Edit to get that per­fect pic­ture

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - TRAVEL -

DEB­O­RAH San­didge is a travel pho­tog­ra­pher who has writ­ten books on pho­tog­ra­phy, teaches ad­vanced photo tech­nique work­shops and has been hon­oured as a Nikon am­bas­sador. In short, she knows her stuff.

When she pho­tographed the Cathe­dral Basil­ica of Our Lady of the As­sump­tion in San­ti­ago de Cuba, she used all of her know-how; she scouted ahead of time, found a rooftop van­tage from which to shoot and waited un­til the light was per­fect. But the re­sult­ing photo was a flop. “I wasn’t get­ting the emo­tion,” she said.

Then she ap­plied the “art sauce” that vir­tu­ally ev­ery travel pho­tog­ra­pher uses. She used soft­ware to tweak the im­age.

This is the se­cret of pro­fes­sional travel pho­tog­ra­phers. No mat­ter how good the im­age they cap­ture is, the edit­ing – called post-pro­duc­tion – makes it a lit­tle bet­ter. Some­times, a lot bet­ter.

But it’s not just for pros. Smart­phones come with built-in edit­ing soft­ware that can trans­form travel pho­tos from washed-out to wow. Whether you are edit­ing on a phone or with an ad­vanced desk­top dig­i­tal dark­room pro­gram, the con­trols are sim­i­lar.


The first step in edit­ing is to pick out the big­gest prob­lem with your photo. “There is not a mag­i­cal step list of things to do to the photo,” said Josh Haf­tel, prin­ci­pal prod­uct man­ager for Adobe, which makes Pho­to­shop. “It de­pends on what the im­age needs.”

Fram­ing of­ten is the prob­lem, said Rick Sam­mon, a pho­tog­ra­phy ed­u­ca­tor. When pho­tos in­clude too much, the eye is not drawn to the in­tended sub­ject. That can be fixed with the crop tool, which lets you shrink the frame and re­com­pose so the sub­ject is where you want it.

Be­cause cam­eras can see only a por­tion of the range of light that the eye can see, in many pho­tos the darks are too dark and the brights too bright. All of the soft­ware has shadow and high­light slid­ers. Turn­ing the shad­ows brighter and high­lights darker will make the photo look more like it does to your eye. If that makes the darks too grey, look for the “black point” con­trol. It will make the blacks blacker without killing all the de­tail.

When the ex­po­sure is set, there is an­other crit­i­cal ad­just­ment: clar­ity, which is gen­er­ally called “sharp­ness” or “struc­ture”.

Pro pho­tog­ra­phers know that the best time to cap­ture im­ages is dur­ing the golden hours around dawn and dusk, when the light has a tint. But they also know that the tint is easy to add. “Be­cause I am a travel pho­tog­ra­pher and I am in­ter­ested in mak­ing pleas­ing pic­tures, I will of­ten warm up a pic­ture, mean­ing I will add a lit­tle bit of red, yel­low and or­ange,” said Sam­mon. Look for an ad­just­ment called “tem­per­a­ture”, “warmth” or “cast” to make this ad­just­ment.

Some of these tools are easy to find on your phone or tablet, and some you might have to dig for a bit. The lo­ca­tion of the con­trols will vary, but on most phones and tablets, you pick a photo, then touch edit. That should re­veal an icon that looks like a menu, or a dial, which un­cov­ers op­tions. Of­ten it’s one more layer down for the full set of con­trols. You may have to touch an ar­row or an icon to get there. Check your man­ual.

You can al­ter your pho­tos by just throw­ing a fil­ter on them. Pro pho­tog­ra­phers aren’t nec­es­sar­ily against us­ing fil­ters, es­pe­cially if you have a style that lends it­self to a par­tic­u­lar look. But a fil­ter is some­one else’s set of ad­just­ments that are made to look good on some­one else’s photo. Some­times called a pre­set, a fil­ter can be a start­ing point, though.

“If you choose a pre­set, I wouldn’t use it at 100% ,” said San­didge.

For phone edit­ing, San­didge uses Snapseed. This app does more than the av­er­age soft­ware on your phone. It’s pow­er­ful enough to touch up skin blem­ishes or re­move an un­wanted rail­ing from a photo.

The grand­fa­ther of post­pro­duc­tion soft­ware is Pho­to­shop. Adobe makes a range of prod­ucts, some sim­ple to use, such as PS Ex­press or Light­room. Or you can move up to the full ver­sion of Pho­to­shop, which al­lows so­phis­ti­cated edit­ing.

While edit­ing is in­tended to fix prob­lems, it can cre­ate them.

The rule of thumb is, if you can see the photo has been pro­cessed, you’ve over­pro­cessed.

This “be­fore” night­time shot of the Sara­sota sky­line was a lit­tle dark and lack­ing de­tail.|The Wash­ing­ton Post

Af­ter crop­ping, bring­ing up the over­all ex­po­sure, the whites, and in­creas­ing de­tail slightly, thebuild­ings popped out of the murk in this “af­ter”.|The Wash­ing­ton Post

This “be­fore” shot of Sara­sota, Flor­ida, turned out flat­ter than the sun­set ap­peared to thenaked eye.|The Wash­ing­ton Post

Here is the “af­ter” photo — the colours have been in­ten­si­fied a tad, the whites bumped up andthe shad­ows de­creased.|The Wash­ing­ton Post

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