How to Not Go Overboard With Photo Editing

In the age of digital photography, post-processing has become a vital aspect of the industry. Unfortunately, as much as it can help your photography, it can also hurt it. In fact, many images (even great ones) are ruined during the editing process by pushing the picture past its breaking point. To help keep your post-processing within the lines of reason, professional landscape photographer Joshua Cripps offers these helpful tips:

During the post-processing phase, it’s very common to get caught up in what you’re doing, which can make it harder for you to tell when you’ve gone overboard with your editing. Thankfully, there are two simple and easy to use techniques to help you overcome this obstacle.

Colors Histogram Editing Overkill

Work with the Colors Histogram to ensure a good overall color balance.

1. Use Your Colors Histogram

Typically the default histogram in Photoshop is RGB (red, green, blue). By clicking on the menu, you can easily switch to the Colors histograms, allowing you to view all the histograms in one image. Using the Colors histogram, you can avoid clipping to your color channel when making changes to your color aspects (e.g. saturation). This also helps to ensure a good overall color balance.

retouch Photoshop editing techniques

After pushing an editing aspect beyond its breaking point, slowly reduce it until it disappears from the naked eye.

2. Deliberately Push Your Aspects Way Too Far

While editing your image, go through each aspect (Contrast, Clarity, Saturation, etc.) individually and push it beyond its breaking point, then slowly pull it back until you feel your adjustment has disappeared from the image. Even though the naked eye may not register the new adjustment as anything different, even minimal changes in multiple aspects can make a dramatic difference in the overall design. It also gives your image that little extra oomph. But most importantly, this technique will teach you just how far you can push your aspects without going overboard. Remember, while Cripps used Lightroom in the video to demonstrate this technique, you can still use this process with Photoshop and other editing software.

Since retouching guidelines have no specifics about what you can and cannot do, where do you draw the line? What options should be allowed for editing or retouching purposes? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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  1. Helen says:

    I run almost all my photos through Photoshop before I consider them “finished”. I tend toward heavily edited images, because it is fun, and because I like the results. However, I often cringe when inspecting my earlier work. I really like your advice about pushing the sliders back and forth until the picture breaks, then finding the sweet spot in between. Another tip I have is to walk away from your work for a day or so. often, when you come back to it, you will either be pleased, or your bad edits will be glaringly obvious. Put EVERYTHING on its own layer so that you can adjust your settings later. Also, get into the Preferences (Edit>Preferences>Performance) and adjust the History States from the default to a really high number like 100, so that you can use the History Palette to back track when you go off in the wrong direction. Finally, save several versions of your work, and try printing the best of them so you can view the results and compare them away from your computer.

  2. Chelsea O'Neill says:

    I tend to do the same thing. Before I am “completely finished”, I always wait a day or two and look back at what I have created (especially when I am using specific editing techniques). I also always keep one copy of the original copy; that way if I do not like the end results, I can always start over from scratch.

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