I was asked to write a blog post about photo editing. I’m probably not the best person for this job because I try to do as little as possible. I try to capture the image I’m looking for ‘in-camera’. While I know there are many photographers that do amazing work creating luscious photos from their imagination using Photoshop,  (Zenith_Ardor comes to mind) ; that’s not me. So for now, I will simply get the conversation started.

With so many people new to photography the question of should I edit and how much is quickly followed by which apps should I use?

I will tackle the first question then guide you to some tried and true apps to help you realize your vision. Because that’s what editing is for, a tool to help you to realize your vision and to help you to tell your story more effectively.

Personally I always think you should edit your photos to some degree, be it to adjust contrast, density, etc., or simply to remove distractions like dust spots; it’s a rare photo that doesn’t need a little editing love. Of course how you do it, and to what degree, is an artistic choice that only you can make. Through the magic of editing you will not only improve your photographs, but you can create a unique image style.

Galadriel - unedited

Galadriel – unedited

When it comes to editing Photoshop, Lightroom and Aperture (RIP) are your best friends. For non destructive editing and the ability to create magic from nothing, Photoshop is the ‘go to’ application for almost every serious photographer. You need to know this app to be able to edit your photographs with ultimate control, create the perfect lightsaber effects, combine unusual backgrounds with your toys and to remove those pesky strings and wires that help make your toys ‘fly’. At some point, you will need to know how to utilize Photoshop.

Galadriel - quick PS edit

Galadriel – quick PS edit (still needs some work)

But like all things, you don’t want to overdo your edits. Spectacular edits will only take you so far, you need to have a story to tell; otherwise they will only be a distraction to the original image. Your edits should enhance your photograph, not distract from it. Also too much change can degrade an image to the point that it can only be enjoyed in small scale. The larger you plan to print your image, the closer it needs to be to the original file. It’s amazing what looks good small, looks down right awful when you enlarge it. If you’re planning on exhibiting your work, my advice would be to skip the crazy filters and keep it simple. If you create a great image in-camera, your edits should only enhance what’s already there, rather than overwhelm it.

But I’m also a realist. When your primary means of exhibiting your images is through a social media channel, sometimes you need to add a bit of “Wow” to get noticed. Luckily there are many apps that will let you edit your photos and add a bit of pizzaz without having to spend a few hundred hours learning Photoshop.

I know I have said this before: I like to treat Instagram like my sketchbook. I like to try out different ideas, see how far I can take an edit, see how people react to a particular figure or story line and then I take that information and create new images. Basically I like to keep it loose. But I know plenty of photographers who only release their best images onto social media. They always want to have their best foot forward and only release work they’re proudest of. I can appreciate this sentiment since once an image has been uploaded to the internet, it’s there forever. But then again, I view photography as an artistic medium and I say go crazy, use all the amazing apps available to you and see how far you can take an image. Make a few mistakes along the way and learn something.

Above all have some fun!

Galadriel - Ipad edit WM

Galadriel – Snapseed edit (closest to my ‘vision’)

In the spirit of creativity and the brave new world of mobile applications I have created a list of apps you might want to check out. First is a short list of general purpose photo editing applications:

  • Snapseed (my favorite)
  • Photoshop (mobile)
  • Camera+
  • PhotoEditor
  • PicsArt
  • Pixlr
  • VSCO
  • Fhotoroom (Windows)
  • Aviary (Android)

Most of these I have purchased at some point but discarded because I like the simplicity of Snapseed as well as the flexibility of it’s editing tools. But that doesn’t mean that one of these other apps I have listed isn’t going to be just perfect for you. Be sure and check them out and ask your friends what they use and why. Also don’t discount Instagram’s own filters and editing functions. With the last big upgrade you can achieve some pretty impressive basic edits under the “tool” function.

While you’re playing around looking for your perfect all around photo editor, check out these specialty apps.

  • Black – emulates different b & w films
  • Noir – super funky b & w effects
  • LensFX – Hollywood style special effects
  • LensFlare – otherworldly light effects
  • LensLight – add Bokeh, light leaks etc…
  • ImageBlender – combine two images
  • Photo – combine text with pictures
  • IWatermark+ – create custom watermarks

But no matter what method you choose to pursue, your edits should never over power the image or the story you are trying to tell. You want your edits to support your image, not over shadow it.

~ xxSJC

What are your favorite photo editing apps?