To edit, or not to edit? That is the question.

How important is a basic edit?

Unedited Jpeg out of canon 7d camera

I think that editing my photographs is fairly important. I always teach that you should make the best photograph that you possibly can ‘in-camera’. Give yourself as little work to do in the post process as possible. It’s very easy to over work an image. After a while the eyes stop seeing the nuances of the changes that you’re making. I am certainly not an editing wizard, and for every way that I say to do your work load there will be a million others.

So, I can tell you some basics that I do when deciding whether or not to continue working with an image. Not everyone has access to photo editing software on their computers, but you can down load some nice apps to your phone to get the best of those images too. For the purposes of this blog I am using photoshop CS6. (Old school but lovely!)

1. Shoot in raw format (if you can edit it!)

Photograph after basic RAW format edit

In the RAW edit I adjusted the colour tone, lightened the shadows, and added more black.

2. Work in layers

The second layer

Working in layers means that it is easy to flick between the changes that you have made. You should always analyse each change. Ask yourself if you have improved the image with each layer. This layer I did a HDR effect filter to pick out the detail.

3. What does the computer think?

Sometimes the Auto Tone or Auto Colour can be way off piste. It’s up to you to see whether or not the change is what you were looking for. In this case I didn’t like the auto tone but auto colour brought in some extra greens and yellows which I liked.

Layer 3 after edit

At this stage I also upped the contrast of the image by using the curves option. I like images that have contrast, but its a subjective point of taste.

4. Fine Tuning

Layer 4 after dodge and burn

At this point in the edit the changes are very subtle and require constant thought as to whether or not each stage is enough, or not enough. In this layer I used the burn tool to selectively darken down areas in both the shadows and the mid-tones. I always use a soft edged large brush in photoshop to do this. Set to around 7%. Changes are incremental but easier to control, and less obvious.

5. always keep your original photograph

Digital memory is cheap. There is no reason for you to get rid of your images. They can be good learning tools for later, or you might think of a new way to work with them later. When you first start editing images the likely-hood is that you will over edit them. Save any changes as a new file name. Remember to compare the original and what you have done. Though it is a matter of taste, always cast a critical eye over the decisions you have made during the editing process.

Unedited original and edited with photoshop

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