Inexpensive post-production software can make you and your snapshots look good.
Thanks to readily available post-production software, it is a myth that taking good pictures requires expensive and exotic equipment. A comment I often hear goes something like, “I really enjoy your photos. You must have an expensive camera.”
I always want to respond, “I hear you’re a good cook. You must have a great stove.”
Post-production in photography, the “sprucing up” of your photos using image editing software, can greatly improve your satisfaction even if you most often use your camera to make phone calls. No doubt, superior equipment can give a photographer an edge, especially when it comes to the advantages of expensive lenses but, beyond that, most of the features of high-end cameras offer professional photographers higher productivity and better control of (rare) difficult shots; they do not make them better at composition and post-production.
In every ordinary shooting scenario. a good photographer with a modest, point-and-shoot camera will take better photos than a novice with an expensive rig .
But there is a very important step in the photography process that many snapshot shooters overlook. Post-production, that is the cropping, adjusting, correcting and filtering of your photos after they are shot.
Once you know how to use it—and some very powerful adjustments can be simple to master—modern post-production software makes these adjustments embarrassingly easy. Post-production software comes in all varieties of cost and complexity. Some programs for professional use are expensive and challenging to use but many are simpler, not difficult to master and affordable. Even free.
In this article, I explain what I mean by post-production with a brief example. In a follow up post to come, I will offer opinions on how to choose post-production software and learn to work with it in ways that can dramatically improve all the pictures you take.
A Simple Example
In this example, we’ll look at an original snapshot taken in unexceptional (poor) light with a point and shoot camera.
Above is the original snapshot; a decorated wall on the side of a house on Even-Sapir Street in Jerusalem. The photo is dark, the colors are dull and unsaturated. Neighborhood buildings, a distracting window, treetops and an uneven roof-line are visible.
This first adjustment—brightening up the image—is as simple as moving a slider in most post-production software programs and positioning it at the the point at which the image simply “looks good.” You could do that, right?
The second adjustment—photo above—is after applying a crop (square format for, in this case, posting to Instagram) and increasing contrast. Gone are the distracting sidewalk, trees, window and roof-line. The image is simpler and the increased contrast deepens the color.
One more adjustment, a boost in saturation (4. below) produces the final image.
That’s it. After a few, quick steps that could be done in virtually any post-production software program, the original dull photo is brighter, simpler and better composed. The post-production steps in this simple example only scratch the surface of what could be done but, in less than five minutes, they dramatically improved the shot.
In an upcoming post, I’ll discuss software options, from pricey to free, that can empower even the most casual snapshot shooter to significantly improve his or her photography in no time at all.