I’m really cautious about writing “how to” blog posts, because I never know what I’m doing so I don’t feel like I’m in any position to tell anyone how to do anything, but a “how to” on how I edit my photos has been requested, and I’ve noticed some of you ask questions about it in the comments as well. I don’t know how helpful this will be, but I hope you get something out of it!
Taking the photo
I’m a pretty snaphappy person, which I think is good to be, because there’s got to be at least one good photo in the hundreds I’ve taken, right? Hopefully lol. The more photos I take, the more options I have. Play around with different angles, different depths, how you frame your subject, and how you arrange your subject (applicable in some cases).
Natural light is the best. If I’m photographing a subject in my house, I’ll plan to take the photo during the day when there’s natural light streaming in. If I’m sitting in a cafe, I’ll try to nab a seat by the window. In most cases, it’s best if the natural light comes from behind you rather than from in front of you so that you don’t get a backlit photo. At the very least, it’s easier not to have to deal with backlit photos. If I want a backlit photo, it’s usually for something artsy.
I prefer shooting on cloudy days rather than sunny days, because the light is softer. If it’s a sunny day, I’ll look for a shadowy spot. I also look for evenly lit spots. Or I might purposefully look for unevenly lit spots, but that’s usually for something more artsy. In those cases, I’m drawn toward geometrically lit spots. Is that a thing?
Artificial light is annoyinggg. If the artificial light is harsh and unavoidable, when it comes to post-processing, I’ll usually go for a grungy aesthetic haha. Sometimes I’ll photograph in darker environments and my friends will try to help me out by pointing a cellphone light, god bless their souls, but the harsh light is actually counterproductive. For me, finding an evenly and softly lit spot is more important than finding a brightly lit spot.
Editing the photo
Sometimes I’ll see a photo and I’ll be able to identify the photographer right away because their aesthetic is so strong. I’m still trying to figure out what mine is. I think my photos are mostly bright, but sometimes they’re grungy or filmy. It depends on what I’m photographing and what the lighting situation is. Sometimes the photo can go either way, but I’ll lean toward whatever vision I have for it. I don’t always have a vision for my photographs; sometimes it’s just whatever makes it work. I think skilled photographers can make any situation work for them so that they have a consistent aesthetic despite various subjects and lighting situations. I am not that. Yet?
I use Photoshop, VSCO, and/or Lightroom. I usually use Photoshop and Lightroom or Photoshop and VSCO. I think I end up editing my photos through two programs mostly because I don’t have a complete grasp of the entirety of any of the programs, so I use some features from each, even though I could probably do everything in Lightroom if I actually knew how to use it.
Often I’ll brighten the highlights to brighten the photo overall and then darken the shadows for richer colours, giving my curve a sort of S shape. Sometimes I’ll also pull the top right curve down and the bottom left curve up, which I think works like VSCO’s Highlights and Shadows.
I usually decrease the gamma correction and increase the offset. Decreasing the gamma correction darkens the overall photo and increasing the offset lightens it overall (like VSCO’s Fade). Why am I darkening and then lightening? I feel like this effect makes the colours and edges fuller and softer. This step is more about doing that than brightening or darkening the photo.
This is where I play around with the temperature of the photo. If I want to subtly tint the photo, I’ll do that here.
The last thing I’ll do is increase the vibrance and decrease the saturation to balance out the vibrance. I like to desaturate photos to even out the colours, but for photos of food, I don’t desaturate as much.
Other than playing around with filters that I obtain for free from Creative Market’s weekly freebies, I use Lightroom mostly to edit individual colours with the colour tool.
Having a grasp of Lightroom is helpful, because you can copy your edits across photos (like you can with VSCO), which makes for a much faster editing process on the computer.
My favourite filters are A6 and S3. But S3 recently disappeared from my VSCO app when I updated it?? And now it says I have to buy it but I don’t have anymore money on my account…
I also like to correct my photos with X-Skew and Y-Skew. Does anyone know if Lightroom or Photoshop has these features?
And that’s pretty much it! Sorry if this post was a bit vague and/or disorganised. Do you have anymore specific questions about my editing process? Also if there are any other topics you’d like me to write about, feel free to leave that in the comments as well!
PS: Sorry I haven’t been able to reply to your comments lately due to my Internet situation in China! I promise I’ve been reading all your comments, thanks to email updates from Disqus; I just haven’t been able to reply. You can always reach out to me through my contact form, and I’ve been checking Twitter!