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Basic Photography 101 Part 2

Basic Photography 101 Part 2

In Basic Photography 101 Part 1, I discussed the 5 Things You Need to Know to be a Photographer. I shared some examples of my photography style, the difference in ISO settings, how to capture moving objects by adjusting the shutter speed, the purpose of using aperture and the importance of white balance. I also challenged you with practice exercises to achieve the right settings for indoor/outdoor light and day/night photography. I hope you had plenty of practice because we are moving on to Basic Photography 101: Part 2.

In Part 2, I will share my favorite editing tool and the tricks to make an average picture turn into a work of art.

Many people think that if you take a good photo, then you don’t need to edit it. Is that true or false? The answer is both. While it is challenging for a new photographer to capture the best photo possible under little time, changing light and moving objects, it is very important to do it right. Once you get those skills down, you’ll know where you need to touch up to make that photo perfect. In post production, you’ll want to edit the areas that cannot be fixed while shooting the photos.  For example, changing the mood of a photo to give it personality.  If you want to touch-up, change filters or add a boost in color, you can do that easily in post production. Also, if you have over 1,000 photos to edit, you’ll wish you took better photos so you won’t spend so much time editing them.

My favorite editing tool is PicMonkey.com. That’s right. You don’t have to use fancy and expensive tools like Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom. You can keep it simple and still have amazing photos. PicMonkey.com is a free online picture editing tool. Users can load their photo and make edits from there. The tools are easy to use. If you want to access the premium tools of PicMonkey Royale then the cost is $33 a year or $4.99 a month. Of course, if your aspiration is to be a professional photographer then the Adobe versions will be worth it. I find Photoshop challenging to use but Lightroom is much easier. For bloggers and hobby photographers, PicMonkey is very user friendly. Here are 5 Quick Tips for Editing Photos with PicMonkey. These tips also apply to other editing tools as well.

5 Quick Tips on Editing Photos

1. Resize your photos. Many beginning bloggers shoot in JPEG. That means the size of your photos are between 3300 to 2100 pixels. Shooting in high resolution is good. However, when you load multiple photos on to your website, the large photo size can slow down the loading time. This is true for Facebook Photo Loader too. For every photo I load onto my website, I have to edit or resize the photo to prevent a lagging load time. The best resolution per photo is between 1500 to 2200 pixels. I don’t ever resize a photo under 1000 pixels because it becomes grainy when enlarged.

Resize on PicMonkey

An example of how easy it is to resize a photo using PicMonkey.

2. Adjust the exposure. In Part 1 of this tutorial, I mentioned that you should have an idea of your photography style. Your style may change depending on what you are trying to achieve. Adjusting the exposure on PicMonkey or any editing tool allows you to achieve that style. For example, when a photo comes out darker than I thought, I turn up the brightness and highlights. If the ISO in my photo was too high, I can change that by turning up the shadow feature. The shadow feature is also good to darken the mood of a photograph. See examples below.

Shadow and Brightness Sample

This is a photo of a foggy morning at Raven Cliff Falls in North Georgia. The photo on the left is unedited. The photo on the right shows that applying shadow to a photo can change the dynamics of the scene. The shadow darkens the mood making the morning fog appear eerie and mysterious.

Bightness and Highlight Sample

Here is an example of the difference in using highlights. The photo on the left was taken without a flash and ISO was on auto. The same photo was edited with a slight increase in highlights. The photo on the right appears brighter making the beignets more appealing.

3. Sharpen your close-up shots. I hate to break this to you but the body of your camera is not what makes the photo amazing. It’s the lens. A good lens should have a crisp, sharp focus. But as beginners, spending $800 -$1600 for a lens may be beyond our budget. Luckily, editing tools like PicMonkey allows us to sharpen a photo without spending top dollars. Close-up pictures like the one below may require touch-ups like cropping and sharpening to give the full details. I turned the sharpening feature a little at a time. I do this to keep the integrity of the photo and to keep it looking natural like it was photographed that way.

Sharpened Sample

The sharpening feature is a great tool to fake a sharp lens. The photo of the latte on the left was taken out of focus. The edited photo on the right was sharpened 50% to see the latte bubbles and foam. Even the molecular structure on the table and spoon appears sharper.  Keep in mind that over sharpening the photo will create a grainy picture making it appear unnatural.

1910 Public House Short Ribs

This photo was edited to show the fine grains in the short ribs making the photo more detailed and appetizing.

4. Utilize the Premium Editing Tools. Many photo editing tools give users the option to upgrade for a premium service. PicMonkey has the option to beautify a close-up portrait. This is where you can edit blemishes, slim a person and whiten their teeth just to give a few examples. Be careful not to over do it. There is such thing as over editing and it can make the portrait unreal or over-exaggerated.

Premium Editing Tools

The photo on the left is taken in front of a window. The natural brightness brings to light blemishes on my face. The photo on the right was gently airbrushed to soften the obvious blemish. I also edited to slim the face a little. This photo also has a gentle tranquil filter to make my skin and raven hair pop.

5.  Cheat white balance. In Part 1 I talked about using a gray card to cheat white balance. The gray card can be used in post production to correct the colors for true whites. You can see more on PhotoBlogStop. I personally find this process to be complicated. It’s easier for me to adjust the colors as I am shooting the photo with the gray card. If I do need to adjust the white balance, I use the color feature on PicMonkey.  This feature allows me to turn down the saturation (yellow) and temperature (blue) until I get to the color balance I want. White balance is used when you have too much yellow (or ambiance) in your photo and you are trying to adjust it to a natural white balance.

Saturation and Temperature adjustment

Here is an example of how I cheated white balance by editing the saturation and temperature. The top photo was taken in my craft room at 10 PM. You can see the lamp light shining from the left side of the shot. The bottom photo was adjusted by lowering the saturation and temperature making the light appear to be taken in natural daylight. The whites appear whiter.  It makes a big difference right?

Before and After White Balance Edit

Here is a more dramatic result of adjusting your white balance on an editing tool such as Lightroom or Photoshop. The photo on the left is on Auto White Balance. The photo on the right has been adjusted for a cooler temperature to balance the yellow. Amazing isn’t it?

Clearly, editing your pictures are essential to giving your photos life, personality and appeal. Let’s recap what we learned in this tutorial. For fast loading pictures, you want to adjust your resolution somewhere between 1500 to 2200 pixels. Changing the exposure can brighten or darken the dynamics of a shot. Sharpening close-ups emphasizes the photo details. A little touch-up goes a long way especially for head shots. Finally, you can cheat white balance by simply lowering the color saturation and temperature. These 5 quick tips of editing photos can enhance your photography skills and take it to the next level. Remember, you are doing 75% of  the work by following the skills I shared in Part 1 of this tutorial. The other 25% is done in post production.

In Part 3 of Basic Photography 101 you will learn about photography etiquette and 10 cool tips for beginners. These skills will prepare you to practice professional photography even if you started yesterday. So hop on over to Basic Photography 101 Part 3 to learn more.


* Chan is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.


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