Every single photo that is posted here on A Globe Well Travelled has been edited in some way.
Photo editing is something I’ve been doing for a long time. It’s something that most, if not all, photographers do to boost the attractiveness of their photos.
Photo editing is not necessarily used to make photos look fake or unreal. I use editing programs to make my photos look a little more like the scene in front of me did in real-life. If you’ve ever heard the term “photos do not do it justice” when describing a place, you’ll know what I mean.
There’s a few easy adjustments that I make to get my Instagrams and blog photos looking good before I post them, though it’s important to realise a few key facts before editing your own travel photos:
- Editing can be overdone, and this happens all the time. Even I have been guilty of over-editing my photos, and I always find that my photos don’t look as good when this happens. Editing is best when it’s used lightly to boost the natural beauty of an image.
- Make sure your screen brightness it turned up before making any edits. I find it much easier to edit when my laptop/phone screen is at its brightest.
Choose your editing program:
I used Adobe Photoshop to edit my photos ever since I learned how to use the program in high school, but recently I switched to Adobe Lightroom. There were a few reasons for this, but the main reason is that Lightroom makes it easier to bulk-edit large amounts of photos, making it a faster process to go through all my travel snaps (and also it’s cheaper than Photoshop!).
For the following examples I’m going to use Lightroom, but you can use other programs such as Photoshop or even Instagram to these edits. Here are some simple editing tips for your travel photos!
1. Straighten + Crop
It’s extremely rare to have a hand-held photo come out straight. Unless we use a tripod, this is next to impossible. I use the straighten tool on 98% of my photos.
The easiest way to tell if a photo is straight is to look at the horizon – for example if there is a line where the land/ocean meets the sky, you can usually tell if this line goes straight across or if it’s on an angle. Another way to tell if your photo is straight is to look for straight lines in the centre of your photo, like the wall of a building.
I sometimes crop my photos as well. Cropping photos is good for removing unwanted parts of your photo (like if there was a random person standing in the corner) or making the photo more balanced. I cropped some of the beach out of this photo so that the sunset and my silhouette really stand out.
To straighten and crop your photo in Lightroom, use the ‘Crop & Rotate’ tool in the right hand tool bar. If you hold down ‘Shift’ on your keyboard while you’re cropping, it will keep the dimensions of your photo the same as the original.
2. Adjust Brightness/Exposure
This adjustment needs to be changed for nearly every photo. I notice that if I’m taking photos with my camera in auto-mode (which is usually the case), my photos often come out a little dark.
To fix this in Lightroom, step into ‘Edit’ mode in your toolbar, and push up the ‘Exposure’ setting to increase the brightness. I usually increase it by anywhere between 10 and 60 points – it really depends on how bright the photo is already.
It’s fashionable at the moment to post photos on Instagram that are so bright that they’re nearly over-exposed, so if you want to imitate this look, push your exposure up just a little higher than is necessary. You can also increase the ‘Shadows’ setting to do this with only the darker areas in your photo.
3. Increase Contrast
Contrast is the difference between the light and dark areas in your photo. If you increase this difference (ie. making the dark areas darker, and the light areas lighter) then it can give your photo more depth. Most photographers will increase the contrast a little on their photos.
It’s pretty easy to change the contrast in Lightroom. In ‘Edit’ mode, increase the ‘Contrast’ setting by 10 or so points until your photo looks good.
4. Increase Saturation
I will usually increase the saturation a little to brighten the colours in my photos, but saturation is something that should be used with caution. If overdone, it can make your photos look really awful!
In ‘Edit’ mode, scroll down to find the ‘Saturation’ setting. My general rule is to increase it by only 3-8 points in Lightroom. Any more than this and I think it’s too much.
5. Add Vignette
A vignette is when you darken the borders around the edge of a photo so that your eye is drawn towards the middle. This is a really useful tool to use when you have a subject in the centre of your photo.
To add a vignette, use the ‘Vignette’ setting in Lightroom. Instead of increasing the setting like we did with all the others, we actually want to reduce it to add a dark border. I’ll adjust it by about -10 points for a fairly natural look.
6. Colour adjustments
Colour adjustments are the icing on the cake when it comes to making a photo look dazzling! There are a few ways that you can adjust the colours in your photo:
- Temperature – This basically adds a yellow tone to make your photo feel warmer. I increased my temperature by 6 points in this photo.
- Tint – This is similar to temperature but it adds a pink tone instead. I increased my tint by 8 points in this photo.
- Split Toning – This one is a little more complicated, but it can produce great results if done right. With Split Toning, you can change the colour tone of the dark areas (Shadows) or the light areas (Highlights) of your photo. I added some purple to the shadows, and some orange to the highlights to bring out the colours of the sunset.
And there you have it! I just totally changed the look of this photo I took on Fraser Island. What do you think? Could you use these adjustments in editing your own travel photos?
If you want to use Lightroom but are a little intimidated by all the tools and settings (there are so many!) then you can buy Lightroom presets instead. Lightroom Presets are basically a set of pre-loaded settings that you can apply to any photo.