Visit any online photo gallery to see which images get the most comments and awards. Would you like to know how they do it?
What you don’t know is the Web gallery picture has been altered. The secret to award winning photography is cleverly improving and correcting the original photograph through image manipulating software.
Starting With a Draft
Photography uses a workflow similar to writing. In writing, you start with a draft and manipulate the words until satisfied with the final product. You are right now reading the result of multiple false starts, rewrites, and editing.
Think of the camera image as a raw draft of an article. (Did you know there is an image format called “camera raw?”) Taking new shots is like starting over with a new draft. Once satisfied you have a good starting point for your photo, it’s time for the edit.
With film cameras, developers used various techniques to alter the print of the original negative. Dodging (blocking light) and burning (concentrating light) were popular methods of correcting exposure in the darkroom.
Digital cameras and Photoshop lets you skip the darkroom altogether. Correcting exposure with the dodge and burn tools in Photoshop is so much easier than the old method. Blemishes once hidden by painstaking airbrushing are gone in seconds using Photoshop clone and heal tools.
Digital Photo Editing
If you own a digital camera, chances are you have already captured an award winning photograph. Don’t believe me? Then try the following exercise.
Browse through your digital photos looking for a few good shots and open one in Photoshop Elements. Go to adobe.com to download a 30-day trial if you don’t have this software loaded on your computer.
The first edit to think about is cropping the photo. If the photo shows a wide field with the subject standing in the center, cropping out the extra background brings the subject more in focus. If necessary, make the subject appear off center using the Rule of Thirds.
With cropping done, check for overexposed areas and use the burn tool to correct them. Conversely, use the dodge tool to lighten underexposed areas.
Other corrections to look for include checking the shadows and highlights, fixing any blemishes by cloning and healing and adjusting color levels.
Finally, consider adding an artistic touch such as a vignette. Maybe this photo would look better with a sepia treatment or perhaps in black and white. Don’t be afraid to experiment with the different filters provided by the software.
Notice how each editing step improves the overall quality of the shot. This is the secret to award winning photography.
You can spend over a thousand dollars on a digital SLR camera to get great results from your photography but don’t think it’s necessary to break your budget for award winning photos. Consider two other items first.
1. Use the Rules of Composition to improve your shot quality. Learning how to compose your shots will lessen the amount of editing needed later.
2. Create award winning photos by correcting and improving them in Photoshop software.
I look forward to seeing your top quality photos on the Web soon!