The Basics of Editing Photos

Honestly, editing photos is hard. Knowing which buttons to press and which way to drag is something you sometimes have to experiment with quite a bit. For most of my photos, I use VSCO to edit, but there are endless options and none of them are really superior to each other. Even using the presets on you phone in the editing space isn’t a bad option. In this article, I’m going to go over the basics of what you can do to enhance the photos you post and what all the editing tools mean. Keep in mind, there isn’t a right or wrong way to edit. It’s all about personal preference and what you feel like makes the photo look its best.

1. Exposure

Exposure is often the first thing listed in many editing fields. Exposure deals with the amount of light in the photo. Increasing exposure will lighten the photo and make the colors more close together. Basically, it will make the photo look like the light source is either stronger or closer. On the other hand, decreasing exposure will make the photo darker and decrease your ability to distinguish all the colors. 

For this photo in particular, I would probably increase exposure a bit as well as saturation. This would create a bright photo and trick the eye into believing the quality was higher. 

2. Contrast 

The differences between different colors and the ability to distinguish between them is contrast. Decreasing it will make your colors closer together in hue and lower the shadow’s visibility. Increasing contrast will make shadows more dominant and the colors more distinguishable. 

In this photo, you can see that lowering contrast makes the photo appear more dull. I would increase the contrast because there isn’t a lot of color variation or anything interesting in the background, so contrast will make this photo more interesting.

3. Clarity

Clarity makes all shadows in the photo more noticeable as it attempts to increase the quality of the photo. When you pump up clarity, every bump and line becomes more defined.

Because this photo is pretty clear on it’s own, I would not touch clarity, but with a lower quality photo, clarity can be a helpful tool.

4. Saturation

The quality and brightness of colors is all due to their saturation. The more saturated, the more vibrant the colors, while taking away saturation will decrease the eye’s ability to distinguish between the colors. In fact, with no saturation a photo will become black and white. Going extreme in either direction will make your photo look over-edited, but in moderation, this is more about personal preference.

In most photos, I tend to pump saturation up a bit. I think it makes photos more interesting, and I like my feed to be pretty bright.

5. Cropping/ Adjustments

There are a few things you want to keep in mind when changing photo layout. Usually, you want the main subject to be in the center of the photo or off the the left/right third of the photo. This isn’t super important, but in a technical sense, it gives you the “best” photo. Adjusting straightens your picture, so if you want the subject to appear more vertical, you should adjust to the according direction. 

In conclusion, have fun with what you post and remember to think outside the box. Editing is a way of expressing yourself and finding your exact style takes practice. Happy editing!

Photo credits: Zoe Lewis-Nielsen