July 6, 2015

My Not So Secret Secret – Photo Editing


I have to admit, I was a bit hesitant to post this.  I mean, it is kind of like a magician showing his audience how he does his “magic”.  But, I think you all need to know, so in the spirit of transparency and honesty, and to stop any misconceptions, here is my little secret.  I use Photoshop!  Gasp!

Often my non-photographer friends will comment on my images, or those of other professional photographers, with, ” My photos never look like that!” “Nice image. I wish I had an expensive camera like yours.” or “Wow! How does she get all her photos to look so dark and moody like that?”  The answer is not necessarily new camera equipment.

A good photograph is created, not taken. It starts with “seeing” the subject, placing that subject in the composition in a compelling way, controlling the light on the subject, and knowing your camera well enough to “get the shot.” However, for most images, that is not the end of the creative process.

Photoshop and other editing applications are almost always used to enhance the image. In fact, since I always shoot in RAW format, most of my SOOC (straight out of camera) images look flat.  I need to use editing software to define the shadows and bring depth to the finished image.  This is not cheating.  This is part of the creative process and it is one of the ways photographers put their “signature style” into an image.


Here is an example of a portrait before my editing and after.  I used both Lightroom and Photoshop; Lightroom to crop, correct the color and exposure, and increase the contrast, Photoshop to smooth the skin, remove the small bit of black undershirt showing at the armpit, and brighten and sharpen the eyes.

Above is a perfect example of how Photoshop can take “bad” photo and improve it to passable.  The original image was taken without any real thought to composition, one of those quick point and shoot situations.  When I first saw this image I thought it was trash, no real definition, hardly any separation of the subject from the background, no real interest.  However, with just a bit of editing in Lightroom (crop, darken greens and edges, lighten bird, sharpen) I was able to salvage the image.

In this last image, I wanted to create a specific mood, a dark dreaminess. This was not possible to do “in-camera.”  While I exposed for my main subject, my granddaughter on the rock, this left me with the shadowed creek bed and palms looking rather flat and boring.  To get the image I saw in my mind’s-eye, I had to do some tweaking in Photoshop, bring down the midtones and shadows.


So. the cat is out of the bag!  While a great image is not just the result of great editing, editing is an important part.  So don’t be intimided. Get started on your own photo creating!  I would encourage you to take some time to learn how to use some simple editing software. I recommend Lightroom as a great starting point as it is not too expensive and it can do so much.  Adobe now offers a monthly subscription based software solution that includes Lightroom and Photoshop for $9.99 a month with a 30 day free trial if you want to try it out.  There are also many different free options like PicMonkey and Fotor, not to mention the great editing and filters available on your own phone.

I’d love to see your own photo transformations.  Shoot over to my Facebook page and share your creations.




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