Photography Tips | Basic Editing
Want to get the best image possible from your winter holiday photos? Photography doesn’t end with your camera – in fact this is only the beginning. Great photographers continue working with their pictures long after the photo was taken to create dynamic and iconic images.
Digital editing software is readily available so you needn’t worry about not being able to enhance your pictures. Software such as Photoshop and Lightroom can be purchased on either a one off or subscription model. Alternatively, the GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) offers a comprehensive digital editing experience and can be downloaded for free.
If you plan on diving into the world of photo editing for the first time but are intimidated by the range and scope of digital tools available to you – don’t be. Here are a few basic tips to help get you started. For the purposes of this article all examples and demonstrations will be done using the free editing software, GIMP.
1. Adjusting Composition
One of the simplest edits you can make and one of the first things you should consider when enhancing your photos is composition. If you’re looking for ideas on good composition check out our Shoot Like a Pro article.
It’s easy to end up with sloping horizons when taking pictures on piste and nothing looks weirder than a mountain range at a skewed angle. Fortunately straightening your image in GIMP is a really easy process.
In the ‘Toolbox’ select ‘Rotate’. This will open a window where you can adjust the picture angle and creates a grid across your photograph. Simply change the angle in the new window until the horizon aligns with grid.
Sometimes a crazy angle is also the best angle. You can always use the straightening tool to purposely skew a picture. This will add energy to any ski or boarding stunts you might capture.
Cropping your images is useful for re-framing or getting rid of unwanted parts of a picture that detract from the overall composition. As with straightening your photos this task is simple to do but very effective.
To crop an image select the ‘Crop Tool’ from the ‘Toolbox’. This allows you to draw a rectangle over the photograph. When you have the framing you like click the centre of your image and everything outside the image will be cut away.
2. Adjusting Exposure and Contrast
Snow is highly reflective and can easily result in overexposed (bright) photographs. Changing the brightness and contrast on an image will dramatically improve the final look of your photos. Head up to the toolbar and select Colors>Brightness–Contrast. This will open up a new window with sliders than can manipulate the amount of overall brightness and contrast in your picture. Make sure that you have the ‘Preview’ box checked; this will enable you to view the changes as you are making them.
Changes made using the ‘Brightness/Contrast’ tool will affect the overall image. If you are interested in making more precise changes it is worth familiarising yourself with ‘Levels’. At its simplest ‘Levels’ allow you to target changes specifically to darks, mid-tones, and highlights. From the toolbar choose Colors>Levels which will open another window with sliders. Slide from the right to play around with the brighter areas of the image and from the left to adjust shadows.
As with all adjustments made to photographs it is best to get as much right as possible in camera. This can be most evident when changing exposure with the ‘Brightness’ tool. Be warned – images that are overly dark or bright will lose quality when adjusted to extremes at later stages.
3. Colour Correction and White Balance
The colour cast is the overall tint that a picture has and results from the quality of light in a scene. On a cloudy day up the mountain photographs can end up blue or grey in tone while at sunset the light has an orange colour. Depending on the light this will make white snow appear slightly grey/orange.
Our eyes instinctively adjust to this light and always see white as white. Cameras are not so sophisticated and need to be told what colour of light they’re looking at. This ‘White Balance’ can be adjusted at the editing stage.
You can make an automatic ‘White Balance’ adjustment by selecting Colors>Levels and under ‘All Channels’ choosing the ‘White Point’ eye dropper. Use this to select what should be the whitest point on your photograph. The image will automatically adjust around your selection.
Now that the colour cast is removed go to Colors>Hue-Saturation and use the slider to change how saturated the colours appear in your pictures. Greater saturation will add richness to your photography and can be used for exaggerated effect such as extreme colour or black and white photos.
4. Final Enhancements
When you are happy with the overall look of your image it is time to start making subtle changes to the image quality. Reducing noise or adding sharpness should always be left to the end of the editing process.
To reduce noise you will need to add a ‘Selective Gaussian Blur’ filter. Choose Filters>Blur> Selective Gaussian Blur from the toolbar. Adjust the ‘Blur Radius’ and ‘Max Delta’ until you are happy with the results. Low numbers are best unless you want your photos to take on a splodgy appearance.
Increasing sharpness will not restore out of focus or blurred photographs but some pictures, particularly those with fine detail, benefit from a sharp appearance. To add sharpness to your picture select Filters>Enhance>Sharpen and adjust the slider. Be careful not to sharpen too much as this is likely to appear worse than no sharpening at all!
5. Exporting Final Images
When you’re happy with your final image you will want to export it to share with friends and family. In the taskbar select File>Export as. This will present you with a pop-up box. Where it says ‘Name’ give your image an interesting title and choose a folder destination under ‘Places’, this is where your file will save. Next hit the drop-down arrow near the bottom of the box where it says ‘Select File Type’.
You can save your image in many different file formats but the most commonly used and shared is JPEG. So select this image type and then hit export.
Another box will appear on screen providing you with options on image quality. Adjust the slider until it reaches 100 to get the highest quality version of your image. Select ‘Export’ again and the editing of your digital photo is complete!
There is a huge range of creative possibilities available to photographers who wish to edit their photos. We suggest getting familiar with ‘Layers’, ‘Masking’ and ‘Blending options’ as you become more advanced at enhancing your pictures. This will allow you to make selective adjustments as well as creating interesting, new effects.
Editing your photographs is just as fun and creative, if not more so, as shooting the original picture. Playing around with composition, exposure and colour after the picture was taken will enrich the quality of your photography.
So, get creative and embrace the world of photo editing to get the best out of your holiday snaps – the vibrant and dynamic images of your moments on the mountains will be enjoyed for years to come!