How to Take Great Photos (and Fix Lousy Ones), Part II: Editing and Postproduction



Formatting Your Code
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Universal Programmers Toolkit
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Effective Proactive Debugging Techniques
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How to Take Great Photos (And Fix Lousy Ones), Part 1
Composing and shooting your photos

How to Take Great Photos (And Fix Lousy Ones), Part 2
Editing and postproduction

How to Take Great Photos (and Fix Lousy Ones), Part II: Editing and Postproduction

In Part I of this article we looked at how to take great photos. Now weíll talk about how to edit your photos so they look great.


Some things to keep in mind:


        Postproduction canít always help. Editing can turn an average photo into a great one, but it usually canít turn a terrible photo into a great one.


        When in doubt, throw it out. Bad photos usually arenít worth keeping, unless youíve captured something particularly memorable (e.g. a celebrity, an expression, or some other priceless moment) . Hopefully you have another shot of the same scene that is worth keeping; if not, just toss it. Life is too short to slog through bad photos.


        Learn the ins and outs of your photo editing software. I use Photoshop but many similar utilities are available, either for free or for pay.


        At little flattery goes a long way. People are very self-conscious about how they look in photos, so if you can take photos that flatter them and their friends even a bit they will tend to like your photos.


        Make your edits subtle. If you edit a photo, donít make your edits so obvious that people can tell the photo was tweaked, otherwise people will pay more attention to your editing job than to the subject.


Iíve found that the most well-received photos often show two people smiling and interacting with each other.


Body language says a lot. Peopleís bodies and hands help give the viewer an idea of what theyíre feeling. If their hands or bodies are expressive and help tell the story, leave as much of them in the shot as necessary to help express the mood. But if they look awkward, feel free to crop as much of them out as you need to.




A slight blur can add a nice effect so some scenes, but in general blurry photos are not worth keeping. You can minimize some types of blur by sharpening the photo.


Blurriness that appears as two superimposed images slightly offset can sometimes be compensated for by applying more blur (possibly Gaussian) and then sharpening the whole image, in an attempt to merge the two offset images into one.


You can reduce grain by blurring (Gaussian blur works well for this), and optionally sharpening afterwards.

Color, Brightness and Contrast

Photoshopís Auto-Levels or Auto-Color functions often work well. In cases where they donít you can adjust levels or color manually.


Many photos look better when you boost brightness and/or contrast by 10 or 15 percent.


For oversaturated photos (e.g. where skin tones are too red and/or blotchy) reduce color saturation by a few percent. Likewise, for washed out skin tones you can either boost color saturation or skew the color balance slightly towards red and/or yellow.


Digital photos often lack the warmth of film, so if you adjust the color balance to be warmer (like film) you will make your photos more inviting.

Burning and Dodging

Dodge your subjectsí eyes just a bit (especially around the eye sockets if they are in shadow) to make them pop. But be carefulótoo much dodging will look fake and will be distracting.


Burn in any glaring lights or other distractions that you canít or donít want to crop out.




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Last modified: Sun 13 April 2008 05:13:34