The nitty-gritty of picture editing

“And if you, O poet, tell a story with your pen, the painter with his brush can tell it more easily…” said Leonardo Da Vinci. While any writer including myself would disagree with that on different levels, I still, to an extent, think it is true that an image helps us process details much better than any other form of communication. Photography is another art just like painting where the person who is clicking an image makes others see what he or she sees. “You should have seen it!” probably would have been a popular phrase up until the early 18th century as there was no equipment to capture the moment. Nicéphore Niépce, a French inventor, however, changed that by inventing a device called the camera. The possibilities to click beautiful images these days have become easier with the evolution of high tech digital camera devices and it has empowered people who sometimes don’t have any idea about their potential. Even the common man can master the skills of photography these days owing to the introduction of the super devices called ‘mobile phones’. As a matter of fact, some people pursue photography as an everyday hobby and others are more serious about it by making a full-fledged portfolio on Instagram or such social media. Whether you own a high-end DSLR or a mobile phone that is a couple of years old, probably with outdated specifications you can still be a photographer and I am going to show you how.

Post-processing! Yes, that is the key. All those beautiful images that you find on a professional’s portfolio didn’t come right out of the camera. That contributes to 50% of photography skills. However, there are two things that are required before you start processing a picture. The raw image and a good photo editor. Post-processing is hugely dependant on these three factors.

The raw image

Let’s face the fact guys, you cannot use the best photo editor in the world to make a horribly clicked image into a beauty. If that is the case any software geek can master the art. A rich photo can be edited to make it richer and that is all that you can do. Yes, there are online photo editors that offer transformational corrections but they have their own limitations.

Choosing the right equipment

Picking the right equipment can be cumbersome considering the plethora of choices. However, narrowing down what you need may give you pragmatic results. A budget camera can be purchased in the form of a decent mobile phone or it can go up to a DSLR in the lower price spectrum. You can go as high in the budget as you want to get the right quality picture. Optics, sensors, aperture, shutter speed and ISO are the five aspects that define the quality of a raw image. Selecting a device that is capable of delivering the best outputs in all five aspects would be the most recommended option.

Having an eye for it

It doesn’t matter how many filters you use, if you don’t have an eye for it, you’ll never reach perfection. Angles and perspectives are the fundamentals here. The amount of background and foreground, light sources, styles of framing, leading-edge, and symmetry is going to define a lot of things in your picture.

Source: Photo by Christian Mackie

Photo editors

Photo editors are just software that enhances the beauty of a raw image. There are many photo editors both online and as a computer or mobile phone application and the diversity is vast. But all that you need to know is how to use the right tools. It doesn’t matter if what you are using is a free application or it requires you to pay a hefty subscription, there are some rudimentary adjustments that will help your picture pop out without much of cosmetic changes. One can give pointers on how to use them but it all boils down to how you want your picture to look like. Before starting with the editing process, have a strategy in mind or you are probably going to waste your time tweaking. Let’s see what each feature does in order to use them effectively.

Brightness

If your raw image had to be taken in bad lighting or in slightly hard lighting, you can correct it using this simple tool. Brightness is going to help you change the intensity of the light source in the image which most of the time reveals the lost colors. Keep in mind that only certain high-end applications are going to help you with proper spot corrections while in basic applications you get to increase or decrease brightness uniformly throughout the picture. Any overexposed pictures are very hard to correct since it just has a splash of light and no details.

Source: Photo by Dose Media

Contrast

Source: Photo by John Gonzalez

This is one of the features people usually mess up by overdoing it. You play around with the highlights and shadows of a picture to direct the viewer to intentionally focus on something. If you overdo the highlights the picture is probably going to get hazy and if you overdo shadows you are distracting the viewers from seeing the right object.

Saturation

This will bring out the colors or pushing it all the way to greyscale. I personally love greyscale images but what I cannot stand is oversaturation. It destroys the image and makes it look very unnatural. The idea is to retain the originality of the raw picture and use the spectrum to pick a sweet spot.

Source: Photo by Alexander Mils

Sharpen

Source: Photo by Stijn Swinnen

It’s quite common to have a raw image with smudges. Any photo looks attractive if it has some character to it so you use sharpen features to make the details like lines, spots, definitions, etc. more evident. Doing this to a human face may not be a good option is my opinion unless you are shooting a model with flawless skin.

Experiment with as many features as you can with a picture editor but remember, Da Vinci also said: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”. It’s all about making others see what you see through the scope and what better way to do it than by keeping it simple?

4 most powerful features in Adobe Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop has been one of the best picture editing tools that are available. Starting from a college student to a professional photographer enjoy the benefits of this application. So, what is that the professionals use that most people miss out on? There is a reason why they are called professionals. And they seem to be knowing something the many don’t. In this article, I am going to highlight the 10 most powerful features in Adobe Photoshop that everyone must know to get to the next level.

Facial Liquification

Once you open an image in Photoshop, convert the image to a smart object as it is always a good practice to do so as it gives you the option to edit it later. Hit filter on the tools bar then select liquify and here, there is a new head option that is called the face tool. You can also enable it by using ‘hotkey’ which is the letter ‘A’. Now what Photoshop does is that it creates small heads by automatically detecting faces in the image. Although there are possibilities that it may not be very accurate because of the angle of the raw image, most of the time Photoshop does a pretty good job.

Now it’s time to play around. These heads can be pulled in any direction to get the desired cosmetic changes to the face. Making the eyes wide, nose thin and even give a face a broader smile. What I love the most about this feature is that it has a symmetric result. That means any changes you do to one eye will have a proportional effect on the other eye of the same face. I would advise you to resist the temptation to overkill using this feature as it also has the potential to make people look goofier.

Source: https://ultimez.com/

Curves

This is my favorite feature and you can quickly adjust contrast, colors, tones, etc. to an image. Just like the other features, add an adjustment layer to the picture you are editing, and this time choose curves. The properties of curves will pop out for you to start the work. It has a diagonal line over the histogram of the image. The quick method of correcting contrast would be to have the color selection on ‘RGB’ and make something called as the ‘S’ curve or ‘in-curve’ on the histogram. This is done by pulling the curves down on the darker parts of the image and upon the lighter parts of the image. This will instantly add a high contrast to your picture making it rich. You can add heads by clicking on the curve and delete them by pulling it out of the properties window. You can also do a variety of corrections by individually selecting red, green or blue in the color selection drop-down and tweaking the curves.

Source: howtogeek.com/

Marked color range

If there is a need to change the color of a specific object in a picture this feature is going to be of great help. Start by adding a hue/saturation adjustment layer. Now when you select the layer mask, you’ll find the properties showing you an option called ‘Color Range’ what this is going to do is help you define a specific color in the picture that you would like to change. Use the eyedropper tool to select a specific color and play around with the fuzziness until you have highlighted most of the areas under the color selection.

Now click on the layer thumbnail and adjust the hue until you find the right color that you would want. There are chances where photoshop might select undesired areas in the picture and here’s how you can correct this. Make sure you have selected the layer mask and hit ‘B’ on the keyboard or choose the brush tool. Make sure the foreground and background colors are black and white and start brushing black on areas that should retain the original color and white (background and foreground can be swapped using the hotkey ‘X’ on the keyboard) on the areas that need to be changed. Take as much time as you want to take it to perfection.

Source: phlearn.com/tutorial

Color lookup table

This feature gives you the convenience of mashing multiple adjustment layers into one stash so the same can be copied to other pictures that you are editing. But before you start using this option it needs a background so select the layer that you would like to use as a background and choose Layer – New – Background from layer from the tools bar. Now select any one of the adjustment layers that you would like to mash up and select File – Export – Color lookup table.

Checkout – Picture Editor

In the pop-up window, you can give a description for your LUT (this is not the name of the file) and select grid points (medium works well). There are various formats to choose from and I usually choose cubes and save it in the preferred location on your computer. Now you can apply this color LUT on another picture by clicking on Layer – New Adjustment Layer – Color Lookup. In the color lookup table adjustment layer’s properties, you are going to find an option to load 3D LUT which will ask you to choose an existing LUT file. Rule of thumb is that if you are planning to do color or tonal adjustments to a picture, it is recommended to use a raw image or preferably a 16-bit image. A small 8-bit image with huge adjustments is probably going to give a degenerated look.

Well, these powerful features are going to be very handy for you when you start post-processing your images especially if you just started exploring in this field. Like I always say experiment as much as you can to get the best of what you have. Go ahead and leave your comments below on what you think about these features and what other features do you think can be added to the list.