Join Ben Long for an in-depth discussion in this video Evaluating what you can do with an image editor, part of Introduction to Photography.
- Image editing is the process of altering, correcting, and adjusting your images, and image editing tasks can run the gamut from simple tone and color correctinos to wild special effects and dramatic retouching of an image. Most of your edits will lean on the side of simple tone and color corrections, though some images might lead you to more complex adjustments. Currently, there are loads of software options for editing images. I'm not going to recommend any specific options here, but instead, we'll quickly run down the basic tools that you'll want to look for when considering an editing package.
A crop tool is one of the most important editing tools you'll use. It may not seem like much, especially when compared to the incredible technology found in other editing tools, but the crop tool gives you a profound ability to re-compose your image after you've shot it. For example, I've got an image here that I shot like this, and while I may have thought it was okay when I was looking through the camera, I'm realizing now, I just don't need this stuff in the foreground, so lookie here, I can just crop that right out, change the relationship of the things in the image, and end up with a shot that I think is much stronger.
Now, while some photographers are hesitant to ever crop an image, I often shoot specifically with a particular crop in mind, and I regularly save otherwise unusable images with a well applied crop. So take the crop tool seriously when you're shopping for an image editor. Contrast is simply the range of black to white that an image contains. I would venture to say that the majority of image problems are contrast problems. Most of the troubles that you'll find in an image can be corrected with a contrast adjustment, either a global adjustment applied to the entire image, or localized contrast adjustments applied to different parts of an image in differing degrees.
There are many different tools for correcting contrast, so you'll want to carefully assess contrast tools when evaluating an image editor. This image for example doesn't look like there's anything particularly wrong with it, but just by using Lightroom's tools here to dial in a little more contrast, I can get some more punch out of the image and at the same time that I'm fixing the contrast, I find that I'm improving the color as well. Correcting contrast will usually fix most of the color troubles, but there will still be times when you need to correct or alter the color in a photo, and as with contrast controls you'll want to assess the abilities and interface of the color correction tools in any image editor you consider, you want to find the tools that make sense to you.
I think, in this case, that some of my color has gone a little out of whack here. My red's a little too saturated, so I'm gonna pull that down, I'm also gonna pull down the saturation of the greens here, and I'm gonna put a little bit of that back. These are very, very easy tools for making finessey little tweaks to my color. Retouching is an art and a craft that you could spend years studying. For most of us, though, our retouching needs won't go beyond simple dust correction and occasionally touching out a telephone pole or something else that I don't want in my scene.
Cloning tools or healing brushes are critical tools for removing extra unwanted details from your images, and just like the other tools when you're assessing an image editor, you'll want to see if the retouching tools available are powerful enough for the types of retouchings that you tend to make, and if you understand how to use them and feel like they are easy enough to use, here, I have very quickly removed that extra little bit next to the fire hydrant, just to give the fire hydrant a little more punch. If you're gonna print your images yourself, then you'll need the ability to size and sharpen your images and you might also be interested in having more sophisticated color management controls for matching what's on the screen to what comes out on the page.
These are the most basic tools that you'll need, and most image editors go far beyond these capabilities offering everything from the ability to correct optical abberations in your lens to complex compositing and effects tools, but the controls that we've looked at here, are the work horse, must have, everyday tools that you will use on most of your images. For years, Photoshop has been the dominant image editing platform and it's still a fantastic choice for your image editing needs, but there are many more options available now, and some of them offer simpler interfaces with one button controls, so, in addition to considering the features that you need, you'll want to think about how much control you want.
If you're not particularly interested in post-production then you might want to opt for a simpler system to get you through your edits more quickly, albeit without as much ability to finesse. If you want to put lots of care and finesse into your post-production, then you'll most likely choose a more full featured editor. You can find free demo versions of many different editing packages, and, the Lynda.com library is overflowing with training and tutorials for just about any image editing package available.
Then it's time to take to the field and examine the rest of the factors that influence the quality of your photographs, including light metering, focus, composition, and flash. Ben also introduces techniques for shooting portraits and shows what you can do with an image editor in post. Last but not least, he'll provide a roadmap for learning more with the lynda.com extensive library of photography training. The path to becoming a better photographer begins with the first step. Start here!
- Exploring cameras and lenses
- Understanding media
- Controlling exposure
- Composing with autofocus
- Shooting portraits
- Understanding form and geometry
- Exporting and editing digital images