HAVE you been asking yourself how those beautiful photos in 500px, Flickr and other photo sharing websites are done? Why are they so perfect? I have to admit, I did ask myself about it many times. It’s even one driving force of mine to better myself every time. Sometimes you’d wonder if you’ll ever reach that level of photography that is worthy of admiration.
Well, there are two parts of achieving those types of photos: one is excellent photography and the other one is mastery in photo editing. The same complexity and a combination of art that you can find in photography, photo editing is just as deep as it goes. Photo editing complements photography.
I did mention excellent photography, right? In order for it to work, it should start with an excellent image. Never assume that you can always save your photo in the post and expect exceptional results. Photo editing can only get as good as it gets with what you started it with. No excuses, start with a good photo.
When learning photo editing, you must learn how to break down and see the image in different tonal zones. There are highlights, whites, midtones, shadows and black tones. The camera will capture the different tones more than what is displayed, but it’s up to you on how much you really need to bring out or tone down from the different zones.
There is no right or wrong when deciding tonal mix, just your taste and how you find it best. When shooting raw, you get more tonal data to work with. You can access tonal adjustment through Curves, Levels and basic adjustments in Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw. Try different combinations and find the one that works for you. The more you do it, the more you get to understand how they relate with each other and how a good image should look.
Contrast falls under tonal adjustment and so does exposure. They all affect the tonal values on the different zones. Contrast manages the separation between highlights and shadows, which also affect slightly the whites and shadows. The more contrast, the darker and brighter a photo is at the same time. Lesser means a flatter image. Exposure affects all the zones evenly.
After mastering the tones, your next task is to understand colors. In this part of editing you need to see the image in three channels, Red, Green and Blue. Everything that you see in the image are all a combination of the three channels. Reverse the three channels and you’ll get Cyan, Magenta and Yellow.
Carefully asses the image and find out what’s off or out of place in terms of color. Again no right or wrong, just your taste. Sometimes moving these channels in opposite directions will reveal the color problems. This technique helps you see a different look and will break the image that seems like good enough. It allows you to develop the image and open different possible looks.
There’s really a lot to learn about editing. It’s as complicated as photography itself. It’s a very powerful tool, so be careful not to exaggerate the use. Keep on shooting, everyone!