Are you a beginner looking to improve your post-processing skills?
That’s what this article is all about. In it, you’ll discover five post-processing tips that will immediately take your photos to the next level. Best of all, these tips aren’t even difficult to follow, and they require nothing more than the most basic image-editing program.
Let’s dive right in.
1. Straighten your horizon for professional-looking photos
When the horizon isn’t straight, even the untrained eye picks up that something is off. They might not know exactly what’s wrong, but they’ll be aware that the scene seems out of order.
Which is why you absolutely must make sure your horizon is straight.
Fortunately, it’s very easy to correct the horizon; you can do it in any post-processing program.
Here are the instructions for straightening the horizon in Photoshop:
Step 1: Select the Crop tool
Step 2: Click the Straighten option at the top
Step 3: Click one side of your horizon and drag across the horizon line before you release
Your horizon will instantly straighten!
2. Adjust the white balance for natural-looking images
White balance is a setting used to balance the color of the light you shoot, in order to get it close to a neutral white.
You see, when the color of your subject is distorted by the existing lighting conditions, you need to use the white balance setting to save the day.
Now, one way to set the white balance correctly is to get it right in-camera. However, some photographers prefer to shoot in RAW with an auto white balance setting, and then adjust the white balance afterward.
If that’s your preference, then you’ll need to choose your white balance in a post-processing program. It’s generally easy to select a white balance option that adjusts for the lighting of your shot. You’re also free to experiment with different white balance options so you can choose the one that most reflects your creative vision.
For instance, the scene below has a Fluorescent white balance applied to it using Adobe Camera Raw.
And here’s the same scene but with a Shade white balance applied:
3. Boost your contrast to create images that pop
Do your images look a little flat?
One of the simplest ways to make your photos pop is to adjust the contrast. A contrast adjustment further separates the darkest and brightest areas of your image. In other words, it makes the dark tones darker and the light tones lighter.
Increased contrast, therefore, makes tones stand out and gives your photos a more three-dimensional feel. Compare the image above to the image below; I added contrast to the second image, which gives it a subtle pop.
Pretty much every image editor has a contrast slider. And boosting the contrast is often as simple as pushing the slider to the right.
So just remember:
If you’re struggling to make your photos more lively, try increasing the contrast. It’s a simple post-processing tip, but one that really works!
4. Boost the saturation or vibrance sliders for better colors
The saturation and vibrance adjustment sliders usually sit next to each other and can be confusing. Both of these add an extra color punch to your image, but they do so in different ways.
You see, saturation adjusts the intensity of all the colors in your image at once. If you push the saturation slider, you’re going to see color saturation increase across the board. Therefore, it’s an adjustment you want to use sparingly.
Vibrance, by comparison, is a “smarter” saturation tool, one that adjusts only the duller colors in your image. Increasing the vibrance will boost the less-saturated colors, but won’t affect colors that are already saturated.
Look at these two photos:
I boosted the saturation of the photo on the left, and I boosted the vibrance of the photo on the right.
Note that when you lower the saturation of your colors, your image takes on a more muted effect, like this:
In general, boosting the vibrance or the saturation will instantly improve your images.
5. Sharpen your photos for the best display on the web
Your images are most likely going to be displayed on the internet.
However, when you export your photos from most image-editing programs, you’re going to end up with blurry photos. Unless you sharpen for the web, that is.
There are a few ways to sharpen in Photoshop. Here is one you can try:
Step 1: Resize your image to the size you want it displayed. (If you sharpen your high resolution/original image and then resize it, the image will appear to lose its sharpness. Sharpening an image at your display resolution works better.)
Step 2: Duplicate your layer.
Step 3: Desaturate your new layer (from Menu, Image > Adjustments > Desaturate).
Step 4: Change your blend mode to Overlay. (Alternatively, you can use the Soft Light blend mode for a more subtle effect.)
Step 5: Now apply a High-Pass filter (from Menu, Filter > Other > High Pass) and choose a radius around 2.0 for an image of 730 pixels (on the long side). The Overlay option you chose above allows you to see how the radius affects the image so you can play around with it.
Note: The bigger your image, the larger your radius will be.
If the sharpness doesn’t look good on the entire image, you can use a layer mask and paint black over the areas where you want to hide the effect.
Step 6: Save for the web (from Menu, File > Save for Web). Check the Convert to sRGB box if unchecked.
If you’ve just begun your photography journey or if you’re looking to improve your basic editing skills, then these post-processing tips are a great place to start.
In fact, basic editing is often all you need to dramatically improve your photos.
So follow these tips, and watch as your images improve!