I get asked a lot about what camera I use / how I edit blog photos, and today I thought I would share a bit about how things work for me after a picture is taken and before I share them with the world. Although having an eye for composition and knowledge of proper camera settings is definitely key to taking and publishing good pictures, what’s done to the photo in post-production can still make or break a photograph.
This post might also serve as a crash-course introduction to using Lightroom, so there’s that. Two-in-one? Works for me. Ok so let’s dig in: the 6 tricks I use to enhance my images for posts, social-sharing and more!
1. Shoot in RAW
The importance of shooting in RAW versus shooting in JPEG is the fact that with RAW you have the image in its purest, most unprocessed form, and you can really do a lot to a photo without compromising the quality of it. When an image is shot in JPEG, the contrast, sharpening, black level, lighting, and compression are adjusted to make the JPEG file all on the camera. By shooting in RAW you’re creating an image that can be built upon using some of the other points below.
If the post-production side of photography is not something you’re interested in or want to do every time you take a picture, then JPEG would be better. But for me, I love photo editing and seeing what my photographs turn out to be is kind of the best. The flexibility of RAW especially in travel photos is worth it enough for me to keep using it.
Want to learn more? Check out these posts I have found across the world-wide-web:
Raw vs. JPEG Overview
10 Reasons Why You Should Be Shooting RAW
RAW vs JPEG
2. Invest in Lightroom
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom may have been one of the best purchases I have ever made when it comes to software. I spent years trying to figure out how to properly edit my photos in iPhoto, Photoshop Elements and Photoshop, but I couldn’t ever put out anything super consistent or something that didn’t take me less than 10-15 minutes per photo (ridiculous), until I found Lightroom.
I currently have Lightroom 5, and have no desire to look anywhere else when it comes to post-processing software. It literally has everything I ever wanted in a photo-editor, and…. get this… I can batch edit my photos. Meaning with one click of a button I can edit all 20+ photos in a series exactly the same. This is super beneficial if I have a group of photos that was taken generally around the same time (same lighting). I can honestly say I don’t spend more than 30 minutes editing my photos now, and the longest part of creating a blog post is actually writing it!
3. Learn about highlighting, shadows, contrast and saturation
The best way to learn is to experiment! Figure out what each of the little settings do for the photo, and how you can work with that RAW photograph (or JPEG if you prefer) to really make it shine! Remember you can always ‘undo’ something if you get a little too extreme. :)
When taking a photo in RAW the colors may not be picked up as vividly as what you see with your naked eye. Trust me, this is completely normal (as I said before, RAW is the purest most unprocessed version of the image), and with a little saturation and color tweaking in Lightroom or you preferred photo-editing software, you can really make a photo come to life! Be careful about OVER editing your images though, unless that’s what you’re going for. I know the post-processing stage of a photo is really when a photographer becomes and artist and develops a style of their own. Some enjoy bringing out the HD elements of a photo, some enjoy over-accentuating or under-accentuating certain details, some enjoy strictly black and white, while others would rather barely mess with a photo. Listen to me all are just fine to do. Photo-editing is very much like painting…everyone has their own taste and style — what one person may like to do, another may not. Photography (much like any other art form) is about interpretation and the way you see beauty in things. Enjoy and don’t hesitate or be scared to create!
4. Sharpen those photos!
After you have figured out all the fun little photo tweaks, your last step will be to sharpen your photos. Sometimes this doesn’t work well for print, so just keep that in mind. However, if you’re using the photo for any sort of digital work, you can really make the features of that photo pop just a bit more by sharpening it a smidge! When I post a photo to Instagram, sharpening makes a HUGE difference to me.
5. Use Presets
I know you re-read the heading above twice. “Wait Amanda, did you say USE filters?” Yes, some post-processing presets (aka filters), especially for Lightroom, work really well to bring your RAW photos to the next level…and with the click of the button can turn your photo from, “Eh it’s an ok photo” to “Holy crap, I took this?!” It’s not cheating, it’s just a preset that does all of the above (sharpen, highlights, low lights, contrast, color-fixes and more) in a click of a button.
I highly recommend taking a peek at the VSCO film presets. I have 4 film packages and use them all on different occasions for pretty much everything. I started with one set and came to realize how phenomenal they were with keeping my photos ‘themed’ as far as similar color, mood, and style: I kept buying more film sets! It’s an addiction, and I need an intervention. Or maybe I don’t — I love them too much.
The only word of caution I’m going to say here is, if you’re looking to share more ‘realistic’ photos, make sure it’s not your preset that shines, but the photo itself!
6. Proper sizing is key
This one is a little tricky, especially with retina screens out on the market, and learning the prime sharing sizes for social media. I’m just going to say with this one, keep it down to a manageable size ok? There is absolutely no reason you should be uploading your blog post photos at 5000px by 8000px (aka 3MB+++). Ultimately, if you can keep your photos below 1MB each (I would say a proper file size would be 200-500KB), and the width of your content area, you’ll be golden. Not only will this increase your blog post load time, but you won’t be annoying readers by having them wait for your gorgeous photos to appear around all that text!
For Facebook, you want to load your images at 2048px wide. Why this is the magic number I don’t know, but trust me, it keeps compression down to a minimum!
For Instagram, I’ve learned the magic is in editing BEFORE you add it to your Insta-feed. I was having the hardest time for a while with my photos publishing to my feed all crappy and grainy, only to realize if I (for some weird reason) used the Instagram editing tools on a full resolution photo, my photo would get compressed. By not using the editing tools and publishing the photo right away instead, my photos come out clear as crystal. Weird thing I know. If you’ve had problems in the past, maybe this trick will help you too!
All in all, the more you play with photo-editing, the comfortable you will get with it an the more familiar you will be with the little adjustments. I really feel like Lightroom does a great job for both the beginner and the pro, so if you’re on the fence about it, I say just go with the trial version for a month and see what you think! This is not a sponsored post, I just want to make sure you’re using the proper tools to get you to where you need to be on the editing front, if that’s what is important to you!
Do you have any secrets that make your photos stand out: both on your blog or social media? I’d love for you to share them in the comments below!
Want to learn all about what equipment (camera and lenses) I use to take my photos? Check it out here.