A guest post from Jessie Martin
Editing your photos can make a seemingly mediocre picture really come to life. It can be the most satisfying part of taking pictures, but it can also be the most frustrating. Editing definitely takes a little bit of practice, but because of the impact that editing can have on a photo, it’s something worth investing a little time.
However, before you start trying to edit your photos, you should take some time to learn how to take a good photo. If you don’t have a basic understanding of how to use your phone or your DSLR or you don’t understand how to use light, editing will be a nightmare.
Editing is used to ENHANCE a photo, not fix it. No amount of editing can truly ‘fix’ a photo if it’s too dark, too bright, out of focus etc.
I would recommend going back to the beginning of this series & taking my free photography course for mamas if you want to learn some of the basics:
Below are some examples of both unedited phone photos and DSLR photos, followed by the edited versions:
In this post I am going to cover editing using your phone and free editing apps. However, if you have a DSLR or you really want to up your editing game, I highly recommend Lightroom for your computer.
Free Tools for Editing
My favorite free tools for editing on my phone are the VSCO app, Lightroom app, and Snapseed app. Each of these have their own strengths and weaknesses + they all have a few different features that aren’t offered by the rest. I almost always find that I use at least two of the apps in combination to edit my photos.
VSCO is the simplest of all the editing apps. The free version comes with several ‘presets’ or ‘filters,’ which are basically just pre-made edits that you can apply to your photos with one tap. You can apply the filter and call it good, or you can edit the photo further. Most photos are going to need a little more editing than what a filter is going to provide though, so I suggest editing every photo further. The better you are at taking pictures, the less editing your pictures will need.
The free Lightroom app is a really great tool. It has a feature where you can adjust each color within your photo individually, which is a game changer.
Snapseed has a ‘Heal’ function which both free versions of VSCO and Lightroom lack. It allows you to clone out blemishes or unwanted parts of your image.
When it comes to editing your photos, it’s important to remember that the goal is to enhance the image and make it look as natural and life-like as possible. Try to have a light hand while making adjustments.
When I go to edit my photos, the very first thing I do, regardless of which app I’m in, is adjust the brightness (aka exposure) of the image. I typically need to increase the brightness.
In the example below, increasing the brightness made a huge difference & really made the image pop:
The next thing I focus on is the ‘temperature’ or ‘white balance.’ Sometimes when you take a picture, the image will look a little too blue or a little too orange. To fix this, you need to adjust the temperature. The goal is to adjust the temperature just enough to make the image looks as natural as possible (or fit your personal taste).
In the examples below, the first image is too blue, but the second image is too warm. To fix this I adjusted the temperature in the third image to be more neutral:
From here, I assess my photo and try to see what else it might need.
Many times I need to straighten my photos or crop them to be more visually pleasing. I always take a look at the skin tones of the people within the photo and make sure they look natural. If they look too orange or too washed out, I use the Lightroom app to adjust the orange and yellow colors in my image (if you’d like to watch a tutorial on this, I have a Lightroom app tutorial saved to my highlights on Instagram.
At this point in the editing process, I assess the photo and decide if it needs anything else or if any part of the photo needs additional enhancements.
To simplify and recap, these are the steps I suggest taking with each photo:
- Assess the brightness of the image. Is it too dark or too bright? Edit accordingly.
- Assess the temperature of the image. Is it too blue or too orange? Edit accordingly.
- Is the photo straight? Does it need to be cropped?
- Assess the skin tones within the image. Are they too orange or too washed out? Edit accordingly.
- Make whatever additional adjustments you think the photo needs and/or add your personal touch/style to the image. For example, some people like to fade their images and add grain to create a film look etc.
Suggestions + Tools to Simplify the learning process
Editing can feel overwhelming, but I promise that if you set aside a few minutes to play around with each app, it won’t seem so daunting.
Start with VSCO. Download the app and pull a practice photo into it. Play around with all of the settings and sliders. After you have an understanding of VSCO, move to Lightroom, then Snapseed.
To help you learn what all of the buttons and sliders do within each app, I’ve created a free cheat sheet that explains all of the functions and what they do to your photos. You can download it HERE.
I taught myself how to edit by both trial and error and watching youtube videos! I think it’s really helpful to watch other people edit. Youtube is a great place – just type in something like, “VSCO editing tutorials.” If you like the way I edit my photos or you want to learn more, I frequently do video editing tutorials in my Instagram stories. I have several saved in my highlights.
I have appreciated so much the opportunity Allie has given me to share my heart and love of photography with you, her sweet audience. I know you all are a loyal bunch and love her to pieces and I’ve been honored to hang out with you this month during the photography series. I hope you know that I am an open book and am always happy to answer questions and chat further. You can email me any time at firstname.lastname@example.org or come say hi over on Instagram (@hellojessiemartin).
My heart truly is for you, mama. Although I love sharing my passion for photography, I believe it is so much more than a hobby or creative outlet. Taking pictures of our families can be something we make into a burden or a mundane task with little meaning, but it can be so much more! These pictures can be an exclamation of thankfulness and gratitude, a reminder of all of the blessings we have. We as mamas have the privilege of documenting our families’ stories and I truly believe this endeavour has worth and value.
If you’re hoping to up your photography game, I’ve created a FREE guide just for you!
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Hi, I’m Jessie!
I am a wife + mama and self-taught photographer. Im passionate about empowering fellow moms to to see how incredible their everyday is and to take beautiful pictures of their kids (regardless of what camera they use). I teach moms how to apply the same techniques I use as a professional photographer to their own personal photography.
I love new friends! Come say hi over on Instagram (@hellojessiemartin)!