Software: Photo Editing
With photo management software and Raw processing becoming so advanced these days, much of what photo editing software was required to do can now be quickly applied during quick development stages outside of a full-blown editing software. Of course, this isn't always the case, especially when considering more advanced and technical retouching - then it's the up-to-date image-editing software that takes pride of place - but what exactly can the current packages offer, to warrant purchase?
One of the most immediate uses of an image editor is the ability to use Layers - this creates the opportunity to handle individual elements of an image (or indeed images) individually, yet combine each of these layers into one coherent image. You may, for example, have the perfect posture in one frame and the ideal facial expression in a second frame, and wish to manually combine the posture and expression into one new image. Using layers allows for
this kind of intricate work to be made easier.
Other control such as auto-stitching panoramic images, HDR (high dynamic range) control, complex warping, distortion and even automated algorithms to fill and intelligently remove areas are also key elements of editing. When used in combination the use of the variety of features at your disposal can make for some awe-inspiring final images - just remember to be subtle and not go over the top, believing the end result is key.
Beyond this, the sky really is the limit. Some creative work coming out of pro agencies beggars belief at the sheer level of skill. Don't expect to be a complete pro from the getgo, as learning your tools takes time to fully understand what they do, but practice and experimentation helps build your skill-set.
Editing: Possibilities in Photoshop
Layers / Alignment
In Photoshop the Layers panel is arranged to the right-hand side. Duplicating the image to a new layer is a certain way to not lose the original data when working on it.
When the relevant layer is selected only the contents of that layer can be edited. It's also possible to lock a layer to prevent editing, by clicking the padlock symbol.
There are various modes that utilise layers in an automated fashion. For example, creating a panorama: Using the File > Automate > Photomerge function allows Photoshop to align, distort and produce a panorama with each image on its own masked-out layer.
Masking / Selection
A lot of retouching may entail cutting out subjects which can utilise a variety of selection tools. Quick Selection detects the contrast offset in an image and quickly selects an area. Feathering the selection will fade the edges for a smoother appearance. Masks are areas that adjustments won't affect. Pathing uses the Pen tool to make accurate selections for cut-outs that can be saved or even turned into Mask selections.
Brushing / Intelligent Fill
Many retouchers use the Dodge tool set to a very small size and low ‘exposure' (around 3-6%) to remove delicate shadows to make skin look smoother. It's an intricate way to retouch skin.
Other brushes include Copy and Heal, which are ideal for removing dust. Photoshop takes things one step further with Content Aware Fill which can fill in areas relatively accurately based on the surroundings.
Not sure what photo editing software to buy? Check out...