Don't Be an Instagram Photo Jerk

Move Away From Smartphone Editing; Break Free of Presets

Now that we've covered some smartphone-related remedies for over-Instagramming, let's talk about editing images taken with a nonsmartphone camera.

Though photo-editing presets and filters are less common in nonmobile digital photo editing, professional programs such as Adobe Photoshop and the free image-editing program GIMP offer an vast array of options for tweaking images.

Not everyone can afford the hefty price tag associated with Photoshop, however--or the time required to learn such programs. Luckily, most people would rarely want to use many of the advanced features found in Photoshop and GIMP.

Image editing tools in Windows Live Photo Gallery.
That's why nonprofessionals who do their photo editing with easy-to-use free programs like Windows Live Photo Gallery and Google's Picasa have little reason to feel deprived.

Ultimately you can produce great, natural-looking photos with the basic editing tools found in every program, even the most simple. Here are some of the most important variables to consider when editing images.


Why lighting is important: If a photo's lighting is off, you may lose valuable detail in people's facial expressions or in landscape features.

How to manage lighting in your photos: ou control lighting in a photo by adjusting exposure, highlights, and shadows. Adjusting the exposure enables you to simulate how your image would look if it had been taken at different shutter speeds; as the image becomes lighter or darker, you may notice details that were previously hidden. Adjusting exposure isn't foolproof, since you can lose detail as you brighten or darken your image, but it's great for making small improvements when this isn't an issue.

Adjusting highlights and shadows lets you control the light and dark tones in an image independently, to bring out details. Such alterations can make a big difference when one part of an image is much darker or lighter than the rest.

For example, if you've taken a portrait and your subject's face is in the shade, adjusting the highlights and shadows will often reveal hidden details without affecting the rest of the image.


Why contrast is important: Adjusting an image's contrast is a great way to make the photo pop, but be careful: Few things look worse than an unnaturally overcontrasted photo.

How to manage contrast in your photos: Your photo editor's contrast tool makes lights lighter and darks darker. The goal is to enliven a photo whose low contrast makes it to look dull and boring, while refraining from imparting so much contrast that the image looks look oversaturated and unnatural. To avoid going too far, it's a good idea to try out different incremental contrast levels, and see which one works best for a particular image.


Why temperature is important: A photo's temperature helps determine the image's overall feel or mood. Most digital cameras provide options for controlling white balance; this entails adjusting photos' color temperature to achieve a neutral value for white in different lighting environments.

How to manage temperature in your photos: A white-balance photo-editing tool allows you to change the temperature of your images after the photo is taken. Adjusting your photo to make it cooler combats harsh, orange lighting. Conversely, making an image warmer can help photos taken in environments with prevalent blue or fluorescent light look more natural. As with adjusting contrast, a trial-and-error approach to adjusting an image's temperature makes sense.

And there you have it. The road to recovery may be paved with vintage barns and orange-tinted cats, but with a little work you can kick your Instagram addiction and take your photography to the next level.

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