Post Production: Learning the Basics

So your memory card is full and you’ve snapped up a stack of great images… or so you thought. But when you upload them to your computer, you see that what looked great on the viewfinder now looks a little bland.

Some pics aren’t sharp enough. In some images, the colours are blown out, while others are too dark. What can you do?

That’s what post-processing is here for. Today, it’s common practice among professional photographers to work on their images in post-production.

So what exactly are some of the things you can do in post-production? In this post, we take a look at some of the simplest ways to improve your pictures in editing programs such as Adobe Lightroom.

post production photography in lightroom

Don’t Forget to Shoot in RAW

Most DSLRs and mirrorless cameras – and even some compact cameras – enable shooting in RAW mode. This means your images are saved unprocessed, rather than as JPEGs, where your camera pre-selects certain settings in your photos.

RAW images require post-processing since they generally look soft and flat without having anything done to them. But since there are no irreversible, pre-set settings, you have far more flexibility in the changes you make.

Your RAW files should look quite flat before you work on them. You can use Lightroom to give your image the amount of contrast you want.

Achieve Perfect Composition with Cropping

Sometimes it’s impossible to get the shot you wanted to achieve organically. Thankfully, you can crop your images while editing to cut out any details you want.

You might want to crop out some power lines overhead or darker ground elements. But you can also use the crop tool to zoom in or change the size or aspect ratio of your image. It’s the perfect way to achieve the perfect composition after the photo is taken. 

Keep Your Horizons Level

A wonky horizon looks amateurish unless you’re going for an artistic effect. Sometimes a straight horizon is tricky to manage if you’re on a ship or boat. But you can easily straighten it up in your editing software.

It’s one of the simplest tasks you can do in post-production but one of the most important things to strengthen your shot.

field of flowers in bright sunlight

Sharpen It Up

When using software like Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom, the first place to start correcting your photos is image sharpness.

Using the unsharp mask tool allows you to split your image into two layers – black and white plus colour – the black and white image will contain all your brightness and thus image contrast and sharpness – adjust this image and you will have a better chance at achieving true sharpness and reducing the halo effect that can be common in many digital images.

Get the Tone Right

An important thing to adjust in photos is the tonal range. This is the range of tones an image has between its lightest and darkest areas. When you hear about a wide tonal range, this means the image has very bright and very dark elements.

The tonal range is displayed in the histogram, which you can view both on your camera’s LCD display and in your editing software. The histogram gives you a far truer version of the picture you’ve taken than any display will.

The most evenly exposed photographs are represented in histogram form with a peak in the centre, tapering off either side into shadows and highlights. If most of the pixels are clumped to the right, your image is overexposed. If they’re mostly on the left, they’re underexposed. Either way, the image will lack contrast, so you need to adjust it via the level control.

You can also adjust overall shadows and highlights with the related tools. You’ll want to do this in RAW so you don’t lose information in the picture or add noise. You can brighten shadows or darken areas of extreme brightness to introduce more details.

Balance Out Your Colours

If you’ve set your camera’s white balance to automatic, it may sometimes struggle to get the right colour field. Your camera has basically had to guess the white balance – and without a good white subject, it will struggle.

You’ll know this has happened if your image looks slightly skewed towards a certain colour.

In your post-production software, you can adjust the hue, colour saturation, and brightness levels to bring the life back into your shots.

The Saturation tool is a simple way to introduce a deeper or lighter level of colour throughout your image. You can reduce saturation to turn your photo into a black and white shot.

You can also change how yellow or blue your photo is by adjusting “Warmth” levels, while you can individually adjust specific colours inside the image.

editing program on macbook

Make the Most of Dodge and Burn

The Dodge and Burn function helps you influence the darker and lighter areas of your image. Dodging refers to lightening an area on a photo while burning means darkening an area. The more you paint over an area with the Dodge and Burn tool, the lighter or darker you’ll make it.

Dodging and burning helps you make your subjects pop or even out skin tones. Many photographers also use it to lighten or darken one side of the photograph.

Using the Healing Brush

Have you ever wondered how professional photos of iconic structures and landscapes always look so crisp and clean? No unwanted electricity lines or unsightly signs.

Most of the time, it’s not usually as convenient as finding a perfectly neat shot organically. Most professionals rely on the Healing Brush function to remove any distractions in your shot.

In theory, you should be able to remove any distraction from a scene, but the Healing Brush works best of smaller objects that are surrounded by the same or similar colours. The Healing Brush works by replacing the area you want to remove with its own idea of what is behind the image – and it garners this from the surrounding area.

For example, it’s easy to remove a mole or a pimple on the skin, because the surrounding skin is typically one uniform colour. You can also use it to remove people, concrete bollards and poles, and other extraneous details.

Properly editing your photos can make a drastic difference to the final image. Learn more about some of the best photo editing software around or shop our range of photography software online today at Camera House!

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