Monday, August 13, 2018

Spill the Thy: How I Edit My Instagram Photos


Here, you have it! The blog post that you all have been waiting, asking and demanding for! For the longest time, a lot of people have asked me how I edit my photos and I never wanted to share it not because I didn't want to share my secret or anything like that but it was purely because I never felt like my photos were good enough. I had always compared myself to others and this isn't the way to go. And so, in this blog post, I'm going to show you guys how I edit and style my pictures, using lightroom as well as show you FREE alternatives that work just as well.


When I first started taking pictures (initially just for instagram), I had a lot of doubt, low-esteem and insecurities. I had always thought I had some much more to learn which still holds true, but I also had to recognise that I had also gained a lot from my experiences - what to do, what not do and all that. I always flip through instagram to grab inspiration from some great photographers like...
James from JamTuna,

Connie from What She Pictures

Hannie from Thehanihanii


or Demas from Demasrusli.

These people have such an amazing talent but what you ultimately notice about all these people is that they're all different! Each picture is not identical to one another and yet, they produce such amazing work on their own merit. And this is what I have come to realise. Every one has two sets of eyes that see things differently in the world. Our likes and dislikes are different and our styles will also be different. So we can't compare ourselves to other people when we function differently. Work on the art that makes you happy and free, while "stay curious and create" as James would say.

So I wanted to show you guys how I would think to edit my flatlay photos. Keep in mind, there are many factors prior to editing a photo. These include the correct lighting, sharpness, tone, subject interferences (unwanted things in the photo e.g. a hair on the ground if you're shooting a flatlay or a photobomber...etc) and so on. Editing is just tool that helps you to perfect your art, like an eraser to a pencil.

Before you start

Before getting started, I want you to think about the following questions;

Do you have the correct lighting? 

Depending on what you are shooting and what vision you have for your shot, you have a lot of choices. You can use natural daylight or artificial light. For me, I had alternate between artificial and natural day light (depending on when I am free to take photos).

Natural Daylight: You want to find the best time that cast light that's neutral and doesn't lean too yellow or blue. But don't worry about it maybe looking a little blue/yellow, I will show you later in this post how to correct this. The best time I find to shoot is between 10am - 3pm (a few hours before and after the sun rise and falls). If you find that the lighting is too harsh (especially next to a window), you can always buy a satin or thin fabric curtain to cover it and it'll diffuse the light perfectly. The major con about using natural lighting is that you don't always have consistent lighting in each shot as you have no control over this and you have only a small time frame when you can shoot. So, this is why I would alternate with artificial lighting.

Artificial Lighting: Now if you're a night owl like me and live or only free during the night time, artificial lighting is your best friend. In my honest opinion, nothing beats natural lighting. It requires minimal editing, the lighting is perfect and there is literally little to no work to do. Sometimes the shot looks perfect on its own. Artificial lighting is a little tricker to understand and get right. You can either purchase some light boxes or studio lights from ebay for about $200 or less and this will give you the perfect set of lights to capture the same essence. Or if you want a cheaper alternative, change your light bulb to a LED "Day White" or "Cool White" (whatever fits your style) light bulb from Bunnings Warehouse for about $20-$30 that has the highest brightness. Generally, the larger your room, the brighter the light you need. And this will 90% mimic natural daylight for you.

Here is a comparison between the two lightings (without editing):
Natural Day Light

Artificial Lighting 
As you can see, there are some slight differences but ultimately they achieve the same outcome.

Next Question...

What is your theme and style?

Over the years, my style has dramatically change. I constantly want to improve and incorporate new skills and techniques I have learnt with photography. Often my inspiration comes from what I see in front of me and I try to mimic those colours. This is how I develop my style and theme. At the moment, my theme is having a minimalistic tone with some grain added to the mix. I like to keep it with warm tones, with my browns, golds, oranges and wood-like colours so it has a "home-like" feel to it. I've liked the look of a heavy grainy texture to my photos. It looks a little old-school and yet beautiful. I also like how it is low maintenance and I don't have to worry about the focus, clarity or sharpness of the photo. It just works for most set ups that I have. You can definitely have a different style or theme to me, but be sure to stick to it if you want your instagram, blog and so on, to look good consistently on a macro perspective.

What programs, tools and apps do I use?

Before I answer this question, I'd like to mention that it is not the camera, the tools or editing that makes the picture, it's the person with the vision that makes the picture. No tool could ever present a picture on its own and it is insulting to many talented photographers or artists to say the least. I believe that a great image comes from a person's ability to see beauty in the little and the big things. And we should appreciate this. 

A tool can only be as great as its owner. I truly never understood this. I always thought I needed the most expensive cameras, gadgets or so on to do the job. Though some tools does make the job easier to do, it is not the "ride or die" thing to have. What I learnt was that there's always going to be a cheaper and equivalent way to achieve the same results. 

But for now, I'll be showing you what I use for all my photography and such.

Sony DSLR Alpha 37 


On my one year anniversary in 2011, my boyfriend bought my first ever DSLR camera. We were in our first year of university and we barely were able to have money to go to fancy restaurants and such, and he still managed to scrap as much money as he could to get me this camera, including additional parts. This camera has a lot of sentimental value to me and to this very day, it's the only camera I depend on. 

It's not the best on the market, it's not the highest priced camera and it's certainly not the most ideal camera but it gets the job done. I've had this camera for over 6 years and it's still going strong. It has all the functions I need to take the best shot and it definitely was an investment that I am so grateful to have. 

It's main specifications are;
  • 16.1 Megapixel Exmor CMOS Sensor
  • 2.6" Tilt-able LCD Monitor
  • Full HD 1920 X 1080 Video Recording
  • 15-Point Autofocus
  • 1SO 100-16000
Now that smartphones can now compete with DSLR camera, you honestly don't need a DSLR. You can just use the camera on your phone and with some editing, I can say it'll just look the same. 

Adobe Lightroom 6


The Adobe Lightroom 6 has been the one expensive program I did not regret purchasing. Though at first I didn't know what I was doing, I have grown so much by playing around with the settings on the program. It has taught me how to adjust various colours, mend some mistakes (e.g. removing dust particles, fix darkened areas... and so on) and amongst other things. 

Again, you do not have to have this program. This is what I am using and it is something I thought is worth the investment that worked for me. There is a lot of neat little things that I can definitely say has helped editing become easier. For example, saving presets of different styles of editing that I have created has helped me immensely to keep in theme with what I like. 


On the far right side, there are different settings that you can adjust on your photo so that you can bring the best vision forward to your liking. I often muck around with a lot of it and depending on the lighting I use on the day, it also changes as well. And this is where the presets come in handy. I have presets made for my minimalistic themes, my flatlays, my vanity lighting and so on. Now if you're even lazy, you can even go on websites such as "Creative Market" and you can purchase your presets from there. It doesn't cost much and it does save you a lot of time from playing around with the settings yourself. But if you want to truly learn, you just have to put in the hard yards and I can guarantee you, it'll be worth it in the end. You would gain a skill that no one else can teach you.

Now the great thing about this is that, it's now got a FREE mobile app! Obviously, there are some limitations but I just love it to edit on the go. This is especially convenient when I am editing on the go.

Snapseed

This is a google app that I was introduced to a while ago and it has been a complete life saviour! Even though I do greatly enjoy the Lightroom Mobile App and there are functions on it that I can't do on the snapseed, I much prefer being able to selectively target areas with the touch of my finger that the Lightroom App cannot deliver. You can sweep your finger over an area similar to brush strokes and it'll target that area specifically. There is also a selective parameter tool that helps you to target a specific area that you want to change the look of. You can adjust the brightness, contrast, saturation...etc in that one area. It's such a great tool that I seriously found has helped me get my editing game on point! There's also a healing tool that can help you fix little imperfections on your photos. I normally use this tool to fix pimples on the skin, remove a speck of dust on a surface and so on. 

There's just so much you can do with this one app! 

How to Edit, using the mains features in your app/program

Now you know what apps to use, what tools to use and what theme or style to aim for, I'm going to go through the different key features that I adjust on my photos.

Tones

You probably have heard or seen these features in any app/program. And the reason why it is in most editing programs is that they are the basic features that help adjust the photos to look the way you want it to look. I won't go into depth on what they are and what they do as you very much know already. But I'm going to share with you guys one of my tips and tricks on something that'll help you make every photo work!

Let's look at shadow. The "shadow" is the dark areas in the photo where the shadow would reside. By having a tab that helps you adjust that selected area is extremely handy. Sometimes the sun does harshly darken a shadow where we would want to show up. And here how shadow can make a huge difference. 
Shadow: -20

Shadow: 0

Shadow: +20
By adjusting this one key tool, you can see more clearly the features you want in your photo!

Like how this world turns, everything has an opposite. And in photography, you should be keeping this in mind. Everything in editing works in pairs and with "shadow", you should also be working to adjust the "highlight" in the photo too. So the colours would be more balanced. 

Next...

 Colour 

Now, unfortunately not all apps/programs have this feature. But I honestly find it is the make-or-break feature that helps you to be consistent with your photos, while also keeping in theme with your style.

On the Lightroom program, it looks like this. 

There is a range of colours that will be in your photos and you can control the saturation or brightness of that selected colour. For example, if you want your colours to sway more cool tone, you would increase the "aqua" or "blue" to the right in the saturation tab. But how I use this app is to control what colours appear most vibrant in a feature photo. So if the product that I am shooting is red, I would increase the "red" and "orange" saturation and then decrease the others (depending on the photo). This allows the photo to pop a little more and bring life to it. Definitely play around with the features and see what you can do. 

Now, have you wondered why your background is too blue? too yellow? Often this is due to the lighting you are using. But there is a way that can fix that. 

By adjusting the yellow or blue slider, you can eliminate the harshness of the yellow/blue hues that look horrendous in a photo. This one feature will change the littlest yet biggest difference in your photos. It'll make it look more professional, sophisticated and cleaner. 

Here is the difference that my editing has made to my photos. 

Original Photo

Decreased Blue and Yellow 

Full Editing
Now you're a pro - and you have all the tips and tricks up your sleeve. I would love to see what you guys have come up with or if you have any questions, I would love to hear it! Leave a comment below and I'll reply to you faster than I learnt all this. Haha! 

Happy editing guys! 



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