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What are the Best Tips for Editing Pictures?

Margo Upson
Updated Feb 24, 2024
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Editing pictures used to be something that only professional photographers had to worry about, but with the rising popularity of digital cameras and an abundance of free online photograph editing software, even novices are taking the few extra minutes it takes to touch up their pictures before printing them or posting them online. Picture editing is usually a quick and easy process. All you need are the right tools and a basic understanding of how to use those tools.

There are dozens of free photograph editing sites and software downloads available on the internet. For the basic editing that most people will need to do, these programs work well. It is important to choose an editor that is easy to use, as knowing how to use your picture editor is one of the most important steps to editing pictures. Learn where all of the basic settings are, and experiment to see what everything does.

One of the easiest picture flaws to fix is red eyes. Most picture editing programs have a tool that allows users to simply highlight the affected eyes, and then get rid of the redness with just one click. Cropping is another easy way to improve pictures by removing extra background, and allowing the user to zoom in on the subject of the photograph. Take a second look at pictures before you delete them. There may be a part of the picture that is worth keeping, and the cropping tool can allow you to do that. Cropping and red eye removal are the two most commonly used tools for editing pictures, and can have the greatest overall effect on the final picture.

Editing pictures by using the color controls sounds challenging, but it's not as hard as many people think. Most picture editing software has a simple tool that allows you to alter both the light and color of a picture in one screen. The gamma control can lighten the dark parts of a picture without overexposing the lighter areas, while hue and saturation alter the colors in the picture. Contrast and brightness tools also adjust the colors in photographs. These tools require some practice to get use to, but with a little experience, fixing the color and lighting in pictures becomes easier.

There are not many pictures that cannot be improved through basic picture editing. It is important to remember to only edit copies of pictures so that you can start over fresh if you make a mistake. Don't be afraid to try new techniques and to have fun when you are editing pictures, as even the worst photograph can usually be edited into a usable picture.

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Margo Upson
By Margo Upson
With a vast academic background that has ranged from psychology and culinary arts to criminal justice and education, Margo Upson brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her role as a WiseGeek writer. Her wide-ranging interests and skill at diving into new topics make her articles informative, engaging, and valuable to readers seeking to expand their knowledge.
Discussion Comments
By Ana1234 — On Dec 22, 2014

@pleonasm - Most people aren't really going to need to do that much. Honestly, I have high school students who always want to know how to change various things in photos and I tell them they should learn to take a good photo in the first place. If you've got to change a hundred things just to make it presentable it's probably not worth the time or effort.

And learning to take a good photo is important for good editing as well, because what you're usually doing is trying to correct what the photographer did wrong with the light and position (even if it was wrong because they didn't have any other choice). If you don't understand what is wrong with a photo you won't be able to correct it. But if you really understand what is wrong you won't have to correct it in the first place.

By pleonasm — On Dec 21, 2014

@browncoat - If you want to get good at editing pictures, I would recommend taking a few lessons on a particular piece of software, like GIMP, which is free, and then playing with it for a long time. There are hundreds of lessons available online on how to do various things (like fix blemishes) but first you need to understand the basics of a particular program.

Real editing can be very difficult and takes a lot of skill, but the basics aren't too hard if you know your basics.

By browncoat — On Dec 20, 2014

There's a point at which you need to be very good at editing pictures for them to pass muster. Up until that point, it's not that difficult, because most of the tools you need are automatic and it's just a matter of pressing a slider until you get to the point you want. The photo has to be pretty good in the first place though.

Once you get to the point where you want to start cropping and shifting things around and changing the color of individual parts of a photo, you have to know what you're doing, or it's going to look very obvious.

I remember when I was younger I tried to edit out skin blemishes from my photos and got very frustrated that all I seemed to do was make the picture look worse because I couldn't work out how to make the editing look natural. It ended up being easier to wear makeup and take the photo than to fix it afterwards, which wasn't what I expected.

Margo Upson
Margo Upson
With a vast academic background that has ranged from psychology and culinary arts to criminal justice and education,...
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