Photo Editing 101

I would like to preface this post by saying that some people prefer to leave their photos unedited. The #Unfiltered look is big on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and even WordPress, so if you don’t have any desire to edit photos, please don’t. Please ignore this post. It’s not a requirement. It’s not even an ’ement’. This is just something that I’ve done over the years, that I know a lot of people who use social media do and I wanted to share some shortcuts with you. That is all.

Okay, so I’ve heard it said many a times that a picture is worth a thousand words. To that notion I say that if my photo’s going to be worth a thousand words, I better make sure they’re important words being portrayed through my images.

For nearly a decade, there wasn’t a photo that I posted, sent or printed without edits. Many edits were small… editing out a logo here, blurring a child’s face there… just small things to ensure we were in compliance with FOIP (the Freedom of Information Protection Act) in Canada. Some edits were major… reconstructing the facial shape of someone as a means to ‘filter’ distinguishing marks, fudging the dollar amount written on giant cheques (though I regret to admit to that) and changing out the people who were holding the cheque, or even completely photoshopping someone out of one location and into another. Over time I became a master at turning a photo into pretty much anything that I wanted it to be. And that says a lot because I am very picky when it comes to photos.

Luckily, from a blogging perspective, the editing (if one chooses to do so) need not be nearly as complicated as what’s practiced in the corporate world.

Before I get to the edition notes, I will say that things are a lot easier if you take good photos to start with. Take advantage of natural lighting where possible (the sun). Make sure the lens is in focus before you take the photo. If there are people in the photo that differ vastly in heights, do something to balance that height difference. These are all small steps you can take to vastly improve the quality of photos you’re taking from the get-go.

Okay, onto photo editing:

*Note – This information is from the perspective of photos being taken on a phone, since smartphones are everywhere and you use your phones to upload to social media platforms.

The number one thing that I would recommend a blogger do to edit photos is download Adobe Lightroom to your phone. There is both a free and a premium version of this app. Please do not purchase the premium version, you will not need it. Everything you need to make a photograph beautiful, you can find in the free version. Free Adobe Lightrom will allow you to:

  • Crop Images
  • Auto adjust the lighting to your photos
  • Manually adjust the lighting to your photos
  • Edit the colour balance of your photos
  • Sharpen, blur, correct, create frames or vignettes for any effects that you might like
  • Attempt to correct the focus as much as possible (if it’s an extremely blurry photo, it’ll likely just make it less blurry…)
  • Allow you to select between ‘presets’ created with specific intention to do all of the above steps in one

Examples of before and After using Adobe Lightroom:

The number two thing that I will recommend with respect to photo editing is to stay away from Facetune. Facetune is a demon that is changing the way that we see ourselves and other people. It contributes to low-self esteem because people are creating unrealistic standards of beauty and attractiveness based on what they can make themselves look like with a few minutes spent editing in Facetune. There’s a big difference between editing out a zit and changing one’s waist from being 30 inches to being 13 inches.

Now, all that being said, photo editing is all about you and what you find to be the magic factor in photos. If you like black and white images, Lightroom gives you the option to convert all of your images to black and white. If you like bright and light photos, Lightroom gives you plenty of functions that help with turning a photo that was taken in a dull/dark room into something that really pops off the page.

I am someone who likes bright photos. I want the colours to carry, the details to shine and even the dullest of days to look like a postcard. I’m providing some examples of my photos below and as you will see, even on a dull day (first, middle and last photo) it’s still possible to make the photo look like a postcard.

These are some of my photos from various locations and times over the past year. I’m not sure if you can tell just from looking at them, but they’ve all been edited to very much carry the same tone to them. I wanted the whites to be clean, the greens to pop, the skies to be the bluest that could be while accurately depicting what a camera on my phone couldn’t catch on the day the photo was taken.

I used what is called ‘Adobe Lightroom Presets’.

I know what you’re thinking and I hear you. ‘Presets, Vee? That sounds so extra. Who would bother?’

These presets are used by people far and wide on social media. If you’ve ever looked at someone’s Instagram page and seen similar tones to all of their images, it’s a safe bet they’re using a preset for their photos.

The ‘Preset’ is exactly what it sounds like – it’s a preset collection of edits for LightRoom to apply to the photograph in one step. It’s a matter of hitting one button in LightRoom and your photo is brighter, more vivid and depicting the image you want to convey in a matter of seconds.

Extra. I know.

But, if you’re particular with photos, it is a big time saver, helps with branding, makes your photos aesthetically themed and ensures you always have a beautiful photo, even on the dullest of days.

The presets that I use I developed several years back to cover my basis when I needed to turnaround press-releases in a hurry and always seemed to get sent shitty looking photos. They’re a ‘formula’ that I keep a tight secret around and will stay in the vault to one day be passed down to my children and grandchildren. (joking)

If you would like to delve into the option of presets, you can do one of two things:

  1. You can make your own. I highly recommend this option because it allows you to draw out the aspects of photos that you most appreciate.
  2. You can purchase some.

I highly recommend, if you download Lightroom yourself, that you try option one before option two. I say this because creating your own presets will allow you to create edits that you find most important in photographs.

It’ll also give you an appreciation for the photo editing process. It’ll also make you appreciate the photos you’re taking that much more and it’ll cause you to stop and think about your photos as you’re taking them. You’ll find yourself stopping to think ‘can I get better lighting if I make my subject face the window instead of against’, and various other thoughts of what’s going to make your photos better. Then, when you’re taking better photos, there’ll be less editing to do.

After all, if a picture is worth a thousand words, you might as well make those words important.

If you tried your hand at creating presets and you didn’t like it, or if you’d just like some help and believe you’d like to purchase some Lightroom presets, the place to do is on Etsy. Using your phone type ‘Mobile Lightroom Presets’ in to the search bar and you will be innundated with different presets made by different designers.

I’ve seen them range anywhere from $3.00 USD to $350 USD. And let me be abundantly clear, you do not need a $350 package of Lightroom presets. There’s a lot to choose from, so it’s a matter of you taking a look at what you find most aesthetically pleasing and what’s the price you’re ultimately willing to pay.

With 17,034 listings to go through, though, I thought I’d provide a couple of suggestions if you decide to purchase presets:

  • A good Lightroom preset package will have 3-4 Presets. Don’t buy a package that has 99 presets (and they are available on Etsy) because you don’t need 99 presets
  • Realistically, if you wanted to use a preset, your criteria should be to have one preset for outside photos, one for inside, one for without people and one for with people
  • Don’t get sucked in by the ‘gimmicky’ presets like the one titled ‘Peach’ in the screenshot above. Might it look nice if your presets always make you look like you have tanned skin? Sure. But, it’s winter and unless you live in California or Florida, people are likely going to see through the artificial tan your adding to your photos. Try to select a set of presets that will be applicable to all of your photos year round, whether you’ve got a tan or you’re in the deep of winter

To finish off this exceptionally long description of how to edit photos, I would like to add a reminder to please leave face structure and body shapes alone in your editing process. You, your friends, your family and any subjects your taking photos of are perfectly beautiful just the way they are.

Yes, we all have insecurities, but that doesn’t mean that you need to edit the length of your fingers to make it look as though you have larger hands. (If you understand this reference, we’re soulmates) Insecurities will NEVER be fixed by making it look as though they don’t exist in photos. That and there’s a big difference between bringing out the beauty of someone and completely changing their entire being. People are beautiful just the way they are.

If you like editing, if you want to get into editing or even if you don’t like editing, thanks for reading and for making it this far. Go forth and do good, grasshopper. I have the utmost faith in you.

47 thoughts on “Photo Editing 101

  1. Great tips Vee!
    I am not very good when it comes to taking half decent photos to begin with.
    I try to edit some photos with Adobe Photoshop. I can sort of brighten a photo and balance colors. Yet, I am never satisfied with the completed product.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “If you’ve ever looked at someone’s Instagram page and seen similar tones to all of their images, it’s a safe bet they’re using a preset for their photos.”… Aaaah that’s what it’s called then? A preset!!! That light sepia filter you see on EVERY Instagram city bloggers these days…?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. There’s a ton of great options for editing photos on mobile! I’ve personally used Snapseed for years when I need to edit photos on-the-go. It’s super easy to create stunning photos, especially if your phone has the ability to shoot in RAW format. In fact, I’ve even published a few articles with photos edited with Snapseed.

    You can download for free on Google Play and the App Store.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Snapseed is a great tool as well, and is definitely an option for bloggers if they want to use it. I’ve always just stuck to Lightroom, that’s why I share about the Lightroom experience. If anyone else reads this, Snapseed is a great option too!


  4. Some cracking photos there. I take a lot of photos. I take some that come out great in terms of composition, colour, light, tone, etc. Others are still composed nicely, but lack saturation, light and contrast, and it’s important to fix those photos to make them interesting. My two cents worth.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your pictures look great already! It’s not anything you need to do! Just a skill you can teach yourself one day if you’re bored. You know what I mean?


  5. Thanks for this enlightening post 👍🙏. I’ve used Snapseed, Enlight, and Lightroom but settled on Snapseed because of its simplicity. Lightroom looked promising when I first downloaded it but I keep losing my way around it. I know it’s my own fault because I don’t use it enough, but your notion of purchasing presets for specifics such as indoor, outdoor etc is interesting. I’ll give it a go! 👏👏

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Snapseed is absolutely a good option for it’s convenience factor. I guess I’m just partial to lightroom because it’s what I always used for work so I parlayed that into blogging. Your comment does highlight that there are definitely a lot of great options out there!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Double check before buying that its compatible with iPad. Usually they say “desktop” or “mobile” so I’m not sure if that’s fully compatible with iPad.

        If it is, the seller should send you directions of how to install and save after purchase. Just make sure that you’re purchasing a set that’ll work for an ipad. Dont want you wasting your money!!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. There is such skill in editing that is often overlooked. I really appreciate good images but fail to understand – I leave it to professionals or hope my simple efforts to group photos together work. Lots of great info here but sounds waay to scary for me to do ☹️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s definitely not something you’re required to do to make a photo great. Photos are great to start with. It’s just info, you know what I mean? If you take it, Lightroom is free and costs you no money to mess around with and test out. If you get bored and want to try it, do it. And if you don’t, there’s no harm in that! But, remember that I have faith in you!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Heyyyyyyy, it’s not something that happens immediately. I’m sure you could figure it out if you had the time. You seem like a busy soul though! lol Maybe you could try on the plane? It definitely takes time to figure out and if you don’t have a ton of extra time that might be tough.


    1. Photo editing isn’t for everyone. As mentioned in the post, if this isn’t for you, then that’s totally cool. So if you don’t like it you definitely need not pay attention to the information I shared.


  7. Thank you for posting this. I spent yesterday downloading photoshop and lightroom, and signing up for a trial membership. In reality I just needed some simple edits to my photos, and lightroom on my phone should be sufficient. It helps so much to get someone else’s perspective.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Photoshop is great if you’re doing advanced editing, but if you’re just looking for simple edits, everything you need can be found in the free version of lightroom! I hope you’re able to download it and test it for yourself. It takes a little bit to get used to but once you get the hang of it, you can have photos edited and beautified in a matter of seconds!


    1. There are a few free apps out there. In my (biased) opinion, Lightroom is the easiest and can give you the best results! I hope if you give it a try it really helps!


  8. Great post! I’m with you: Making things brighter can do a lot to for a photo. I also don’t see the need for Face tune but hey– to each their own, right?


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