Park Photography Tips & Tricks: Part 2 – Editing & Sharing
Continuing with this series (part one here,) we now dive into the world of post-production, which is all about what to do with your images after you shoot them. This ranges from sharing them via social media, all the way up to getting them professionally printed.
Storage & Organization
Out of everything that you do with your images, this is the most vital. You always want to store your pictures on local media, such as hard drives, DVDs, or BluRays. NEVER store your pictures in online storage. Facebook, Flickr, even Dropbox or iCloud are not permanent solutions to storing your pictures. Not only do you lose quality in your images when you upload them to sites like Facebook and Flickr, but sites that are a cloud storage such as Dropbox and iCloud, anything can happen to them. If the service is discontinued, then you’re out of luck and you lose your pictures forever.
Backups are highly recommended, as hard drives can be very finicky and can die at any given moment. I’ve heard it many times before, years and years of pictures were lost because they were on a hard drive that crashed and the person had no backup. Many operating systems have backup features already built in, such as File History in Windows 10 or macOS’s Time Machine. These are fairly simple to setup and only require an external hard drive. My recommendation is always get an external drive 2x bigger than your main computer’s storage. So if you have a computer with a 500GB hard drive, get a 1TB external. Solid state drives, or SSDs are now becoming more affordable than they’ve ever been and are more reliable than traditional hard drives with spinning platters. Speeds are also great, which not only makes file transfers faster, but can also make your programs run quicker. SSDs are mainly only used for running your computer off of them, but unless your computer has built-in USB 3.0 or a faster connection like Thunderbolt, stick to traditional hard drives for external storage as SSDs are very costly in the 1TB range.
There are various programs and ways to store your images, but what I’ve learned is that the easiest way for beginners is to just copy and paste them from your memory card to your storage device and organize them in folders by date. Don’t cut and paste because if something happens to your memory card while your transferring, you could lose the image that’s in mid-transfer. If you do plan on doing some editing to your pictures, this method is not always best to use. You can use programs like Adobe’s Bridge, to not only import your pictures, but you can also have it organize your pictures to your liking and also uses Adobe’s Camera RAW editor to edit your pictures.
Programs like Lightroom and Photos for macOS use their own ways to store images. These use “Libraries” that store your images in a single, organized location. Using these programs for storage are more preferred because they’re not only an organizer, but an editor as well.
After you get your images imported, start going through them to see which ones are good. Most programs use a star rating system. Use 5 stars to mark good images, use 1 starts to mark bad images. Images that are out of focus, blurry, noisy, too dark or too bright, omit them immediately because even with heavy amounts of editing, the image cannot be saved. Bad images will always be bad.
After you’ve decided on the images you like and they look good, you can then start the editing process.
At this point, you’re probably wondering why I had you shoot in RAW. Not only will you get the best image coming out of your camera, it’ll make editing pictures much easier and harder for you to accidentally cause permanent changes to the image. The big issue with shooting in JPEG images is that they’re much easier to accidentally save permanent changes to the image. Programs like Photos or Lightroom won’t ever touch your RAW images, they’ll only use them as a base and any changes that you do to them are instantly reversible, even after saving. Your camera also does some tweaking to JPEGs that can also make your pictures less sharp, or create some unwanted effects.
All photo editors, no matter if they’re on a phone or on an expensive photo editing program, all use the same basic editing tools: exposure and color control. If you took the picture with a correct exposure, you shouldn’t have to worry about messing around with the exposure settings too much. Now of course, you’ll hardly ever get a perfect shot where you don’t have to adjust anything at all, but with a little tweaking, a good image can become a great image. There’s a whole lot more I can explain about how to edit an image and all of the various programs out there, but I’m only going to go through the basics that most offer.
Depending on the program, these are the basic tools underneath exposure control:
- Exposure – increases or decreases the general exposure of the image.
- Contrast – increases or decreases the differences between the light and dark areas.
- Highlights – controls the brighter areas of the images.
- Shadows – controls the darker areas of the images.
If you’ve correctly exposed your image, you shouldn’t have to mess with the exposure setting. Contrast should be used to make the image less flat, meaning making the shadows a bit darker and the highlights a bit more brighter. Most images coming out of today’s cameras tend to be on the flat side, so by adding a notch or two of contrast should make your image look much better. After you adjust the contrast, you might notice your sky seems a bit washed out and too bright. Using the highlight control, you can bring down the brighter areas in your image and then it should bring out more detail such as a sky with clouds. Same thing with shadows, if you notice that you’ve got a darker area in an image that you want to be a bit brighter, the shadow control can help brighten the darker areas. Be cautious though with the shadow control. Brightening a darker area in an image can raise the noise level in those areas, so only use the shadow control sparingly!
Color is pretty self-explanatory, but adjusting a few things such as the color temperature and vibrancy can help make an image pop.
- Temperature (White Balance) – majority of the time, your camera should set this correctly under auto-white balance, but if your whites seems a bit too blue or too orange, this can be used to correct it.
- Saturation – controls all of the color levels to overly bright or completely void of color. DO NOT USE THIS TO MAKE BLACK & WHITE IMAGES!
- Vibrancy – similar to saturation, but vibrancy will only increase sharp colors, it will not over saturate skin tones.
- Black & White – usually a separate adjustment, this will give you more control over your black and white image than just de-saturating your image.
In conjunction with exposure, if you add a bit of vibrancy and making sure your white balance is correct, it should help bring out the colors in your pictures and as we all know, roller coasters and rides can be very colorful. Overly saturating the color in an image can be a bad thing though. Too bright and it could make your pictures look too fake. Making an image black and white doesn’t always solve color problems, and is only recommended to use if you have a good image to begin with. More artistic shots will sometimes work better as black and white images, but if you’ve got a very bright and colorful ride against a bright blue sky, don’t turn it black and white as it more than likely will look better as color.
Back in the day before we had these social media networks on the internet, people actually used to share pictures with a physical picture (surprisingly!) You can still get your images printed and there are many places that do offer more professional printing services such as ProLabExpress, or the built-in printing services Apple has integrated into their Photos app, but a majority of people today would rather share their images over the Internet than getting them printed.
Sharing on a phone
Sharing pictures off of your phone is the easiest way to get your images out to the world. Sometimes though, apps don’t always use a high quality image when they upload them to their sites. To make sure your phone uploads the highest quality image it can, check your settings. Twitter for example, you can adjust the quality of the images uploaded in your settings. Facebook is a bit more difficult to adjust quality. They can auto-correct your images for you, but sometimes the results are not very good. Double-check your settings though to make sure that auto-corrector is OFF.
For Live Photos on the iPhone 6S and newer, Facebook seems to be the only social media site that is compatible with these pictures through their mobile app, but you can use them as your phone’s lock screen and experience that scene over and over again. As a forewarning though, make sure you use Photos on macOS to import them onto your computer, otherwise you might lose the “Live” part on the image if you try to use a different program.
Now onto my least favorite part of today’s Internet generation: filters. My stance: only use them on very good pictures and use them sparingly! Don’t use them on every single image you take, just use it on ones you deem appropriate and are a good, quality image. Like I mentioned before, make sure you take an original picture first using the built-in camera app, then use the app’s photo uploading to share it and add the filters on. If you take the picture through the app, it might cause the filter to be permanently embedded on your image when its saved on your phone.
Be wary of your data usage. Uploading pictures does use your data, but now that more parks are offering free in-park WiFi, use that instead when you upload pictures. Also, on busy days at parks, the cell network can come down to a crawl. If it doesn’t work well, don’t upload pictures yet and wait until you get home or try to find a WiFi spot to upload them.
Sharing on a Computer
If you’ve got your pictures edited on your computer, it does take a couple more steps than uploading a picture to your phone, but the processes is similar. Like I said previously, these sites should not be used for archive purposes, only to share with the world.
After editing your pictures, many all-in-one editing programs like Photos or Lightroom will allow you to share them directly with the major social media networks and photo sharing sites. Just need to login using your credentials on those sites and it’ll be as simple as selecting the images you want and pressing the “Share” button. They’ll export them using a good quality and will upload them without too much trouble.
Since I’m one of those that believe that if you take the image, then it’s yours and you can do whatever you want with it but no one else can use it without your permission, I do use watermarks on my images. They could be as something simple and discrete as I’ve done, which is my name and year I published, or really elaborate with a logo and a studio name. Personally, the simpler the better. I like to make it rather discrete so that it’s only a little noticeable and not obnoxious like with bold green text or it taking up 50% of the image. This doesn’t always guarantee that someone won’t steal your image, but also modifying your metadata and embedding your name into it can also put another level of security to your images. My camera will automatically do this for me so then every time I take an image, it automatically credits me as the creator and also throws on a copyright. You’ll have to dive into your camera’s settings to see if your camera will do this.
If you would like to print your images, many programs will get your images ready for you so then you’ll just have to get it uploaded to the site of your choosing. If you own an Apple computer, their new Photos app offers you the ability to send your pictures directly to their printer without too much hassle and are very affordable. You can also order cards, books, and calendars as well and they’ll ship them to your house in about 1-2 weeks. My favorite printing service is a local company called ProLabExpress, and they will ship anywhere in the US. They not only offer just basic printing services, but they also do any specialty printing, such as buttons, iPhone cases, coffee mugs, ornaments, canvas prints, and much more. If you do decide to get your pictures printed, make sure that you crop your images to the correct size, such as 4×6, 5×7, or 8×10. If you don’t crop your images before you send them off, the printing service might not crop them the way you want and you end up wasting money because the picture doesn’t look right.
Well, that’s pretty much the final step, but what I’ve explained in the last 2 posts is just barely scratching the surface of photography in general. I could make 100’s of posts on the subject, but that’s not what this site is about. If you’re serious on wanting to learn more than I explained, take a class or read a book! Most colleges and even some high schools offer photography classes that go into the basics of shooting and editing. Most of what I’ve explained comes right out of a Photography 101 class I took at my college.
I’ve taken several photography classes and was taught by some of the best photography professors in my area, both in digital and film media. I’ve been at this now for several years and I have a pretty good knowledge base when it comes to photography. If you have any questions or if you need any recommendations, please ask below in the comments!