I've been wanting to share this post for awhile because I always get lovely comments complimenting my photography on the blog. I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing with a camera (though I am trying to learn so I can manually adjust the settings on my camera instead of just using the auto setting), but I do sort of know my way around Photoshop, so I thought it would be useful to see what I do to enhance my photos. For reference, I have a Canon PowerShot SX40 HS and despite not being a DSLR it really works for me!
As you can see, the original photo (my birthday haul, for those of you wondering - I didn't end up writing the post to go with the picture but figured this would suffice for those of you who requested the post) isn't too dark, but it's not that bright, white, airy look that I quite like and prefer. Since I'm not too good with my camera (and it always appears brighter in the camera's viewfinder than it does once I import them), I opt for brightening my photos with Photoshop (I have CS5.1 but any version will do).
The first thing I do is roughly adjust the brightness & contrast by going to Image>Adjustments>Brightness & Contrast. I generally raise the brightness to somewhere between 30-50 (in the summer I'll keep it around 30, but in the winter it's definitely necessary to raise it all the way to 50). I love using the contrast adjustment to really make the colors of the photo stand out, but I usually keep it in the 10-15 range, never setting it above 20.
Sometimes I'll mess with the Levels (Image>Adjustments>Levels), mostly to lighten up the midtones a bit (moving the middle slider to the left) but usually I move right on to curves (Image>Adjustments>Curves). I only do slight adjustments here, because most of what I've wanted to do has been done with the brightness & contrast sliders. I usually lower the left section of the curve slightly (to deepen the darker tones) and raise the right section (to brighten the whites).
The last adjustment I make is that I always play with the color balance (Image>Adjustments>Color Balance - notice a theme here?). I like my photos to have a subtle pink tint, so I usually increase the red slider to about +7 or +8, slide the magenta slider to somewhere slightly lower, like -5 or -6, and increase the blue ever so slightly to +2 or +3.
One last thing I'll do is crop the photo - a lot of times I'll crop it a little to begin with, but after editing I can really see what I want in the frame and what can be excluded. The last thing I do is save it to my folder of edited blog photos with a name that better describes the content than the default "IMG000.jpg" name.
And that's it! Not too difficult, and definitely something you can do in other editing programs - when I edit my Instagram photos in Afterlight I usually follow these same kinds of steps! I hope this was helpful.
What are your best photo-editing tips?