13 photo editing mistakes every photographer makes (and how to stop!)

What is highlight alert?

With just a few clicks you can correct exposure and white balance problems, tweak contrast, remove unwanted objects and add better backgrounds. But with that power comes the ability to make mistakes, bad mistakes.

To make life easier during those early days when you’re just getting to grips with your photo editing software, our friends at Photoventure have for their latest guest blog post compiled a list of the most common photo editing mistakes that photographers make at one point or another, and offer some advice about how to avoid making them.

Photo Editing Mistake No. 1: Over saturating colours

13 photo editing mistakes every photographer makes: 01. Oversaturating colours

Many images benefit from a little boost to the saturation to bring colours to life, but go easy, and don’t keep pushing it further and further up.

A good tip when you’re making an adjustment is to look away for a few seconds and then look back.

Suddenly you see that those small incremental images have pushed the colours too far.

It may also help to refer back to your original image on a regular basis as this will make the edits more apparent.

Photo Editing Mistake No. 2: Bad use of filters

When you first start using editing software like Photoshop there’s a natural tendency to try out every available effect.

While it’s good to explore the program’s capabilities, as with many things in life it’s usually a case of less is more.

A poor image is rarely improved by a hefty application of the Watercolor Filter, for instance, and the Spherize Filter is probably best left alone in most cases.


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Photo Editing Mistake No. 3: Clipped highlights

13 photo editing mistakes every photographer makes: 03. Clipped highlights

As a general rule people are drawn to bright images, but take care not to over-brighten shots so that details are lost in the highlights.

Ideally you want to be able to see some subtle tonal variation in the white clouds above a landscape, for example.

Don’t keep brightening the image until they are a uniform mass of burned out white.

Fortunately help is on hand in the form of the Histogram view (Windows > Histogram in Photoshop).

If a large peak starts to develop at the far right end of the graph you know that you’ve started to burn out the brighter areas and you need to pull things back a little.

Photo Editing Mistake No. 4: Tones over-adjusted

Over adjusted areas of similar tone can also be a problem as the subtle gradations are lost and banding is introduced.

This is something to watch out for in blue (as well as grey) skies and any areas that look to be of the same tone, but are actually made up of slightly different tones or shades.


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Photo Editing Mistake No. 5: No blacks or whites

13 photo editing mistakes every photographer makes: 05. No blacks or whites

There are always some exceptions, but generally most images benefit from having some black areas and some white areas.

You can check whether these exist, and if necessary set the black and white point, using the Levels control.

Drag the markers under the histogram in until they just touch the ends of the trace of the graph.

Photo Editing Mistake No. 6: Crossed curves

Lightroom and Elements both have Curves controls, but their power is limited in comparison with what is available in Photoshop.

This is done with good reason because it’s easy to over adjust an image curve and introduce banding, uniform grey patches and, in extreme cases, wild colours.

The Curves panel is design to allow the brightness of pixels of a particular luminance to be adjusted.

Pushing the curve up brightens images with that corresponding brightness, while dragging it down darkens them.

Transforming the originally straight diagonal line into a shallow ‘S’ shape gives a subtle boost to the contrast, but over-manipulating the curve into pronounced ‘U’ or ‘W’ shapes sends things over the top.

Be subtle.


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