How to edit amazing indoor photos this winter

So the weather is cold af and sporting events besides football have all moved indoors. It’s an annoying time for photographers because the prettiest photos are generally taken outside. This is the time on Instagram where you’ll see a bunch of people reposting photos from last summer because they don’t have anything to shoot or the things they are shooting are inside which look way less attractive on their feed.

Indoor photos don’t have to be crap though. In my last post I talked about how to properly take indoor photos, but now I’ll talk about how to edit them properly. Because honestly, the chances of you snagging the perfect indoor shot with no editing needed is highly unlikely.

So here’s my tips for editing your indoor photos, so you can keep posting to Instagram all winter no matter what! I’ll edit one horse photo (because those usually require the most editing) and show you step by step how to do it.

#1 Exposure

The first thing everyone has to do after they take an indoor shot is increase the exposure. All editing apps have this feature. It’s pretty standard. The photos you take are going to be dark no matter what especially if you’re shooting action photography. For fast moving subjects, you need a low aperture and a fast shutter speed. And if you’re inside, there’s no way in hell you can get a well lit photo with the limited amount of light inside.

Expose or brighten the image just enough that you can see all the details clearly and the grain is not super noticeable – if it is then we can fix that later. But preferably, a small amount of grain.

Here is the original image:

Here is the image after we adjust the exposure:

#2 Shadows

You might think after you expose it, you’re done! It’s brighter than it was, and it’s such a dramatic difference – that’s it right? Nope. We can do better. It’s the number of small changes we make while editing that give the final product it’s amazing look.

The next thing we’ll do is increase the shadows. While it looks bright enough, it can be brighter. The shadows are still a bit too dark in the back and on the subject. Increase the shadows just a tad so that the background gets a bit brighter too.

Image with adjusted shadows:

It’s hard to tell just by looking so here’s a side by side view:

(adjusted shadows is on the right)

You can see that line straight down the middle showing you how dark the image still was even though we increased the exposure. Increasing the exposure brightens the entire image as a whole, while the shadows get the darker parts the exposure setting couldn’t get.

#3 Contrast

Now that the image is brighter, we’re going to bring it back down a bit. The image is too flat. To bring the subject out from the background, increase the contrast just enough so that the blacks are dark and the whites are bright.

Image with adjusted contrast:

Image side by side (adjusted contrast on the right)

You can see the image on the right after we adjusted the contrast looks more pulled out from the background and has more depth than the image on the right.

But we are still not done yet!

#4 Grain

It’s hard to tell unless you zoom in, but there is indeed a good amount of grain in the photo. While some people like grain in their images to add texture, I do not – unless it’s film when it’s totally ok to have grain. But this is digital and we have the technology.

You don’t need photoshop to de-noise a image, however it certainly helps. Free tools online for photo editing can help you de-noise your image. Here is a close up of the grain we see in the original:

To fix this, go into whatever program your using to edit with to the sharpen/de-noise setting. I use the de-noise setting in the camera raw filter of photoshop, but like I said you can do this any way. Zoom into the photo and drag whatever sliders you have to smooth over the grain so it’s less noticeable. You have to zoom in, otherwise you’ll have no clue what you’re editing. It’s really hard to see, but trust me doing this looks so much better in the final product.

If you smooth over too much, the image will look more like a painting than a photograph, so go easy on it. You probably won’t remove the entire grain, but that’s ok. We’re not trying to get rid of the grain completely, just trying to make it less harsh on the photo.

Here’s the de-noised version of the photo:

You can see the grain still there, but it’s wayyyy more subtle.

Here’s a side by side of the noisy and de-noised photo (de-noise on the right):

Like I said, it’s a really subtle difference, but one I think is essential to editing your indoor photos. Attention to detail is super important in photography, and little details like editing the grain out of your photo makes your work stand out above everyone else’s.

You might think we’re finally done, but not quite!

#5 Color temperature

Color temperature is a misunderstood, often ignored part of editing because most people either don’t care or don’t notice. The photo above is too warm for my liking. I guess in this regard, color temperature is personal preference. But I like my photos to be more neutral when shooting indoors. The type of lighting of the indoor arena (or whatever building your shooting indoors) will either make your photos blue, yellow, orange or white depending on how you white balanced when you first started shooting.

No matter what color your photos are, you can edit it on Instagram in the editor or really any general photo app. All you have to do is go to the white balance slider or the warm/cool slider that looks blue/yellow and adjust it accordingly. It helps to have a side by side of the original as you’re editing so that you don’t make the photo too blue or too yellow/orange.

I cooled my photo down, so here’s the photo after being white balanced:

And here’s a side by side (white balanced on the right)

You can see the change is subtle still. I just thought the warm yellow in the original was overbearing, so I toned them back a bit. How you white balance in post production is absolutely based on personal preference and what looks good to you. Some people prefer the warm colors, but I’m not one of those people.

After the exposure, shadows, contrast, noise and color temperature have been corrected and adjusted to your liking, then you are officially done. I feel like these are the absolute basics that must be fixed if you are to edit your indoor photos properly. You can keep on editing and adjust the whites, blacks, levels, curves, clarity, vibrance, saturation, etc. but those are all personal preferences based on the editor’s taste.

Here’s the original unedited and the final edited product side by side:

And the finished product: