Cover image showing an open laptop, pot plant, closed notebook and cup of coffee with text saying New Skills Loading

New Year, New Skills; Things to try in the Summer break

If you’re like me and have lots of free time on your hands before uni goes back, why not learn some new skills? Uni Newcastle students have free access to a range of programs like Microsoft Office, OneDrive, Adobe Express and Creative Cloud. Regardless of your age or tech-savvy-ability, anybody can learn new skills, whether to benefit your study or hobbies at home.  

As a creative and hobbyist photographer, I’ve explored some editing software but wanted to branch out of my comfort zone to find new ways to create and edit my work. In this article, I’m going to show you some tricks and tips on using some of the software available to Uni Newcastle students. My favourite programs for photo editing are provided by Adobe. The university provides free access to Adobe express and you can also unlock the Creative Cloud All Apps plan at the student discount of just $21.99 a month, compared to the usual price of $80. 

Adobe Lightroom

I’ll start with my old faithful, Adobe Lightroom. I began using Lightroom a couple of years ago to edit photos for my photography business and enhance the quality and aesthetic of my day-to-day images. One of my favourite features of Lightroom is its phone app. When I’m not editing official business photos, I add some life to my Instagram photos. My other favourite feature is its presets. Using presets saves me hours of photo editing and they look far better than any Instagram filters on offer. 

For example, here is a photo I took for Nesbitt Hair and Beauty on my Canon 700D. It was a fun and vibrant shoot, but I really wanted to add depth and an edgier feel by turning them black and white.  

A photo showing a woman with short green and pink hair and a pink blazer, standing next to a woman with braids and a zebra print jacket
A screenshot showing the image of the two women being edited in Adobe Lightroom, turning it into a black and white image
Before and after editing a photoshoot in Adobe Lightroom

Using the settings in Lightroom, I changed it to black and white then manipulated the image to darken and sharpen it. When I was happy with the overall edit, I saved the settings as a preset that I can use on other photos in future.  

Here’s another example using basic colour and light editing used on a photo I took for a friend’s wedding. I loved the way I was able to enhance the detail in the hillside and really pronounce the colour of the sunset in the background to make it feel warmer. 

An unedited photograph of a bride in a white wedding dress and groom in a blue wedding suit, standing together on the edge of a cliff
The edited version of the photograph of the bride and groom, with stronger and brighter colours that make the cliff and ocean more visible
Editing a friend’s wedding photo in Lightroom

Adobe Premiere Pro

Last semester in one of my courses, we were tasked with creating a viral video for a local business using our mobile phones and Premiere Pro. Taking photos is one thing but the idea of creating videos terrified me. With all its tools and panels, Premiere Pro looks overwhelming to those unfamiliar with it. But with the help of YouTube tutorials and trial and error, even someone like me who still struggles with making reels was able to put together a simple video. 

I chose to create my viral video for The Lincoln Room Barbershop and knew I wanted to incorporate an element of horror because the manager was a big fan. I constructed a simple storyboard, gathered willing friends and shot a bunch of videos using basic techniques I had learnt in class. Within 20 minutes I had 3 minutes’ worth of footage I could break down into a 30-second clip. I uploaded the clips to Premiere Pro and slowly began to drag them into place and trim them down. 

The cutting tool was my best friend in timing the individual clips perfectly and I was able to use video effects such as zoom and fade in/out to disguise areas that weren’t shot as well as I’d hoped. I finished by adding a song acquired through Soundstripe and a catchy tagline along with the business’ logo and website.  

A screenshot of the Adobe Premiere Pro screen that shows the video being edited
Editing the video in Adobe Premiere Pro

I still have a long way to go before I could class myself as a Lightroom or Premiere Pro ‘master’ but even the most overwhelming or difficult-looking programs can be utilised at any skill level – these are just two examples. While you’re at it why not check out Microsoft Planner so you can balance your work, study and social life next semester? Whether just for fun outside of uni or to benefit your coursework, I highly recommend visiting the available programs page on the University website to see how you can upskill this semester. 

Leave a Reply