Managing the saturation of photos is therefore an essential step when the artist wants to make an image more captivating. This technique is also used to reveal specific areas. For example, the subject, deliberately more saturated than the background, attracts more attention from viewers.
Proper management of the histogram
To fully understand what the histogram is and how to use it properly, it must first be defined.
In photography, the histogram is a major tool that offers photographers the possibility to obtain information on the exposure of a photo. In other words, it reveals the distribution of dark and light tones. It is very useful to set your camera so that the histogram is displayed on every shot. This setting appears by default on some recent and high-performance devices.
On the left side of the histogram are the dark pixels, while the right side is reserved for the light pixels. In the middle are the intermediate tones. A photographer whose intention is to intensify the dark tones of an image must therefore increase the proportion of dark pixels. In the context of desiring an underexposed shot, it is necessary, on the contrary, to increase the proportion of light pixels. Then, for an optimal result, also work carefully on the histogram during the editing process.
To conclude, post-processing is an integral part of the art of photography. Among the many relevant adjustments and procedures are the removal of unwanted elements, filters, red-eye removal and the creation of movement and depth. However, a photographer must put their technical ability and their sense of aesthetics at the service of each shot. The mastery of one or more photo software programs should not detract from a photographer’s primary expertise, which is to take pictures.
Finally, it should be noted that overdoing the editing can be a problem. A photo that is overly edited distances itself from the primary goal of enhancing the image. Excessive changes in skin texture, eye color or tooth shade are common mistakes that should be avoided. The same goes for the processing of colors or brightness that are too remote from reality. Excessive adjustment of these different elements is still possible when this is the desired effect.