If you’re running a business (or planning to), you’re probably well aware that an active social media presence is one of the keys to being successful. You probably also know that the most compelling social media content centers around images – quality images that draw the viewer in. While you don’t need to be a professional photographer to turn out photos that keep your viewers engaged, it does help to know a few tricks for making your photos look their best.
1. Level the Horizon
One of the biggest mistakes that novice photographers make is not correcting a crooked horizon. Horizons that are even just a little bit off will throw our subconscious perception out of whack. And it’s not just limited to horizons -architectural lines (doorways, walls, etc.), upright posts, or any other lines we know are supposed to be straight but aren’t will cause the viewer to feel like something is wrong or “out of place.”
Luckily this is a pretty easy fix in most editing programs. Many have a straightener built into their toolkit. If not, you can rotate the image manually and fix the lines by eye.
This photo had both lens corrections and leveling applied.
2. Correct Lens Distortions
Another thing that can really make your image seem “off” is lens distortions. These can bend lines that should be straight, make your image seem convex or concave, and/or produce unintended vignetting. Lens distortions aren’t something that all photo editing programs can fix, so make sure you learn to use one that has it. Adobe Lightroom, DxO Photolab, and RawTherapee, for example, all have automatic lens corrections based on the lens profile of your camera and lens. Others, like Skylum’s Luminar, allow you to do it manually. Either way, this is one fix you want to make sure your editing program can handle.
Remove Color Casts
Another feature that can really ruin an image’s appeal is a heavy color cast. Color casts occur for a number of reasons, most often because the white balance is off. It’s easily fixed in post-processing, however (especially if you’re shooting in Raw). Many programs have a white balance tool where you can simply click on an area that’s supposed to be white. The software then automatically adjusts the color to the appropriate value.
Using the auto levels or auto curves adjustment in programs like Photoshop can also help, especially if you still have a color cast after fixing the white balance or your photo doesn’t have anything white in the photo to measure against. Some programs, like Luminar, actually have a remove color cast filter that works almost magically.
3. Crop according to the Rule of Thirds
The rule of thirds is a design technique used for making sure the elements in your photo are positionally balanced. It basically says that placing items of interest on the “thirds” of an image is more pleasing to the eye than centering them. Many editing programs have a rule of thirds grid option in their crop tool. Use this to make sure that the important aspects of your photo land in places where they’ll have the most pleasing effect.
4. Sharpen Only After You’ve Resized Your Photo
Just about every photo can benefit from at least some sharpening, especially since the editing process itself (whether in-camera or afterward in post-processing) will often soften edges. Sharpening is best done after all another editing, including any resizing or optimizing your photos for the web. If you sharpen before you’ve resized, the end result will either be too sharp or not sharp enough, depending on whether you’re reducing or enlarging the photo.
5. Remove Distracting Elements
If you’re using your photos for marketing, the last thing you’ll want in them are elements that lead the viewer’s focus away from the important elements. Whether it’s dirt, dust, a telephone pole sticking out of someone’s head, or even an unwanted person in the image, it’s now easier than ever to clean up your images with editing software. Of course, it won’t always be easy to remove unwanted elements—especially when they’re laid against a complex background. But for the times it is, it’s well worth it. Just about any serious photo editing app out there will have something akin to a healing brush or clone stamp. There are also a couple of programs like Snapheal, which focus exclusively on eliminating unwanted elements so you won’t have to invest in other, more expensive programs.
There are, of course, many other ways to improve your photos. There’s always more to learn. But if you don’t have a lot of time to make a lot of changes, following these 6 tips will make a clear difference in your image quality.