5 Common Editing Mistakes

Jun 09, 2020

Photography has some steep learning curves. As a new photographer, typically, the first thing you do is dive into the technical skills needed to operate your camera. Later, you realize that there's also a whole other side to photography. Learning post-processing techniques is not an easy process. But, don't feel defeated by the amount a photographer must learn! Photography is one big gigantic journey filled with uphill trails and meandering paths. That's one of the things I love about being a photographer. There's the neverending opportunity to learn and develop both technical and artistic skills. I think photography is a fun and exciting journey of self-development. Learning and exploring something new often comes with lots of mistakes. In this article, I want to share with you some of the common pitfalls I often see in post-processing. I hope that you'll be able to avoid these errors as you develop and fine-tune your post-processing skills!

1. Too much saturation 

Do you love colour as much as I do? Be careful when adding global saturation to an image. Small colour tweaks can go a long way-oversaturation results in colours that appear unnatural. Very slight adjustments or specific adjustments to a single colour are often much better than overall global saturation lifts. I like to tweak colour individually in Lightroom in the HSL panel. It's a fantastic place to fine-tune colours separately. Also, keep in mind that oversaturated images will not print well. It's easy to push saturation too far, which can result in a loss in texture and detail within a specific colour. It's always best to retain as much detail within your colours, as this will print better.  


ISO 200, 105mm, f2.8, 1/500SS

For my taste, the first image has enough saturation. In the second image, I only increased the saturation slider in the Basic Panel in LR (Lightroom) to +20. I think that's a little too much as my greens are taking on a fluorescent tint. 

2. Too much clarity

Clarity is a beautiful thing, or at least it can be. The addition of clarity into an image is an excellent way to add a little punch. Clarity helps bring out detail and textures within a picture, but too much is an eyesore. Ouch. It's best to use clarity locally or sparingly globally. 


ISO 200, 105mm, f2.8, 1/1250SS

The first image has only a slight touch of clarity added. In Lightroom, +5 with the Clarity slider was enough for me. The image on the right has too much clarity with an adjustment of +50, leaving it crunchy looking with unnatural skin tones.  

3. Too much contrast 

Managing contrast in an image isn't always black and white. There's a fine line between too much and too little contrast. Too little contrast can leave your image looking flat and underwhelming. Too much contrast can leave your image looking oversaturated and fake. When it comes to contrast, add a little at a time. Take a break then go back to the image when your eyes are fresh. You want your image to pop, but not too much. Less is more.  


ISO 400, 105mm, f3.2, 1/1000SS

With the haze in the first image from the backlight, high contrast, like in the second image, is not realistic with the type of light. 

4. Over sharpening

Over sharpening an image will leave your photograph looking crunchy and introduce noise. Use sharpening with caution. When sharpening, it's best to add a small amount. In Lightroom, I usually add between 25-45 in the Amount slider under the Detail panel then mask off unwanted areas. Hold down the alt/option key while moving the Masking slider. When you do this, you can see what areas in your image are sharpening. The white areas are sharpening while the black is not. 


The first image is sharpened at 45, with a mask of 75. The second image is sharpened at 75, with no mask. Zoomed in at 100%, you can see the difference in the slight sharpening adjustment with a mask applied, to the image on the left, alongside the other heavily sharpened image. 

5. Globally applying actions or presets as is

Actions and presets are fantastic tools to help any photographer's post-processing workflow. When you are just starting as a photographer, there's a lot to learn when it comes to editing. Actions and presets are fantastic ways in which to set up an image for a good edit regardless of whether you are new to post-processing or not. The pitfall is that sometimes photographers fall into the trap of the one-click actions or presents and never adjust or fine-tune. It's essential to understand what an action or present is doing to your image and then tweak those edits to your taste or for the image. There's no one-click, leave as is, action or preset that will work for every single photograph. (Maybe there is, but I've never found one). It's also a great idea to add your tweaks to your images and make them your own. 

 ISO 500, 165mm, f2.8, 1/400SS

Post-processing is an integral part of photography. You must take your time to learn and develop your skills in your chosen post-processing program. It's a great idea to experiment and try out new editing techniques when you are developing your editing style as a photographer. Remember, though, that less is often more when it comes to editing. Also, there are many free tutorials available to the photographer specific to editing. It's a fantastic idea to watch other photographers develop their images, as you will undoubtedly learn a tip or two. Always be open to learning! 

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