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Someone asked me this on Twitter:
A. Excellent! First things first, though. To wrap our brains around producing photos with the wow factor, you have to get acquainted with (at least) basic post production (aka: ‘editing’) methods. You don’t take pictures that pop, you make pictures that pop! Capturing the image on your camera’s sensor is only the beginning. These are the things I would say you should consider to produce imagery which is vivid, interesting and full of personality:
1.} First and foremost, learn about and pay attention to: your subject matter (is it interesting?), your composition (Are you framing the shot well? Is it at an angle that says something?) and your background. What’s in the background is so so important. Take this cat for instance. Nothing interesting about a cat. But my eye caught the rustic location and vivid colours and I instantly switched from shooting my kids to taking one photo of this cat in passing.
2. } When it comes to colours, like I said before, it only has a little bit to do with your camera and a whole lot to do with what you do with the image afterwards. The cat image above was boring and flat before I took 5 minutes to fiddle with it in Lightroom. When it comes to colour, there is only one rule you need to remember about the actual time of capture with the camera: SHOOT IN RAW. Why? Because with RAW, you can have access to every last atom of data collected by your camera’s sensor when you open it up in your computer. There’s a workflow to editing RAW files which you can learn in one reading session online. After that, you’re free to adjust your image to be exactly what you want it to be. For example, if you accidentally had your white balance set to sunny and now you’re in cloudy weather, your images will turn out very blue and cold. But if you shot them in RAW, you can change that in the computer.
3.} Find a group on Flickr or a website which shows you lots of photography before and afters. You can see how even the best photographers don’t always take images with wow factor at first and they often come with hints, tips and recipes for how they were edited.
4.} Start learning some basic editing techniques. Subscribe here at dPS to stay updated on the tutorials. I’ve been known to spill the beans that I learned everything I know about photography from dPS. Seriously. I also have a blog for photographers who are on the early end of their interest in photography.
Learn what the sliders in Lightroom do (what is contrast, highlights, shadow?) Play with presets in Lightroom, actions in Photoshop and texture layers! And if you think Photoshop is out of your league, think again. Photoshop Elements costs under £100.
5.} For greater dimension in your photos (to get rid of the flat feeling), I like to edit the photo’s foreground and background independently. I do this in PS by selecting the foreground elements with the quick selection tool or lasso and making it a new layer. I then enhance the background and foreground independently from each other.
In short, my answer to the question of how to capture images which are exciting and vibrant is this: you don’t take them, you make them!
P.S. To ask dPS questions on Twitter, just use #dPSquestion in your tweet