Storing Digital Photos > Photo Editing

Edit Your Digital Photographs

Dramatically improve your photographs with simple adjustments

Do you really want your digital photographs to pop?

Digital cameras are not perfect and neither are the photographers who use them. Many photos you take can use some minor adjustments to make them look better. When you edit the digital photos you take, you are improving photos that would otherwise be mediocre.

How to Get a Brilliant Shot

Here's a surprising fact: many professional photographers do not get perfect shots all of the time (you may now gasp).

There are some who do, but they are rare and have spent decades developing their talent. Their cameras has become second nature to them.

For all the rest of us, perfection is achieved through editing. Especially when you are shooting under challenging conditions, many of the photos you take are not going to turn out. Some will be out of focus, others won't be cropped right and a bunch will be poorly exposed.

The reason that the pros get great photos is because they take hundreds of them. They don't settle for just one shot of any one scene. They take photos from different angles and under different lighting conditions.

Many of these hundreds of photos are not going to be the best — in fact, they'll be mediocre. The difference between the snapshot photographers and the pros is that the pros edit their hundreds of images down to 5. Then they take these 5 and edit them even further until they get a shot that is brilliant.

Weeding Your Collection

The first step that you can take to get more impressive photos is to weed out the ones that can't be fixed.

What can't be fixed? Anything that is out of focus is pretty much done for. Out of focus images can be somewhat corrected by editing programs, but not much. With focus, you have to get it right the first time.

You can also eliminate any photos that just don't speak to you. I take a lot of experimental photos of trees and flowers. Some of them turn out, and others are just plain boring. I keep the interesting ones and delete the others.

Basic Edits to Improve Your Photos

Now that you've done the first round of editing and removal, you are left with all the photos that have some potential. Some of these photos may not be properly exposed, and in some the subject may be too small in the photo. You can fix these two problems by adjusting exposure and cropping.

Adjust Exposure

Here's a quick tip about fixing exposure in digital photographs. If you've under-exposed the photo, you can fix it. If you've over-exposed, there is nothing you can do. This is because when you under-expose a digital image, all of the detail in the scene is captured, it just appears dark. It's easy to use software to lighten the photo.

When you over-expose, areas of the photograph become white and completely lose detail. When this happens, there is nothing you can do to fix the problem. Since the detail information is not captured in the white sections of the photo, no amount of adjustment is going to make them appear.

Adjusting exposure is a very simple way to immediately improve the appearance of any photograph. Colors become brighter and detail becomes clearer. Unless you were intentionally trying to under-expose a photo from some reason, getting the correct exposure will always make a difference.

Cropping Digital Photographs

There are several reasons why you will want to crop a photo: the subject is too small, there are distracting elements, or the composition can be improved.

When the subject of your photograph is too small, you can increase its size by cropping off the edges of the photo. This creates an artificial zoom effect that lets you frame the subject exactly the way you want.

Sometimes distracting elements will find their way into your photographs. A serene photo of a lake might be marred by the presence of a garbage can. A tree limb might be intruding on a photo of your best friend. In these cases you can eliminate the distracting object by cropping it out of the photo.

Finally, you just might want to adjust the composition of your photo. Let's say that you only have a couple of seconds to take a quick snapshot of a scene. You don't have a lot of time to think about where eveything is positioned in the photo.

You preview the photo in an image browsing program and realize that the composition could use some improvement. Maybe you'd like to apply the Rule of Thirds to it, or maybe a different view of the scene will create more impact. You can once again use cropping to do the job.

In every one of these cases you can dramatically improve an otherwise ho-hum photo with just a small amount of cropping. Sometime no amount of cropping is going to fix a photo, and this is one you have to discard. But many times photos can be improved with some cropping and you will discover that potential discards have now become keepers.

NOTE: the number of megapixels your camera has become very important once you start cropping aggressively. Find out the relationship between megapixels and cropping.

Advanced Editing

There is a lot of advanced editing that you can do to your digital photographs: red-eye removal, elimination of blotches and stains and color adjustments. While these types of edits will also improve the quality of your digital photographs, they are more time-consuming than adjusting exposure and cropping.

These advanced adjustments typically also require special programs, whereas there are many photo album and editing programs available today that let you fix exposure and crop.

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