Clicking the shutter’s only half the battle. Our resident Adobe Suite diehard is here to run you through his top tips for editing your outdoor photography into something unforgettable.
When it comes to photography, shooting your image is only half the battle. Your editing style gives you the potential to really stand out from the pack, but there are so many lessons to learn along the way. With the amount of possibilities to edit and alter your images in post is being endless, in truth, you never stop learning new tools and concepts to take your images to the next level.
I’ve learnt a thing or two about using Lightroom to boost your raw shot into a certified banger, so I thought I’d highlight 8 handy tips that can help you take the next step in your editing game.
1. Shoot in RAW and Manual Mode When Possible
First things first. Every other step in this guide is dependent on your understanding of the fundamentals of photography. Take the time to learn how your camera works, how changing each setting on your camera will affect the finished result, and be sure to play around with different lenses for a start.
If your camera has the capability to shoot in RAW, definitely do so. The flexibility it’ll provide in the editing process will become apparent very quickly.
2. Masking and Filters
Masking is an underrated tool that helps you to isolate areas of your photo that you selectively want to apply adjustments on. There are two main types of filters that you could use: graduated and radial filters. Both filters can be used in various situations to create different effects.
For example, I could use a graduated filter to create a warm sunlight glow over a landscape or use a radial filter to darken areas around the edges of a photo to highlight the hero at the centre of an image.
Graduated filter and temperature adjustments used to create a warm glow
Radial filter used to darken the periphery of the shot and highlight the subject
Hot tip: You can then touch up the area a filter is affecting using the brush controls to erase unwanted areas. Use the hotkey ‘O’ to see where the filters have been applied.
3. Play with the Tone Curve
The Tone Curve represents all of the tones in your image and allows you to control the darkness and lightness of these tones. The X axis of the curve is the tone axis, representing your shadows, midtones and highlights, whereas the Y axis represents the lightness of a given tone. Now while all of this sounds confusing, it’s really quite simple and opens up a whole new world of creative editing. One of the most common techniques employed is the S Curve.
By creating points on the curve and altering them to create a subtle ‘S’, you’re effectively darkening the shadows and lightening the bright portions of the image. This modest adjustment can help add depth and pop to your image, as well as a hint of saturation.
The S’ Curve
4. Create Panoramas Using Photo Merge
Have you ever arrived at a photo-worthy spot on your adventure only to realise that you can’t quite capture the entire scene you’re looking at? Whether it’s your position, choice of lens, or something simply too huge for a single photo, one way you can combat this is by creating a panorama.
Take more than one shot of the location, ensuring that a portion of each image overlaps with the last. Then, using the photo merge function in Lightroom, you’ll be able to stitch these all together to create a wider image that does justice to the scale of the landscape you’re witnessing.
4 photo stitch of Wadi Tiwi in Oman using a DJI Mavic Pro 2
5. Hue, Saturation, and Luminance
The colour palette of your final images are a very important part of the editing process and the HSL/Colour module makes this process very intuitive. By controlling the hue, saturation and luminance of separate colours within the image, you have complete control over the final result.
For example, if you don’t like the blues in the sky of your image, you could adjust only the blues in each of the HSL modules to refine how it presents in the final image.
Hot tip: The icon at the top left left of the module allows you to tap and drag, controlling the hue, saturation and luminance of separate colours of the image.
The transform module allows you to improve your composition by correcting skewed images and altering your perspective of the image. I’ve found that this function can help with enhancing scale or improving the symmetry of my final image. If you’re shooting natural places, I wouldn’t recommend extreme transformation to images, as it covers up the imperfections that make a location unique, but when applied properly it can help enhance your final image.
When you’ve completed your transformations, the image will require cropping to remove the resulting white spaces. You can find the crop tool on the module underneath the histogram or hit the hot key ‘R’ and crop away any white spaces.
Hot tip: While you’re using the crop tool, you can toggle through the overlays, such as grid and golden ratio, with the hotkey ‘O’, to make any last-minute composition changes.
7. Lens Corrections
The lens corrections module helps you to correct optical issues created by lenses, such as distortion, chromatic aberration and vignetting, and all without leaving Lightroom! What a treat.
Simply select the lens make and model and tweak the sliders below till you’ve achieved the look you want. The change around the edges will be slight, but you’ll notice the difference.
No Lens Correction
With Lens Correction
8. Save Your Preset
Once you’ve gone through the process of editing your photos a few times, you’ll begin to figure out what you like to see in the end result. A good way to preserve these adjustments and make your next stint on Lightroom a whole lot less time consuming, is to save your current settings in a preset.
You can find the preset module to the left of screen and follow the instructions to save your adjustments. It might be useful to create presets for specific shots such as aerials, seascapes, and landcapes and utilise them as jumping off points for your edits as no two frames are the same.
A Note on Buying Presets
While buying presets from other photographers can help you to understand what some of them are doing in their edits, copying them will do you no good. Put in the hard yakka and develop your unique style. Your understanding of the cause and effect of the various functions in your editing software will go a long way towards developing and fine-tuning your skills down the line.