A big topic of discussion in the photography community, that has recently also started to be a big topic in the beauty world is RETOUCHING aka EDITING
What is Retouching?
Retouching, also referred to as editing are the steps you take after you have pressed the shutter and uploaded your images.
Sometimes also called airbrushing, photo retouching is when photographs are manipulated to improve or repair the image by making slight additions or alterations in order to slightly change the looks of a subject. This is usually basic “fixes” like erasing pimples on a model or enhancing some writing on product packaging. Basically anything that makes your finished images more polished.
I am not going to lie sis, it’s a whole other world of things to learn and master which can make it seem quite overwhelming for new photographers.
I hear you, great yet another thing you need to add to your “to learn” list, you might feel temped not to bother doing it, or you might just slap an action or preset on your images and call it a day.
Girl stop! Editing your images is an important part of the photography process and one that I believe you should at least start to learn as soon as possible. The sooner you start the sooner it’ll become a life skill.
In this post I’m going to share exactly WHY you should edit your images, what you should be thinking about, which software you could use, and the order in that you should learn everything in.
Sounds good? Lets gets crackalacking!
Why Bother Retouching
Ok so lets talk about the whys? For me, it is for sure always easier to start to get to grips with something when there’s understanding as to why we should do it – so if this you too, you’re at the right place.
#1 Take Control
The thing is your images always need to be processed, it’s just a simple question of do you do it, or does the camera do it.
When you take a picture, your camera captures it in the RAW file format , this happens no matter what, even if you have your camera set to shoot in JPEG.
When you choose to have the settings so that you shoot in JPEG, the camera will then take this raw file, add saturation to the colours, apply some contrast and noise reduction, along with a bit of sharpening and sometimes a few other bits too. It’ll also flatten the file and process it to give you a JPEG file.
Whilst this can be good sometimes, just like if you were shooting in AUTO mode on your camera, it’s not the best option for getting the images just as you like. Think about it, your camera doesn’t really have a clue what you’ve captured, how is it going to really know if any of the editing applied is needed.
It doesn’t have the foggiest whether it would look better with less contrast or whether if the amount of saturation it applied is just making that colour cast on your subject’s face worse. All that happens is that it blindly applies a pre-set level of editing and hopes for the best, not really great when you’re trying to capture the perfect images for your brand and your style.
On the flip side YOU can take control by processing the image yourself. Change the setting on your camera to shoot in RAW, the camera leaves the editing and you now have uncompressed full RAW files you can work with. You can apply the contrast, saturation, sharpening all at the level YOU like not to mention, what the photo NEEDS.
That’s why I always recommend that you shoot in RAW – so that you can have full control over the editing process. Again, just like shooting manual mode gives you the most control over how your image is captured in camera, shooting in RAW and processing the image yourself in editing gives you the same control over your images .
RAW on Mobiles
If you’re shooting using mobiles you need to bare in mind that as it stands most mobiles will capture in Jpeg as standard. Yes girl, unfortunately still not every phone lets you shoot raw with the native camera app that comes with it.
The good news is that since 2016 it became pretty standard in every high-end Android phone, all the flagship devices like Samsung Galaxy, the LG series, Huawei or Google Pixel will be able to shoot in RAW. With all other phones including the iPhone you will need to download 3rd party apps to be able to capture your images in the RAW format.
Not sure if your phone has this feature, just check your phones manual to see if the feature is available and how to change your settings to save your file in RAW format.
#2 – A second chance
Who doesn’t love a second chance huh? Sometimes you just don’t get the shot right in camera, obviously you should always aim to get it right when taking the picture but no matter how good you are there are times when you are going to mess up a little.
The usual culprits are messing on up the white balance, or the exposure, or not see that bin in the background that’s ruining your shot. Editing can be a way of getting a second chance to get the image the way you would have wanted to capture it in camera.
We jut spoke about why you should shoot raw and how, and here is where those RAW files are going to come in handy.
We already touched on the fact that the raw files formats are not compressed, what this means is that the raw file format gives you more latitude than editing a JPEG. It captures a larger tonal range, useful when you have under or over exposed, it also allows you to change the white balance easily, again something you can’t do with a JPEG.
This isn’t an excuse to be lazy though, it’s not a reason to photograph however you want on set and hope to just be able to fix it or magic it into a brilliant image in post production (another term for editing). Whilst you can make some changes, there are some things you just WON’T be able to do, things like bringing back focus on blurry images, bringing back colour to blown highlights or make a badly framed image into a work of art. Take the time to get it right in camera and if it not 100% perfect thats ok, you can fix that when you’re editing to perfect your images, that can be your little secret 🤐
#3 – Tell YOUR Story
Another reason to edit your photos is because editing give you another way to tell your story and further get across what you were aiming to capture when you took the photo.
Think about it sometimes what you capture in camera does not accurately reflect the mood you want to portray.
It could be because we didn’t quite get the settings right in camera but, even if you had the settings right in camera and captured good images you can enhance the mood and general feeling in post processing that you will never really be able to fully achieve in camera.
For example, that warm hazy feeling you felt that late afternoon on the beach, you’re just not fully seeing it in the image, so what do you do? Well, some post processing will help you enhance and create that mood. Or you might just want to emphasis the moodiness of a portrait, or create a feeling of nostalgia – although this can be done to some degree in camera, a lot of this usually comes from how the image is edited.
You might also want to bring the viewers attention to a certain aspect of the image, this something else that can be done or enhanced when editing.
#4 – Develop a style
Editing is great way to put your own personal stamp on an image, it is another way of making your view of the the world stand out, or to give your images a certain feel that makes them feel like “your brand”.
As a newby to editing you will most likely be playing around and experimenting with different editing styles which means you end up with different looks, but that ok, it’s actually a great way to learn how to edit, you can find out what you like and what you don’t like.
I still love to play with my images and change this up on occasions, so it’s really not that much of a biggy if you haven’t “found your style” yet. Once you start to get more familiar with editing, you’ll find yourself doing the same things to most of your images, your style will become apparent. So really and truly, your style finds you 🙂 .
Once you have found your preferred editing style, you can use this consistently to have a common “look” to your images.
Where do I even start?
Ok so all of this might seem a little daunting but the best way to go when learning how to edit your photos is to break it down into smaller, more manageable steps.
First off, switch to RAW, then you’ll just need to learn how to get that RAW image looking like a JPEG one. This will be just simple adjustments, but thats greats because the first step is really about you taking control and learning what everything does.
Then, you can move onto adjusting the image to get it the way you would have wanted to capture it in camera – white balance correction, exposure correction for the scene, no obvious or distracting noise (unless that’s your thing) as well as removing any unwanted elements.
Once you’ve got the hang of that, move onto some basic enhancements, you can play with colour and contrast and start to make smaller adjustments that you can build up, before taking it further by learning creative enhancements to affect overall mood, such as colour toning or even converting to black and white, you’ll also need to learning how to pull the viewers eye around the image.
Lastly once you’re comfortable doing your enhancements and adjustments, you can fine-tune your editing so that you have a consistent style and feel to your images, regardless of the editing steps.
So basically,, get the foundations right first, then build on your skills by layering the rest on.
Don’t run before you can walk, a lot of people make the mistake of diving straight into trying more creative edits when they don’t have the foundations right, what usually happens then is that they feel like their images never look as good as they thought they would, or even worse, they look over edited because they have been randomly following every step tutorials without thinking about what the image actually needs.
If you want a step by step program that will show you exactly how to edit your images from start to finish, sign up for the newsletter to be the first to hear about the upcoming Jump into Lightroom Course from Start to finish.