I have to admit, I am quite hesitant to do this post because I am really quite fond of my current 'secret recipe' for editing photos, but...FOR THE COMMUNITY!
About a year back, I posted about my ~photo editing~ steps, but of course, a lot has changed since then. For one, my final photos are now less sht (ain't even gonna sugarcoat it). EVOLUTION IS INEVITABLE. But seriously, I often joke that more than anything, my photos are mostly the work of Photoshop. And y'know, by the end of the post, you'll see why. I has no photography skillz, dude.
What do all these photos have in common, beside the fact that they all look sad and miserable and like they belong in a commercial featuring one of Sarah McLachlan's songs? Well...they're actually all shots taken straight from the camera. Damn, that's rough.
I really do want to emphasize that even with optimal lighting, photos can often look like sht when uploaded onto the computer. I use natural lighting for all my shots, and usually shoot in the afternoon when the light is cooler and the light less harsh for softer shadows (and because I can't wake up early, pft).
In Photoshop, my workflow generally consists of sharpening an image, boosting colours and contrast, brightening, and if needed, some miscellaneous effects (e.g. low-contrast, vignette). I've been specifically relying on these Photoshop actions for about a year now, as I've tried tons of sets, but I always come back to that one because it offers practical basics and some different 'filter' effects.
LET'S ROLL OUT THE PARTY.
STEP ONE: OPEN AND ASSESS (heh, asses[s])
STEP TWO: DO THE THING
SHARPEN. (If needed, I'll repeat this step)
COLOUR BOOST. (It might not look like a big difference because I don't want my products to look radioactive, ja feel)
From there on, I adjust things like brightness, curves, adjust the colour balance, throw in a heavy vignette for some ~moodiness~ if the photo needs it, and just play around until I'm happy with the photo.
Not the best example of a finished picture, but you get the gist of the process.
Other tools I rely heavily on include the "dodge tool", "exposure", and "selective colour".
I use the "dodge tool" to lighten/soften shadows/lens vignetting and to make specific sections of the photo brighter/whiter. I usually set the exposure of the dodge tool to 3-5% so that I can gradually 'scrub' away the colour.
Note the reduced shadows in the bowl after using the "dodge tool" in the second photo.
In the exposure tool, I generally use "offset" to get that 'low contrast' effect, while "gamma correction" usually adds a ~dreamy~ white haze to the photo (if needed).
I use "selective colour" when I want to specifically increase certain colours in the photo, typically white.
I feel like a detergent commercial but "IT'S WHITER THAN WHITE!!!" Note how the other colours don't change. ~*~Magic~*~*~*~༼ ಥل͟ಥ ༽
Photoshop—pretty much intensive makeup for photos.