Photo Editing vs. "Photoshopping"

Sometimes I forget that not everyone is obsessed with photography.  So when someone says, "Is that picture "photoshopped?" it throws me a little, because I recently realized that to some people (especially non-photographers), the term "photo editing" has a negative connotation, as if "photoshopping" always means altering a photo in a "fake" or unrealistic way.  Not true.

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.

simple photo editing~anartfulmom.com

See how subtle the differences are in the before and after shot of Sunny above?  (Recognize this shot from my last post?)  I edited it in Lightroom, with just a few simple adjustments with sliders. I can choose to punch it up even more if I want to, but these quick adjustments are all that are necessary to me for this photo.

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!

Linking to:
Wordless Wednesday at Create with Joy
Sugar and Spice
Wordless Wednesday at Mama to 5 Blessings
Wordless Wednesday at Crafty Spices
Photo Friday at Pierced Wonderings
Make My Saturdays Sweet at Amanda's Books
Made By You Mondays at Skip to My Lou
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16 comments

  1. Yes, I definitely edit my photos! I have to because I shoot only RAW so I have to add the compression, contrast and sharpening that the camera would add if it were a jpeg. And I love to fix photos that otherwise wouldn't work.
    I don't airbrush or change the way people look, but I'll totally edit on command!

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    1. Yes, I've definitely saved a lot of photos with editing! I love your clean edits so much.

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  2. I love your take on the editing process! It's true, it totally helps our photos look their best. And I think you show some great examples. For a while I felt like post-processing was "cheating" and only let myself use images in their straight out of camera condition. But over the past year or so I've come to realize that it's a vital and totally valid part of the artistic process of photography. Why not use tools we have at our disposal to enhance and achieve our vision for an image, don't we already do that with a camera (and haven't photographers been using manipulations in darkrooms for forever as well?)

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    1. Thanks, Jess. I agree--our darkroom is just in our computers now.

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  3. Pretty much all I do is crop in Mac Preview, if it's needed. The photos from my iPhone 6 Plus in HDR mode never seem to need any filters applied or color touch-up.

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    1. Thanks for the comment, Steve. My phone camera is not the best, but with my next upgrade I'd love to have a better one.

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  4. Great post! I'm working on getting better at editing. Most photos I shoot I will do some light editing because like your daughter, I shoot in RAW. I use Lightroom (Photoshop frightens me), and I have a few presets that I love that make my life really easy. But even then - I don't do a lot of correction. a little brightening, a little lightening, etc. Nothing that takes forever.

    Thanks for joining us again this week!

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    1. Thanks Jen. My editing took a big step forward when I got Lightroom. One of my new goals is to be a second shooter at a wedding, and I will definitely shoot RAW then!

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  5. I do next to nothing for my photos - like you, I'll tweak the shadows or highlights a bit, but that is about it. I use Photoshop Elements but honestly, I could probably make do with PicMonkey or Pixlr. I do shoot RAW at times though, so I've done my fair share of 'photoshopping'... and I don't personally care about whether or not a photo has been post edited - it's all part of creating the image if you ask me! Of course, being a nature shooter I wouldn't alter things away from their natural look. Enhance, yes. Alter, no. :)

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    1. I've used Photoshop Elements, but my brain doesn't really like using layers! So Lightroom's sliders suit me well. My daughter and I just had a discussion yesterday about the art of dramatically altered images. She and I both agree that we love them (as long as they aren't deceptive and are clearly a creative rendering!) My editing style is just more natural, and I agree--enhance, yes. Alter, no!

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  6. I love your view on editing. I find myself wanting to try new editing programs all the time. Fellow SITS girl!

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    1. Thanks so much, Tess. I was always trying new editing programs,too, but ever since I found Lightroom, it's mainly what I use. (Although PicMonkey is quick and easy for some things too! And free!)

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    2. Thanks so much, Tess. I was always trying new editing programs,too, but ever since I found Lightroom, it's mainly what I use. (Although PicMonkey is quick and easy for some things too! And free!)

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  7. Hi Pam, I haven't visited in awhile. Your website looks great, and you look healthy and happy. Thanks for the tips here on photos. What you did with the duck is amazing. May God richly bless you and your family. ~ Abby

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    1. Thanks so much, Abby! I am hoping you are well and happy!

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    2. Thanks so much, Abby! I am hoping you are well and happy!

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I appreciate every comment. Thank you!

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