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With everyone using smartphone photo editing apps these days, even the most casual photographer often thinks of him or herself as a savvy editor. But all it takes is one look at Rich Kids of Instagram to know that not all photo editing software and approaches are born equally.
In fact, it still takes a great photographer to be a great editor — someone with an intuitive grasp of composition, balance, and understanding of what makes a compelling subject. Combine that innate and honed sense with our top 5 ways to take your photo editing skills up to the next level, and those photos will go from interesting to jaw dropping.
Adding texture is hands down one of the best ways to enhance your photographs, and there’s no better way than layers to accomplish this. Layers can be anything from colors to other photographs to scanned physical objects, like a piece of cloth. In Photoshop, you’ll get to adjust the opacity, drag your layer over the sections you’d like, and alter the color selectively. This can do everything from helping a photo gain vibrancy to making a photo look wrinkled and warped. For a more comprehensive how to, highly suggest this comprehensive article from the Digital Photography School.
When you’re looking to adjust contrast, brightness and color, photo levels is your tool (found in Photoshop under the images option). When you work with levels, your main concern will be the histogram — that black and white mountain range that goes from dark shadow to highlights. When you play with the black and white levels on your histogram, your main goal should be covering the full spectrum so that you have the sharpest, clearest photographs without losing any shadow or highlights by going out as far as the histogram’s edges.
There’s a lot to consider when it comes to composition. You want to balance, frame and know the rule of thirds, amongst many other things. But, more than any other technique, cropping is one of the easiest way to tell the story you want to tell through an editing program, allowing you to snap photos with a larger border and focus in on your intended subject later on.
It’d be nice if we could snap every landscape photo in ideal weather conditions, but that’s rarely the case. On foggy and overcast days, the environment adds “texture” of its own to a photograph — one that can sap a photo of it vibrancy. But it’s easy to get that vibrancy back in Photoshop by going to Image, Adjustments, Hue/Saturation. With this tool you can give some balance to sunny photos by adjusting for blue cast, or you can saturate sections of the photo that have been washed out. Just be careful not to oversaturate for a look that screams, “Photoshop!”
Located in the Effects panel, vignetting is yet another simple but powerful storytelling device. When you, for instance, push the vignette down to -15, the edges of the photo will darken, focusing the viewer’s eye on the most central (and, if you’ve done your cropping correctly) image. Or you can go the opposite direction and make those vibrant colors pop.
Of course, there are many more photo editing tools than just this, and it seems like more are added every day. Your best bet for sharpening those editing skill is just to keep experimenting and having fun.
Image provided by Shutterstock
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