Most users on Instagram are not professional photographers. Most of us don’t have the crazy gear the pros can afford and yet, some of us can achieve some pretty amazing results. It’s all in the little tricks we will share with you today. The picture here was taken on a cloudy day at high noon with a DJI Mavic Air drone:
The picture below is the original shot taken straight out of the drone with no post editing.
Huge difference? We agree! Most of us don’t have time to set up properly, wait for the perfect light and take 100 shots, spending an hour on one shot. Especially when traveling, we just want to take the shot, move on and enjoy the location and each other. From the time the drone was in the air, the manual settings being applied, and a quick histogram check on the screen – the shot took 3 minutes.
1- SHOOT MANUAL
Always shoot manual. We know, it’s sometimes daunting to play with manual settings but we promise, it’s worth it. Learn what shutter speed and aperture, F Stop and ISO all do to your image. We’re not going to go into detail (so many blogs out there do a great job of explaining it) but seriously, switch that camera into manual and turn on your live view to try it out for yourself and go nuts!
2- USE A TRIPOD
Or in this case a drone 😉 No but seriously, a tripod will give you room to make mistakes and maybe even be able to composite multiple shots into one. Let’s say you shoot 5 pictures and the 1st one has the pose you want but the third one is the right light or has that perfect cloud or bird in the frame – power up Photoshop and combine the best of the two. We do it all the time.
If your camera can do exposure bracketing, try it out. It’s a great way combine shots with dark shadows and super bright highlights, i.e. hotel rooms with windows.
3- SHOOT RAW
Make sure your camera is shooting at the highest quality and resolution possible. Most often that is RAW mode. If you want to save space on your SD card, simply shoot RAW without tacking on the JPEG file. Shooting RAW will give you a pretty hefty file but will contain all of the information goodness you need to edit your shadows, colors, highlights and any post-processing you want to try out. Using a software like Lightroom is also beneficial while using RAW files since it is non-destructive. You keep your original file just the way it is while the software fiddles with the data and exports an edited copy of the final result. (Yep, even drones can shoot in RAW mode now, so go at it)
4- UNDER EXPOSE
As a rule of thumb, it’s better to be slightly underexposed than to be blown out. Recovering white blown areas in a picture is impossible BUT cranking up the shadows or highlights in a underexposed shot makes for a great photo and can change a mood instantly. This rule is especially powerful in pictures that were taken in RAW mode – iPhone snaps not so much 😉
5- HAVING FUN WITH SKY REPLACEMENT
We love having a bit of fun with sky replacement. The picture we are using for this example has a clean horizon so it’s very easy to accomplish this effect. Download a high resolution picture of the sky you want to introduce into your picture. A great place to download pictures are sites like Unsplash.com, they have a ton of stock images and you can use them for free for non-commercial use. We downloaded this image:
Within Photoshop, we added the sky layer to the photo and brought down the opacity to 20% so we could move it and position it where it needed to go. In this example, bringing the opacity back to 100% made no sense as the sky was shot at sunset and our picture is at high noon. The opacity was brought back up to 40% so that clouds and some of the color could be introduced without making it look like dusk.
6- CAMERA RAW FILTER IS YOUR FRIEND
The Camera Raw Filter is like using Lightroom inside of Photoshop. Using it (under filter in Photoshop), we played with the shadows, highlights, clarity, contrast, vibrance, saturation, camera calibration of the reds and blues, temperature and tone curve. Not one particular preset was used in the editing of this picture, all the levels were adjusted by hand to our personal liking. This is what the picture looked like once exported out of Photoshop:
7- GET TO KNOW LIGHTROOM
Lightroom is an amazing tool when you don’t need to use crazy layers but just need to adjust tones, colors, shadows, etc. Most users don’t know that Lightroom is also a great archiving tool and will keep your photoshoots, travels and randomness all organized by date and “rolls”. Lightroom is a professional tool but can be mastered by anyone who is willing to put in some time. Our recommendation, import 20 very different photos (landscapes, night shots, portraits, macro shots, iphone, DSLR, drone shots, high ISO, low ISO, etc..) and play with every level one at a time to understand what they control. The more complicated areas are in the Tone Curve, HSL and Split Toning (more on that in another post)
We took the Photoshop file and imported it inside of Lightroom to not only crop it to Instagram dimensions but also to introduce some color highlights within the water and clouds with the brush tool (which is the most awesome thing you’ll ever use on your photos).