Beginning Photography – Photo Retouching

Beginning Photography – Photo Retouching

My journey into photography has taken me from beginning photography where I would shoot in Manual mode on my Canon SLR and take those shots as is and be happy with it to – taking a shot that I like but needs photo retouching so I take time making that photo better (to me).

I was managing my photos with Apple’s iPhoto in their iLife software package, and although this is a great photography software to manage projects (called “Events”), and doing some basic photo retouching, I decided to use another Apple Photo Software called Aperture 3 to manage all my photos, ‘projects’, and to do all my photo retouching with some “turbo” flair!

iPhoto is great! You can upload your albums straight to MobileMe, Flickr and Facebook, and even some other online software websites like SmugMug (see my SmugMug Albums).

Helpful tip: “How to break an album sync between iPhoto and Facebook

Now, on to Aperture 3…

Straight from “The new Aperture 3 gives you powerful yet easy-to-use tools to refine images, showcase your photography, and manage massive libraries on your Mac. It’s pro performance with iPhoto simplicity.”

This description represents Aperture 3 really well. If you are beginning photography, using iPhoto is incredibly simple to use and it is awesome. I’m talking incredibly easy! Forget paying for Photoshop as a beginning photographer, iPhoto will let you do some basic photo retouching to get your basic needs accomplished.

Aperture 3, although I am far from being a Pro, is really pro performance with iPhoto simplicity as stated above!

I’m a photographer on a small budget. So Photoshop was out of the question. So I used a free ‘photoshop-esque’ type software called Gimp 2.6 for a while. Yes – it’s free and its basic functions are just like Photoshop.

That being said – my small budget led me to spend big money on Aperture 3 and an Aperture filter package called Nik Software (which is also available for Photoshop CS5 and Lightroom software).

Aperture 3 is $199. Nik Software is $299.95. Gimp 2.6 is free… Whereas Photoshop CS5 is $699-$1,000 depending on what package you get.

I save $100 (and more because of some coupons I found online for Nik Software).

So I have Gimp, Aperture 3, and Nik Software to do what I’m about to show you.

Gimp – I rarely use right now. As I get more creative, it will come into play. I usually use it to re-size photos and crop them before I upload them to my blog. Sometimes I play with the filters to get some cool effects on photos, but now that I have Aperture 3 and Nik Software, that’s what I use most for photo retouching.

I’m not going to go into a full blown “How To” photo retouching guide because I’m really just playing around with the software and figuring things out as I go.  But as a beginning photographer, lets take a look at what Aperture 3 has to offer if you have a picture that just needs a slight adjustment before you print it.

Helpful tip: Underexposed images (or darker images) are easier to retouch than overexposed images (or brighter pictures). I tend to shoot most of my shots at -1 for a slightly underexposed image with the intent of retouching it later.

Aperture has a built in Adjustment Preset to immediately retouch your picture. One of those is: “Quick Fix” where, at a click of your mouse, you can adjust your photo to Over Expose by +1  or +2 or Underexpose it by -1 or -2. You can “Hold Highlights” or “Brighten Shadows.” Basically, a click of the button does all the work!

These two pictures were underexposed and I used the Aperture 3 Adjustment Preset, “Quick Fix”, to brighten them up. It was simple and easy, and for my purposes, better than the original picture.

Isabella Before
Isabella After
Isabella Before
Isabella After

Well, sometimes you need MORE help than a quick fix. I found this picture completely without life. It was completely underexposed (as you can see) that you can barely even tell what the image is – I did some fixes on Aperture 3, then brought in Nik Software’s Sharpening filter and Nik Software’s Viveza 2.0 filter to give the picture life – a lot of life!

Isabella Before
Isabella After

(tip: Don’t Trash what you think is a bad picture)

WOW! What a difference! And guess what – I am a beginner and am just really playing with the software via trial and error! If I can do it, any beginning photographer can! That’s the whole point of this post!

It is not the sharpest picture in the world, but it’s a printable picture and although I had enough great pictures from this series, I wanted to see what I could do with an ‘unusable’ shot. And now – it’s usable!

Here is another shot I wanted to play with. It was darker than I wanted, and there was a little scab on one of the boy’s (Colby’s) face. I used Aperture 3’s “Retouch” adjustment to remove the scab, sharpened the photo, did some other adjustments and I have a picture that I absolutely love!

Nik Software’s Sharpening filter and Nik Software’s Viveza 2.0 filter was used again.

Colby and Jake Before
Colby and Jake After

Beginning photography is fun – if you want it to be. You can go home and complain all day about the shot that turned out too dark – and why other people take some great photos and you don’t! Yes, they take some great photos – but sometimes their great photo isn’t that great until they take into their photo retouching software and make it great!

Beginning photography is just more than composure, compensation, aperture and speed – sometimes you have to do some photo retouching which is all part of the creative process! It is amazing what you can do with digital media. Every shot you take with a camera can be a great shot. Shoot away- and if you need to do some photo retouching then “Photoshop It!” as they say… but in this case – “Gimp It”, “Aperture It” and “Nik it”!

Other Photography Related Articles:
Beginning Photography – Creating Infrared Effects with Gimp
Beginning Photography – How to be a better Photographer – Part 1 of 2
Beginning Photography – How to be a better Photographer – Part 2 of 2

About Glenn Magas