5 Editing Mistakes I Made as a Beginner Photographer So You Don’t Have To

Image editing is not an easy task to undertake. Using editing software such as Lightroom or Capture One requires a bit of learning and getting used to. However, even if you know how to use editing software, you should still edit images in a way that enhances their beauty rather than destroying it. Essentially, you need to know the why behind the how. Here are some mistakes I made while editing images because I didn’t know why.

Oh how attractive sliders are, they are so attractive that you are tempted to exploit them to the fullest. Sure, there’s educational value in doing this, but very little real creative value. Many photographers tend to go a bit too much initially. To maximize the images, we end up destroying everything that is there. Here are some tips on how to avoid editing mistakes and emerge as a better photographer in the end. Keep in mind that all of these techniques can be used to enhance the photo.

too much contrast

Contrast is number one, as almost all of the images I edited when I started out are way too contrasty. Why? Because it looks like the contrast adds a so-called “cinematic” feel and really changes the feel and look of the picture. One way to tell if you’ve overemphasized contrast is to look at shadow detail. As a general rule, you should always have shadow detail. Don’t darken them. It won’t look nice and will show a lack of dynamic range. Did you really buy that expensive camera to show that it can’t capture enough shadow detail? I suppose not. Keep in mind that contrast is an issue with both black and white and color photography.

Too much saturation

Color photography is a delicate balance between showing off rich tones and making it too vivid. This is because it’s very easy to get carried away with the vividness slider as it tends to bring out colors that you couldn’t see. It sounds appealing at first, but ask yourself: is the world really that saturated? The answer is almost always no, so turn the saturation down. While not a noticeable change right off the bat, you will eventually get used to the slight desaturation (5-10%) of the images. When printed, they will appear more natural and look more professional.

This of course depends on the genre of your work. If you’re aiming for something like Dave LaChapelle or Willam Eggleston, turn it up, but pay attention to the other elements of the image that make it successful. It is not just the saturation but the mood of the image that is enhanced by saturation.

Selective color

It’s a look that everyone has tried at least once in their life. It became popular around 2015 and the internet was flooded with images that “evoke deep emotion”. Although cool at first, it quickly became boring to the point that selective color became a meme.

(There won’t be an image to illustrate selective color, because I think you’ve seen enough of that already.)

That’s not to say you shouldn’t desaturate parts of the image for artistic effect. The technique works very well on dramatic images and subconsciously draws the viewer to the most saturated part. What I mean here is not full black and white and color contrast, but local desaturation. Local desaturation is a technique where you dim parts of the photograph by 10-20%, not 100%.

Fake retouching

Humans have pores, scars and texture. Frequency separation is your biggest enemy right now. It may seem like an easy “fix” to someone’s face, but it actually ruins the photo. Excessive retouching isn’t just an editing problem, it’s also a cultural problem. A photograph aims to show a person from their best angle, but what we forget is the fact that photographs represent reality – to some extent.

As someone who works a lot with retouchers, both teaching and recruiting, I ask them to do a little less than what is normally expected. The current trend is for natural tones and minimal post-production on the face. Frankly, if the rest of the image is good, the editing will be minimal.

Thumbnail

Hello, drama queen or king. At least that’s what I see as the thumbnail slider. It adds that mysterious oval which, if used correctly, will guide the viewer to the subject. But, if overused, it will almost certainly look bad. The problem with overusing the vignette on your images is that it takes over and becomes the photo. Your thumbnail should not become the centerpiece of the image. The proper way to use a vignette is when you have a central subject in the image that contrasts with the background.

So what makes a good edit?

This actually deserves a separate article, as there is a lot to explain to answer this question. Let us know in the comments if you would like to see such an article!

Simply put, a good edit should do one (not two) of the following: feel consistent with your work and enhance the image. Consistency comes from color, lighting, and other properties that define your style as a photographer.

Visual style can be a guide in editing, but it takes years to develop, and even then it’s never constant. Your tastes change, which is completely normal. Still, think of all the photographers who are able to maintain their signature look and feel no matter what the subject is in front of their camera.

Editing should enhance your image, not destroy it. If you capture a portrait, you must capture it on set and only enhance it in post-production. As photographers, we just capture the energy, and if the energy isn’t there to begin with, you won’t have much to touch up afterwards. Editing in no way replaces the image you captured on set.

Final Thoughts

It is clear that these editing errors are often just a problem of excess effect. There is nothing wrong with using contrast, saturation, vignette, retouching, etc. Problems begin to appear when you overdo it. In fact, it is better to go too little than too much.

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