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Basic Photo Editing in Film Photography: Editing Film Scans

Updated: Jan 19

Editing your film scans -- this topic alone might earn me some enemies now, but hear me out.


Basic photo editing in film photography

If you have been taking photos with a film camera for a while now you’ll know that most film photographers have loads of pride in what they do and consider film photography special, particularly for the reason that it is done manually, unlike most things in this increasingly digital life of ours. I suppose that’s why I find myself feeling more in awe when looking at photos that are shot in film. Instinctively, I think that the photo was captured just the way they look at the time of publishing, and without being altered or edited to look a certain way.


I must admit, it does boost your pride a bit to publish a photo that has not been altered in any way thinking that it was all your photography skills that resulted in this beautiful photo. But while I generally agree to keep the resulting photos as untouched and unaltered as possible, I do still think that there is some basic photo editing we can do to elevate the photos, while still preserving the characters so unique to film photography.


Let me show you how.


Color


In general, color is an element I try to touch as little as possible when editing my photos. Why? Because color plays such a strong role in film photography! Every film roll has a different color balance that adds characteristics to the resulting photos -- this is something you’d want to preserve when shooting film. For this reason, adding filters and effects are a definite faux pas for me. Another element I leave untouched is ‘tint’.


Images captured on film naturally produce grain and can contain some light leaks
Images captured on film naturally produce grain and can contain some light leaks, which is why I steer away from adding these extra effects and filters

To achieve a resulting photo that maintains the characteristics of film photography even with the help of a photo editing app, I normally only focus on the following: contrast, brightness, black point, saturation, and warmth. While they are pretty self-explanatory, you can always brush up on your film photography lingo by going through our ultimate photography glossary for beginners.


Composition


The bulk of my photo editing focuses on composition. This basically means cropping and straightening. While these may sound simple enough, they really do make a huge difference and help to elevate your photos to a whole new level.


Cropping is the quickest and easiest way to remove distractions from your photos and adjust focus. When I’m taking photos with my point and shoot camera and I feel like the object is a bit too far away, it helps to think that I can still capture the moment and crop it later to better focus it. I always try to crop by keeping the original dimensions of the photo just for the simplicity of it, but otherwise, it’s also easy to crop in freeform.


At times when you feel like your photos are slightly skewed or distorted, the straightening tool can be your best friend. To me, this tool is an absolute photo-saver. Not only does it allow you to rotate your photos clockwise and counterclockwise, but it also allows you to straighten your photos vertically and horizontally.


In the image below, you can see an example of when I cropped and straightened a photo. Again, even though the actions may seem simple, you can clearly see the stark difference between the before and after images. Just by cropping and straightening a photo, you can adjust the focus of the image and make the photo much more beautiful.



Now, I can’t tell you what the best photo editing app is, but I can tell you my favorite. Most of the time, I find that editing from the iPhone Photos does the job. But when I feel like the photo needs a bit more work, that’s when I turn to my favorite editing app, Snapseed. With a bit more features than the iPhone Photos, Snapseed does the job yet without making anything too confusing or fancy for us basic editors. This basically means that I can do my editing on the go, which is a definite plus point on the convenience side of things.


Ultimately, it is your decision whether to edit your photos or not. But if you and I are alike, then these photo editing basics will most likely help you achieve your dream photo results. And if you do decide to edit your photo, my advice would be just to explore the tools a bit to see what they do and how you like the results.


Have any photo editing tips of your own? Don’t be a hog and share them with us!



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