Join Jim Heid for an in-depth discussion in this video Enhancing, retouching, and transforming photos, part of Getting Started in Photography.
- When most people think of photo software they don't think of keywords and metadata, they think of photo enhancement or photo editing, making photos look better, or transforming them entirely. At the most basic level, you'll edit photos to improve their appearance, to crop them for better composition, to adjust their exposure and improve things like brightness, and contrast, and color. You could bring details out of shadows, or recover areas that look blown out and too bright, you can reduce the digital noise that often appears in low light photos, and you can turn a color photo into a black and white one.
And by the way, remember earlier in this course when I said it's a good idea to use a camera that lets you shoot in raw mode? This is why. A raw image gives you a lot more flexibility, a lot more latitude, when it comes to making these kinds of adjustments. Programs like Lightroom, programs that have features for the entire photo workflow, are ideal for making these kinds of global changes, changes that affect the entire photo. But you can also make local adjustments, changing just part of a photo, for example, to darken a sky to make it look more dramatic, knowing how and where to make these local adjustments is an important part of learning the art of photo editing.
It's easy to overdo it and end up with artificial looking results. Lightroom also has some basic retouching features that you can use to fix blemishes and other flaws, but for serious retouching you'll probably move into Photoshop. Portrait and fashion photographers use Photoshop to remove blemishes, fix stray hairs, whiten eyes and teeth, and literally reshape faces and bodies. This, again, is one of those areas where a little bit goes a long way. It's easy to smooth out someone's skin so much that it looks like plastic, or to reshape bodies in ways that aren't really found in nature.
When you hear people say things like, "That photo was obviously heavily photoshopped," it usually means that somebody went too far. Enhancing and retouching are common image editing tasks, but photographers use photoshop for other advanced forms of editing too. For example, making local adjustments with more precision than Lightroom allows, or moving a subject to a different part of a photo, or removing something distracting, or correcting distortion and changing perspective. Learning these and other techniques can help you create photos that you envisioned in your head, but didn't necessarily see in your viewfinder.
A variation of this theme involves stitching separate photos together to create a panorama. Photoshop can do this, and so can Lightroom. Shoot multiple images with overlap between each one, then use Lightroom or Photoshop to create a panorama. It's a great way to capture a dramatic landscape. Another popular technique that involves combining multiple photos is HDR, or High Dynamic Range photography. With HDR you take several of the same subject, but with a different exposure setting for each one.
You can then use Lightroom, Photoshop, or other tools to blend those images into one. Some people use HDR to deal with tricky lighting situations, like a scene that has a wide range of tones from dark to bright, other people use HDR to create exotic effects, a look that not everyone is a fan of. At the extreme end of photo editing is photo compositing, combining completely different images into one. On one level compositing can be fairly straight forward, like replacing a bland sky with a more dramatic one.
On another level, compositing is an art form onto itself, it's a way to create original images that could never exist in a camera's viewfinder. As you use Photoshop you might also make use of software plugins. These are add-ons that enhance Photoshop's features in some way. One popular set of plugins is the Nik collection from Google. It includes plugins that simulate classic analog film, create black and white images, work with HDR, and much more. Photoshop also comes with some plugins.
One of the ones you may use is called Adobe Camera Raw, you can use it to enhance and modify those raw format photos that you should be taking. If you use Lightroom you may find yourself not using camera raw all that often. Lightroom's image editing features are largely based on camera raw, but camera raw still has its place, and our courses on it will show you where it fits into the photo workflow these days. Another reason people turn to photoshop for advanced editing is its collection of filters. There are over 100 of them, and each one modifies an image in some way.
Adding blur to convey motion, or focus attention on your subject, adding artistic effects that simulate different surfaces and media. In your image editing travels you'll frequently hear the phrase None Destructive Editing, this refers to the practice of making changes to an image without actually changing the original image data. This is a good thing because it lets you make as many versions of a photo as you want, without ever changing the original, much like the negative back in the days of film. Lightroom and other complete photo workflow programs work non-destructively by default.
In Photoshop you can work non-destructively or destructively. It's a good idea to master non-destructive editing techniques in Photoshop, things like adjustment layers, smart filters, because they give you that flexibility to go back to your original. I've talked a lot about Photoshop in this movie and for a good reason, it's the program most people think of first when they think of image editing, but there are other programs out there, one of them is completely free: it's called GIMP, and you can download it for Macs, Windows, and even Linux computers.
There are also commercial alternatives to Photoshop, like Affinity Photo, Pixel Maker, and Capture One Pro. If you don't want to subscribe to the Adobe Creative Cloud, that's currently the only way to get the latest version of Photoshop, or if you're just interested in looking at the alternatives, you might check out one of these programs. And finally, there's the whole mobile angle. There's an amazing choice of photo editing apps for phones and tablets, starting with the app that came with your device. You'll want to learn it, and then maybe move on to apps like Snapseed, from Google, for detailed editing, and other apps for compositing and adding effects.
Mobile photo editing is a fast changing area with new apps appearing all the time. It's no wonder, mobile photography is popular, convenient and really fun, especially because you can immediately share your results with the world. And sharing is what we're going to talk about next.
- Essential gear, including cameras, lenses, accessories, and smartphones
- Shooting skills
- Using software to manage and edit your images
- Sharing and printing photos