8 Quick and Easy Ways to Improve Your Photos AFTER the Shot - A Beginner’s Guide to Editing
Most of us take photos that could use a little tweaking afterward. Whether it’s to fix a mistake, or give your picture a little extra sizzle and shine. Sometimes the difference between a good photo and a great photo is a little editing. This article introduces the top 8 adjustments for everyday photo editing.
The adjustments covered here are available in most editing software. Many cameras come with basic editing and organizing software, and there are free ones available too. At the end of this article I’ll provide some links to popular software. For the examples here I used my favorite, ACDSee Pro. For your software, look for similar titles in the menus to make similar adjustments.
If an image is underexposed, this tool is used to increase the overall brightness of the image. This tool brightens all parts equally. For more control and if you software has it, you may find the Levels tool better for the image you're working on. To brighten the image, simply move the slider to a positive number. To darken the image, move the slider to a negative number.
The levels tool has a histogram display which illustrates the mapping of the tones in your image. The rule of thumb for a well exposed, evenly lit scene is to have a histogram resembling a mountain. But that's just a rule of thumb. If your image has a lot of dark colors, or a lot of light colors, then the histogram will look different.
In the first histogram below, there is space between the tone mapping and the edge. A typical correction with a histogram like this would be to moved the sliders in just to the edge of the tone mapping.
This is one of my favorite tools. It can take flat images, and really make them pop! Like all tools, sometimes the change is subtle, but it still makes a difference. Other times, the change is extreme and saves your picture.
Here's an example of on an extremely underexposed image. I used levels instead of the "exposure/brightness" tool because I didn't want the brightness increased in the whole image. I only wanted to increase the lighter values and not brighten the wood post holding the sign. The best way to see the difference between the two tools is to try them both on an image.
This histogram indicates a severely underexposed image. Notice how the entire histogram falls to the left of center.
By simply sliding the white slider left the image brightens up quite nice.
If your image is flat and dull, the contrast tool will help perk it up. I usually make levels and white balance adjustments before tweaking the contrast.
White Balance (Color Cast)
When cropping, for most uses keep the same ratio the image was in originally, or use the print size if you intend to print the image. Keep in mind if you crop too tight, the image might not have enough resolution and may look bad. When you crop, make sure you don’t make things look worse!
Unsharp Mask (Sharpen)
Some software has one sharpen or clarity slider, while others have three. Whichever one your software has, use it carefully. This is another tool that’s easy to go overboard with. For software with 3 settings, this is what each does:
Amount - Specifies the amount of light added to or removed from each edge. Higher values produce darker edges. This is the main part of the sharpening effect. Use anywhere from 20-150 depending on your software and image requirements.
Radius - Specifies the number of pixels to adjust around each edge. Higher values increase the number of sharpened pixels. Usually keep this around 2-5, depending again on your particular software. Watch your image and make sure it doesn't get too funky.
Threshold - Specifies how different the lightness values of two adjacent pixels must be before they are sharpened. Higher values increase the required difference. It is recommended that you set the threshold so that it enhances edges while keeping background noise to a minimum. 1-10 are common settings.
A common setting I use in ACDSee is 50-2-6. In Photoshop Elements 85-1-4 is a good place to start.
Red Eye Removal
One of the simplest tools to use is red eye removal. Some software you drag a box around the effected eye, while others you simply click the red eye.
Black and White
The next one was a situation where the face was overexposed in some areas. Not as bad as some I've saved using black and white conversion, but this should give you an idea. So before you delete a shot you thought hopeless, try a black and white version.
Some scenes were made for black and white.
Keep in Mind
Photo Editing Software
Popular Photo Editing Software
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