#23 in the Judging a Photograph Series
Sometimes I wonder why so many of us put a filter on our photos before posting online. We scroll through apps like Instagram searching for the best filter without really knowing if other people will like it. A popular Instagram filter might increase engagement. On the other had it might have the effect of making it look the same as everyone else’s picture, and then it doesn’t stand out.
General Editing Tips
The best advice I can offer is to practice small adjustments with all the editing tools that you have to hand, in whatever app you use. An adjustment of just 10% on each slider for brightness, saturation, shadows, or contrast etcetera will make a huge difference – possibly too much. You want to be tweaking – not obliterating – your exposure. Instagram filters can also be added in degrees, and often just a little bit is enough.
Soon, with a bit of practice, you find your personal style and it becomes part of your self-expression. One really positive thing about Instagram seeing people develop as artists. Yes, I mean you! Everyone is capable of artistic expression and Instagram is one very easy channel for practising that.
Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom
If you have access to Photoshop or Lightroom you can also import filters that do the same thing. Of course there is a bigger range of filters in the Adobe software. Also there are plenty of websites that sell plugins for even more. Personally I don’t like the loss of control with these filters, but I have to admit I’ve learned some tricks from them.
Lightroom, if you don’t know it, is photo developing software. In the old days of film, someone in the back room at the local chemists shop would alter exposure and adjust colour and contrast for you when s/he printed your photos. Now we have the slog of doing that ourselves if the image needs it.
In Lightroom there is a vast array of adjustment tools and usually I don’t use half of them. I can see where all the adjustments have been made with these presets (filters). Often creative presets are based on colour overlays.
This photo of the river crossing at Threave castle stood out for me because the boat seems to appear out of a circle of shimmering brightness in the centre. It’s a pretty scene but not stand-out. As there is really only one thing going for it, it’s an ideal candidate for a filter with a strong effect. This Lightroom preset is a purple overlay with high contrast and strong vignette. It’s called creative split tone 4. It certainly splits opinion, and like marmite some love it and some hate it.
Getting The Same Effect in Instagram
I did try to use Instagram to get the same effect with partial success. Here are my settings: Brightness 10%, Contrast 43%, Warmth minus 68%, Saturation 64%, Colour shadows purple 51%, Fade 100%, Shadows minus 37%, Vignette 96%.
Choosing When to Use a Filter
Preset filters are linear, one-dimensional concepts in art. Each filter takes your image firmly in one direction and one direction only. That’s why I think there’s no point using a filter on an image with more complex appeal. What I mean is, if your photo has (for example) lovely light plus great colour and an interesting subject, then probably there’s already too much going on for it to benefit from a filter.
This is no hard and fast rule! It’s not a rule at all really, but an analysis. Who knows what may happen if you experiment? In fact, I’ve broken my “rule” once with great success and I’ll save that for a future blog post.
Read the Judging a Photograph series from the start by clicking here