Introduction to Post-Processing Terms
I’ve stated before on multiple occasions that I don’t use photoshop to process my images, but I do use Apple’s Aperture to make some minor adjustments to them. It took me a while from when I first started out, to really understand how to fully utilise the software and to work out what all the major settings did. Hopefully, with the help of this tutorial, you should learn exactly what each step does and how to use them to your advantage.
First off, lets have a look at how Aperture looks when we open it up – notice the order in the image below. The order that they’re listed is not random, they’re put this way because certain adjustments will effect others, and that’s why you’ll find other software such as Adobe Lightroom will also use a similar order. If I were to change the brightness first, that would obviously make it harder for me to adjust the exposure, so it’s best to stick to the order that they’re listed in, and that’s the order in which we’ll be learning about them.
Before we look at what each of them do, have a look at my orignal photo below as a point of comparison for each adjustment. I undo each adjustment after each step so that you can clearly see what happens to the photo.
I’ve spoken in white balance before in great detail which can be found by clicking on that link, but this is first on the list because it changes the overall colour of the image. You’re given a temperature gauge to work with and you can make the photo hotter (yellow/orange) or colder (blue) depending on how you want the photo to look. In this situation, I might make the photo slightly warmer, but I did a pretty good job in the camera. Here’s what the photo looks like if you turn up the heat. You’re also given a tint tool which tints the colour from green to pink for smaller adjustments.
This will have the same effect as if you were to expose your photo for a longer or shorter time. It’s similar to changing the brightness, only it does it in a much more intelligent way. It treats the whole photo as if it was equal, and turning up the exposure, lightens the photo. I’ve actually turned down the exposure on this photo though, which is common when you’re shooting with an off camera flash, into the sun.
This is a useful tool if you’ve got some areas of the photo which you’ve overexposed and want to repair, like the sun in the sky. It’s pretty good at recognising which parts are blown out, but I don’t tend to need to use it too much, and it’s not made a huge difference to the photo below. You may notice that the sun behind the model’s head and the lighter areas of her have have had their highlights turned down.
When you raise the black point, you’re effectively making the dark parts of the photo even darker. You can turn this the other way, but I very rarely use that. If you pay attention to your histogram much, you’ll notice that the graph is moving towards the dark (left) side, but be careful not to let it go the whole way or you’ll start to lose definition. I use this function quite often because it’s a lot more subtle than the contrast tool.
This takes the brighter parts of the photo and makes them even brighter, much like what black point does for the darker parts of the photo. Again, you need to watch your histogram to make sure that you’re not losing details, but you should be able to do this without looking really. If you were to turn up the brightness and the black point, you would effectively be turning up the contrast.
I do use contrast, but in very small doses as it tends to be very obvious when it’s used, and I prefer my processing to be subtle. The photo should stand up on it’s own elements, not the post-processing. Contrast will make the darker parts of the photo darker and the brighter parts, lighter. This is very handy if you want your photos to be more punchy, but watch that you don’t overdo it as it can start to look unrealistic. Overall though, a very nice effect.
This does exactly what it says on the tin, only I’ve overdone it in the photo below to help show you what I’m talking about. It defines some of the details in a similar way to sharpening the photo does, only it tends to work best on underexposed parts of the photo and bring them out better. I don’t tend to use this tool to be honest, I prefer to brush on sharpness where I need it.
This is actually a very useful tool as it has the ability to make the colours much more punchy, and although I’ve purposely overdone it in the photo below, it can look really good. The photo that I’m using doesn’t really need too much done saturation because the colours were already pretty good, but on overcast days, this tool can prove to be invaluable as you turn drab and uninteresting photos into something much more visually appealing.
This is another form of saturation which helps to make the colours more interesting and punchy. I tend to use this when making minor adjustments as the effect is much more subtle than using the saturation slider and the photos ends up looking much more natural.
This is found in the Highlights and Shadows section, and it’s a good way of recovering overexposed parts of a photo and bringing them back into detail. The only problem with this tool is that when I use it, I tend to only want to use it on a certain part of a photo and not on the whole photo, such as over facial features, so I’m left trying to find a middle ground. Still though, it’s a very powerful tool to have at your disposal.
This is the same as highlights, only the complete opposite. It will take the shadows of the photo and make them brighter, providing more detail. A good tool, but to be used sparingly in my opinion. When you over use it like I’ve done in the photo below, it has a tendancy to look too much like an overdone HDR photo, with all the highlights lost. I use this very rarely when I need to fix a photo that I didn’t get right in the camera.
Here’s my processing of the photo that we’ve been using and you’ll see that I’ve used very small changes. I make the photo slightly warmer with the white balance, and slightly darker with the exposure, while bringing in the black point and a small bit of brightness. The contrast and saturation were turned up only a very small amount and these helped to make the photo pop out a little bit more. As you can hopefully see, small, subtle changes are key to excellent post-processing.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this, I encourage you to come and say hi over on Facebook. Thanks, Josh.