3 Steps to Perfect Photos

3 Steps to Perfect Photos

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Do your photos let you down?  Do they lack the vividness of what you really saw?   Don’t worry, it happens to everyone.  Here are three simple steps to transform photos.  We use Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 to manage and edit our photos.  We think it’s the best program out there to organize, edit and share your photos available.  Best of all, it’s less than $100 and works on both Macs and PCs.  Lightroom keeps us sane as we photograph our trip around the world.

Here are the three most important steps we do to perfect our photos.  All examples are from India and Nepal where traveled  during months 16-21 of our trip.

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1. MANAGING FOR SUCCESS

Before you even start editing, managing an ever growing digital shoebox of photos is the most important step.  There is no point in letting bad photos you take distract you from those that you’ll treasure forever.  Don’t let your gems get lost in a sea of blurry, blah, shots, delete the bad ones straight away.

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Interested in this photo from India?  Check out our India Travel Guide and Photos to see the sights, costs and consider traveling here yourself.

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Since there are two of us sharing a computer and camera, deletion is a democratic process.  One of us goes through the newly added photos and marks images for deletion by labeling them yellow (the number “7” is the Lightroom hotkey for yellow).  Shortly after the other person reviews the images for deletion, then hits the delete key on the agreed upon photos.  To save future headache we delete these from the disk when prompted instead of simply removing them from our catalog.

Lightroom does have a flag system to reject photos, but we find color labels to be more useful.  If you use the “reject” method built-into the program it fades out the rejected photo, creating a negative perception of the rejected photos.  Using the color labels to highlight those we wish to delete let’s use compare the trash with the keepers on a more level playing field.

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2. CORRECTING BLACK AND WHITE

Ever notice that your photos’ blacks aren’t nearly black enough and whites not white enough?  You’re right!  Digital cameras don’t do blacks and whites as starkly as they are in the real world.   For boring technical reasons cameras meter to grey, dulling blacks and fading whites.  The first thing we do while editing photos is correct this to how we saw it by increasing the whites and decreasing the blacks in the Develop Window (hit “d” to go directly to Develop).

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Want to see more photos of the Taj Mahal and India’s amazing places?  Click here to check out more photos from our time in India.

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3. GRADUATED FILTER

Is one side of your photo way too dark?  Is the brightness on one side washing out the colors?

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Looking back at our photos from the Annapurna Circuit, a 20-day hike through the Nepalese Himalayas, resulted in many photos that look like this.  To get the detail of the road I had to overexpose the mountains, washing out the epic detail of one of the world’s tallest mountains.  Here’s what I do to fix this.

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I drag the Graduated Filter (“m” is the hotkey) across the portion of the photo I want to edit.  Then I change the exposure to get the effect I am looking for.  If there are certain things I also only want to change in this portion of the picture I do it here (such as clarity and saturation).

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The results change the picture, making it more balanced and the mountains as pronounced as they are in real life.  The Graduated Filter can be used when you take pictures in dark restaurants and some people seem to be hiding in dark corners or to bring out the colors of a beach sunset.

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Traditionally photographers would carry a stack of graduated filters, each changing the exposure by a fraction, but Lightroom’s Graduated Filter makes physical filters unnecessary.  We saw several people carrying these while hiking in Nepal, but the cost, care and work of physical filters isn’t worth it for all but professionals.

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Do you like the photos in this article?  See more photos of our 40 days of hiking through Nepal including Mt Everest Base Camp, Three Passes above 5000 meters (16,500 feet), Annapurna Circuit and Annapurna Base Camp here.  Also check out our Nepal Travel Guide to learn about the places to go, costs and see the spectacular scenery of one of the world’s most beautiful countries.

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Get more free photography tips by liking us on Facebook and sharing LivingIF with your friends.  If you want to buy Adobe Lightroom, click here to buy it from Amazon to get the best price and we get a tiny commission to keep traveling ’round the world!


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Comments

» Dad A :
Oct 19, 2012

Ansel has nothing on you guys…..your photos are remarkable and appreciated by the distant couch surfers….be safe….peace…..Bruce

LOCAVORista Reply:

Dad, thanks for your compliments and glad that you enjoy traveling vicariously through our stories and photos.

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About the Author

thinkCHUA: Photographing and documenting the world on a 3 year round-the-world trip to help future travelers discover new places, travel longer and enjoy the world's great experiences.

About the Author
thinkCHUA: Photographing and documenting the world on a 3 year round-the-world trip to help future travelers discover new places, travel longer and enjoy the world's great experiences.
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