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Photo editing for dummies
Hey folks, I promised this kind of a tutorial to some of the gentlemen over Multicopters International facebook group. I’ll be describing some ways I edit photos of my builds so that they can look sharp and more detailed than it would be possible by just posting them straight from my simple point and shoot camera. This is kind of offtopic, but as we all love to share how odd/pretty/clean/awesome our builds or parts look, we can do it a bit prettier  Cool

Before you continue, be aware that I am not a professional photographer, nor photo editor. All I show here is what I learned by myself, mostly by trial and error method. If you see any errors of my ways, please share as I’m always open to learn new things Smile

What I use to take photos:
  • My old Canon PowerShot SX200 IS point and shoot, mostly in macro and super macro mode
  • Two soft lights I described here: http://intofpv.com/t-photography-softlight
  • White backdrop made from back side of banner canvas (hint: also great to use as quadcopter launching pads)
While taking photos, especially with a cheap camera, remember to set white balance manually to get better results. You don’t want algorithms to choose different settings on the same photography session.

Unfortunately, when you take photos on white backdrop, darker details, especially insides of our carbon-claded quads, are often too dark to see. We can fix this in numerous ways by using photo editing software such as Photoshop, GIMP or recently released as open beta Windows version of Affinity Photo, which I will be using during this tutorial.

Here I marked examples of some tools you can use to fix your photos quality, but keep in mind that most of them should be used with moderation - you don’t want your photos to have overblown colors etc Smile

I’ll show some examples of different photos I took some time ago and how can they be made better.

First let me show you my spaghetti monster. Putting perspective issues aside, overall it’s an OK photo, sharp enough to showcase how (not)clean it is, but way too dark to my liking.

First thing I always pick is [Levels] tool to check histogram of the image. Histogram is a graphical representation of numerical data distribution… yeah, whatever - because I feel too dumb to actually explain it to you, let’s quote:

A histogram is a graphical representation of the pixels exposed in your image.  The left side of the graph represents the blacks or shadows, the right side represents the highlights or bright areas and the middle section is mid-tones (middle or 18% grey).  How high the peaks reach represent the number of pixels in that particular tone.
Source: http://digital-photography-school.com/how-to-read-and-use-histograms/

Umm… yeah. This is how the histogram looks in Affinity Photo with [Levels] tool:

You can clearly see on the graph, I have no information on right side - lighter side followed by a large peak of information - that's my backdrop. That’s a clear indication, that you can just cut it out without loosing too much information about important parts of this particular image. Let’s fix that Smile

In the upper right portion of this image (actual side bar of application), you can see some automatic suggestions, ie. you could choose “lighten” to get a quick fix, but I learned that it cuts too little from the lighter side of the image - I still had a lot of shadows on the backdrop. I moved white level a little bit further down to hide more shadows and reduced gamma to show more detail in dark parts of the image.




Let’s take the same photo again and play with bumping visibility of only darker areas with [Shadows / Hilights] tool. If I still have too low detail in darker areas I also use this tool to fix this. Here I pulled the “Shadows” slider to 100% just to show you the difference. Top half is original, whereas bottom has shadows bumped to 100%:

It’s not a major, but can be quite handy. Especially when you try to show labels on chips etc.

White balance

This comes in handy when you forget to set white balance manually - ie. here I had a softlight with an ordinary light bulb that casts a yellowish light, but my camera has set itself incorrectly to white fluorescent light. Effect - yellowish tint on the whole photo. Quick fix - [White balance] tool

Original photo:

Fixed, still I should fix white balance more, and actually add a bit of a green tint, but I think you can spot the difference:

Difference between original and modified version (bottom):


You can get similar effects by using different tools - here I used [Recolour] tool to add a bit of blueish tint and get a bit of a similar effect, additional edits should follow this step of course:


This is a tool I use pretty much randomly and see what effect i get if I’m not 100% satisfied with the results. I don’t understand it, but it works sometimes Wink I use this to bump up the details if everything else fails Big Grin

Here I managed to change the color of the motor (bottom side is edited), but left the backdrop unchanged. Remember, you can use curves on a “Master” channel (all colours) or pick different colors to fiddle with (Red, Green, Blue).

Lazy mode

In the upper bar of Affinity Photo you have 4 mysterious orbs. This is [Lazy Mode]:

From the left:
[Auto levels] [Auto Contrast] [Auto Colors] [Auto White Balance]

Pretty self-explanatory, but now as you understand what those buttons do, you can forget what I wrote earlier, just click and enjoy. But i warn you - sometimes it will look like crap LOL
Find me on Youtube and Instagram. I currently fly: NOX5, NOX5RAirblade Assault 130 and drive a scrap RC car
[-] The following 5 users Like KonradS's post:
  • campagnium, fftunes, Oscar, RENOV8R, Grisha0
Very nice tutorial, thanks Konrad.

Thought i'd add a shabby little guide on how to use layers, which would go well together with Konrad's tutorial if for example one of the automatic effects is basically good, but too strong. Layers offer endless possibilites, but i'll show the most simple thing they can be used for, with a description in the attachements:


Btw here i'm using the free "Serif Photoplus Starter Edition" which i can recommend. The free version has limited functions but offers all the basic features you'd expect from a photoshop clone. It requires an internet connection at startup but that only seems to trigger an advertisement mail each time you open the program. Which can be forwarded to your spam box. Wink
[-] The following 1 user Likes fftunes's post:
  • KonradS
Thanks for adding that fftunes - indeed, layers can be used as a method to restore characteristics of original image by a chosen amount Smile
Find me on Youtube and Instagram. I currently fly: NOX5, NOX5RAirblade Assault 130 and drive a scrap RC car
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