A year ago, when I opened Go Backpacking up to contributors, I got an email from Troy Floyd, an American traveler/photographer/blogger who wanted to share some his ideas and images. The instant I saw his photography, I knew I wanted to work with him.
Over the next several months, I began to feature portrait photos from the “Faces” series at his blog, FOGGOdyssey.com. I admired the way he got up close to people, capturing the details in their faces, and how he used editing software to enhance the original photos, making them more vibrant and colorful.
My first exposure to Adobe Photoshop Lightroom was during my Rwanda trip this past April. As it was a social media press trip, my group included Eric Lafforgue, a BBC photographer on assignment for Lonely Planet, and Peter Stuckings, a freelancer based in Vietnam. Simply by being in their presence, I improved as a photographer, however I still figured editing photos was over my head.
In an effort to further grow as a photographer this year, I bought a Canon S90 before leaving for Colombia in June. Not only was it recommended by Jodi at Legal Nomads (and I knew she did her homework before buying one), it allowed me the opportunity to shoot in RAW, meaning I would have more leeway to edit my photos versus shooting in JPG, should the desire arise down the road.
And arise it did, after returning to Medellin, and hanging around Troy for 3 1/2 months. It was like hanging around Eric and Peter, but for a prolonged period. Not only would I be with Troy when he was taking photos, I'd see what they looked like after he edited them. Before he left Colombia a few days ago, we sat down together and he gave me a tutorial on Lightroom and file management (which becomes important when you're amassing tens of thousands of photos).
Below are some of my early attempts to take old travel photos and spruce them up through the magic of Lightroom. As I found my personal style and voice through writing here every day for close to four years, I know I will eventually develop my photo-editing abilities too.
Here are a few before/after examples from my experience getting started with Lightroom. And be sure to tell me what you think! If you have any specific feedback (positive or constructive) on specific “after” photos, please share in the comments section below.
This was suppose to be my “making you jealous from a beach in the South Pacific” photo, but overcast skies and a Canon Powershot 6mp camera (on a lower quality setting) left me with a dull result. Together with Troy, we highlighted the turquoise waters, warmed up the sand with yellows, and gave the clouds some definition. We also brightened up my face to help draw the viewer's focus.
On a snorkel trip around Moorea, we passed by these luxury bungalows. With the lush green mountain backdrop, and the dolphin swimming to the right, I thought this photo would reflect the paradise I was visiting. But again, overcast skies, and a low quality photo left it looking bland. I used a Lightroom preset called “General – Punch” to pump some life back into the shot. I then tweaked the brightness, exposure, and contrast to show some definition in the clouds.
Back on Tahiti, I ate the pork being cooked in this photo as my last supper before heading on to New Zealand in the morning. Again, overcast skies, combined with a setting sun, diminished the available light. I used another Lightroom preset to give me a quick 1-click improvement, and then adjusted individual settings for both practice, and to ensure the photo looked the way I wanted. I was specifically focused on brightening the flowers painted on the truck, and warming up the fire.
Oftentimes, looking back at the photos from my 'round the world trip, I remember a much more vibrant scene than was captured on camera. When I took this night photo of the Sky Tower in Auckland, the photo on the right is closer to what I saw then how it came out originally on the left. In Lightroom, I did a little crop to focus attention on the Sky Tower, removed dust spots, and brightened the greens and reds.
As my Lightroom tutorial with Troy wound down, I started editing this photo from New Zealand, which is one of my all-time favorites. It was too stormy at Cathedral Cove for us to go sea kayaking, so we hung out for a bit, looking at the rough waters. One of the backpackers on our bus hopped up on the rock, his boots dangling from his hand. The silhouette of him against the sea says “contemplation” to me. Troy helped tweak it a little further.
As I get started editing photos, I'm sure I will be over-editing many of them. Adding too much saturation, too much color, and turning natural landscapes and people's skin tones into what I think looks good. But it might end up terribly unappealing to everyone else. As Troy suggested, I'm going to chalk it up to the learning process. In the case of this photo on Lake Taupo, I took a more subtle approach, and I think it shows how a few small improvements can make a big difference.
While visiting the historic San Antonio neighborhood of Cali, Colombia, Troy took a few photos of me against a variety of painted buildings. In this photo, he was drawn by the textures, so in Lightroom, I darkened it up a bit, which brought out the texture of blue area of wall. I brightened my face, and tried to add a little to the orange without going overboard. The photo didn't need to be cropped, it's exactly how Troy framed the shot with my camera.