How to edit photos

By Alana de Haan

Photo editing is a critical part of the post-production process of photography. Before the digital age of DSLRs and Adobe Photoshop, photographers would edit their film using a variety of different materials and techniques ranging from air brushing to simple cut and paste. Even the most talented of photographers edit their photos - not necessarily to fix mistakes and hide errors, but to further elevate the quality and experience of a photograph. 

Photo editing has always been my favourite facet of photography. Since picking up my first DSLR almost ten years ago, I can recall all of the different methods in which I edited my pictures. From the painfully archaic Photoshop Elements to the colourfully wacky Alien Skins plug-ins, I’ve used them all – and although I’ve finally streamlined my process, I am always looking for ways to improve my workflow. 

Firstly, I shoot all my photos in RAW. Shooting in RAW is the foundation of any editing technique and workflow because it allows your camera to record an image-capture in its most transformable format: unprocessed with complete, unmodified image data. Shooting with JPEG compresses this data to be static and quickly accessible, depriving the image of the details required for layered editing. RAW format unlocks an image’s potential for quality and creativity, and is essential in the creation of a spectacular photograph. 

Typically, I start out in Adobe Camera Raw in Photoshop to make adjustments. I tone, adjust the contrast and brightness, alter the white balance, and colour correct. I also use the manual lens correction tool to ensure my images are aligned and have level perspectives – depending on the context of the image, of course. The tools provided by initiating the post-production process in Adobe Camera Raw allow me to build a strong foundation for my further edits in Lightroom. 

Here are some before and after samples of photos I edited using Lightroom:

IMG_1404 - Edited.jpg

Lighroom is a fantastic tool for both organizing and editing your photos, but I use it mainly for its presets. These presets are one-click edits that allow you to achieve a specific look for your photography without all the legwork that comes with tedious colour balancing. VSCO Film, for example, has developed presets modeled after popular film types and cross-processing techniques, ranging from Kodak Portra 400 to Ilford Delta 3200 and everything in-between. After choosing a preset, I continue to adjust the exposure, shadows, and highlights until I’m happy with the result.  

How do you edit your photos? I would love to hear your thoughts on the comment section below!




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