A Beginner’s Guide to Editing Photos

You know all those beautiful, bright, crisp photos you see on Pinterest and think, “Why can’t my photos look that nice?” Well, that’s a complicated question, as I pointed out in my post How I am Improving My Photography in 2015. One of the big things I see beginners doing, though, is not editing photos. So we’ll start there.

Editing photos is kind of complicated, because there’s a balance. If you edit too much or too little, your photos look unprofessional. Photography is really important for attracting new readers, so we don’t want that. 

There are many ways of editing photos, but the one I’ll be using for this particular post is Picmonkey, because it’s easy to use and everyone has access to it. I’m also going to use my photos from a Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake recipe that I posted to Growing Up Gabel recently (I’m a new contributor there, btw! I’m very excited and you should check out her awesome site!). Just to show you what each thing can do.

A Beginner's Guide to Editing Photos --- You know all those beautiful, bright, crisp photos you see on Pinterest and think, "Why can't my photos look that nice?" One of the big things I see beginners doing, though, is not editing photos. So we'll start there. Here are 4 simple edits you can do in Picmonkey to improve your photos. || via diybudgetgirl.com #editing #photography #photos #picmonkey #photoshop #gimp

A Beginner’s Guide to Editing Photos

Here’s the photo we’re starting with:

A Beginner's Guide to Editing Photos --- You know all those beautiful, bright, crisp photos you see on Pinterest and think, "Why can't my photos look that nice?" One of the big things I see beginners doing, though, is not editing photos. So we'll start there. Here are 4 simple edits you can do in Picmonkey to improve your photos. || via diybudgetgirl.com #editing #photography #photos #picmonkey #photoshop #gimp

1. Clarity/Sharpness

A photo may look nice and crisp on the camera screen, but once I get them on my computer, they often look a little dull. Sharpening is an easy way of fixing this. 

I like to do this first because the “Clarity” bar tends to darken the photos a little and make the colors stand out more. For clarity, I usually go between 10% and 20%. For sharpness, I never go above 10. Usually I stick to 5-7. Over sharpening can really ruin a photo–make it grainy and such. So be careful with the sharpening.

A Beginner's Guide to Editing Photos --- You know all those beautiful, bright, crisp photos you see on Pinterest and think, "Why can't my photos look that nice?" One of the big things I see beginners doing, though, is not editing photos. So we'll start there. Here are 4 simple edits you can do in Picmonkey to improve your photos. || via diybudgetgirl.com #editing #photography #photos #picmonkey #photoshop #gimp

2. Brightness/Contrast

Nothing ruins a photo like not being able to see the subject. I see this a lot with beginners, partially because it takes a while to figure out the finer points of lighting. Brightening a really dark photo won’t make it look any nicer, so you have to make your photos bright on the camera.

That said, you can go too bright. So usually once I have it “perfect” on my camera, I bring it down a notch. It’s hard to fix “too dark” pictures, but it’s also hard to fix “too bright” pictures. So I get as close to bright as I can without washing out the subject and then the rest I handle in editing. 

Even in editing, though, it’s easy to go too bright and think it looks good. So once I’ve reached what I think is perfect, I bring it down a little. Too many times, I’ve gone though old photos a few weeks after posting them and said, “Wow, that is WAY too bright.” So if you have time to put the photos aside after editing, do it. Looking at them from a fresh perspective (and not from the perspective of a crazy person who just wants to get this crap done already) really helps.

A Beginner's Guide to Editing Photos --- You know all those beautiful, bright, crisp photos you see on Pinterest and think, "Why can't my photos look that nice?" One of the big things I see beginners doing, though, is not editing photos. So we'll start there. Here are 4 simple edits you can do in Picmonkey to improve your photos. || via diybudgetgirl.com #editing #photography #photos #picmonkey #photoshop #gimp

3. Color Balance

Color balance just means that your colors look realistic–white is pure white, red is red, etc. This particular edit took me a while to figure out. Color balance in weird and, to be honest, I’m still not entirely sure what I’m doing.

One little “hack”I learned from How I Made $40k My First Year of Blogging (affiliate), though, is to always include something white in your photos. The easiest way to do that is with white dishes, since they go with everything. But I don’t have white dishes, so I’ve had to get creative. 

With this particular photo, I used a white background. Though I usually don’t. My background is normally something like you’d see in my One Pot Chili Mac and Cheese. Which means I have to find some other way of adding white–normally a paper doily or a towel with a lot of white in it.

The reason I do this is because in Picmonkey, you can use the “Neutral Picker” tool to easily help your color balance. You just go to Colors > Neutral Picker and then click on a white area in your photo. To be honest, the photo I put in my Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake post is more balanced than this one, but this is fine. It’s a little blue-ish, but prefer more blue than yellow in my photos. (And, yes! If your photos are coming out too yellow, this is how you can fix it in editing! Though to fix it in real life, you have to stop taking the photos under incandescent light.)

I find color balance is easier to achieve if there is only a little white in the photo. If you have a lot of white areas, like with the picture I’m using, clicking different areas will change the way it  looks (because of shadows and stuff). 

A Beginner's Guide to Editing Photos --- You know all those beautiful, bright, crisp photos you see on Pinterest and think, "Why can't my photos look that nice?" One of the big things I see beginners doing, though, is not editing photos. So we'll start there. Here are 4 simple edits you can do in Picmonkey to improve your photos. || via diybudgetgirl.com #editing #photography #photos #picmonkey #photoshop #gimp

4. Saturation

This is one that I sometimes don’t use because not all photos need to be saturated. Saturation just means the colors pop more. So it’s another you want to be careful with (especially with bright colors). I usually don’t go any higher than 2 for my saturation.

A Beginner's Guide to Editing Photos --- You know all those beautiful, bright, crisp photos you see on Pinterest and think, "Why can't my photos look that nice?" One of the big things I see beginners doing, though, is not editing photos. So we'll start there. Here are 4 simple edits you can do in Picmonkey to improve your photos. || via diybudgetgirl.com #editing #photography #photos #picmonkey #photoshop #gimp

Bonus: Blemish Fix

In Photoshop and Gimp, this is the Healer tool. It’s one of my new favorite things. In this photo, you might see that the tray the cake is on has a little chocolate smeared on it and one of the hearts is being reflected. I just went into Picmonkey, under the make-up section, chose Blemish Fix and clicked on those areas. Poof! Gone. Not a big deal and most of your probably didn’t notice those things. But when you’ve been staring at a photo for a while, little flaws start to jump out at you.

A Beginner's Guide to Editing Photos --- You know all those beautiful, bright, crisp photos you see on Pinterest and think, "Why can't my photos look that nice?" One of the big things I see beginners doing, though, is not editing photos. So we'll start there. Here are 4 simple edits you can do in Picmonkey to improve your photos. || via diybudgetgirl.com #editing #photography #photos #picmonkey #photoshop #gimp

Much better!

To be honest, editing your photos in Gimp or Photoshop would look better, because then you have more control. Instead of Exposure, I usually edit the Levels in those programs. Much nicer. But if all you have is Picmonkey, you can do pretty well!

Want to get the recipe for that delicious cheesecake you’ve been staring at? Find it over at Growing Up Gabel!

A Beginner's Guide to Editing Photos --- You know all those beautiful, bright, crisp photos you see on Pinterest and think, "Why can't my photos look that nice?" One of the big things I see beginners doing, though, is not editing photos. So we'll start there. Here are 4 simple edits you can do in Picmonkey to improve your photos. || via diybudgetgirl.com #editing #photography #photos #picmonkey #photoshop #gimp

 

What photo editing tips would you give to a beginner? Any editing tool you simply can’t live without? Let me know in the comments! 

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How I Am Improving My Photography in 2015

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20 comments

  1. Amanda says:

    These are some great tips! I need to get better at editing my photos and then walking away from them for a few days. Waayy too many times I’ve posted pictures then looked at them a few days later and thought “wow, how did I think that looked good?” lol Not that my photos are anywhere NEAR professional looking but still. I just installed GIMP so I’m excited to play around with that. Stopping by from Teach Me Tuesday!
    Amanda recently posted…My Favorite Things Weekend Roundup 1/24My Profile

    • Chelsey says:

      Amanda, I do the exact same thing! Especially as I keep going–my last photo is always way worse than my first. Of course, I used to be the idiot who threw out her raw photos as soon as the edits were done–lesson learned on that one. ๐Ÿ˜› Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Lou Lou Girls says:

    Hello cute lady! Iโ€™m loving it. Pinned and tweeted. Thank you so much for partying with us. I hope to see you tonight at 7 pm. We love to party with you! Happy Monday! Lou Lou Girls

  3. Camille says:

    Oh my gosh – you used Picmonkey on those photos?! I’ve been sitting here dreaming about getting pretty photos like you and wishing I knew how to edit in Photoshop and you used Picmonkey!!! That I can totally do!

    • Chelsey says:

      I LOVE Photoshop, but now that they only do a monthly subscription instead of a one-time purchase, it’s WAY too expensive. (Not that it was cheap before. ๐Ÿ˜› ) PicMonkey is a lifesaver!

  4. Mila says:

    I made the cheesecake for Valentines ( with some minor changes). i didn’t realize it was your recipe. I think it is our new favorite, we loved it.
    Have you tried paint.net for editing? Would you recommend it over PicMonkey?

    • Chelsey says:

      I use the Canon Rebel T3i (aff link). However, it would be useless if I hadn’t taught myself about lighting, staging, etc. A good photo is about the photographer, not the camera. I take similar photos with my old point and shoot, as well as my phone camera (for Instagram).

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