Principles of photo editing

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  • #52044
    Gabriel Cleator
    Participant

    Hello friends, thank you all for being a part of this wholesome photography forum and thank you James for all the great work you do in helping and training people in photography. My favorite part of photography is actually shooting the photos. I particularly enjoy capturing nature and landscape photos. I do not enjoy the editing side of photography as much and when I first started photography I thought that editing was only needed if I messed up on the shot in the first place.

    I quickly learned that editing is actually a vital part of being good photographer and sometimes editing is needed to make the photo look the way in looked in real life. I feel like I have a basic understanding of the principles of photography but I have little to no understanding of the basic principles for editing. Does anyone know of a good photo editing course that teaches the basic principles of photo editing that would apply whether or not you are using Luminar to edit a photo you took on your DSLR or using the built in editor on your iPhone to touch up a photo.

    When I began to learn the basics of photography I found that the principles applied whether I was shooting with my DSLR or my iPhone. I feel like the basic principles of photo editing are the same way but I am not sure where to start in looking for a course that just teaches general editing principles and not program specific details. For example you can probably find endless tutorials online about how to edit using Lightroom but what about a course that just teaches basic photo editing principles.

    I guess another question is what are the main things you all are thinking about when you go to edit the photo? I know these are sort of broad questions but any input would be helpful. Thank you in advance! -Gabe

    #52045
    Ezra Morley
    Moderator

    Hi Gabe,
    You’re right. There are several basic, universal principles for photo editing that apply no matter whether you’re a Lightroom or Google Photos editor. 🙂

    Not to toot my own horn, or anything, but I made ~30 minute video tutorial on how to edit photos in RawTherapee. While it is somewhat program specific, (obviously) I intentionally tried to teach some of the basic editing principles as I went along. So you might check that out for starters. Perhaps James knows of some other Lenspiration approved videos. 🙂

    #52046
    Gabriel Cleator
    Participant

    Thank you Ezra!

    #52047
    Joshua Ong
    Participant

    Hey @rejoiceevermore,

    Good to see an “old” friend from the family conferences 6-7 years ago!

    My favorite part of photography is actually shooting the photos. I particularly enjoy capturing nature and landscape photos. I do not enjoy the editing side of photography as much

    I agree. To me, capturing pictures is more exciting than editing them. But I understand that editing is still a crucial aspect of photography. Perhaps, I lack the patience to edit my photos.

    Hi @buddingphotographer,

    Great to see you again on the forum! I had a glance at your recent blog post and really liked your use of graphs to illustrate picture quality settings and file size.

    There are several basic, universal principles for photo editing that apply no matter whether you’re a Lightroom or Google Photos editor.

    Editing seems to be pretty subjective to me, as different photographers may look at the same picture and suggest different ways of editing it. I guess these photographers would still adhere to certain underlying principles.

    I made ~30 minute video tutorial on how to edit photos in RawTherapee.

    It seems RawTherapee is a free photo-editing software. However, as I haven’t done much photo-editing (apart from GIMP), I’d like to know more about RawTherapee. Do pictures have to be taken in RAW mode to be used by this software? Can this software convert JPG photos to RAW mode? Thanks.

    #52053
    Ezra Morley
    Moderator

    Hi @buddingphotographer, Great to see you again on the forum! I had a glance at your recent blog post and really liked your use of graphs to illustrate picture quality settings and file size.

    Thanks. 🙂 Glad you found the blog post helpful!

    Editing seems to be pretty subjective to me, as different photographers may look at the same picture and suggest different ways of editing it. I guess these photographers would still adhere to certain underlying principles.

    You’re right, editing can be quite subjective, and just like music and many other forms of art, “modern” art is taking a dive towards the ugly. But yes, I think @jamesstaddon would agree that there are certain “universal” principles for editing. As was mentioned in the thread on ethics in editing, I try to edit my photos to be as close to what my eyes could actually see at the time I fired the shot. I’m a dyed in the wool realist. 🙂

    A few examples of common steps I take for nearly all of my photos would be:

    • Adjust White Balance (WB) if necessary.
    • Adjust white & black points to “stretch” the histogram as desired.
    • Adjust color vibrance to match what my eyes remember. 🙂 (My laptop screen is of rather poor quality, so it’s quite possible that my photos look a little too overedited to people with high quality monitors.)
    • Sharpen the photo.

    I think you’ll find all of those points (in detail) in the video I mentioned above.

    It seems RawTherapee is a free photo-editing software. However, as I haven’t done much photo-editing (apart from GIMP), I’d like to know more about RawTherapee. Do pictures have to be taken in RAW mode to be used by this software? Can this software convert JPG photos to RAW mode? Thanks.

    No, you don’t have to edit RAW photos (you can edit JPGs as well), but it’s highly recommended to shoot in RAW if you’re planning to do extensive editing. RawTherapee will allow you edit, then “export” your RAW photo to a JPG file that can be shared with others. There is no software that I know of which can convert JPG files to RAW. That would be like converting baked bread back into bread dough; it’s not really possible. 🙂

    #52101
    Joshua Ong
    Participant

    Hi @buddingphotographer,

    Thank you so much for your helpful response and useful video tutorial with valuable tips. I recently watched it.

    However, as I haven’t done much photo-editing (apart from GIMP)

    I forgot to mention that I have used Google’s Nik Collection and some other HDR editing software in the past.

    #52345
    James Staddon
    Keymaster

    I don’t know if this is a good or bad way to go about doing editing, but when I’m editing a photo I’m always asking myself, “what’s wrong with this photo?”

    The horizon isn’t level. So I make the horizon level.

    The composition is slightly imbalanced. So I crop some of the empty space.

    There’s a blade of grass sticking in on the side. So I edit it out.

    I wish I could see more detail in the dark areas. I brighten the dark areas.

    It feels low contrast. So I adjust the whites and blacks.

    I want to see more detail in the sky. So I create a gradient.

    The second adjustment I did looks aweful. I go back and adjust it. 🙂

    It feels soft. I sharpen it.

    And so forth and so on, until I can’t think of anything that’s wrong with the picture. If I don’t know how to do something, then I research how to do it. Like, if what is wrong with my photo is I can’t use the sliders to get that awesome Jimmy McIntyre’s look, I watch a video about how he edits his photos and I follow his instructions for taking it into Photoshop and adding the Orton effect….bang, my photo looks like his now! (sorta)

    I feel like if I started with “how can I make this photo better?”, then I am overwhelmed with 10 thousand options and have no clue with which one to start with….would b&w make this photo better? would a different crop make it better? is a slanted or a straight horizon better….I’ve heard slanted horizons can be an interesting effect. Would saturation make it better? would the Orton effect make this photo better? WHO KNOWS!!!! I certainly don’t. And even if this photo would look better with the Jimmy McIntyre look, then how on earth do I get there? “Everyone else’s photos just look so cool….I wonder how they do it.” And I’m left feeling flat with no inspiration for editing my photos any more.

    However, starting with, “What’s wrong with this photo” and doing what I currently know (and then researching if I don’t currently know how to it), I think that helps me get started. And sometimes a diamond comes out of the rough.

    Looking at other people’s photos I think helps me see what’s wrong with my photos more too.

    #52456
    Joshua Ong
    Participant

    Hi @jamesstaddon!

    Thanks for providing us your approach on editing pictures. I created a checklist of some composition aspects we as photographers should be addressing based on your response.

    1. Lines
    2. Symmetry
    3. Removing distracting elements
    4. Adjusting contrast
    5. Sharpening
    6. Adjusting colours (i.e. saturation)

    when I’m editing a photo I’m always asking myself, “what’s wrong with this photo?”

    In my opinion, this approach limits editing options and fosters efficiency particularly when there are many pictures to be processed.

    #52458
    Gabriel Cleator
    Participant

    Thank you James for that helpful perspective. That is a good approach of “what is wrong with this photo and how can I fix it”. Sometimes when I go to edit a photo its easy for me to get overwhelmed with the endless possibilities of what could be done to it but if I just take this simple technique of fixing what is wrong with a photo that I took it makes the process more straightforward.

    Thank you Joshua for creating a helpful summation of the things to think about when you go to edit your photos!

    #52939
    Lydia Bennett
    Moderator

    when I’m editing a photo I’m always asking myself, “what’s wrong with this photo?”


    @jamesstaddon
    , you have no idea how much those five words have already helped my photo editing! I no longer feel like I’m guessing my way through editing. Of course, there’s always room to grow and develop the skill of recognizing just what is wrong with a photo, 🙂 but this question creates a distinct line to reach for. There’s now a question to be answered, and an answer to achieve.

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