Simple Photo Editing for Beginners

Sometimes I forget that not everyone is obsessed with photography.  So when someone says, “Is that picture “photoshopped?” it throws me a little, because I recently realized that to some people (especially non-photographers), the term “photo editing” has a negative connotation, as if “photoshopping” always means altering a photo in a “fake” or unrealistic way.

Photo editing tips for beginners

Although that kind of extreme alteration of a photo can be a creative, artistic expression, and I’ll sometimes do that for fun, it’s not what I mean when I use the term “photo editing.” DSLR images often need some post processing, especially if you’re shooting in Raw.  Even JPEGS can often benefit from some editing.

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Photo editing (which I usually do in Lightroom, but also PicMonkey) is simply quick editing of some simple aspects of a photo to “develop” it and make it look its best, in much the same way that back in my film photography days I chose a place to develop my photos.

For instance, the film processing at our neighborhood drugstore  was always a bit off in color and exposure, vs. the processing at the camera shop nearby, who took the time to color correct and brighten the dark ones.

Point-and-shoot cameras usually have better straight out of camera images than  DSLRs because point-and shoot cameras are already internally adjusted and don’t have the versatility of  DSLRs in terms of settings. It’s more expected that DSLR images will be polished in “post.”  Plus, a quick edit can save an otherwise unusable image.

See how subtle the differences are in the before and after shot of Sunny, below?  In Lightroom, I adjusted the exposure, added some contrast, and sharpened a bit. Those are the edits I make most often. Sometimes more help is needed for a photo, especially if the exposure is way off, etc., but it’s best to try to get everything as accurate as possible “in camera.”

Lightroom Edit

photo editing tips for beginners

As you can tell, I edit simply. Occasionally I’ll whiten someone’s teeth a tad, but only an adult’s teeth and only slightly. No glowing teeth here. I might add a little vibrance to the color, if needed.

Even this kind of simple editing is subjective. Some people like a bright, “contrasty” image, while some prefer a softer, less vivid image. That is individual taste and art.

Picture Style and Picture Control

Do you hate to edit photos at all, or just want a head start?

No worries, if you have a DSLR, there are some adjustments that can be made within even the most basic DSLR that change the way a JPEG image looks straight out of camera (SOOC).

In Nikon,  this is called Picture Control, and in Canon it’s called Picture Style. There are several basic settings from which to choose: Neutral, Standard, etc, and within those, some fine tuning of Contrast, Brightness, Saturation, etc.

These are fun to play around with, and the fine tuning can help you achieve the look you want, in-camera, without a lot of editing later. (P.S.If you shoot RAW,  none of this applies, as a RAW image is completely unprocessed and needs more editing.  RAW will give you the most control and will help recover badly exposed photos much better.)

Editing Programs

Lightroom   Lightroom is my favorite program for photo editing. I never really liked Photoshop because working in layers was confusing to me. (My brain doesn’t work that way!)  Lightroom can be used very simply or in more depth, and I love the ability to use sliders to get quick fixes. I absolutely love Lightroom.

PicMonkey   I realize, though,  that you might be looking for something faster and more simple, without any learning curve. For a few dollars a month, PicMonkey is a great choice.  It is so much fun, too. I also use it to create all of my Pinterest pins and all of my blog collages, so I am in PicMonkey several times per week.  Plus, PicMonkey has templates for Facebook, Instagram, Etsy, and much more. And it’s easy.

Whichever editing program you choose, enjoy the process, and choose how much, or how little editing you want to do.

Lightroom Edit

photo editing tips for beginners

Linking to:

Wordless Wednesday at Create with Joy

Sugar and Spice

Wordless Wednesday at Mama to 5 Blessings

Inspire Me Monday at Create with Joy

Artsy Fartsy Mama

Creatively Crafty at Try It Like It

Creative Compulsions at My Bijou Life

Blogger’s Pit Stop

Traffic Jam Weekend Link Party at Being a Wordsmith

Inspire Me Monday at Mostly Blogging

Happy Now at Jenerally Informed

Creative Muster at Fluster Buster

LouLou Girls Fabulous Party

Wonderful Wednesday at Le Cultivateur

Wonderful Wednesday at OMHG

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  1. Yes, I definitely edit my photos! I have to because I shoot only RAW so I have to add the compression, contrast and sharpening that the camera would add if it were a jpeg. And I love to fix photos that otherwise wouldn't work.
    I don't airbrush or change the way people look, but I'll totally edit on command!

  2. I love your take on the editing process! It's true, it totally helps our photos look their best. And I think you show some great examples. For a while I felt like post-processing was "cheating" and only let myself use images in their straight out of camera condition. But over the past year or so I've come to realize that it's a vital and totally valid part of the artistic process of photography. Why not use tools we have at our disposal to enhance and achieve our vision for an image, don't we already do that with a camera (and haven't photographers been using manipulations in darkrooms for forever as well?)

  3. Pretty much all I do is crop in Mac Preview, if it's needed. The photos from my iPhone 6 Plus in HDR mode never seem to need any filters applied or color touch-up.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Steve. My phone camera is not the best, but with my next upgrade I'd love to have a better one.

  4. Great post! I'm working on getting better at editing. Most photos I shoot I will do some light editing because like your daughter, I shoot in RAW. I use Lightroom (Photoshop frightens me), and I have a few presets that I love that make my life really easy. But even then – I don't do a lot of correction. a little brightening, a little lightening, etc. Nothing that takes forever.

    Thanks for joining us again this week!

    1. Thanks Jen. My editing took a big step forward when I got Lightroom. One of my new goals is to be a second shooter at a wedding, and I will definitely shoot RAW then!

  5. I do next to nothing for my photos – like you, I'll tweak the shadows or highlights a bit, but that is about it. I use Photoshop Elements but honestly, I could probably make do with PicMonkey or Pixlr. I do shoot RAW at times though, so I've done my fair share of 'photoshopping'… and I don't personally care about whether or not a photo has been post edited – it's all part of creating the image if you ask me! Of course, being a nature shooter I wouldn't alter things away from their natural look. Enhance, yes. Alter, no. 🙂

    1. I've used Photoshop Elements, but my brain doesn't really like using layers! So Lightroom's sliders suit me well. My daughter and I just had a discussion yesterday about the art of dramatically altered images. She and I both agree that we love them (as long as they aren't deceptive and are clearly a creative rendering!) My editing style is just more natural, and I agree–enhance, yes. Alter, no!

  6. Hi Pam, I haven't visited in awhile. Your website looks great, and you look healthy and happy. Thanks for the tips here on photos. What you did with the duck is amazing. May God richly bless you and your family. ~ Abby

  7. Great post! I think many people have the idea that photo-shopped means completely changing a photo into something false. But, like you, I edit my photos as well to insure I’m getting the best color and lighting.

    Thank you for sharing with Creative Compulsions!

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