Today is Thankful Thursday and we are so thankful we have software to help us improve and enhance our photographs.
If you have only put a filter on a photograph and thought that using fancy software is intimidating and exxpensive, let me show you that it’s not scary at all!
Using Photo Editing Software
The number of things that software like Affinity Photo, GIMP and Photoshop Elements, (or your smartphone apps) can do is overwhelming so don’t try to master everything at once. Take it one step at a time and you will find that your photographs look much better.
For beginners, there are a number of simple skills you can easily work with in a photo software program to transform your photographs.
- Adjusting exposure
- Adding text
- Dodging and burning
Your smartphone will have basic tools to adjust images, including adding text. If you import your photographs to a computer or tablet you will have a wider range of tools available.
Popular software like GIMP (free), Affinity Photo and Photoshop Elements (paid) have more of a learning curve but they earn their keep with more tools than you can learn all at once.
Whichever software you have or use. Aim to learn one skill at a time. The four I list here give you a focus and places to begin. Let’s start with the most effective way to improve any photo.
Let’s look at how a picture can be transformed with a crop. This is Natasha, she is an adventurer, a lively cat caught at rest in the garden. The photograph is shot from slightly below.
I wanted to capture her alert look and relaxed pose but I also got a lot of sky and greenery I did not need. What could I do? How did I change the picture?
I removed a lot of the background with the crop tool. This is usually an icon of two right-angled lines.
- The picture with focus! The photo spotlight on Natasha!
Every software program or app will have something similar and cropping is the easiest way to make a difference to your photograph.
If you have a photograph like this, it might be useful to create a duplicate and on it for practice.
At its simplest, exposure is the amount of light that shows up in your photograph. You may find your photos darker or lighter than you expected. What do you do?
Depending on your device, and whether you want to share the picture on social media or print out an image on canvas, you should be able to find these adjustments on your camera or smartphone.
Adjusting the exposure won’t rescue pictures too under or overexposed, but you will be surprised by how much small adjustments made using ‘Contrast’ or dimming a ‘Highlight’ can do. Experiment and be surprised.
Boosting highlights and increasing exposure helped improve this cat photograph.
Adding Text to Photograph
If you want to add a message to your image, or watermark is for copyright purposes then adding text is a useful skill.
- NOTE: Every device and software have their own ways of adding text.
Smartphones have the edge as they can add text within a photo app. DSLR cameras and compacts will (mostly) need you to download your photographs into your own computer software.
Dodge and Burn Your Photographs
I recently discovered this technique and feel it can be useful to beginner photographers as well as experts. It has its roots in the age of film photography.
To ‘dodge’ and ‘burn’ means you highlight or shade specific portions of your photograph, not the whole image. The icon is either a small flame or a magnifying glass. How the tools work depends on your software so experiment and have some fun here.
- Read about dodging and burning in more depth here.
Once you have selected the option you want to try, you will have the opportunity to adjust your brush size, density and softness. You can lighten a frustrating shadow on an eye or around a muzzle.
The key is to experiment, see what works and what is too extreme unless you want crazy effects for your photograph. Extremes of lightness and darkness can’t be adjusted but shade can be lightened and a too bright highlight can be gently softened.
If you explore your settings and choose the tool that appeals to you most, you can have a lot of fun adjusting images.
Cropping works for a lot of pictures where you think your pet looks too small in a photograph and by adding a small contrast adjustment you can find details you hadn’t seen become visible.
Try these tools to increase your skillset, and don’t be hard on yourself if a picture doesn’t work out. This is an adventure where you learn and have fun.
If you have any questions, let me know in the comments. I am happy to help.