How to Improve Your Photo Editing Skills

25/05/2020 6:30 am

As any photographer knows, a good photo is about more than just pointing your camera and pushing a button. What you do after taking a shot is almost as important as what you do beforehand, and can make the difference between a good photo and a great one. Learning how to edit photos can transform your photography practice, and can help you finesse everything from lighting and shadows to the vibrancy of colours in your shot.


But with so many photo editing tools and software options on the market, knowing where to start can be confusing. Below, we’ve teamed up with the product photography experts at The Blake Image Photography to put together our 4 top photo editing tips to help you learn the ropes of the post-production stage. From the best photo editing workflow to our pick of photo editing programs, read our top tips below.


1. Start with a good image

Whether you’re a portrait photographer or a landscape photography enthusiast, aim to start your photo editing workflow on the right foot by taking a good shot to begin with. This can sometimes be a little easier said than done, but with a little practice and our easy photography tips below, you’ll nail the shot more often than not. As a minimum, we recommend:

 

  • Using a tripod to reduce camera shake and ensuring you end up with sharp, crisp images.
  • Choosing the right lighting setup for your shooting environment. For natural light photography, for example, use a reflector or bounce card to minimise shadows. If you’re using artificial lighting, on the other hand, consider investing in LED lights or a camera-mounted flashgun.
How to improve your photo editing skills
  • Shooting in RAW format, which will retain all the original data of your image. This means that you can play around with editing options without worrying about degrading the quality of the photo.

2. Choose the right photo editing software for your skill level

How to improve your photo editing skills

Start your photo editing journey on a gentle learning curve by choosing a photo editing program that matches your skill level and knowledge. If you’re a beginner photographer or editor, we recommend trying a free photo editing program like Pixlr, which will help you get a feel for the kinds of settings that can be tweaked and how to manipulate an image.

 

Once you’re feeling confident, upgrade to a paid photo editing program that can really help transform your raw images into sophisticated masterpieces. Our top pick is Adobe’s Creative Cloud, which includes two of the most popular photo editing tools: Photoshop and Lightroom. The Blake Image Photography has a great tutorial that shows you exactly how you can professionally retouch landscape photography with Adobe CC.

Lightroom makes it easy to manage a lot of images, from grouping and selecting your favourites to performing quick batch edits. It’s also brilliant for processing RAW files. Meanwhile, Photoshop is the perfect tool for fine tuning: There’s really nothing it can’t do!

3. Set up a photo editing workflow - and stick to it

As with most things in life, when it comes to a good photo editing process, planning is the key to success. You don’t have to follow the exact same process every time, but as a guide, we recommend the following workflow.

Step 1. Crop and straighten

 

Firstly, make sure your image is level and straight. Then, experiment with different photo composition techniques until you get the most intriguing result. 

 

Step 2. Tweak the exposure

 

You can adjust the exposure of your photo in a number of different ways, but the goal is always the same: To end up with an image that isn’t too light or too dark. 

 

As you’re tweaking the exposure, pay attention to your histogram (the map diagram in your photo editing software that points out all the detail in your photo) to make sure nothing is “clipping.”

 

Step 3. Adjust the white balance

 

White balance affects the appearance of all colours in your image, meaning it’s essential to capturing accurate skin tones, for example. The good news is, if you shoot in RAW (rather than JPEG), you can easily adjust the white balance in Lightroom.

 

How to improve your photo editing skills

To do this, choose the white balance preset that suits your photo the best. The menu will be the same as the one on your camera. If you shot outdoors, you might pick Daylight, Cloudy, or Shade, while if you shot indoors, Tungsten or Fluorescent may be a better fit, depending on the type of lighting you were working with.

 

Alternatively, you can manually adjust white balance to make the image appear warmer or cooler, and judge the best results with your eye.

 

Top Tip: Lightroom allows any images taken at the same time and place to be adjusted using the same settings. This not only makes the photos look consistent, but also cuts down the amount of time you spend editing.

How to improve your photo editing skills

Step 4. Refine your image

 

We like to call saturation, clarity, dodging, and burning “image-dependent edits” because they’re not necessary for every photo - though they do have the potential to take your pictures to the next level.

 

Think of tweaks to these settings as finishing touches. If you’ve run through all the steps above and your image is looking good (with no glaring issues), turn to these sliders and tools. Who knows, you may land on something that makes your image even more powerful.

 

Step 5. Sharpen your photo

 

This is typically the final step of the photo editing process. The level of sharpening required will vary based on the quality of the image, as well as whether it will be printed or published online

4. Steer clear of filters and other gimmicks

Don’t get us wrong: Filters are fun, but they’re almost always obvious and can make an image look forced or artificial. Unless you’re specifically going for a high-contrast effect, we’d recommend staying away from filters and instead learning how to tweak individual settings manually until everything is just-so.

 

Plus, filters go in and out of style easily, meaning that an image that looks on-trend now is likely to look dated down the track. In this sense, skipping a filter is a great way to future-proof your photos and keep them looking fresh for years to come.

How to improve your photo editing skills

All images shown used courtesy of The Blake Image Photography


Become a better photographer by learning how to edit photos

Whether you’ve been a photographer for years or have just picked up a camera for the first time, learning how to edit photos is a great way to enhance your skills and develop your photographic eye. With the right tools, a lot of practice, and some patience, you’ll be well on your way to perfectly composed, highly refined images that make a strong visual impact in no time.


Put your new knowledge into action by retouching some images today, or visit our blog to discover more expert photography tips.


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