Back in September I wrote a post about how I edit my iPhone photos using Snapseed and VSCO (you can find that post here), and I’ve been wanting to do a follow-up post ever since on how I edit my camera photos on my computer. I take almost all of my blog photos as well as a lot of my Instagram photos with an SLR or mirrorless camera, and I always start the editing process in Photoshop.
I’m definitely not an expert in Photoshop. I know of and use maybe 10% of the features. But I’ve edited a sh*t ton of photos in my life and this process is what I’ve settled on in the last year or so. This is a quick and easy way to edit photos on a laptop to make them bright and clean using Photoshop. If you don’t have Photoshop, they now offer a monthly subscription service – $10/month for both Lightroom and Photoshop – and I think that’s absolutely worth it for anyone taking loads of SLR photos. You can do so many amazing things with your photos using Photoshop – this little tutorial is just the tip of the iceberg!
[ Step 1 ] Open your photo in Photoshop Raw. Actually the first step should be “start shooting in RAW format” (read why here) but it’s not a necessity. If your photo is in RAW format, just open it in Photoshop like any other photo and the Raw Editor will pop up automatically. If you’ve got a jpeg, open your photo via the Open dialog, click the “Options” button at the bottom, and select “Camera Raw” under the Format dropdown.
[ Step 2 ] If your original photo is in RAW format, open the “Lens Correction” tab (the 6th icon on the right panel). Then select “Enable Profile Corrections”. This will fix lens problems such as distortion, vignetting, and perspective correction.
Notice the darker corners and borders in the left photo compared to the right photo. That’s the vignetting being removed.
[ Step 3 ] Navigate to the Transform panel (the 8th icon in the top menu) if you’ve got some perspective issues like I do here. My photo is somewhat rotated but I also took the photo closer to the right side of the crib than to the left and that created some horizontal skewing. Photoshop Raw has an amazing automatic transformation (works perfectly 80% of the time for me). If auto transform doesn’t work, the right-most button lets you draw your own guides (trace along lines that aren’t horizontal and vertical but should be horizontal or vertical).
Check out how the crib and framed art lines are all straight now in the right photo.
[ Step 4 ] Now it’s time to do the bulk of the editing! Go back to the Zoom panel (the first icon in the top menu) to edit exposure, white balance, etc. I start with everything below “Exposure” because I pretty much always use the same values for these properties (see the above screenshot for my usual numbers). I then up the exposure and go back to tweak the other numbers just a touch depending on the photo itself. Lastly I adjust white balance. Outdoor photos usually have pretty good white balance, but for most indoor photos I lower the temperature quite a bit (move the slider to the left) and make the tint a touch more pink (move the slider to the right).
The photo on the left is significantly brighter and cooler than the photo on the right. Blacks also pop out more and the colours are a little more vibrant.
Note: If you’re wondering why I lowered whites and highlights when I’m so pro-bright whites, it’s because brightening a photo with exposure is a much nicer way of achieving that clean, white look. You don’t get that over-exposed, overly contrasty look this way. Lowering whites and highlights and then compensating that darkening with upping the exposure a bit more makes whites more uniform, which makes them look cleaner (and less contrasty).
[ Step 5 ] I do a little further colour correction on most of my indoor photos via the “HSL / Grayscale” tab (the fourth icon). The whites are still a little blue and purple tinged in this photo so I lowered the saturation of those two colours. Since this particular photo has an aqua pillow and framed picture, lowering the blue desaturated those two items a little too much for my liking, so I upped the aqua to make up for it. Desaturating specific colours really depends on the photo and your subject. In my house I have hardly any yellows, greens, blues, or purples, so desaturating any of those colours usually works to get my whites desaturated to a truer white but the difference really is minimal. So feel free to skip this step, especially if you have a lot of colour in your photo. Like I said, the difference is hardly noticeable (but I’m a perfectionist when it comes to white haha).
The whites on the left are still blue-tinged vs. the left where whites are now more desaturated.
[ Step 6 ] If you want to brighten skin tones just a touch, up the oranges and yellows a bit in the “Luminance” tab.
It’s hard to tell since Nicolas is so small in this picture, but his skin is just a little brighter which gives him a nice, flattering glow.
[ Step 7 ] If you want to go a step further to brighten your whites, you can do so using the adjustment brush, like I did here to brighten the wall a touch more. The adjustment brush lets you paint on your picture and adjust individual properties of the painted surface (the part painted “red” in my picture). I upped the exposure and highlights a bit, lowered shadows and blacks to make sure any darks I accidentally painted didn’t brighten up, lowered saturation to further desaturate my wall, and lowered contrast a bit to make it a little more even.
Note: To be honest, I hardly ever do this. For blog photos I don’t feel the need to brighten the whites any further since that crisp, white look is more for my Instagram. And, for Instagram photos that I first edit in Photoshop, I’ll brighten the whites in Snapseed, which I find easier. (Tutorial for that here.)
The difference is really hard to see unless you overlay the images, but the crib rails are now a bit brighter as is the space above the crib.
And here it is again: the before and after. What do you think? What are your favourite ways to edit your photos and what filters do you use?
One last side note: I also get a lot of questions about what camera(s) I use. I answered that question in my recent Top 10 FAQs post. Here I’m using my Nikon full-frame SLR.