Overcoming Photography Post-Processing: Tips & Techniques
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 9 min read


Post-processing in photography is like perfecting a cake recipe. It's the final step that can turn your good photos into great ones. But, like any recipe, the ingredients and techniques you use can make all the difference. One of the most common post-processing challenges in photography is exposure editing. Let's break down the steps to overcome this challenge.

How to Edit Exposure

Exposure is all about the amount of light captured when you take a photo. Too much light, and your photo looks washed out; too little, and you're squinting to make out the details. Here are some simple steps you can follow to get the exposure just right:

  1. Start with the Exposure slider: This is your main tool for adjusting the brightness of your entire image. Moving it to the right will make your image brighter; sliding it to the left will make it darker.
  2. Balance with the Contrast: Once you have a good overall brightness, adjust the Contrast slider. This will change the difference between the darkest and lightest parts of your image. A higher contrast will make these differences more pronounced; a lower contrast will make them more subtle.
  3. Refine with Highlights and Shadows: The Highlights and Shadows sliders can help you fine-tune the lighting in your image. Use the Highlights slider to adjust the lightest parts of your image and the Shadows slider to adjust the darkest parts.
  4. Final Touch with the Blacks and Whites: Lastly, use the Whites and Blacks sliders to set the lightest and darkest points of your image. The Whites slider sets the point that will be pure white, and the Blacks slider sets the point that will be pure black.

Remember, like any recipe, these steps aren't set in stone. Feel free to mix and match these steps depending on what your image needs. The goal is to overcome the post-processing challenges in photography and make your images look their best. The more you practice, the more you'll develop your own unique style of post-processing. So, grab your favorite photos and start experimenting!

Adjusting White Balance

Ever snapped a photo indoors and noticed an unappealing yellow tint? Or perhaps captured a snowy scene that appeared unnaturally blue? This is where white balance adjustments come in handy. Adjusting white balance is an essential step to overcome common post-processing challenges in photography, and it's easier than you might think.

  1. Identify the Light Source: First, figure out the primary source of light when you took the photograph. Was it under fluorescent lights, in the natural daylight, or perhaps under tungsten light bulbs? Knowing this can help you adjust your white balance accurately.
  2. Choose a White Balance Preset: Most photo editing software has presets for different lighting conditions. Try applying a preset that matches your lighting condition and see if it improves the color balance.
  3. Custom Adjustments: If presets don't do the trick, move to manual adjustments. You'll usually find two sliders for temperature and tint. Temperature controls the blue-yellow axis, and tint controls the green-magenta one. Play around until you get the most natural-looking colors.

Remember, the goal is to make white objects in your image appear white while preserving the overall color balance. It's like adjusting the thermostat in your house - you want it just right. With practice, you'll get a feel for it, and adjusting white balance will become second nature.

Tips for Effective Cropping

Ah, cropping! It seems so simple, yet it's a tool that, when used correctly, can transform your photos. Addressing post-processing challenges in photography often begins with mastering the art of effective cropping.

  1. Rule of Thirds: Imagine your photo divided into nine equal parts by two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines. The rule of thirds suggests that you should place the most interesting elements along these lines or at their intersections. It brings a balance to your photo that's pleasing to the eye.
  2. Focus on the Subject: Sometimes less is more. If there's too much going on in your picture, don't hesitate to crop it down to highlight your main subject.
  3. Watch Your Edges: When cropping, pay attention to the edges of your frame. Ensure that you're not accidentally cutting off important parts of your subject.

And here's a fun fact: don't feel confined to the standard rectangle. Square or panoramic crops can give your photos a fresh look. So the next time you're faced with post-processing challenges in photography, remember: a good crop can do wonders!

Techniques for Sharpening Images

Sharpening your images is like adding the perfect seasoning to your dish—it brings out all the flavors! In photography terms, it enhances the details and gives your work a polished, professional look. But, tackling this post-processing challenge in photography needs a little bit of know-how. Let's dive in, shall we?

  1. Unsharp Mask: Despite its misleading name, the Unsharp Mask is your go-to tool for image sharpening. It works by increasing the contrast along the edges in your image. A word of caution though—too much of it, and your photo might start looking unnatural.
  2. High Pass Filter: Another technique you can use is applying a High Pass filter. This method can be a bit tricky to get right, but once you do, it’s a game changer. It sharpens your image by retaining high-frequency detail.
  3. Smart Sharpen: As the name suggests, Smart Sharpen is pretty...well, smart! It allows you to control the amount of sharpening, reducing noise, and even managing how much the shadows and highlights get sharpened.

Remember, sharpening is not a one-size-fits-all solution. What works for one image might not work for another. It's all about finding the right balance. So, strap on those editing gloves and tackle those post-processing challenges in photography!

How to Remove Noise

Noise is like that unwanted guest who shows up at your party without an invitation. It can sneak into your photos when you're shooting in low light or with high ISO settings. So, how can you kick out this unwelcome guest and tackle this post-processing challenge in photography? Here are a few methods:

  1. Noise Reduction Tools: Most photo editing software, like Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop, comes with built-in noise reduction tools. These tools work by smoothing out the pixelated areas but be careful not to overdo it. Too much noise reduction can make your image look blurry.
  2. Selective Noise Reduction: Sometimes, noise may be more prominent in certain parts of your image. In such cases, you can use selective noise reduction. This technique allows you to apply noise reduction to specific areas of your photo, leaving the rest untouched.
  3. Reduce Noise in Camera: Okay, this one's not exactly a post-processing tip, but it's worth mentioning. You can reduce noise by adjusting your camera settings. Lower ISO settings and proper exposure can help in reducing noise in your images.

Remember, while noise can be a nuisance, it's also a part of digital photography. Even the best of us face these post-processing challenges in photography. So, don't stress too much about it. As long as it's not ruining your image, a little bit of noise is okay.

Ways to Enhance Colors

Colors are the soul of a photograph. They express mood, evoke emotions, and tell a story. But what if your photograph's colors don't pop as much as you'd like them to? Here's where the magic of post-processing comes into play. Let's discuss some techniques to overcome these post-processing challenges in photography and breathe life into your images:

  1. Saturation vs Vibrance: Before we dive in, it's important to understand the difference between saturation and vibrance. Saturation boosts all colors equally, while vibrance increases the intensity of the less saturated colors. So if you want a natural look, go for vibrance. But if you're trying to achieve a more artistic effect, saturation might be your best friend.
  2. Color Grading: This is a technique used to alter or correct the color tones of your image. With color grading, you can transform a bright and sunny day into a beautiful sunset, or a boring blue sky into a dramatic storm. The possibilities are endless.
  3. Use of Color Balance: Color balance can help in enhancing the overall color of the image. It allows you to adjust the shadows, mid-tones, and highlights in your photo, giving you complete control over the color tones.

Remember, enhancing colors doesn't mean going overboard with them. The goal is to make your images look as natural as possible, unless you're intentionally going for an exaggerated look. After all, overcoming post-processing challenges in photography is all about striking the right balance.

Using Histogram to Correct Exposure

Exposure can make or break a photograph. But, what do you do when the lighting conditions aren't favorable? Enter post-processing. Specifically, let's talk about histograms, a handy tool that can help you overcome exposure-related post-processing challenges in photography.

  1. What's a Histogram? It might look like a complex graph, but once you get the hang of it, a histogram becomes a photographer's best friend. It's a graphical representation of the pixels exposed in your photo. The left side shows the shadows, the middle represents mid-tones and the right side displays highlights.
  2. Reading the Histogram: A perfect histogram doesn’t really exist as it varies based on the image. Generally, a well-exposed photo will have a balance of pixels throughout the histogram. If your graph is skewed to the left, your photo might be underexposed. If it’s leaning to the right, it could be overexposed.
  3. Adjusting Exposure: After reading the histogram, you can adjust your exposure accordingly. Most editing software has 'levels' or 'curves' tools where you can adjust highlights, shadows, and mid-tones to achieve the desired exposure.

So, next time you’re faced with exposure-related post-processing challenges in photography, remember: the histogram is your roadmap to a well-exposed photo.

How to Use Cloning and Healing Tools

Have you ever taken what you thought was the perfect shot, only to later discover an unwanted object, blemish, or spot in the image? Well, don't worry! Post-processing in photography can help. Two powerful tools at your disposal are the cloning and healing tools.

  1. Cloning tool: This tool works by copying one area of your image and pasting it onto another. You select a source point in the image that you want to clone, and then paint over another area. It's extremely useful for removing unwanted objects from your image.
  2. Healing tool: The healing tool is a little more advanced. It also works by copying and pasting, but it also blends the pasted area with the surrounding pixels. This makes for a smoother, more natural transition and is perfect for removing blemishes or spots in portraits.

With practice, these tools can help you overcome some common post-processing challenges in photography. So next time an unexpected photobomber or a stubborn skin blemish tries to ruin your shot, remember—you have the power to fix it!

Tips on Retouching Portraits

Retouching is a significant aspect of portrait photography. It's where you get to enhance the subject's features and draw attention to the right places. But, it's also a common source of post-processing challenges in photography. To help you out, here are a few tips:

  1. Less is More: When it comes to retouching portraits, the key is subtlety. You want to enhance your subject's features, not change them completely. Remember, the goal here is to create a natural and realistic image.
  2. Focus on the Eyes: Eyes are often said to be the windows to the soul. Spend some time brightening and sharpening the eyes in your portrait. This can make your subject appear more alive and engaging.
  3. Smooth, Don't Blur: When dealing with skin, avoid blurring to hide imperfections. Instead, consider techniques like frequency separation to maintain skin texture while smoothing out color inconsistencies.
  4. Don't Forget the Details: Pay attention to the small things. Clean up stray hairs, smoothen clothing wrinkles, and whiten teeth. These little touches can make a huge difference in your final image.

Portrait retouching can seem daunting at first, but with a little practice, you'll get the hang of it. Remember, the best portrait is one that showcases the subject's true personality!

Techniques for Saving and Exporting Edited Images

So, you've overcome the post-processing challenges in photography and have a beautiful image that you're proud of. Now what? The final steps of saving and exporting your work are just as important as the editing process. Here's a step-by-step guide to help you navigate these final steps:

  1. Save Your Work: Always save an editable version of your image. This could be a PSD file in Photoshop or a TIFF file in Lightroom. This allows you to come back and make changes if needed.
  2. Choose the Right Format: When it comes to exporting, the format you choose depends on how you plan to use the image. For online use, JPEG is the most common format. For printing, a TIFF or PNG file may be more appropriate as these formats retain more detail.
  3. Consider the Size: Pay attention to the file size when saving and exporting. For example, if you're uploading the image online, a smaller file size can help the image load faster. However, if you're printing the image, a larger file size ensures better quality.
  4. Color Space Matters: Finally, consider the color space. For web use, sRGB is the most common. But for printing, Adobe RGB or ProPhoto RGB may provide better color accuracy.

Remember, saving and exporting correctly is a critical part of maintaining the quality of your image. It's the final touch in your post-processing journey. So, take your time and do it right!

If you're eager to improve your post-processing skills and take your photography projects to the next level, don't miss out on Benedetta Ristori's workshop, 'Editing and Publishing Photography Projects.' This workshop will provide you with valuable tips and techniques to help you overcome post-processing challenges and create stunning visuals.