When I first started blogging, I had no idea how to edit photos. Much like how I had no idea how to use Instagram, how to pose, how to create good content… I think I see a running theme. My version of photo editing was hitting the magic wand button in Apple’s photo app. Good enough right? Wrong.
I feel like a lot of people have this exact problem. In today’s culture, it’s so important to have quality photos if you want to brand yourself. And unless you can afford a professional photographer who takes amazing photos on a high end camera and edits them for you, you have to learn how to do it yourself.
Teaching myself to edit (and edit well) was essentially a trial and error process for me. In this blog post, I’m going to attempt to talk through that whole process with you guys so you don’t have to spend a year figuring it out for yourselves. I’m calling this “Photo Editing for Dummies,” though, because I know that the methods I use for editing are still very rudimentary and sometimes completely haphazard. This is photo editing for the common folk.
I take most of my pictures on my iPhone, so the first step in my editing process is usually editing on my iPhone. I still start with the auto-edit, and then build off of that. I focus on reducing exposure, increasing black point (which usually serves to increase the depth of the photo), and turn down the cast (which brings out blue undertones and eliminates red undertones).
Of course, your preference on each of these settings will depend entirely on who you are. I always turn down the cast because I naturally have very red skin, and turning down the cast allows me to increase saturation without turning into a tomato. Some people, though, don’t have the pink undertones that I do and may want to turn the cast up. That’ll take some individual experimentation. But at least now you know that these are settings that’ll help you achieve the edit you’re looking for in just a few steps.
I don’t love most of VSCO’s editing features. Most of their filters look too heavily edited for my taste, and all the finer editing tools I can do on other apps for a superior outcome. There is one VSCO feature, though, that I like so much that I keep the app on my phone. Under the adjust tab, there is an option to “skew” the photo. I know this sounds scary, but trust me, it’s a great feature. Because if it’s an amateur taking your picture, you can guarantee that they won’t be holding the phone/camera straight up and down. So I use it to correct the angle of my photo. You have to be SUPER careful with this setting: you can’t use it if you have any lines in your background and you have to make sure the picture isn’t distorted. But as long as you don’t end up looking like Lewis Carroll’s Queen of Hearts, it’s a great feature. (Photo 2 has only a slight difference, but is much more proportional).
Lightroom is a photo editing app powered by Adobe Photoshop and it’s my favorite one-stop-shop for fixing a photo. There are features to smooth out a grainy photo or to add grain to a smooth photo. There’s one feature called “dehaze” that does exactly what it sounds like. I’ve never seen a feature so effectively eliminate haze on any other app. Photos that I would usually throw out, I can fix with this feature.
Another aspect of the app I love is that every adjustment is very sensitive, so I can just move a few settings a tiny bit and get a whole new photo. You do have to be careful though; sensitive adjustments can make it easy to over-edit. But it also makes it easy to get the perfect edit in a few minutes.
My biggest piece of advice for Lightroom is just to block out thirty minutes and try every single setting to figure out which are your favorites. Mine are whites/blacks, clarity, dehaze, noise reduction, and smoothness. But again, your favorite settings are going to be different because everyone likes a different edit. Once you find your favorites though, you can pretty much just use those every time.
My final edit always happens on Instagram, right before I post. Their lux setting (the little sun at the top) adds a little extra depth to the photo and I will sometimes increase the structure too to make the photo look a little more professional. I don’t love IG for major adjustments, but it’s a good finishing touch.
And that’s a wrap! I usually use all four apps (or at least iPhone, Lightroom and IG) to edit a single photo, but that’s really not necessary. Like I said, you can do an entire edit in Lightroom. Doing any one of these steps will help your photo look more professional, and doing all four can perfect a post. Give it a try! I find it incredibly relaxing, but if nothing else it will help you enhance your personal brand. And in this world, your personal brand is everything. Or at least in my world…