I wonder how many website publishers take only Jpegs and do minimal post capture editing? It is probably quite a high figure which is surprising as photography and appealing images are of paramount importance. They are the bait to get those scanning the site to actually read it, good images can enhance any blog but great images can grab the attention of the viewer almost compelling them to read.
Experimentation is important in photography, both when capturing an image and during editing to ensure it’s presented at it’s best.
Those that don’t spend any time in the virtual darkroom editing their images are missing out and will probably be surprised in the results that can be achieved. It might be useful therefore to demonstrate the effect post capture editing can have. Anybody can achieve decent results, almost all cameras are capable of producing excellent photographs and even free software programmes are amazingly powerful with a wide range of tools to dramatically improve the appearance of any image.
There is one caveat however, it is the old Jpeg versus RAW debate. For those that are unaware of the difference, they are the file formats that cameras use to save images. A simplified explanation is that Jpegs are compressed files which are processed in camera while RAW files are much larger, without any compression or processing and there isn’t any loss of information.
This means that all the colour and contrast detail is retained in RAW files while a great deal is lost in Jpegs. The editing is therefore limited in Jpegs as much of the detail is lost. However to show that it is still possible, I’ve chosen to play with a Jpeg of one of my favourite photographs from Reykjavik. However every time that a Jpeg is saved some of the information is lost, therefore it doesn’t take too many saves before it deteriorates beyond use. Always save a digital ‘negative’ of the image first, before any form of manipulation, completing the editing on a copy of the original.
It is then merely a matter of experimenting with the different options, almost every programme will allow changes in exposure and contrast, the hues and levels of saturation. Be especially careful with saturation, over use can blow out the details and make make the colours appear too harsh. It is a common error and one which an incorrectly calibrated monitor screen may exacerbate, if the image can’t be viewed accurately it can’t be manipulated accurately. It is also an error I tended to make in the early days of my digital photographic career.
Unfortunately it is not possible to change the white balance on a Jpeg image which is why it is important to have it set correctly during capture. It is however possible to change the temperature and tint using software and can make some quite dramatic changes to a picture. Especially sunset or sunrise images as the colours can be enhanced, providing some impressive effects.
Manipulating the exposure may produce some grain in the photograph, this may even be desirable but usually not. It can be removed using noise reduction filters but do not be too surprised if some detail is smoothed over at the same time. Some sharpening however is always recommended and should be the last task before saving the masterpiece.
Too much manipulation can be blatantly evident and give the image a false appearance. This again maybe an effect which is pleasing, perhaps making the photograph look like a painting is appealing. There are also a great many filters which can be added to provide a number of special effects. Most just appear too unnatural but try experimenting and see if any seem appropriate.
I’m not a fan of filters and personally never use them, there is usually plenty of information in a RAW image to enable basic manipulation to produce a decent result. The effects have been slightly exaggerated in this Jpeg to emphasise them. Less is usually more in photography and subtle rather than unnatural is preferable.
The great thing about digital photography is that anybody can master the basic skills required to turn a good image into a great one. It is just a matter of taking sometime to experiment. I suggest you do as I have; select a favourite image and then after ensuring it is safely saved have a play. Once a few effects have been produced which seem appealing save them, in some programmes it is even possible to save the effects as a template for future use.
Ok this isn’t just another excuse to share this image although it’s always a pleasure to publish it, there is a purpose. Go on have a play and feel free to send me your best result on twitter, I’ll then retweet them and the best will be posted in a gallery my Facebook page.