Photo editing was at one time a controversial step for photographers. The wide capabilities of software like Photoshop made post-processing a quiet, private affair. No longer. It’s generally accepted now that even the best images can benefit from a few basic enhancements with photo editing software.
Below we’ve listed these essential photo editing adjustments in the order in which you should make them for the most efficient work process, or ‘workflow’. For example, it’s sensible to crop first – there’s no point spending time removing dust or adjusting exposure on areas of the picture a new crop will get rid of anyway.
You don’t necessarily need to apply every step to all of your images, either. For example, there are times the exposure is perfect so you won’t need to adjust the Levels. Simply check whether each step is needed on each image as you go through them.
Once your photo editing is completed to your satisfaction, it’s good practice to rename the final image using the Save As command, rather than overwriting the original file. That way you always have the original image should you want to undo some of your photo editing changes.
6 photo editing steps every photographer should know
Step 1: Crop your shot
Even well-composed images can benefit from cropping. Using the Crop tool, click and drag the box into position, and then fine-tune the crop by dragging the small box on each side. Level the horizon by dragging any corner of the box to rotate the crop.
Step 2: Remove sensor dust
Dust and another crud on your camera’s sensor are most visible on images taken at small apertures, such as f/16 or less, and on plain areas such as the sky. So the next step is to use the Healing Brush, as shown, to remove any dust spots on the image.
Step 3: Adjust the levels
To boost contrast, you need to brighten highlights and darken shadows. In the Levels window, drag the right-hand (white) arrow left to meet the end of the histogram to lighten the highlights, and the left-hand (black) arrow right to darken the shadows.
Step 4: boost the saturation
You may need to fine-tune your shot’s colors post-shoot. It’s always tempting to add lots of saturation to make your image look more colorful, but – like most adjustments – it’s best to keep changes to a minimum. Garish, noisy colors look awful.
Step 5: Convert to black and white
Mono can look magic, so make use of the simple conversion tool. Use the preset conversions from the drop-down menu to alter how different colors are converted. Choose a preset that gives good contrast without losing highlight or shadow detail.
Step 6: Sharpen up
Most digital images can benefit from this. The exact settings will depend on whether you are going to view the image on-screen or make a print, but you should always apply the minimum amount needed to avoid adding unwanted digital noise.