More than 1,000 photos are uploaded to Instagram every second, according to Passport Photo Online. Most people (91%) take pictures with their cell phones, rather than digital cameras (7%) or tablets (3%). Keeping your lens clean or avoiding flash as much as possible is key to taking a good photo. But once you’ve taken the photo, there’s another phase that’s almost as important: editing the photo. Here are some tips from professional photographers with social media influences.
Play with contrast and other basic mobile settings
“Photo retouching is 50% of photography,” says Gianfranco Bulgarelli (@gianfribul), a photography and travel content creator on Instagram and TikTok, where he has nearly 100,000 followers. During editing, it is possible to “highlight certain specific aspects to enhance what you want to communicate with the image”. Every detail counts, notes the expert: from a simple color version to enhance the point of view of the person who took the photo to a photomontage of different images to convey a certain idea.
Photographer Marcos Castaño León (@shotbymarcos), who has more than 2.5 million followers on TikTok, explains that even if a photo is taken very well, “when you edit it you can make an impact and surprise.” All cell phones allow you to make some adjustments to the image, such as adjusting the contrast, shadows, saturation, temperature or sharpness. For Pablo Menéndez Lapuente (@PabloBackhome), who is dedicated to travel and adventure photography and video and has more than 53,000 followers on TikTok, the ideal is to use these basic settings “according to the picture.”
Every photo is different and the problem is that “there is no set point for each criterion,” says Castano. For this reason, it is advised to test all settings to understand the changes that occur with each one of them. “Sometimes we give specific settings as ‘basic’ and then you have to adjust them to fit your image, for example, in one photo if you set the contrast to 30 it’s perfect, but maybe in another photo you need to set it to 20”, he points out.
Edit the same photo in different ways and find your personal touch
Jordi and Arnau Puig (@jordi.koalitic and @arnaukoalitic), twin brothers who are experts in creative photography with over 19.4 million and 40,000 followers on TikTok, also advise photography beginners to play with these values and try to give your release a personal touch. “If you had an image in which you had to expose the sky during the day, with strong sunlight, the dark parts of the image would certainly be underexposed, so you can try to restore these shadows using basic functions such as shadows or contrast,” they assert.
Editing is also used to support what you want to convey with the image. Castaño gives as an example a picture of a seated person looking out to sea, “representing sadness or reflection”. “If I used a cool version (with blue tones) and removed green, which is the color of hope, I would support the narrative much more than a warm version (with shades of yellow, orange, and red) with colors that convey energy, joy, or optimism,” he notes.
A good option, according to Castaño, is to edit the same image in a different way: “This way you can see how it changes and visualize it depending on the type of editing you use, as well as a way to understand all the settings there to be able to control them at a level of perfection.” Bvlgarelli considers it essential to watch the lessons in action. He himself, on his TikTok channel, explains how to shoot stars or take an artistic photo shoot in a place full of tourists.
Avoid too much retouching and overexposure
According to Mendez, using these tools in a subtle way is important to avoid oversaturation. Otherwise, “an image that is completely overexposed, too contrasty or has too many colors” can be created. Children’s photographer Mireya Salido Jimenez (@fotografiamireia) also recommends not to retouch photos too much because they “distort the moment” and to avoid filters as much as possible, “because they eliminate the true colors of the photo”. “I recommend ‘turning up’ the light a bit when it’s really dark, as long as you don’t overexpose it,” he adds.
As Menendez explains, photo editing serves to direct the viewer’s gaze, as well as erase logos, unwanted items, or smudges that appear as a result of dust or an unclean camera lens. For him, it’s best to skip the prep and have everyone create their own style: “Don’t try to copy styles. Develop stories and tell through release what you want to convey through your images.” He, for example, usually tries to make them not too saturated, limited, and have harmonious colors.
The best photo editing app
The app most recommended by the photographers consulted is Lightroom. Jordi and Arnau Puig ensure that it allows access to many more functions than the standard editors of most mobile phones. For example, they explain that a user can work with edit values color-by-color and create their own presets—a set of adjustments that can be applied all at once with a simple click—so that their photos always follow their personal style.
Among the recommended functions of this application, there is a grain reduction and another called “Mask”, which allows you to create light points in the image that are not there. Bulgarelli also highlights modes that use AI to automatically identify a person, their face, eye, or sky and allow only that area to be edited. In addition to Lightroom, he sometimes uses other applications such as Photoshop, Snapseed, or PicsArt.
Look for natural light, use plastic wrap, and other tricks when taking photos
Although editing can improve a photo, there are some aspects to consider when taking the photo – regardless of whether you’re using a mobile phone or a camera. If you’re indoors, Salido recommends positioning yourself near a window or somewhere you’ll have natural light. For photos that “look like magic,” he advises lighting photos that will be black and white. In addition, remember the photographer’s “little trick”: “Sometimes I put film on my viewfinder and a blur is created, so that it looks like you’ve edited the photo as if it’s blurred.” Something that works to “give a romantic, bohemian, and uplifting vibe to photos.”
The secret to taking the best photos, according to Bulgarelli, is to take “more and more photos”: “The more you take, the more you learn.” The expert also advises using the manual mode from time to time to learn the basic parameters of the camera, follow the creators of photographic content and self-learning: “On TikTok, YouTube and Instagram there are countless profiles that teach you to shoot from scratch”.
Take advantage of the mobile camera’s professional mode
“When you want to take a good photo with your mobile phone, the one that you are going to upload to social networks, I recommend shooting it with the ‘professional’ option that comes with our mobile cameras to be able to set the ISO sensitivity, shutter speed, white balance…”, says the photographer. Alex Neza (@yosoyneza), who has more than 1.3 million followers on TikTok. Since this function is not available in all mobile phones, if this fails, “the Lightroom app camera can be used”.
The ISO will make the sensor more sensitive – it captures more light, but generates more grain – or less – it captures less light but generates less grain. This is how Nizza explains, who also advises paying attention to the shutter speed: the higher it is, the more the image freezes, but less light enters, and the lower it is, the less it freezes, but more light enters. “For example, if you’re into car photography, shooting with a low ISO and a slow shutter speed can be very fun and exhilarating. That way, by following the subject as you take the photo, you can make the background a speed blur,” he says.
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