7 Steps How to Edit Your Photos to Look Bright & Airy
So you’ve photographed the perfect shot (we’re talking perfectly styled with all your favourite props, a killer outfit and the best lighting!) however it’s looking more dull and dark rather than bright and dreamy like all the photos you see on Instagram.
Have no fear! You were actually using your camera properly and exposing the image correctly (whew!), it was just not the result you wanted.
In order to produce a bright and airy photo from a DSLR camera, it must be edited using digital software such as Adobe Lightroom. (Which is a fantastic tool to use for these kinds of editing jobs!) This program allows you to manipulate the brightness and colour of your photos and copy these adjustments so each photo looks as good as the last. This is especially useful in instances where your images need to look good as a collection, meaning you can finally say HELLO to a perfect Instagram feed!
Lightroom is one of my personal favourites among the Adobe series because it makes retouching and polishing my photos so much easier! By the time I’m ready to export my photos, they already look amazing, cutting down on the amount of additional retouching I need to do in Photoshop. Here are some easy tips to achieving bright and airy photos that’ll look just like the ones you see in my client work!
Step 1: Lightroom Presets
I like to use presets that I purchased from Mastin Labs on most of my work. My go-to is called Portra -400. This preset acts as a filter, and makes my photos bright with blue-ish greens, warm highlights and soft contrast that looks like traditional film photography. Using presets cut down on editing time and ensure a consistent, polished look across all my photos. (YAY for saving time, am I right?!)
Step 2: Increase the Exposure
Photos can sometimes come out looking a little dark, so increasing the exposure is an excellent way to increase the brightness of your whites and colours. I like to bump up the exposure to around +0.75, but never more than +1.50. The perfect setting will vary from one image to the next, since lighting conditions and camera settings can change throughout a photo shoot.
Keep in mind that correct exposure will typically look dark, whereas an over-exposed image may not be technically accurate, but looks aesthetically pleasing because it appears bright and airy. I find this a better fit for my own photography style as well as many others’.
Step 3: Lower the Temperature
Temperature refers to the degree of warm (reds, oranges and yellows) or cool-tinted colours (blues, purples and greens) in an image. In my case, I prefer a slightly cooler image rather than warm, because I feel that it makes whites look even whiter. It’s the same concept as wearing a cool toned red lipstick to make teeth appear whiter. Or if this concept is new to you, try it out next time you go to Sephora ;)
Step 4: Adjust the Contrast
Contrast gives your images an extra boost in saturation and helps to make whites and blacks stand out. Whether you make slight or extreme changes to the contrast (this will depend on your own personal taste) try to avoid letting the photo look over-edited. Too much contrast can result in some loss of detail, as it removes many of the mid tones, so increase the contrast just enough to make whites and blacks pop.
Step 5: Brighten Shadows
Increasing the contrast tends to darken a lot of shadows and mid tones, making images look flatter and more intense/edgy. I like to adjust this by brightening the shadows. This step brings back detail in the shadows and makes the image look softer in general.
Step 6: Increase Clarity
Increasing the clarity allows you to sharpen your image, making everything look more crisp. I like to increase the clarity slightly. This gives my images just a tad extra sharpness and makes the products POP without creating unnecessary noise or making the photo look grainy.
Step 7: Adjust the Vibrancy
Whether you should increase or decrease the vibrancy of an image depends on the amount of white present and whether there are many bright colours or just the skin tone of the subject.
Whenever I’m dealing with a primarily white image, I find that skin tones tend to look a little too pigmented – even slightly yellow – so I like to reduce the vibrancy in these cases.
On the other hand, if I’m dealing with a colourful image, I increase the vibrancy to help pump up the colours. In these cases, skin tones don’t look over-saturated despite the boost because the other colours in the image help to balance it all out.
I never over do it on vibrancy because I want to keep the overall edit looking as natural as possible!
And TA-DA, you have your finished photo looking beautifully bright and airy! The best part is once you are happy with a photo and how you edited it, you can copy these adjustments and paste them to the rest in a collection. This saves a lot of time when colour correcting photos from a photo shoot and also helps maintain consistency among a collection.
If you want to learn how to improve the quality of your photographs so this tutorial works even better, download my FREE Elevate Your Photos Checklist!