Photography Week: Photo Editing Software

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Welcome to the final day of Photography Week! I hope you’ve had a good time and learned a lot 🙂 If you’re just joining us make sure you read up on the previous posts this week:

Day 1: Getting to know your DSLR and Outdoor Photography
Day 2: Indoor Photography and the Eternal Flash
Day 3: Vinyl Backdrops & a Giveaway
Day 4: Photography Backdrop Ideas

Today we’re going to discuss editing your photos. Here’s my rules to live by:

#1: Ideally you won’t need to edit. It’s much better to invest some time while you’re shooting to make sure you have your camera settings correct than trying to fix things afterwards. This is my favorite shot from Levi’s newborn shoot and it didn’t require any editing. However throughout the shoot I changed my camera settings quite a few times to get things right


#2 Do NOT over-edit your photos. Common mistakes include:

  • “Perfecting”: smoothing skin, brightening eyes, etc. can very quickly get out of control
  • Going crazy with effects and actions: most software comes with pre-set effects you can add (vintage, color boost, HDR, etc.) and generally you want to steer clear of those
  • Overdoing curves: A good way to add “pop” to a photo is with curves (changing the highlights and shadows) but if you overdo it you’ll end up with portions of your photo too light or too dark
  • Faking Bokeh: Remember the blurred background we talked about? Well it looks gorgeous when it’s real. Don’t try to fake it afterwards…it will look fake

#3 Some Photos Cannot Be Saved:

  • Is it out of focus? Ditch it and move on. Yes it’s sad but there really isn’t anything that can be done
  • Is it overexposed? If the whites in your photo are blown out you can sometimes save it by going B&W but not much else can be done
  • Is it underexposed? Even very dark photos can often be saved. They won’t be perfect but you can lighten them and end up with a usable photo
  • Is the color balance off? You can try to correct color hues but it’s tricky. Getting your white balance correct in camera will save you a big headache

#4 Save your Original: Always back up those photos!

Now let’s talk software 🙂

I love photoshop and use it often but it is not cheap. Unless you plan to pursue photography as a profession I wouldn’t recommend it. Photoshop has amazing tools but it takes a lot of time to learn how to use those tools and is not super intuitive

For basic editing I recommend starting with a free option, which can still give you excellent results. Here’s a comparison of a photo edited in photoshop and in Picasa. Hard to even tell a difference isn’t it? For basic touch-ups I quite often just use Picasa. It’s free and is also an excellent way to organize your photos.


Here’s a brief look at some great and free options for photo editing:

#1 Picasa: organizes your photos, very easy to edit lots of photos quickly (you don’t have to open each one individually), perfect for cropping, adjusting lighting, correcting red eye, straightening crooked photos, making collages, etc.

#2 Paint.Net: I love this software! I use it whenever I am out of town and don’t have photoshop as it can do many of the basic photoshop functions. It’s not as quick to use as Picasa but if you know how to use layers this is an excellent option

#3 PicMonkey: I’ve never used it but I know many people do and love it so it’s definitely worth a look 🙂

#4 Gimp: I haven’t tried this either but it’s also very similar to photoshop. More options than but that also means a steeper learning curve

2 Responses

  1. I used to use GIMP all the time, but lately I found out that Photoscape is very quick and easy to use and it automatically saves an original in a folder it makes itself called, “original.” Its free.

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