Six steps to instantly improve your photos

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Follow these simple steps to bring an instant lift to almost all photos

The most important step in the photography process is getting the right shot with the right settings, but there are plenty of things you can do in software to make an average shot good, and a good shot great.

The word “workflow” often crops up in digital photography circles, for the simple reason that there’s a standard chain of software operations that will enhance most photos.

You’ll find you want to apply them on a regular basis, before you think about any other enhancements for a given image. Click here for our complete guide to creating perfect photos.

Improve your shots

Improve your shots

These are the steps you should take with all your shots to give them an instant lift. They’ll have a positive effect on almost any photo, and once you’re used to the process, it should take only a few seconds per shot.

GIMP those levels

GIMP those levels

Using the GIMP editor, select Colours | Levels. Under the Input Level histogram “mountain” chart, drag the left-hand (black) slider right until you reach the “foothills” of the mountain.

Adjust the brightness

Adjust the brightness

Drag the right-hand (white) slider to the left a little, but be careful not to “blow out” light areas of the image. You can then use the middle, grey slider to change the overall brightness of the mid-tones of the picture.

Sort the saturation

Sort the saturation

Now you can give the colours a lift. In the menu bar, select Colours | Hue-Saturation. Drag the Saturation slider to the right and everything will become more colourful. A setting of between 10 and 20 is usually best.

Sharpen those shots

Sharpen those shots

Finally, sharpening up the details in your shots can give them extra sparkle. Select Filters | Enhance | Unsharp Mask. For printing a shot, try settings of 0.1, 1.0 and 0 for Radius, Amount and Threshold respectively.

The wonders of workflow

The wonders of workflow

The final shot should look much punchier and arresting than the original. For under-exposed shots, like the one we started with, the Levels control can work wonders for bringing contrast back into the shot.

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