Steps to Better Photography - Editing

Creating a Work Flow - The Essentials

No matter what type of file you shoot in, be it RAW, JPEG or even if it is a negative scan, these are the basic steps that I believe you should take every time you edit an image.

I use Adobe Photoshop but I believe that Lightroom has similar, if not the same, functions and features.
If your editing software doesn’t allow you to follow these steps, I would highly recommend updating your software to a program that does.

·         Open your file and ‘SAVE AS’ a TIFF.

This is so you are not damaging your original file and can go back to it as need be.

·         Duplicate Layer

This second layer is where you make your basic changes and adjustments. Again, this gives you an untouched copy to either refer to or to restore.

·         Remove Chromatic Aberration

Chromatic Aberration is the green and magenta fringing around subject matter that can occur. In Photoshop, you can find this feature under: FILTERS > LENS CORRECTION
Tick ‘Chromatic Aberration’

Remove CA.jpg

·         Straighten Your Horizon

This is part of the crop tool and I cannot stress how important this is. Unless you have a vista that shows the curvature of the earth, Horizons should be STRAIGHT.
Turn on Grid Lines in the view window if you do not have a sharp eye.
In the menu bar at the top, you will see what looks like a little suitcase, select this. Your cursor will turn into a right angle. At any corner of your image, move this angle up or down to straighten your image.

·         Fix Perspective Warp

Architecture, when photographed with a wide lens or view and/or from a low angle, will always require this step. The human eye doesn’t perceive the buildings as ‘falling backwards’ but the camera does.
Perspective Warp is not complicated and once you see the difference it makes to your architectural images; you’ll always use this tool.

In Photoshop drop down the EDIT menu and select Perspective Warp.

PW 1.jpg


This is a two-stage step.
First is ‘Layout’. When this is highlighted, pull an outline around the entire image.

PW 2.jpg


Once done, at the top left of your screen, choose the ‘Warp’ button.
Place your mouse over the top left corner point and slowly drag the corner of your image upwards and outwards.

PW 3.jpg


Do this slowly until the left side of the buildings are straight.
Repeat the step on the top right corner of your image.
You may find that you need to alternate sides until both are lined up correctly.

This step is why, when framing your shot, you need to allow room around your subject. You will lose a portion of your image. It also helps to make certain that you have at least one straight line in your shot that you can use as a reference point.

Once you’re satisfied with the perspective warp, tick to complete function. Then crop to original ratio.

Crop original ratio.jpg

·         Open Camera Raw

Adjust your highlights, shadows, exposure, vibrancy etc as necessary.
This adjustment should be just the basics. This is not the layer to add any ‘creative’ adjustments.


Camera raw.jpg

·         Duplicate Layer

This third layer is what I rename my ‘working’ layer. This layer is where I will start to make more creative editing and adjustments if I feel my image needs it.
This is the layer where you start to inject your own editing aesthetic.

Be sure to always create new layers with each step and rename them with the change you have made. Then you have a reference to be able to duplicate that style on other images.

Once I have finished my editing;
* I save the TIFF with all the layers separate.
* Using ‘SAVE AS’, save a copy as a JPEG at Full Resolution.
* Once saved, I add a discreet watermark and change file size. I will always change the height of the image, no matter what orientation the image is, to 1080px. Then using ‘SAVE AS’ again, save as a JPEG in a separate folder named Web or Watermarked
* Then close the file with NO change to your TIFF.

This small resolution image with watermark is the file I use to publish online. This size file won’t slow down your website or take too long to upload. While people may still be able to download and print your image, they will be limited to a small print size.

Some EXTRA Points of info to keep in mind.

Once your work is online, you will not be able to stop people from downloading and sharing your images. So only publish low resolution versions.

JPEG files deteriorate over time, especially if they are frequently opened. This is another reason to have four versions of an image.
1, RAW – Original
2, TIFF – Edited but in a non-destructive way
3, JPEG – Full Resolution for any prints
4, JPEG – Low Resolution with Watermark for online Publishing.

If you are using your Phone Camera, these editing steps can and should still be taken. Except for Remove Chromatic Aberration as I have never seen this issue in an iPhone shot.
I use Snapseed when I edit in phone. It is a free app and compatible with IOS and Android.

Just remember that unless you are a documentary photographer, HAVE FUN and apply your own aesthetic. Be original, create your own art.

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Bella @ Photo Tours Edinburgh

Steps to Better Photography - Part 3

Study Images

Whether you’re flicking through Instagram or a magazine, spend a few minutes studying any image that captures your attention.

There are several key components to assessing images.

·         Craft and Execution.

This is the technical stuff. Things like focus, proper exposure and adequate contrast.

·         Production Value

Production Value is about the effort you’ve put into taking an image. The level of difficulty for achieving the result.

·         Subject Matter or Content

This is WHAT you photograph and it’s entirely subjective, which is why this is the least important aspect. You won’t be able to please everyone, and you shouldn’t try. If the subject is meaningful to you, that is all that matters.  

·         Composition

We covered what makes for good composition in our last post here. This is a separate point because it is possible to have a well composed shot that has improper exposure/focus.

·         The ‘STORY’ or Wow Factor

This is an oft undervalued factor in assessing images. In fact, it’s one of the most important. The is what grabs you, holds your attention & makes you feel something, ie; it speaks to you.
You don’t have to like the image to appreciate the ‘story’.

Use these components to work out WHY you stopped to look at a particular image. What was it that grabbed your attention?

Was it the Lighting? Colour? Content? Impact? Lines? Contrasts? Is there a story being told? Did it make you feel something?

What you are trying to determine from asking these questions is the HOW.
How would they have taken the image? Then you can try to reverse engineer the photograph.

Photography is a constant learning curve. I would never condone plagiarism and absolutely encourage you to discover your own aesthetic & view point, however, this is a great step to practice, get out shooting, and to get to know your craft.

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Bella @ Photo Tours Edinburgh

Steps to Better Photography - Part 2

Composition. Learn the Rules.

Whilst rules are meant to be broken, you must first know what they are and why we use them.

Technically, the rules are more like guidelines, but the reason we use them is that they work.

Whether you’re shooting in manual or auto, using a DSLR or a phone Camera, knowing what makes for a good image is key.

1)    Composition and Framing.

Aside from focus, this is the most important.

The rule of thirds is effective and should be used as your main guideline. Simply, the rule of thirds encourages you visually divide your image into a grid of nine.
Distributing, for example, 2/3 ground and 1/3 sky
The alternating orientation having 1/3 with tree and 2/3 with scene.

IMG_7839 Comp Sample.jpg

The exception is symmetry. Symmetry: meaning that if you folded your image in half, the two sides would mirror, however be sure to consider the alternating orientation and apply the rule of thirds.

IMG_0771 Mirror Comp Sample.jpg

2)    Leading Lines

Leading lines are used to draw the viewers eye into the photograph.
It is a way to capture their attention and make certain that they see what you want them to.

Leading lines are things such as roads, fences, pathways, rivers, buildings and walls. Using these in your image will force people to follow the line to your subject and/or look at the whole image.

Lines, especially curved or converging lines, will add more dimension to your shot and give a strong sense of perspective.

IMG_7609 Leading Lines Sample.jpg

3)    Know your Light

Knowing what the light will do to your subject is important. This is mostly leaned by experience, so get out & shoot in all different lighting conditions.
Pick a scene, and shoot that so that you have direct comparisons.

However, the photographers ‘Golden Hour’ is the time shortly after sunrise or before sunset. The sunlight is redder and softer during this period.

This is a great time to be out shooting especially as a beginner as it will give you a chance to work on your framing & composition without wondering about your light.

IMG_5397 Light Sample.jpg

Focus, exposure and colour balance are all ‘rules’ because they result in an image that is pleasing to the eye.
Once you have mastered these, go ahead and break the rules. As a photographic artist, you need to find your own aesthetic view point. It’s just important that when you do ‘break the rules’ you know why you have done it.

Remember, one of the greatest street photographers, Henri Cartier-Bresson, said ‘Your first 10’000 photographs are your worst.’

We get to that number a lot faster now with digital, but basically… Practice!

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Bella @ Photo Tours Edinburgh

Steps to Better Photography - Part 1

Know Your Camera.

I have several different camera’s, however my go to is my Canon DSLR.
Obviously, the ease of digital is a reason, but the second is that I know this camera like the back of my hand.

Edinburgh Photography Walking Tours Cameras

Knowing your Camera and knowing what each setting means, allows you to quickly change from one to another. This gives you much more creative control over the images you make.

It’s also the easiest step to start with.

The 5 essential Camera settings to know are; ISO, Shutter Speed, Aperture, Depth of Field (DOF) and White Balance. Learn how to change them and spend some time experimenting with the result they have on your image.

It is also worthwhile investing time in scrolling through the menu’s and custom settings. Things like metering modes and focal points and how those affect your shots in different shooting circumstances.

Reading through your new camera manual can be disheartening but it’s extremely important to have a thorough understanding of your camera’s features and functions.
The last thing you want is to be fumbling through settings when you’re out shooting and lose the moment. Knowing your Camera and knowing what each setting means, allows you to quickly change from one to another. This gives you much more creative control over the images you make.

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Bella @ Photo Tours Edinburgh



Edinburgh Castle


February 22, 2018

Scotland's leading tourist attraction.

Known as the 'Defender of the Nation', no trip to Edinburgh would be complete without a visit to Edinburgh Castle.

Sitting atop Castle Hill, an extinct volcano, its position has made it one of the best defended fortresses in Scotland.

Edinburgh Walking Photo Tours Vennel Steps

One of the most impressive sieges was in 1314, while the castle was occupied by the English.
A few months prior to the Battle of Bannockburn, Thomas Moray & a small group of 20 men scaled the castle walls & managed to reclaim it from the English.

The Castle remains an active military base, with a highlight being the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo in August.
Of course, if you aren't here in August, there is always the One O'Clock Gun. A tradition that dates back to 1861 when it allowed ships in the Firth of Forth to set their maritime clocks.

Edinburgh Walking Photo Tour Castle Gun View

The Castle is home to the Honours (Crown Jewels) of Scotland & the Destiny Stone.

The Crown Jewels were no longer considered of importance when the unification of the Crowns happened & were subsequently packed up & 'lost' within the castle for over 100 years. Rediscovered in 1818, they have been on display since.

The Destiny Stone, plundered from Scone Abbey & sent to London after the Longshanks Castle siege in 1296, was a powerful & ancient symbol of the Scottish Monarchy.

The legend surrounding the stone is that of biblical origins. The legend says that this is the stone that Jacob slept on when we he dreamed of the connection (ladder) from earth to heaven. Most interpretations of this dream, agree that it signified Jacob as chosen by God.

Returned to Scotland in 1996, the Destiny Stone will only leave Scotland again when there is another coronation in Westminster Abbey.

Both the Crown Jewels & the Destiny Stone can be seen in the Crown Room, within the Castle.

The Castle is also home to the National War Museum of Scotland, the 15th Century Mons Meg siege cannon & the oldest building in Edinburgh, St Margaret's Chapel. Built around 1130 by David I, in dedication to his mother Queen Margaret.

Whilst we don’t go into the Castle on our tour, you will get some stunning shots of the exterior & the Portcullis gate.

I would recommend visiting the castle but do allow yourself a couple of hours.
Tickets are £17 for an adult & you would do well to pre book during the busy summer months as the queues can be extensive. Bookings can be made here.

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Bella @ Photo Tours Edinburgh

Sources not linked in Blog
Scotsman
Edinburgh News
All Images are used with permission & remain
© Bella McRae / Bella Eve Art 2018
excepting the Crown Jewels & the Destiny Stone
These images are courtesy of Castle Edinburgh