5 Photography tricks

I love to dabble in the near-silent art of photography. There's something magical about capturing a moment in time with the clunk of a shutter. But in post, the magic can continue. So here are my top 5 tips for post production photography.

Before I go into them, I want to point out some free applications you can download to make your images look nicer: GIMP (Gnu Image Manipulation Program), Krita and Darktable are all very good quality image programs that help you alter images to various degrees.

1) Color grading - This is an art in itself. An image can look sharp and detailed but capture no emotion. Color grading is a way of changing the mood and feeling of an image by altering the degrees of colour for the dark tones, mid-tones and highlights of an image. Warm tones like orange, yellow and reds make images seem happy while cool tones such as blue, green, teal and grey make the image more sad. Much like minor chords and major chords in music, color grading can completely transform the mood of an image and alter the perception of the spectator.

2) Contrast and saturation - These are often overlooked in post but they can severely impact the feel of the image. Higher contrasts can make images seem more sharp while retaining the quality. Saturation can be used along with color grading to make the color stand out more. By desaturating an image before applying color grading, you can dramatically change the mood. Doing so creates a tinted feel where everything seems washed with a single colour.

3) Composition - Using multiple images together can change the impact another image has on the beholder. Take a monochrome picture and put it with a warm image to make the monochrome seem more sad. Put a monochrome image with a cold image and make the monochrome image more happy. Another cool thing to try is to have a panaoramic photo split up into 3 seperate images. From left to right, the color grading of the image should become more intense, creating a gradient between the images. You can also take elements of a photograph and make it more distinct than the others. This is common in images of bright red telephone boxes or bright yellow cabs of New York set against the black and white background of a city. It adds context to an image and can greatly impact the perception.

4) Focus - Modern software donates a lot to cameras which don't have good focusing capabilities. Select the area you want in focus, invert the selection and apply a gaussian blur to the surrounding area and you have very simply added a shallow depth of field to a flat image. It's better to make this change subtle as too big of a change will make the image look fake and boring. A little bit goes a long way with bluring the background of an image.

5) Vignettes - This filter is used everywhere to give an image a vintage look. It's used a lot in film to create a cinema look by adding a very subtle black ring around the image. It helps keeps the eyes of the spectator on the main focus of the composition. A vignette is simply a filter that changes the border. Other filters can be applied also including letterboxes, dirt, grain, scratches and water drops. They make the image seem more realistic or grunge. Again, use them like blur filters. Not every image needs a vignette in the same way that not every image needs a hand with artificial focus.

Those are my top 5 tips with altering images in post. Of course, you can go overboard in programs like GIMP to duplicate environments to make them seem more vast than they actually are, or paste cats heads onto the bodies of super models but most photographers don't want to do that. Remember that all you really want to do is create a mood or a feeling from a painting. There is no right or wrong way to do it as long as it looks how you want it.

TheGuyInTheFunnyHat by James Stevenson
All content including graphics and media are created by James Stevenson