Even though you can’t edit an already bad picture to perfection, it is still possible to create a better picture from a well-taken one. Elementary image processing steps such as noise reduction, selecting an image section, brightness and contrast or sharpening can help to produce better pictures. The earlier you get familiarized with the subject of image editing, the better. Because, as with actual photography, you become more and more adept in dealing with the “digital darkroom” through frequent practice.
The Raw Format In Image Editing
If you would love to do a lot of editing on your picture, then your best bet is to shoot in RAW format. In this format, just like was mentioned in this post your picture is stored unedited on the memory card in a special raw data format. All editing steps are then 100% in your hands and you have full control over the digital image processing. Also, shadows and highlights can be corrected to a greater extent and noise can be removed more effectively. The format is, however, very large (approx. 30MB per photo) and accordingly requires memory.
If you would love to do little or no editing, then you can shoot in JPEG instead of RAW format.
Cameras with smaller sensors usually have problems with image noise above a certain ISO value . But even expensive SLR cameras with large full-frame sensors are no longer able to keep the noise within a tolerable range from a certain point on. When it comes to image editing on the computer, increasing the brightness and contrast, for example, can make the image noise even more visible than it already is.
It is therefore advisable to carry out noise reduction as the first step in image processing . Of course, this only applies to photos where image noise is already a problem – i.e. for photos with a high ISO value or a long exposure of a few seconds. Most standard image editing programs offer a fairly satisfactory feature that can be used to minimize image noise. In many cases I use the internal noise reduction functions in Adobe Lightroom. Since I do almost all other editing steps in this program and manage my photo collection, it is very conveniently integrated into my workflow. This saves time and is sufficient in most cases. However, if you are not satisfied with the flexibility and quality of the internal filters in your program, you should take a look at special tools such as Noise Ninja or Neat Image. However, its operation requires a lot of experience and can quickly overwhelm beginners. You shouldn’t overdo it with the noise reduction anyway. Because every noise reduction filter – no matter from which program – not only removes the noise, but sometimes also important image details. You always have to find the best compromise between too much and too little. It takes some practice.
Crop And Straighten Image
A photo with a bad selected image section can almost not be turned into a really great photo by image processing. However, in some cases, good photos can still gain some quality by cropping. This mainly applies to minor corrections such as the removal of disruptive picture elements at the edge of the picture by limiting the image section.
A sloping horizon; even if only slightly when taking a landscape picture, for example, can make the picture bad. In such situation, a little digital post-processing can come in handy. The editing steps can be easily implemented in almost any program.
Contrast, Saturation, And Brightness
If your pictures look a bit dull, and ordinary, then this may be due to insufficient contrast and saturation. You can bring more “color into play” in the image processing program of your choice with the corresponding sliders. However, controls for contrast and saturation should also be used carefully. Too much contrast or saturation can quickly make the colors look artificial and exaggerated. If you are faced with color exaggeration problem, for example, only the green tones are weak, you can use color-selective saturation in any of the editing softwares (including Lightroom or Photoshop Elements). With these functions it is possible, for example, to increase only the green tones. The benefit of the color-selective saturation technique is that you can choose the color to saturate while other colors that are saturated enough remains the same.
It can also happen that a photo is underexposed or overexposed. Adjusting the brightness settings can help here. In the Lightroom, for example, there are controls for brightness and exposure as well as controls for shadows and highlights. Especially in connection with the RAW format, the high dynamic range of this format means that areas in the image that are severely overexposed or underexposed can also be corrected. At a certain point, however, nothing can be saved here either – “eroded” white (overexposed) or black (underexposed) areas in the image cannot then be restored. The only thing that helps here is to set the camera correctly before pressing the shutter button.
What software should you use? Gimp and Co. to start with
If you are just starting out with picture editing or image processing, then it is advised to use freeware programs such as Gimp . Very extensive projects can be processed with it. In most cases, Gimp & Co. are also absolutely sufficient for home use and quick projects in between. Beginners in particular can learn the first steps in digital image processing with these free solutions.
The top dog in pixel-based image processing is still Adobe . I can particularly recommend its Lightroom program, which is specially tailored to photographers. Adobe manages to balance well professional functionality and fast workflow.
In terms of quality, Lightroom also works on a professional level. Older versions of Lightroom can still be found occasionally as a purchase version. The latest version is only available through a subscription model called “Creative Cloud”.
An alternative to Lightroom is Photoshop Elements. The program is the “little sister” of Adobe Photoshop, but still offers an extremely rich number of functions that are particularly useful for amateur photographers:
Both Lightroom and Photoshop can be used to edit your image in raw data format, and they are one of the best editing softwares you can get.