I get a lot of questions about which editing programme I use, and to answer that, I use everything from Gimp, Photoshop (and Lightroom), Affinity Photo and Snapseed to StoryArt, Unfold and the Instagram app itself, depending on what look I’m going for. Most editing apps have the features I use, so I think these tips go for most editing apps. Because I value individual style, I won’t do a very in depth step by step guide on how to edit, but I’ll go through the process I usually follow and explain the different parts.
As mentioned in the basics tutorial, you can do some “pre-editing” while taking pictures. Pay attention to light, is it hitting your motive in a flattering way and creating the mood you want?
You can also zoom in on objects and add depth of field to get more focus on the motive. This can be further adjusted by using your mouse wheel to zoom and by adjusting the field of view till you’re happy with how it looks. It’s worth noticing that more zoom + wider field of view will give a more intense blur effect.
Brightness and contrast
The first thing I do is checking the brightness of the picture to see if it’s not too under-exposed (too dark) or over-exposed (too light) to work with. A picture that is too light or too dark can be heavy to work with, you might lose valuable details and the outcome can be hard on the eyes because of too much contrast. You’ll get better at finding the perfect brightness-balance with every picture you edit because you gain experience of what looks good with your style. If you like a darker or lighter look, you can always make it work! Adjusting the contrast is an easy way to boost both the highlights and the shadows, making the picture feel sharper. You might have to re-adjust the light and shadows after using the contrast to make the very most out of it. The last thing I edit is the white balance. This affects how warm or cold your picture looks and can be useful if you think your picture is too orange or too blue-looking.
Adjusting the sharpness of the picture is also a very easy way to bring out more details and life in the picture, making it look more realistic.
Dodge and burn
The dodge and burn tools are very good to have in hand if you want to lighten or darken certain areas of your image. The dodge tool will lighten the area you choose, and the burn tool will darken it. One example is to use the dodge tool on areas where you feel details disappear due to under-exposure or if you want to give something a little extra “pop”. another example is to use the burn tool in the corners to create a vignette effect. This will direct the viewer's attention to the part of the photo you want them to look at.
An easier way to create the vignette effect is to use the vignette tool. This is basically a dark (or light, if you prefer) circle that you can adjust to fit your picture, both in strength of effect and size.
You can crop the picture to give it a different look and change what’s in focus. I recommend reading up on “the rule of thirds” to learn more about how to crop. This can help you understand more about where to place the object in your picture and how to take the best landscape pictures. If you want me to make a SSO-style tutorial about this, leave a note in the contact form here on my website or send me a message on Instagram!
Healing tool and clone tool
If there is something in your picture that you want to fix up, whether it’s a rein being eaten by the neck of your horse or a piece of dirt ruining your masterpiece, fear not! If you want to remove something entirely, most programmes have a healing or cloning tool that will gather information from your picture to make a chosen area blend better with the rest of the picture. This is probably where I have noticed the biggest difference in editing programmes, and Photoshop and Gimp are by far the easiest to work with in these areas from my experience. With the clone tool you can also add or copy elements in your picture to fix things that glitched out in the game (like the reins) or multiply whatever you please!
Lastly, slap on a filter you like, add the finishing touches and you’re ready to go, or you can just go without adding a filter! You can download filter apps or just use the ones Instagram has readily available for you.
Congratulations! You have now learned the very basics of how to edit, now it’s time for you to practice it! There sadly is no quick-fix on how to edit, but I am confident you’ll find the way that suits you best. I’d love to see what you create, so don’t be afraid to tag me in your SSO-related pictures!
A good tip I have come to understand over time is that it's better to decrease the intensity of effects you want to add, atleast if you want to achieve a natural look. If some aspects of the editing are too intense, the picture might be unpleasant to look at. It can be tricky to understand when you’re about to go too far though, because you get used to seeing the picture. Your brain and eyes adjust to changes quickly, meaning you can easily go too far. This means you can over-expose a picture, add too much saturation or sharpness, thinking it looks normal. To avoid doing this you can either add i.e. less saturation than you think you need or you can compare it to the original picture, which is an easy way to uncover things you might not be completely happy with. All of my older edits have a very yellow tint to them because I thought they looked amazing with warmer tones, but I eventually realised this probably wasn’t the way to go.
The order of which you edit things can also impact the final product!
Click here to read more about how to create different moods in your picture or how to create cool effects in game!
Click here if you want to read more about the basics of SSO-photography