This is what often separates amateurish photos from, professional-looking images: taking a few minutes in an image editing program, adjusting a few basic things. Tasks such as colour correction, sharpness and adjusting exposure curves are easily done. So is straightening a wonky horizon, or cropping your picture into a more pleasing frame.
While the industry standard for graphic designers is Adobe Photoshop, this is expensive, has a steep learning curve, and is too comprehensive for most users. It has evolved over two decades to be much more than a photo-retouching program. It also caters to web designers, illustrators, movie editors and 3D animators and best slow motion camera.
Photoshop Elements or Lightroom are popular with hobbyists as they are cheaper, stripped-down versions of Adobe’s flagship software. Those on a budget may find Faststone Image Viewer very useful. It could be viewed as ‘the poor man’s Photoshop’, as it costs nothing, yet it is a powerful piece of image manipulation software.
2) Basic Editing
Your camera cannot always capture exactly what your eyes can see. These are basic ‘fixes’ that you should do on many of your photographs:
• Cropping – to eliminate irrelevant objects, or create a more pleasing composition.
• Straightening – especially if the horizon is wonky.
• Exposure Correction – if an image is too dark or light.
Colour Correction – this is most commonly required if you were shooting inside under Tungsten light bulbs, and the white balance setting in your camera was set incorrectly.
Sharpening – all photos need a touch of sharpening, but don’t over-do this, as it can create artefacts or digital noise, particularly in blue skies. Re-sizing – important if you wish to prepare an image for emailing, uploading to the Internet, or for a projected presentation (e.g. PowerPoint) with best lenses for canon 80D.
3) Sizing for Print
Most cameras generate images at a resolution of 72ppi (pixels per inch). This is okay for most purposes, unless you wish to either print your photo, or use it commercially, (e.g. in a magazine, or advertisement). The photo must then be converted to a high resolution, usually 300dpi (dots per inch). This simple process is quickly done.
4) Copyright & Watermarks
If you wish to protect your work, there are a couple of options. Firstly, you can add copyright information to the photo’s meta-data. Recent cameras allow you to record your name into every image you capture. Alternatively, you can manually write in your contact details and copyright info by using Photoshop. Adobe Bridge, or similar software.
Some photographers add a watermark over the photo, although this can easily be cropped off, and it takes lots of time your camera’s LCD screen into a 3×3 grid, and place key elements of your scene on the intersecting lines. For instance, if the sky is uninteresting, put the horizon one third of the way down the photo, and major on the landscape. Conversely, if you are looking at a stunning cloud-scape, make this fill two thirds of the photograph.
The exception to the Rule of Thirds is when shooting a symmetrical scene such as a building, or a mirror lake with reflections. Use symmetry if you want to convey a sense of tranquil calm,
or a formal view of something important.
3) Lead-in Lines
These devices include fences, roads, tracks, shorelines or rivers. They can help the viewer’s eye to navigate through your composition, then, finally arrive at the focal point.
4) Foreground Interest
Try to include some foreground interest in your photos. This gives the viewer’s eye something to lock onto, before exploring the remainder of your picture.
Keep the background behind your main subject simple, and uncluttered. This applies mainly to portraits, groups of people, and animals. Avoid having a telephone pole or tree sticking up behind a person’s head!
6) Angle of View
So many people take photos from where they happen to be standing, from eye level. Merely moving a few metres away, or lying down on the ground can instantly improve your
camera angle. Also, it is especially important when photographing children or wildlife to get down to their level.
7) Less is More
Beginners often try hard to get everything into a single exposure: their friends, plus the pretty view behind the group. Less is more.
Try filling up the frame with your subject. Don’t be afraid to crop off the top of a person’s head to get an intimate portrait of their facial expression. Ask yourself: ‘what are the key elements in this scene that make it work?’
As previously mentioned, the word ‘photograph’ means to ‘draw with light’. A basic understanding of how light affects a scene is fundamental for all aspiring photographers.
Once you have chosen a suitable subject, or scene to photograph, then you must also consider the lighting conditions. If shooting outside, this is related to the position of the sun in the sky.
Just like in comedy, timing is everything. Contrary to popular practice, shooting under the midday summer sun is unlikely to produce inspiring results; the overhead sun creates short shadows, which are harsh. Therefore, landscapes lack three-dimensional form and appear flat. People may get unflattering shadows under their facial features. Blue-sky days are great for exploring outside, but make for uninspiring photographs.
For quality light, try shooting in the Golden Hour – that magical time of day before sunset (or after dawn) when the light is softer and diffused, the hills are bathed in a golden glow (and when your companions are most likely heading home for dinner.) Also try shooting in the Blue Hour, half an hour after sundown, when the colours of the sky can become brilliantly intense. Alternatively, brave the elements and shoot immediately after a storm, waiting for the moment when a shaft of light penetrates the moody sky. Kiwi photographer, Andris Apse, reckons that the mysterious third dimension of photography is mood.
2) Colour Temperature
During different times of the day, and in different seasons of the year, the atmospheric conditions will affect the colour of your environment. In the golden hours, the lowangled sunlight will cast a softer, diffused light that is usually warmer. At midday, the overhead sunlight will produce cooler colours.
You can manipulate the colour temperature on some cameras – it’s called White Balance, and is measured on a Kelvin Scale.
3) Dynamic Range
This is the contrast between the brightest highlights and the darkest shadows, in a scene.
If there’s not enough contrast, the scene will appear lacklustre and lifeless. Objects need side-lighting to give them three-dimensional form, or else they will look 2D.
Too much contrast, however, and the dynamic range of a scene cannot be recorded adequately by the camera. A common instance is when shooting a sunset: while the sky might look stunning, other objects are back-lit; nothing more than black silhouettes.
Thankfully, this latter issue can be fixed, with more advanced techniques such as bracketing exposures and HDR (High Dynamic Range) imaging.