Although that kind of extreme alteration of a photo can be a creative, artistic expression, and I'll sometimes do that for fun, it's not what I mean when I use the term "photo editing." I take pictures of families, babies, pets, events, and places, so using Lightroom (or Photoshop, or PicMonkey, etc.) to edit a photo simply means making that photo look its best. Often, DSLR images need some post processing. Point-and-shoot cameras usually have better straight out of camera images than DSLRs because point-and shoot cameras are already internally adjusted and don't have the versatility of DSLRs in terms of settings. It's more expected that DSLR images will be polished in "post." Plus, a quick edit can save an otherwise unusable image.
As you can tell, I edit simply. Most often, I adjust the exposure, usually add some contrast, crop if needed, and sharpen a bit. I don't make people look thinner or airbrushed or such things. (Well, if a client asked me to, I would!) Occasionally I'll whiten someone's teeth a tad, but only an adult's teeth and only slightly. No glowing teeth here. I might add a little vibrance to the color, if needed. Even this kind of simple editing is subjective. Some people like a bright, "contrasty" image, while some prefer a softer, less vivid image. That is individual taste and art.
Picture Style and Picture Control
Do you hate to edit photos at all, or just want a head start? No worries, if you have a DSLR, there are some adjustments that can be made within even the most basic DSLR that change the way a JPEG image looks straight out of camera (SOOC). In Nikon, this is called Picture Control, and in Canon it's called Picture Style. There are several basic settings from which to choose: Neutral, Standard, etc, and within those, some fine tuning of Contrast, Brightness, Saturation, etc. These are fun to play around with, and the fine tuning can help you achieve the look you want, without a lot of editing later. (P.S.If you shoot RAW, none of this applies, as a RAW image is completely unprocessed and needs more editing. RAW will give you the most control and will help recover badly exposed photos much better.)
Free Editing Programs
In the past, I used some free photo editing software that occasionally made changes that I didn't want (like changing the haircolor or skintones), when I was simply trying to brighten the photo. But even the free editing programs have improved a lot since then. I really like PicMonkey. The basic version is great, and they also offer a Royale version with more effects and fonts. Picasa is another free program I've used. It's more basic, but is useful for very simple adjustments.
The duck photo below was one of the first photos I ever edited with Lightroom 5, and I was able to pull the shadows out and make a dramatic difference very quickly. (Love those sliders!)
So, photo editing is simply adjusting photos to look their best, in much the same way that back in my film photography days I chose a company to develop my photos. (For instance, the film processing at our neighborhood drugstore was always a bit off in color and exposure, vs. the processing at the camera shop nearby, who took the time to color correct and brighten the dark ones.)
Enjoy the process, and choose how much, or how little editing you want to do.
Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link. As always, I only recommend products or services I love!
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