Have you ever thought about how editing can improve your photos? How many times have you taken a photo and thought, “It looks good, but it could have been better”? If you are like me, you really want to capture the stunning view that you saw with your eyes.
This was taken in the early morning just after sunrise from a cruise ship in the Caribbean Sea north of Cozumel, Mexico. When I walked out on the balcony of my cabin before sunrise I could tell it was going to present the opportunity for photographing a beautiful sunrise. I grabbed a cup of coffee in the dining room and went back to my balcony to watch the sunrise. The colors of the sunrise over the ocean were amazing.
This is what the original photo looked like straight out of the camera:
As you can see the sky has some haze and a lot of the sky is overexposed in the highlights while the ocean looks dark. Fortunately, since I was shooting in RAW, I was able to bring the file into Adobe Photoshop and improve the original.
The first step was to bring the photo into Adobe Camera Raw and use a graduated filter on the sky to tone down some of the highlights and bring out the color.
The next step was to use the brush tool in Adobe Camera RAW to paint over the dark water and adjust it separately to brighten the water and also to bring in some of the colors from the sky to reflect from the water.
Once those adjustments were made I opened the lens correction tool and chose my lens to add the lens correction. This is a step that many people who are new to photo adjustment will neglect to do or simply skip it altogether. However, the lens correction step is important to make your photo look its best and should not be overlooked.
Once the photo has been adjusted in Adobe Camera RAW it is opened in Photoshop. Since most of the adjustments were made in Camera RAW there are not a lot of adjustments left to do in Photoshop for this photo.
But opening your photo in Photoshop is where you can really make a difference. For instance, you can remove that sign you didn’t notice at the time but is now growing out of your subject’s head in a portrait. I like the tools in Photoshop to give my photo the best chance of looking it’s best.
Now before I get a lot of angry messages about “Photoshopping” let me explain that there is nothing wrong with adjusting your photo to make it look more like what you saw when you were looking at the scene. Our eyes are wonderful instruments that are able to adjust from areas of highlight to dark areas almost instantaneously. Unfortunately, our camera isn’t as amazing at this as our eyes. So we need to adjust the photo to make it represent what we saw when looking with our eyes. Of course, we want to get everything right in camera. But many times you can take your photos to the next level with some simple adjustments. Your best chance of making those adjustments is by shooting in RAW and then adjusting separate areas of the image in Camera RAW or another editing software.
So here again is the original photo:
As you can see, the lower photo that was adjusted shows more detail and lighting in the ocean, as well as more detail in the clouds. I prefer the lower adjusted photo over the original. Let me know your thoughts in the comments. I’d really like to know your thoughts on how editing can improve your photos, and please feel free to post some photos you have edited too. I look forward to seeing them.
If you want to learn more and take your photography journey to the next level you might like the Photography Master Class. This video course will definitely help you on your journey to be a better photographer.
Check out more great photography tips on our Photography Tips & Tricks page.