Finally, as the global exposure adjustment made the fireworks and bonfire too bright, I reduced the highlights a little bit to give the final result. Shadow and highlight adjustment is useful in a wide range of scenarios to help balance the image out — bringing overexposed areas down in brightness, and helping to boost the shadows. Just be aware that a light touch is recommended — increasing the brightness of the shadows too much can result in a lot of noise being revealed, which might look unnaturally green or purple.
5. How to Adjust the Contrast
Contrast is about accentuating the difference between the light and dark parts of the image. Increasing the contrast of an image can dramatically improve the visual impact that has, by making the boundaries between those light and dark parts clearer. Let’s take a look at a shot of people jumping against the sunset in the Sahara, for example, which I’ll be editing in Snapseed.
There is nothing too wrong with this shot, but it lacks the visual impact that I wanted. Ideally, I would want the shapes of the people to be in full silhouette against the sun, but as it was shot the camera picked up some skin tones and clothing color.
Using the contrast tool, we can make the dark areas stand out against the bright areas.
And here’s the result:
As you can see, this made the jumping figures and the dune more silhouetted against the sky. In most shots, you only want to tweak the contrast a little bit to get the desired effect, normally no more than +20 or so, but in this case, the higher number gave the best result.
6. How to Adjust Colors
Color adjustment is another important piece of the editing toolkit. We can adjust image color in all sorts of ways, from changing the overall “warmth” of the image (how blue or yellow it appears), to individually changing the hue and saturation of specific colors inside of an image.
For this post, though, I just want to cover some very simple color changes you can use to make your images just a little more visually impactful. The fastest way to adjust an image’s color is with the “Saturation” tool. This changes the appearance of every color in an image to make it more or less saturated. We can use the saturation tool to desaturate an image, eventually resulting in a black-and-white image with no color:
Or we can go all the way to the other end of the spectrum, and make the color incredibly saturated:
As with many edits, the key is to find a good balance — oversaturated images tend to look rather unnatural. Desaturated images can be very effective, and of course black-and-white is an excellent choice for all sorts of situations, in particular, portraits, architecture, and certain landscape scenes. But generally you would want to find a happy midpoint: not too oversaturated and not too undersaturated.
Saturation is adjusted on a sliding scale and is on the basic adjustments panel in Lightroom or the “Tune Image” option in Snapseed.
7. Blemish correction
The last area I’m going to touch on today is blemish correction, or “image healing.” Sometimes there will be something in an image that you really don’t want to be there, like an inconvenient pimple on someone’s face. This is easy to remove in all the major editing tools.
You can, in theory, remove any object from a scene, but the healing tool works best on distinct, small objects that are surrounded by uniform colors. This is because the heal tool has to replace the area you wish to remove with something else, and this works best when it has an area nearby that looks similar. So for example, a pimple on a face is surrounded by a lot of similarly colored skin, so the heal tool can easily calculate what to replace the pimple based on the surrounding area.
For this example, I’m going to show how Snapseed can be used to replace an object in a scene. Here’s a group of people sitting on a sand dune in the Sahara:
Let’s say for some reason I only wanted to have people sitting in my shot, and I need to remove the standing person. She is a good candidate for removal as she is separate from the rest, and the surrounding scenery is not too complicated. In Snapseed, we load up the healing tool, then we zoom in on the object to be removed with the standard “pinch to zoom” gesture.
Next, we use our finger to draw the area to be removed. It’s important to be as precise as possible because the tool is most accurate with small objects.
Once we have drawn the area, Snapseed will edit it out, replacing it with the best guess of what is behind the object.
As you can see, the result is impressive, with no real evidence that there was anyone standing there at all. The healing tool is perfect for all manner of fixes, from editing out unwanted background strangers in your shot, to removing skin blemishes in portraits or power lines in landscape shots.
Best Photography Editing Software
Here is a list of the best editing tools out there:
- Adobe Lightroom (PC or Mac) – Lightroom is the industry standard tool for photography professionals. But this post is not going to focus on Lightroom, nor cover everything you can do in Lightroom, as it’s a massively complex tool, covering both photo management and photo editing.
- iPhoto (Mac) – I list iPhoto here mainly because it’s a commonly used tool among Apple users. However, I personally never recommend using it. While it will let you do everything that I cover in this post and is better than nothing, the way it manages your photos makes it hard to migrate to a more sophisticated system further down the line if you choose to do so.
- Picasa (PC or Mac) – Picasa is a free desktop photo editing application from Google. It’s very simple, but it allows you to do everything I’m going to cover in today’s post. If Lightroom is a bit overwhelming, Picasa is a great, free place to start.
- Snapseed (iOS or Android) – Another free Google tool, Snapseed is the best mobile image-editing app for both iOS and Android. It’s an incredibly powerful tool that, while simple to start using, has a great many features that take time to fully master. I use it for 95% of my mobile editing needs.
Let’s take a look now at what you can and should be using these tools for with your images.
Editing your photos is a crucial step that far too many people skip. As you can see from this lesson, there is much more to editing your photos than just picking a filter and posting your picture on Instagram. By incorporating some of these tips and techniques into your post-processing routine you’ll be able to improve your travel photography in leaps and bounds.
So get out there and start taking pictures!