Tip of the week: editing, how to do it and how not to overdo it

Have you ever seen an overly tuned car? Or maybe a lady with too much makeup on? Was your initial thought that maybe less is more? It works almost the same in the case of photo editing. In today’s world, we have cameras that allow us to shoot RAW images which we can fiddle with afterwards in order to achieve better results while keeping focus on being more creative while shooting. But isn’t that something that often might cause our images to look unnatural? It actually is, and the first problem with editing RAW photos can be seen at beginners and even at the more experienced ones who are also new when it comes to editing tools.


Just as in real life, having the right balance between edited image and reality is key for a successful image. You need to adjust your editing mode in accordance to the image type you are editing. If you’re editing a landscape image then most likely you’ll be focusing on adjusting the overall feeling of the image, getting that detail in the skies back and bringing those shadows into attention to create the ideal photo painting. If you’re editing a portrait, then maybe your attention should focus on skin details and improving the model’s look without changing elements that might distort reality.

Potrait of beautiful young woman with dark hair and green eyes

Examples could go on and on but bottom line is: Edit as much as you can to improve your image. Once you start over editing you’ll find your image look artificial and this is something you want to avoid.

What customers need?

Up view in financial district

While editing your images, you also need to think on the purpose of that edit. Since we’re on a micro stock photography website, let’s consider that you’ll be working on images intended for sale here. In this case, 99% of the times, the customer that decides to purchase one of your images will definitely have to process that image himself in order to integrate it in whatever artwork he needs to produce. This is why having an image which leaves room for further editing is important or it’s not gonna produce a sale. There are only a few categories that will include mostly heavily processed images so keep that in mind when producing stock oriented images.

When in doubt, ask for opinion from untrained eyes.

young college student joining hand, business team touching hands

If you’re only starting to edit images and you’re getting a grip on editing programs you can use a very simple but efficient way of detecting if you crossed the line or not. Have close friends or family “evaluate” some of your edited images and kindly ask them for an opinion on whether the images look natural or “artificial”. The untrained eyes will more often not be able to tell immediately if the image has been altered too much or not. Try to use their feedback in conjunction with your common sense and adjust your workflow for the purpose at hand.

Photo credits: Aiisha, Mikhail Dudarev, Psisaa, Svyatoslava Vladzimirskaya.

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September 16, 2018


Hello Orangelatres, my usual workflow in Photoshop implies some Levels/Curves adjustment to get the right image contrast and Color Balance in order to correct Color Balance if needed. But also, depending on the kind of images i need to process, most of these adjustments i do before getting in Photoshop when developing RAW images in Lightroom. In there i have almost the same workflow but the setting are called different.

September 14, 2018


What are tools in photoshop you use the most?

September 10, 2018


If it helps I can explain what I do. Normally I just shoot jpgs but if I am going somewhere that might give me some great photo opportunities I will shoot in RAW and jpg. Then if I find I have a few on the camera which are really good I will process them as RAW, mainly because there are so many more editing options and the files are not compressed. If after downloading I think the image is ok but not great I delete the RAW element just saving the jpeg.

September 08, 2018


Valuable addvise. When we open RAW or JPEG images in Photoshop, we can see different formats for editing.Thus, editing sometimes confused. Finally we end with doubtful satisfaction whether we should go for JPEG or RAW editing formats. I agree with you that over-editing gives an unnataural look of the image. I think your advise can solve this problem of the Photogreaphers. Thanks!G S Rethees

September 08, 2018


Good advise! Usually when I edit for stocks I leave the image to rest my eyes from looking at it

September 07, 2018


Thanks for sharing

September 07, 2018


Very well written. Thanks so much!

September 07, 2018


thanks for sharing..right balance for editing an image is impotent.

September 06, 2018


Just how much to edit an image is always a difficult decision. I tend to do very little post production. I crop and straighten a bit, blur out faces, number plates, logos, etc and apply a few quick fixes and that's all. I take the view that my images are going to be used by people who manipulate and use images all the time and they are going to be way better at this than I could ever be so better to let them get on with it. As someone else said I also try and get the best straight out of the camera then you don't need to do a lot. Mind you I do see a lot of images that look like someone has been given an image editor for a birthday present and is making full use of their new found toy. Sky and water tend to get more over processed than most things. I call these genetically modified images, creating something not found in nature...........!

September 06, 2018


Glad you like it Enrique and Paul. Paul (Yorkshireknight) - i think every photographer will get through this over editing stage, it's just the duration of it that differs for each of us. Just remember, most of the time, less is more!

September 06, 2018


Thanks for sharing, nice blog, interesting. I try to not edit my images, actually I try to get the best image from de camera.

September 06, 2018


Guilty as charged m'lud. In the early days of my editing everything was way over the top. I have calmed down a bit now but do still have the urge to push editing to its limits.At the time of editing I think I've created a masterpiece. A couple of days later, looking at the same image, I sometimes wondered what pills I had taken. It's interesting to note that buyers would like to have room for a little of their own editGreat post Florin and a reminder to me particularly to calm down!

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