How to know what to edit?
If you are one of those people who would stare at your catalog of photos for hours and still not knowing what to edit. This article is for you. As discussed in my previous article on how to bring your photography to the next level, post processing is a tool to be mastered in order to enhance your image to deliver a better message in your final output. Be it choosing the right presets, or straighten the photos, or reducing noise, all this are categorised under post processing. Arguably there are no minimum or maximum edits that you can do to a photo. It is entirely up to your creative freedom to express it freely. As you are mastering it, you will eventually learn what is crucial in your edits and what is redundant. For those who are still new, listed below is an easy list of thought process that might help you identify the crucial edits in your post processing workflow.
Step 1: Identify subject
The key to every edits is to bring attention to the subject that you want to portray in your work. Your subject can be the things you want to emphasize, the details you want to enhance or the subject you want to show. Your ultimate goal is to identify it and plan your edits to make the subject "pop" out.
Step 2: Identify flaws
Contrasting with the previous step, you will do the exact opposite in this one. You should identify what you do not want or the bad parts of a photo. Flaws can be in terms of sensor dust, noise, unwanted objects or that ugly rubbish dump that just happen to be unavoidable. Your job here is to mark down all these and remove them accordingly after.
Step 3: Clone
Clone, Clone, Clone! I cannot stress enough how important it is to remove all the unwanted clutters in your photo. With only this one step your photo should already look so much better and cleaner without distractions. I can literally spend hours sitting down just to clone things away if that particular photo is worth it or if I am paid to do it (obviously). Unless you are living in a perfect world, nothing on this earth can be perfect straight out of camera. Of course if you do plan your shots ahead of time, you might be able to choose your composition wisely to avoid the areas with clutters or things that are difficult to be removed in post.
Step 4: Exposure
Fix the exposure! If your photo is too dark, or vice versa. Fix it. Nothing feels more worse than looking at a photo with improper exposure. Your eye will just sore not knowing what you are looking at. Bonus, you can also choose to brighten your subject and darken the unnecessary in your image. This will draw the viewer's attention into the emphasis of your image.
Step 5: Colour
It is almost haunting to look at images with their colours way out of the spectrum. Just imagine looking at a neon blue colour sunset image or even an image with nuclear exploded saturation. It just doesn't look right. But of course I will leave this section to your creativity as everyone has a different interpretation of art and colour. Oh not to forget this is the step where your stylised colour palette/preset comes into play to achieve that signature look of yours.
Step 6: Crop
Cropping has to be one of the last step in my opinion. As you do not want to tie a dead knot knowing that you might need to open it later on which in this case you might need a wider frame. I would say the proper workflow would be plan your shot on location to know how much to crop and crop them at the end of your post processing to suit your needs. If your photos are slightly crooked, you might also be able to take this opportunity to straighten them during the crop. Sometimes cropping a photo might also increase the emphasis on your image so do not be afraid to experiment.
At the end of this article you should be able to grasp an idea of what you should edit in your next photo. A bonus tip for you, incorporate the same thought process when you are shooting. It will make your post processing life much easier knowing you have a game plan for editing in post.