Post processing is just a fancy way of saying “cleanup and polish up your photos in an image editor”. There are basic things you can do to almost every photo to improve it. In this quick start section, I can’t go into detail about each of these four basic tasks. I’ll let you know what they are here but you’ll need to do some further education to become proficient at them. The reason why I mention them in this quick start guide is because these four items alone are enough to dramatically improve almost all of your photos:

Cropping your photos means cutting off the parts of your photo that do not add to the quality of the photo. It is a sort of “zooming in” on the most interesting aspects of the photo. By learning to crop your photos, you give the appearance of always having captured the perfect composition and framing of the subject.

Here’s an original uncropped:

Now cropped… see how the feeling of the photo changes? It’s not all about the quarterback and not the stands and clutter in the background:

Levels (“fill light” or “contrast” as it is called in more basic software) is the ability to control the shadows, mid tones and highlights of a photograph. It is the overall lightness, darkness and contrast of your image. Typically, you will slightly increase the highlights, lighten the mid tones and darken the shadows a tiny amount. Not always, but often. By adjusting the levels you increase the contrast and richness of the image. Software like Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro allow you to independently adjust all three, where more basic software like Picasa or Windows Photo Gallery give you one control and the software does the thinking for you.

Saturation is adjusting the brightness and vibrancy of color. If you de-saturate a photo, you are moving it towards being a grayscale image.

If you saturate, it’s just the opposite. You are causing the colors to be more rich and intense. Typically you’ll want to increase the saturation on your images to help bring them to life. Be careful, as oversaturation looks unnatural and can easily ruin a photo.

Here’s an original:

Now with appropriate saturation that enhances the image:

Sharpening is a filter that gives the appearance of causing your photo to become more focused. Over-sharpening can cause an unnatural graininess where proper sharpening can transform a soft image into a spectacularly crisp photo. Except in photos where the blur is on purpose, sharpening is a terrific, and standard, improvement to your photos.

A soft, out of focus shot:

A sharp, in focus image:

These are some basics you need to learn. Snapping the photo is just the first step to great digital photography. Learning to use the software tools available to you to “post process” them, will take you to the next level.

Find out more about image editing as well as all the other stuff you wish you knew about digital photography in my newest guide “Digital Photography: The Guide They Should Have Given You When You Bought That Contraption“.  Click here for details

What are your questions about Digital Photography?

PS: WHAT ARE YOUR QUESTIONS FOR ME? Ask here. Want to book me for training, speaking or business consulting? Go here. If you benefitted from this post, would you be so kind to share this post with others by clicking one of the SHARE buttons?

Have you seen the EPIC BOOK? Over 400 big pages packed with tips, tricks, instruction and lessons learned from 15+ of blogging and being online. Click here for some more information...