Image Editing

by Joe Zapert

Before editing an image, you need to know what its message is.
What is being communicated? Keep this in mind as you work.

Why edit images?

We almost always need to spend some energy editing photos after they come out of the camera. The improvements can be drastic.

Even illustrations, previously-edited images,  and professional imagery can benefit because our goal in using the image may be different from the original.

Just like a piece of written work, digital images need edits and revisions. Create multiple versions of your work and select the best one.

image editing can:

  • re-compose photos to add new focal points, add tension & interest, draw the eye
  • correct for imperfections (in the subject, environment, in the capture equipment)
  • add to or alter the content of an image to communicate something different
  • doesn’t necessarily detract from the “authenticity” or “integrity” of a photo

1. Composition/cropping/rotation

  • The boundaries of the image almost always need to be changed.
  • What is the point of interest in the photo? Consider cropping far in to the interest point.
  • Are the elements that are extraneous or that detract from the message/focal point? Consider cropping them out.
  • Improve the tension of the photo using the “rule of thirds.
  • Would the image benefit from rotation?

2. Exposure & Color Balance

  • In Photoshop, adjust the Levels (sometimes called “histogram”) to eliminate blank areas to the left and right of the graph.
  • In levels, try setting the white point, black point, and maybe the grey point (using the eyedroppers in the Levels tool).
  • In levels, try “Auto.
  • In amateur tools, experiment with fixes like: “Auto-Correct”,”Exposure”, “White Balance”, “Highlight/Shadow.”

3. Defects and Distractions

  • Look for defects like scratches, dust, lens flares, even skin problems.
  • Consider using tools to remove distracting elements when possible
  • In Photoshop, use Spot Healing Brush. In amateur tools, try “Touch Up”

4. Effects

  • Achieve “effects” using the extreme settings of correction tools. Experiment and combine the tools (don’t forget to save an effects-less version first).
  • Consider trying to “pop” the foreground by applying effects only to the background. (use the Lasso tool).
  • Usually avoid tools actually labeled “effects” — the results are rarely good.

5. Placement

  • Where does your image belong in relationship to the rest of your content (e.g. article)?
  • What is the best way to place multiple images in relationship to the others?
  • Usually be sure images don’t interrupt the flow of writing. Wrap text.
  • Take care that images don’t overlap or stair-step (unless it’s a desired effect).

Online Tools:

  • Photoshop.com (simple, elegant editing and photo management)
  • Picnik.com (editing with more advanced options)
  • Pixlr.com (very advanced, like Photoshop application. Few ‘express’ tools.)

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