What are the Best Tips for Editing Pictures?

Margo Upson
Margo Upson
Margo Upson
Margo Upson
While photo retouching can do a lot for a picture, it is best if photos only need minimal retouching.
While photo retouching can do a lot for a picture, it is best if photos only need minimal retouching.

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.

Picture editing is usually a quick and simple process for someone with the proper editing tools.
Picture editing is usually a quick and simple process for someone with the proper editing 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.

Editing a picture can allow the subject stand out more.
Editing a picture can allow the subject stand out more.

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.

Photos may be edited to fit into a specific theme for a project.
Photos may be edited to fit into a specific theme for a project.

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.

Margo Upson
Margo Upson

Margo has a varied academic background, which has involved everything from psychology and culinary arts to criminal justice and education. These wide-ranging interests make her an ideal wiseGEEK writer, as she always enjoys becoming an expert on new and unfamiliar topics.

Margo Upson
Margo Upson

Margo has a varied academic background, which has involved everything from psychology and culinary arts to criminal justice and education. These wide-ranging interests make her an ideal wiseGEEK writer, as she always enjoys becoming an expert on new and unfamiliar topics.

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Discussion Comments

Ana1234

@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.

pleonasm

@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.

browncoat

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.

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    • While photo retouching can do a lot for a picture, it is best if photos only need minimal retouching.
      While photo retouching can do a lot for a picture, it is best if photos only need minimal retouching.
    • Picture editing is usually a quick and simple process for someone with the proper editing tools.
      Picture editing is usually a quick and simple process for someone with the proper editing tools.
    • Editing a picture can allow the subject stand out more.
      Editing a picture can allow the subject stand out more.
    • Photos may be edited to fit into a specific theme for a project.
      Photos may be edited to fit into a specific theme for a project.