Professional photographers don’t just take a photo. They use various editing techniques to change the image so it looks the way they want it to, not the way it is. Some of these methods involve setting up the equipment on site, while others involve post-processing editing.
And do not think that this is an exclusively modern phenomenon. The art of photography has included the manipulation of images since the 1800s. If you love creating professional photos and photobooks, look for additional creative tools. We’ve got some professional photo editing tips to help you get started.
The best advice for beginners
The best advice for beginner photographers is this: experiment and have fun.
Don’t feel like you need to create professional grade images right now. Get to know your hardware, learn photo editing software, and learn to stop worrying and enjoy editing. There will be great photos, some setbacks, but if you enjoy the process, the effort is not wasted.
To start your experiments, it makes sense to imitate the style of one of your favorite photographers. Maybe you like a photographer who edits in bright, surreal colors, or maybe someone who uses lighter touches for more realism. Either way, recreating a particular photographer’s style will not only help you get used to your gear, it may even produce some unique results.
Exposure is the amount of light that hits the film or image sensor. Understanding exposure is important for editing, as proper control will give you the image you want to work with. There are three main impact components (the so-called impact triangle):
- ISO is the camera’s light sensitivity. The lower the ISO value, the darker the image and vice versa.
- Aperture is the hole in the lens that allows light to pass through. Small apertures create a large depth of field and vice versa.
- Shutter speed is the speed at which the shutter opens to let in light. The slower the speed, the more light is let in.
By changing these components, you will get photos of different focus, clarity, color saturation, depth of field, etc. This will directly affect the quality of the photos you work with in post-process, so you should familiarize yourself with each of them.
Low Light Tips
Shooting in low light can be difficult, but since many family moments take place late in the evening — sports events, dinner parties, summer evening outings — learning to shoot in these less-than-ideal conditions is well worth it.
Three main clues in low light:
- Use a larger aperture to let in more light, increase the ISO for a brighter image, slow down your shutter speed to limit motion blur.
- The resulting image may be a bit grainy, but this can be removed in post-processing. For example, if you’re using Photoshop, you can find the Reduce Noise tool under the Filter section.
- How about flash? Better not to overdo it. We’ve all seen these overexposed images in pale light. If you have an external flash, you can experiment with indirect light, but if in doubt, don’t use it.
Low resolution tips
What is the best resolution? It all depends on how you plan to use the photo. For print projects such as photo books, the higher the resolution, the better the image will look. Unsure of your choice? Then shoot in high definition in any situation. Subsequently, you can always reduce the resolution.
Online images are the exception. They typically have a PPI (pixels per inch) of 72 because that resolution prevents long loading times while maintaining a decent look on the monitor. But online images look blurry when printed, so it’s best to shoot in high resolution and zoom out in the editor.
Editing programs offer the option to increase the resolution. Photoshop’s Resample Image tool increases the PPI of an image. Consider this a patch solution as the images are not as clear as if they were originally captured at the desired resolution.
Photo Resizing Tips
Modern software makes photo resizing easier than ever. In Photoshop, the Image Size option is located on the Image tab and lets you adjust image dimensions in pixels, document size, and resolution. Also, you can use photo editor with effects “PhotoMASTER”.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with cropping when resizing. For example, if you’re downsizing an image, you might want to move some frames and re-center the object. Alternatively, when you zoom in on an image, you can move the object around to create dynamic negative space.
Don’t be afraid to disable autofocus and give manual focus a try. Modern cameras have incredibly advanced autofocus, but sometimes you will find that the camera is “hunting” for the subject you want to focus on. Using manual focus gives you much more freedom to get the shot you want. Instead, use one autofocus. This tells your camera that you will be focusing on one subject and there is no need to make everything in the picture super clear.
The exception is when you are trying to lock onto an active target. In this case, use continuous autofocus in combination with burst mode. And let’s not forget editing software. Photoshop has a Focus Area option to help you highlight your subject, and a Lens Blur option to defocus the background even more.
Tips for reducing motion blur
The best way to reduce motion blur is to fix the camera. Grab a tripod and let the engineers do the work for you — it’s a “work smarter, not harder” situation. Of course, sometimes a tripod won’t be practical, so you need to get creative. Use fences or public benches, lean against a wall, or keep your hands on a table.
Since a faster shutter notices less movement, increase the shutter speed. If you are using a 100mm lens, the shutter should take a picture at 1/100 of a second. If it’s a 200mm lens, the shutter should shoot at 1/200th of a second. And so on.
You can further reduce blurring in post-processing. Photoshop has a “Shake Reduction” option under the Filter tab. If you are going to use the motion blur effect, select “Motion Blur” in the same tab.
Landscape Photography Tips
This is a great area for practicing professional editing techniques. Landscapes provide a ton of different ways to experiment. When shooting, try a polarizing lens. This will reduce reflections, suppress glare, and darken the sky. You will also want to focus on the foreground and background to maintain a sense of depth while giving the viewer a sense of presence. Just connect a small aperture to a slow shutter speed and hold your camera steady.
Then refine the details while editing. Enhance clarity and use any option you need to remove noise (grain). There is no wrong or right answer here. Just keep experimenting until the photo seems attractive enough.
Too many beginner photographers center their subject in the viewfinder. Of course it looks boring. Framing allows you to express yourself through the world, so get out of the box and try something different. One of the ways to decorate the composition is the Golden Ratio. Imagine a Fibonacci spiral above the frame and align the frame so that the points of interest naturally face the viewer from outside the spiral towards its center.
You can also look for ways to frame a frame within a frame. Think of a landscape shot through an open window, a child surrounded by a playground, or a partner framed by trees. When editing, remember that you can manipulate the crop by cropping it, rotating it, or dragging it with the mouse.
Colored sliders can intimidate the uninitiated. There are so many numbers, the changes can seem too dramatic and the desired palette can be really hard to achieve. Our first tip is to consider the desired effect. Do you want to elevate colors to surreal levels? Then turn up the saturation. Do you want to highlight a specific color? Then don’t forget to play with its contrast. Are you trying to evoke certain emotions? Then hitting the heat slider can add an antique effect.
Pay attention to all the colors present in the picture. Your woodland landscape may be focused on bright oranges, yellows and reds of leafy forests in autumn, but blue skies also begs to be framed? If so, don’t ignore this blue color.
With landscape photography, color is ultimately an artistic choice, so don’t assume there is a wrong or right answer. The correct answer is the one you find aesthetically pleasing.