8 Photo Editing Tips from a Photographer

Jessica R
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Alexz Miller

Last Updated: Dec 5, 2022

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Everyone knows that producing great content is the key to success on Instagram. So, we’re here to give you the best photo editing tips that will help you step up your game.  

If you’re trying to grow your audience organically, your page needs to stand out from the competition. Having a well-polished grid will turn a browsing user into an engaged follower.

We sat down with photographer Jessica Romans to get some advanced editing tips that even a beginner can follow!

Jessica Romans

Introducing Jessica…

As a photographer, I know how important good photo editing tips can be. 

As one half of the husband & wife duo that comprises Hand and Arrow Photography, I’ve shot a whole lot of weddings, engagement sessions, portraits, and personal photos in my time. 

While there are many important factors that make for getting a great shot in camera, the ability to work with the picture in post-production is just as important in order to achieve a consistent look across a single portfolio.

Today, I’m going to share with you 8 photo editing tips that I’ve come to learn after editing thousands of images in Lightroom and Photoshop so you can create beautifully edited pictures too!

1). Use Presets to Start

There was a time early on in my career as a photographer where I would make efforts to edit a photo from scratch. 

While this might be a good approach to get you acquainted with what all the buttons and sliders in your editing program if you are just learning, it’s not a very practical approach when it comes to actually editing photos – especially if you find yourself in a position like myself where I need to edit a lot of pictures quickly.

This is where presets come in. Most editing software includes some with the platform, though these aren’t often all that great. You can find an abundance of presets available online to download – both free and paid options. A popular option are presets created by Mastin Labs.

applying presets to an image
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2). How to Create Your Own Presets

Over time, you can also create and save your own presets – allowing you to more quickly get the look you want in your images. 

In order to do this, simply edit an image to your liking, click the “+” icon on the Presets column in Lightroom, then in the pop up box (seen below) input the Preset Name, Group, and Settings you want to save in the preset. 

Once completed, you will see your brand new customized preset display under your Presets for future use! 

photo editing tips with presets

Use this technique to help you achieve that cohesive theme that you see so many big-name accounts doing (i.e. @tezza)

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3). Make a Photo Black & White to Highlight Contrasts (or Make a Photo Usable)

Of all the photo editing tips, turning a color photo into a black & white one is one of the scariest to share because they have the potential to highlight imperfections in the camera work behind the scenes.

For some images, black & white might be the only way to make it usable. This happens to me from time to time, especially during wedding day shoots where I might be shooting non-stop for 10 hours or more, and I end up dialing in the wrong settings on my camera before taking a shot.

A photo in color that is too over-exposed, as an example, can really detract from the overall look of the images I like to take and showcase in my portfolio – but when converted into black & white, it can seem intentionally done.

Of course, that isn’t to say that all uses of black & white is a cover up job. 

Sometimes, black & white photography sets a certain mood, and can be used to significantly highlight contrasts in the image that might not be readily apparent in color photos. There are also times when I intentionally shoot with black & white color conversions in mind!

black and white photo

If you are using black & white photos throughout your grid, be sure to incorporate other dark elements to tie them all in together (i.e. @koci) 

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4). Use Lightroom’s Adjustment Brush to Remove Shadows on Faces

One of the challenges every portrait photographer is met with at some point or another when shooting outside is getting the best light. 

This is sometimes difficult as no one wants to have their clients staring into the sun, and other options available (such as flash or a reflector) may not be suitable for your photography style or abilities.

Because I don’t care to use flash outdoors if I can help it, and using a reflector can be tedious without a second pair of hands, I sometimes find myself shooting portraits with my subject’s face covered in shadow.

In the “old days”, this was a challenge. As many edits as I would do, I could never seem to balance the shadows and highlights in the image – resulting in a face washed out into a more overexposed background, or a face hardly visible as I aimed to keep thing moody.

The best-kept secret in my editing toolkit has turned out to be LR’s adjustment brush. 

Lightroom's Adjustment Brush Tool

With this, I can highlight the face of my subject and, within this area, make adjustments to the exposure and shadow levels. By increasing either of these (individually or together), I am able to eliminate a lot of the shadow that was naturally occurring, and make a far more usable image.

Lightroom Brush

5). Desaturate Colors That Detract From Scene

One of the best photo editing tips you will hear if you are just learning how to edit is to not over-saturate colors. 

It’s a beginner’s mistake that we all make at some point because saturating colors makes a really significant impact on the look of an image.

With this in mind, my pro tip is to actually take your natural instinct and go in the opposite direction. Instead of ramping up colors by saturating them more, desaturate colors where it makes sense.

In my photography, I often will desaturate the greens when shooting in outdoor locations with a lot of greenery comprising the scene as will be found with a lot of grass, trees, shrubs, and so on. 

The greenery can detract from the subject, and as a result, desaturating allows us to mute this color a little more, and allow the focus of our image pop more in the scene.

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6). Use Lightroom’s Clone Tool to Remove Small Blemishes

Since my normal photo editing workflow revolves around Lightroom, I like to maximize the amount of editing I can do in this program – and only drag photos into Photoshop when really extensive editing is necessary.

The clone tool is a feature many don’t realize is available to them, but it can be used to remove small blemishes like scars on skin or unwanted objects in an image background. You can further adjust the hardness or softness of the cloning tool by adjusting the feather.

7). Understand What the Vibrance and Saturation Sliders Do, and How to Use Them Effectively

When initially tinkering with the saturation and vibrance sliders, it’s easy to see why you might think they are basically doing the same thing. 

Both dramatically impact the color of the image, but the intended use of these sliders is actually quite different.

Vibrance is a tool that makes muted colors in the image more intense, while leaving already saturated colors be. This can be a useful slider to adjust while you are trying to get the perfect skin tone.

Saturation, on the other hand, increases the intensity of all colors in the shot. When used effectively, increasing the saturation can make an image really pop, but it’s an easy tool to overuse.

8). Increase Luminance in Oranges for Better Skin Tones

While there are many factors that impact skin tones, the most important thing I’ve come to learn over the years, and it’s become one of my favorite photo editing tips to share, is how adjusting the orange luminance slider can significantly impact the look of skin on just about any portrait subject.

In my normal editing workflow, I will aim to get the image looking as good as I can as a whole, then once I’m in this position – I’ll adjust the orange luminance to get the skin perfect in the context of the larger image.

Now that you’ve got some pro tricks up your sleeve, go practice these edits on some old photos. 

Once you’ve created the desired look you want to achieve, carry that out throughout all your future edits. Don’t forget to plan out your grid ahead of time, to ensure consistency!

Remember that original, unique content will always win, so stay true to your inner-artist’s eye.

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