In a recent blog post, Maureen O’Connor gave some great tips for using your smart phone to get great shots for social media. Even with these suggestions, some pictures might benefit from a little touchup to remove imperfections, and even a good picture can be made pretty much perfect with just a few minutes’ work.
The big name in photo manipulation and touchup software is Photoshop, but there’s no need to be intimidated by the thought of learning such a robust program or its associated cost. Photoshop is an excellent program, but there are many other programs and apps that do many of the same jobs for free or at a low cost. Gimp is one big name, and it is available for free download on laptops, smart phones and tablet devices. To find the one that works best for you, try out a few free apps or the demo versions of paid apps.
Photoshop, Gimp and similar software allow you to make quick and easy corrections to many of the most common problems with photos.
Color and Contrast:
Incandescent lights can cause a yellowish cast, fluorescents make things green, and strong sunlight from windows can cause colors to go blue. In a basic editing tool, the “magic wand” or “automatic” command will often correct these unwanted color casts. Sometimes an image will need a little more work, and that is where the Auto Color, Auto Tone and Auto Contrast commands come into play. Put simply, all three make the darkest areas black and the lightest areas white, but in slightly different manners, and in one step. Try out each one, or use them in combination to see what works best. If you don’t get what you want there is always the Undo button!
Photographing framed artwork at a slight angle is a good way to avoid unwanted glare and reflections, but the photo will be skewed. Other times it may be difficult to photograph the subject head-on, such as when a frame is hanging slightly above eye level. The Perspective Warp tool allows you to identify four corners (the corners of the mat opening are ideal) and then with a couple clicks the software will transform the skewed angles into four ninety-degree angles, making the photo appear straight and square. It might be necessary to do a little cropping to remove any strange artifacts at the edges of the photo after the perspective is corrected.
Perspective Warp allows you to correct a skewed photo, and the cropping tool allows you to remove excess background around the subject. Perspective crop combines both capabilities into one command, straightening the subject and removing all of the background. To use it, simply select the command, identify the outer four corners of the frame, and then select OK or Crop, depending on the specifics of the software. It is especially helpful if the background is busy or distracting.
When looking at removing objects, the usual case is when something undesirable is in the picture and needs to be removed, such as an unwanted street sign in a landscape. Software has become incredibly good at simultaneously removing an object and filling in the space with the background, usually with just a few steps. Generally you will use a Lasso tool to select the area of the object to be removed (draw approximately, no need to be exacting) and then the Fill function, being sure to select Content-Aware if using Photoshop. This is very useful for removing stray reflections in the glass or on the frame, as well as any distractions in the background.
Know when to stop
Many features of editing software are so easy to use that it is easy to fall into the trap of over-editing. Unless you are going for a very specific effect, stop once the photo looks good and natural. The idea is to show off your framing talents, not to get too artistic. Save the filters for pictures of your dinner on Instagram.
Once you have mastered these few easy basics, your pictures will reflect the high standards you set for your work and help you win the social media game. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.
Stay tuned for another blog post by David Lantrip that will discuss in further details how to take the perfect picture of your framing projects.
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