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The Basics of Photo Editing

Anyone present on social media has been through this at least once. What do we do about photo editing? What are the options, and how to make our photos stand out?

You probably know that the secret to smooth Instagram growth is a consistent feed. However, it can be hard to stay consistent when there are so many options, and you don’t really know the theory behind it. Right now, you probably know the three options for photo editing. There are the classic Instagram filters, mobile editing apps, and presets. 

1. Instagram Filters

Instagram filters used to be incredibly popular when they came out, but they are not exactly perfect. They won’t match all of your images because of the differences in white balance, and you won’t be able to keep a consistent feed this way. 

However, Instagram offers you the possibility to manually edit certain aspects of your photos, such as brightness, shadows, highlights, and contrast. It’s not an ideal option, and editing your photos with basic tools gets boring after a while.

2. Mobile Editing Apps

Mobile editing apps are ideal in certain situations. They allow you to change almost everything about your pictures, and some of them add interesting effects to your images. Snapseed is one of the best, and tons of features come with it. The downside is that you may not manage to keep your feed consistent. Every picture you take is different, so every edit will need to be adjusted.

3. Photo Presets

Lightroom offers its users to apply presets on their photos, and this can be a life-saver sometimes. Think about a pack of presets with everything you need from the autumn moody vibes to flawless skin and summer packs. In general, when it comes to presets, you will only need to adjust a few sliders in order to maintain a consistent look. 

The problem with Lightroom presets is that they can fail pretty badly. There’s not one preset to match all of your photos, so if you don’t already know what those sliders do, you can get lost.

None of these options are ideal, but if you learn a few basic photo editing concepts, your photos will look incredible without investing in presets.

The Secret is in the Photo

The whole process needs to start even before you take the picture. The wrong lighting can ruin the whole scene, and you need to plan. If you don’t have studio equipment, use natural light. Try to avoid the flash on your phone or camera at all costs. It’s not consistent, the front of your object will get too much light, and the back will have irrecuperable shadows. 

If you take pictures outside, in the sun, make sure that you don’t accidentally burn them. This happens when your camera captures too much light and overexposes the scene. 

Remember to also use the rule of thirds. Your phone or camera has a “Grid” feature that divides your screen into nine squares. In order to achieve the perfect picture, your subject should be along with one of the lines, or ideally, at their intersection. 

If you want to shoot in manual mode, keep in mind the three main settings: ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. 

The ISO controls the amount of light that enters your camera, and with it, you can decide if you want your sensor to be more or less sensitive to light. It’s best if you always keep your ISO under 400 so you don’t experience noisy or grainy photos.

The aperture refers to how much your lens opens. If the aperture is low, then less light will enter the camera, and you will also have some impressive bokeh (this is the background blur). If your aperture is wide, your camera will get a lot more light, and the whole image will be crisp. If you’re shooting portraits, you need a small aperture, and if you’re going for landscape, never go under f/11.

Shutter speed is all about how fast your camera takes the photo: the bigger the number, the slower the shutter speed. In general, with a shutter speed over 1/30, you won’t be able to take photos without a tripod, as the picture will be blurry. However, a slower shutter speed allows the camera to capture more light, so if you’re shooting in low light, you may not be able to go past 1/50. 

Photo Editing

With all this being said, it’s time to focus on editing and what you’ll encounter as soon as you open the editor.

Most people choose desktop programs such as Lightroom or Capture One to edit their photos, and for a good reason. They are easy to use but still complex enough to achieve impressive results. 

The first thing you want to do once you open the editing software is to adjust the white balance. While you won’t have a hard time doing this in natural light, if you shoot inside, your photo may turn out to be too blue or too yellow, and that’s not ideal. Before you start editing, make sure the colors are right.

After this, it’s time to play with the exposure and contrast. The exposure will determine how bright your photo is. Make sure it looks natural, and the photo is not burnt. The contrast will make your darks stand out and will somewhat sharpen the image. For a warm look, the contrast shouldn’t be high. 

After this, it’s time to go for shadows and highlights. These are fairly easy to figure out if you play a little with the sliders. Watch the highlights, as they can “burn” the photo in the light-colored parts. The shadows slider will brighten or darken the photo in certain areas.

If you want, you can also adjust the whites and blacks, but that’s not always necessary. If your photo looks good already, don’t touch them.

The fun part begins when you start playing with colors. For a moody autumn look, you may want to change the green hue to yellow, and red to orange. These settings can completely change the look of a photo. If, for example, you have some purple flowers in the background and you feel like they don’t match the decor, feel free to make them blue. Additionally, you can add selective filters, so you only edit a part of the photo.

The secret in photography is light. As long as you have proper lighting, then your photos will be sharp. Make sure you correctly frame your subject, and the edits you make can be minimal.

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