In the old days, only professional photographers and students had proper access to a darkroom, where they would develop and edit their shots to their heart’s content. In these modern times, however, things are a little different. The darkroom is now software, and the film used to take photos are now digital files. And it means that anyone with a little post-production knowledge is capable of adding a little sheen and dramatic license to their travel photos – even before they get home.
Let’s face it – nothing is worse than experiencing something amazing while traveling, only to find that the shot you took didn’t quite do it justice. But with a little tweaking, it’s possible to rescue your favorite shots and create something that takes you back to that perfect spot – in no time at all. Let’s take a look at some simple editing and post-production techniques that can really make a difference.
Some of you might be wondering about the best editing tools to use – and it’s not too much of a surprise. Something like Adobe Photoshop is professional-class, but unless you want to spend a year or two getting to grips with it, there are other options available. Your phone probably has a small editing suite in it already, and there are plenty of apps out there – like Snapseed and VSCO – that can do a great job. Ultimately, it’s all down to how much you want to spend, and how much you are willing to learn. Now, let’s take a look at some of the techniques you should master in the post-production process.
Use RAW files
Ask any professional photography what file format they use, and almost all of them will impress the importance of using RAW files. It’s the same principle if you were to take some Photoshop training – RAW gives you a lot more control over the editing process. If you’re just getting started in photography, it’s probably best to use JPG, but as you progress you’ll find that RAW files allow you so much flexibility when it comes to editing, and you’ll be able to turn an average shot into an excellent one.
Cropping is such a simple tool to use, but it’s one of the most effective. It helps you remove unnecessary objects or distractions from your shot, change the framing from rectangular to square – or vice versa – and zoom into the intricate details of a single object should you wish. At the end of the day, not every shot you take will be perfectly framed, and cropping is the rescue remedy even professional photographers need all the time.
Horizons play a major role in photography, and so many people get it wrong. Whether you are taking a landscape shot of a large expanse of land, or a sea-based shot, it is essential that your final photo is level. It’s really one of the most basic compositional rules going, and one that is easily fixed with your editing software of choice. There’s a high chance that many of your travel shots will be of landscapes and horizons, so make use of your post-production tools to straighten things out afterward.
Vignettes are incredibly overused by the average person. Get them right, however, and they can make a seriously dramatic impact on your final photo. The idea isn’t to create a 1900s-style shot with darkened corners, it’s about putting the vignette to creative use. For example, in portraits, you can use them to bring the subject forward, so they are clearer to the eye – it only needs a light touch of dark to achieve this.
Contrast helps you get the visual impact you wanted with the shot in the first place. It’s all about making dark colors stand out better against brighter ones, and the results can be dramatic and creative in equal measure. Good contrasting can give you incredibly artistic silhouettes, and create moody, compelling imagery of people, places, and panoramas.
Finally, whatever editing software you use, it’s important to remember that the post-production process is all about finding the right balance between effects and the original photo. It’s easy to step over the line and go too far, and you can create some pretty garish results. There is a happy midpoint for every effect, and your job in the editing process is to find it.
If you have any more tips to add to improve your travel photos in the post-production process, feel free to leave them below!