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How To Edit Photos To Look Amazing In 4 Easy Steps

How To Edit Photos To Look Amazing In 4 Easy Steps

My photo posts often get positive comments about how good they look.

It's not because I'm a great photographer, I'm not.
It's not because I've got lots of expensive equipment, I don't.
I am just an amateur who barely understands the basics of how to use her DSLR.

The reason I get great comments is largely due to my taking the time to edit photos. Now let me explain. I'm not talking about using photoshop or fancy software to do lots of post processing.

I'm talking about editing, the same way you would edit a blog post, or a letter to your business clients or a birthday invitation, but instead of words it's images you're editing.

Editing your photos is about making sure you've got all the necessary information easily displayed, discarding anything superfluous.

It doesn't matter what program you use to edit your photos, even if you're using your phone you should be able to implement these tips.

Here's my secrets on how to edit photos.

1. Pick the best shots

The first thing to do is to select only the best shots.

This will probably be less then a third of the photos you actually take. If you're choosing more then that you're not being choosy enough.

Nobody wants to see what is basically the same shot over and over again. It's boring, even if they are great shots.

When I took some macros in my back yard I ended up with 48 shots, a lot of those were just grass.

Variations on the same shot is boring, in 4 steps they can look amazing.

A good way to do this is to quickly run through your photos and gold star (or write down the name) of each photo that strikes you as looking good. Go with your first impression, and work fast.

You'll start second guessing yourself if you take too long deciding.

2. Narrow your selection 

Pick the best of the best. Select only one of each type of shot.

If you have 2 shots that are really great but they are of the same subject, angle or pose, just pick one, it doesn't matter which one. Sometimes I'll add them both to a post and then remove one of them once I see it in context.

Of those 48 garden shots about half were fine to use but there was only 7 distinct subjects. I selected only one shot of each subject (almost). Only 6 shots made it into the final published post.

Narrowing down the grass shots was challenging, but once I removed all the similar ones it got easier.

Narrowing your selection is important when editing your photos. Step 2 of 4 - How to edit photos to look amazing.

Okay, yes I snuck in a second photo of grass into the post, but it was a completely different composition to the first one and I kept them well apart from each other so it didn't become boring to look at. It's important to know when to break the rules too =)

You should now have 5-15% of your original images left. You should be aiming for a 5% ratio.

3. Crop

Crop out the boring bits. Only show the good bits of the photo and get rid of the excess visual 'noise' that detracts from what you are wanting to show.

These are the same two grass photos seen in the top row in the above collage.
Croping is the easiest way to improve your photos. Step 3 of 4 - How to edit photos to look amazing.

Now doesn't that look better?

4. Apply corrections

Is your image a little dark? Add some fill light. Is it lacking in contrast? Boost the shadows or highlights. Is there a riot of colour confusing the eye? Make it black and white.

There's no need to get carried away with fancy schmancy post processing options that will date your image, like HDR or vignettes. Make your images evergreen and just correct the lighting and colour a little (which you could have done before you took the shot if you were better with your camera).

I didn't apply any corrections to the grass shots, so Geri The Wonder Dog is helping out.

Basic corrections are all you need for evergreen images

This shot of Geri was a little dark so added a bit of fill light to lighten the whole shot and added some highlights to improve the contrast. You want some nice dark and some nice bright sections in your shot.

Make your subject stand out - How to edit photos to look amazing in 4 easy steps

Now you know my secrets to great photos. Do you think you could make your photos look better by using these methods?


  1. Funny, I just posted a blog post about how I take pictures for my blog today. Editing is a MUST for blog and Instagram pictures and some are still sadly under the impression it takes a lot of time and money to do it when most editing apps nowadays are free.
    I have a DSLR but most of the time my HTC phone takes great pictures I can work with so I rarely bother setting the DSLR up to take pictures unless the light is really going to be way too low for me to have a chance of taking a great picture with the phone.

    1. I've got a HTC too, but it's a bit old and I prefer my DSLR (and it's SD card).

    2. I edit mostly from my iPad because the laptop is too ancient to even work properly with my very old version of Paint Shop Pro, so it is a bit easier to send the phone picture to the Dropbox and open them on the iPad. The latest HTC models have a really good camera, I had another HTC before that was just ok, but the one I currently have is really good.

    3. I use picasa to edit because my little netbook (which is my big computer) is too pathetic to cope with a more sophisticated editor. We've got to use what works for our equipment right? I've now got phone envy, mine is about 4 years old (maybe older).

    4. Did you just describe my netbook? It's about 5 years old, and the battery isn't even recognised by the system anymore and won't charge. They other day it crashed about 3 times just trying to scan a document. I am going to get something better soon, because I love photo editing and graphic art designing and this netbook has really reached its limits. I want to get myself photoshop but the netbook won't support it, heck I am sure that even if it could, it would just fry and die trying to run it.

  2. I am constantly trying to work on my photography skills. Thanks for the tips!

    1. It's an endless learning experience that's for sure!

  3. This is my biggest blog struggle. I write about day planners and they are so hard to get good pictures of.

    1. I bet you have glare problems and all sorts. Bounce flash is your friend!

    2. To get good pictures of things like books and planners you need to beat the glare problem. This means you first need a good natural light source to minimise the use of a standard flash as much as possible, then use light reflectors to bounce the light around so it gives a more even coverage, if the light source is coming in too strong and too focused, you could even do with a diffuser. All these props are easy to make yourself. The reflectors can be made using styrofoam sheets or cardboard sheets covered in silver foil you place them near the object you want to photograph to bounce the light on the shadow side. Diffusers are a semi transparent fabric screen you place in front of your light source.

      Using these will make the photo editing much easier afterward. I just did a blog post about having a photo studio on a budget at home.

  4. This is a really useful post! I don't have a DSLR yet but this is something I want to progress onto because I'm really interested in the different ways you can crop, reszie and edit photos to get these stunning outcomes. Really interesting, thanks for this Stella! - Tasha

    1. A DSLR has been the best thing for the blog and the blog has been the best thing for learning how to use my DSLR. Tell everyone that this Christmas you want visa gift cards so you save up for one!

  5. That is exactly how I get photos in my life! I'm glad I'm not the only one :)

  6. You could have fooled me that you're not a pro! Maybe mine can look better too!!
    Thanks, Stella

  7. Great post! Pinned and tweeted. Thank you for being a part of our party! I hope to see you on Monday at 7 pm. We love partying with you! Lou Lou Girls

  8. Great tips, Stella! Thanks for sharing these. :)


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