With the invention of the digital camera, more and more people are making photography their hobby. But you know, just because you have the best or an expensive camera doesn’t automatically mean that you can take good photos. While I suggest that people read about basic photography or attend photography workshops to be able to use the full potential of your digital cameras, if you’re well-versed in using Photoshop, here are a few photo editing techniques to make your photos look good.
1. Go Black and White. There are some photos that look good in color, but there are also some photos that become more powerful when turned black and white. The best photos to turn black and white are those photos that have high dark and light contrasts, and/or shadows. Black and white is also good to use if you want to convey strong emotions in a photo. Since there are no colors to distract you, you only see what the photo is really all about.
2. Lomo-fy it! When in doubt, lomo-fy! Sometimes, giving a photo that over-saturated, colorful, whimsical feel is a good way to make a photo look better. This technique can be used on casual snapshots which don’t really require a photo to be technically perfect (i.e. good cropping, good and sharp focus). You can download Lomo Actions for Photoshop from the Internet, by the way.
3. Go HDR. HDR (or high dynamic range imaging) is a technique that allows greater dynamic range of luminances between lightest and darkest area of an image (via Wikipedia). In MY terms, it simply makes your photo look like a nice, artistic painting. There is a manual (and hard) way of applying the HDR effect to your photos. You basically need a tripod, and you need to shoot the same image in different exposures (i.e. -1, 0, +1, the more range the better). Then you merge them into an HDR image. That sounds a little complicated, right? But don’t worry, you can actually download free Pseudo HDR actions for Photoshop all over the net. Using HDR is best for landscapes and places. I’ve tried using it on people and portraits, but it didn’t turn out so well.
4. Crop it! Sometimes, the only thing a photo needs to become a stronger photo is good cropping. When I took photography lessons a few years back, one thing I learned was that a good subject makes a good photo. Make sure that your photo has one focus. Too many subjects in a photo can make it look cluttered and usually, removing some elements can actually improve a photo. Like the photo below for example. The girl on the left does nothing for the photo since I was taking a photo of my two cute nieces. So better if I just crop her out.
5. Sharpen. Like cropping, sometimes, all you need to improve a photo is by sharpening. Sharpening increases contrast among the elements in a photo and makes objects pop out and even improve color. Beware with over sharpening though since it might give your photo too much noise, making it grainy. But! Sometimes, adding noise to a photo is good, too, and actually gives character. See how the panda looks more alive, and the color back is more pronounced in the photo below.
There are actually other editing techniques out there, but these five (5) are the ones I use most of the time. My most favorite technique is using a High Pass Sharpen action (which I sadly can’t find the link where I originally downloaded it from), paired with cropping.
But you know, as much I love editing photos and could spend hours and hours editing, when it comes to photography, the best photographs are those that barely need editing at all. So remember, when taking a photo remember these 3 basic rules (which I learned from Photoworks): Have a theme. Emphasize it. Simplify.
[ Photography by GeekGirlManila, photos taken with a Lumix LX3 ]