Getting Started With Photo Editing Basics

Those who have never tried their hands on photo editing basics and related skills like graphic designing, image processing, photo manipulation, etc. ; You may think that it has a very complex work process, and you are not eligible to do this. But, the truth is if you have a brain, you are going to rock that! And I am pretty sure you have your cerebrum intact!

Once you have got the basic understanding of your camera, exposure basics, and how to compose a great photo, it’s time to learn a few photo editing essentials to put the finishing touches on your artistic vision. 

These are the preliminary steps of photo editing basics that we are going to discuss here-

  • Crop your images and clean them up.
  • Adjust the white balance.
  • Adjust exposure and contrast.
  • Maintain color vibrancy and saturation.
  • Sharpen image.
  • Finalize and share. 

Due to the vast availability of free photo editing sites and photo editing software, the basic photo editing techniques and tool-sets should be available in even simple editing programs. Each of them can enhance your images to make them more powerful and shareworthy.

The advanced photo editing software like Photoshop provides these rudimentary tools along including some refinements that allow you to do some more sophisticated editing that’s outside the scope of this article. Obviously, the easiest images to edit are the ones taken by professional photographers with extensive skills who get exceptional clicks in the field.

photo editing basics

Things to Keep in Mind Before Starting

  • Understand the difference between “non-destructive” and “destructive editing”. Some editing programs preserve your originals – non-destructive like Lightroom, Snapseed, and the others save the edited over originals – destructive like Photoshop. Editing involves a lot of trial and error, and you must be able to return to the original file if you make a mistake. Though there is an undo option when you proceed through a lot of steps, it’s difficult to come back. So, non-destructive platforms are preferred. 
  • The beauty of digital photography is that you can take multiple shots to increase the odds of getting some spectacular ones. So, your first step after you import your images is to organize your photos on your computer and review them to decide which ones to edit. 

#1 Crop and Clean Up

  •  The first thing you do when you get an image gets it straightened. It is always better to pay attention to be sure your horizon is horizontal when you shot, but straightening is also an easy first editing step.
  • After straightening, it is best to crop the image to improve minor compositional details, like distracting elements at the edge of the frame or repositioning the subject at a spot to gain more attraction. 
  • Spot cleaning is the next thing you do. Using a lens brush regularly in the filled avoids getting unwanted dust particles in your image. But if it comes as an accident, you can always clean it up using the spot removal tool.

    Most editing programs have a spot removal tool with varying names like “ clone stamping” and “ spot healing”. Work your way methodically around your photo until you have a spot-free image.

#2 Adjust White Balance

There is a common misconception that white balance relates to exposure level. But it relates to color levels instead. When you find the overall color tone unnatural or displeasing, you can balance the white balance to fix it. JPG files offer a minimum amount of white balance adjustment because of the small digital data size that it captures. 

Most editing programs have pre-defined presets like “flash,” “daylight” or “cloudy” for better calibration of the lighting conditions when you took the shot. Also, you can try a combination of tint and temperature adjustments to get the white balance and the color tone as per requirement. 

#3 Adjust Exposure and Contrast

Adjusting Exposure is exactly the way to make your image duller or brighter. Take note that noise is something which you introduce by cranking up the brightness. It is always better to get the correct exposure. 

The graphical representation of the tonal range ( aka Histogram) helps you to optimize final exposure levels during your final edit. It is helpful when the image has a large amount of dark/light area. Your goal isn’t to always take photos with a histogram: Evenness of the lighting on the subject largely determines that. 

photo editing basics

#4 Adjust Colour Vibrance and Saturation

Once the exposure has been taken care of, you can further refine your image by adjusting the color vibrance and saturation. Once the bright colors pop, it can make your photo look more dramatic. The difference in vibrancy and saturation is subtle- Vibrancy intensifies the neutral color tones, whereas saturation intensifies all the colors.  

#5 Adjusting Sharpness

Sharpening an image makes it more crisp and compact. It gives a cleaner look to the image. Starting at 50 percent, you can adjust the levels up and down to get the sharpness you prefer.

To experiment with the other tools, you may try the structure and clarity tool. It makes the edges of an object stand out more. You need to look closely to evaluate the made effects.

#6 Finalise and Share 

After you have finished editing, keep your images aside. Refresh your mind and come back after a while to look at the image with a fresh perspective. If some changes are required, make the necessary changes, and let the social media get flooded with love reacts.


Keeping these few preliminary steps in mind, and proceeding sequentially as I mentioned will surely end up in a great product. Be mindful while editing images, and use these tips cleverly. 

Comment down about your experience!

Happy Editing!

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