How to Edit Photos: 13 Pro Editing Tips for Beginners [2024 UPDATED VERSION]

In today's world, visual content is king. With the rise of social media and digital marketing, businesses need to showcase their products and services in the best possible light to grab the attention of potential customers, and the quality and style of their visual content are tightly linked to their brand image. This is where photo editing comes in.

Whether it's for social media, websites, or advertising campaigns, editing photos professionally can make a huge difference in how your audience perceives your images.

If you're new to photo editing, don't worry! In this article, we'll cover 13 pro editing tips for beginners to learn how to edit photos beautifully. We'll also recommend some popular photo editing software options to make your editing process easier.

Let's get started!

Why You Must Edit Photos Professionally

Before we dive into the tips, let's first talk about why editing images professionally is key for marketing and advertising. 

First and foremost, professional editing improves the overall quality of your digital photography. Through clever tweaks such as adjusting brightness and contrast, correcting color, and sharpening details, you can ensure that your images are crisp, clear, and high-quality. A must for marketing visuals. Even Instagram photos will perform a lot better when correctly edited. 

Besides image quality, editing your photos a certain way can enhance their visual appeal and help your visuals stand out from the crowd and grab the attention of potential customers. This is an absolute must for brands and businesses in today's highly visual and image-oversaturated world. 

Lastly, photo editing can help to convey a specific mood or emotion. Depending on your brand and the message you're trying to share, you may want to edit your photos in a certain way to create a certain feeling or atmosphere and to make them consistent with your brand image. For example, you can make the same original image seem cozy and inviting or feel cold and isolating just by changing the brightness and colors.

This is particularly useful when working with stock photos, which, as professional and high-quality as they are, tend to be a bit more generic and not so brand-specific. 

Starting Point: Choose a Photo Editing Software

If you want to edit images like a professional, you will need a tool capable of delivering professional results. There are many options in photo editing software for every budget and preference, but you must keep two things in mind:

  • Traditional, pro photo editing tools tend to have steep learning curves
  • User-friendly design tools for non-professionals tend to lock the best features under paid thresholds
  • There are advanced tools for photo editing built on AI technology (known as AI image editors) that can automatically adjust values and perform more edits like removing objects, adding objects, etc., with pro results and almost no input from you
  • Oftentimes, the same tools combine manual editing and AI editing in the same platform, so you can choose which one to use

That said, we recommend the following tools that can edit almost all image formats and get most of our editing tips done:

Adobe Photoshop

photoshop express > How to Edit Photos: 13 Pro Editing Tips for Beginners [[wpsm_custom_meta type=date field=year] UPDATED VERSION]

Photoshop is the industry standard for photo editing software used by professionals all around the world. It's part of Adobe Creative Cloud, a cloud-based ecosystem of pro-grade creative apps, it has an installable version for desktop, as well as a Photoshop Express mobile app, all of which you get at once when you acquire a subscription to the main tool.

Photoshop offers a wide range of editing tools and features, including AI-powered ones, it lets you edit multiple photos at once, and it works with a layers concept that avoids destructing or permanently altering the original file: you make edits on a new layer of your image (you can duplicate layer too) and each layer of edits can be saved separately.

All this means that it can be quite a complex tool for beginners. However, Adobe offers a wide collection of Photoshop tutorials for beginners to advanced users, and there are also lots of courses dedicated to learning how to use this app.

Here you can find a Photoshop free trial and download it for free!

Canva Pro homepage

Canva Pro is a popular, user-friendly, and very affordable graphic design platform that includes photo editing tools, stock images and templates, and AI features. It is very intuitive and doesn't require any particular skills to produce good results. While it has a very simple concept, it still includes advanced features like a layers panel. It's great for creating social media graphics and marketing materials, among other quick yet super important visuals.

A Canva Pro subscription can be monthly or annual and comes with unlimited access to the service. Plus, it has a large collection of tutorials to make the best out of the tool.

Here you can obtain an exclusive discount on a Canva Pro annual plan!

Adobe Express creative cloud express

Adobe Express is a simplified graphic design tool that brings the best features of Adobe's core apps –like Photoshop, Illustrator, and Premiere Pro– into one easy-to-use platform where you will find a photo editor, stock media libraries, AI editing functions, and much more. It's ideal if you love Photoshop functionality but cannot work with its complex layout.

You can use Adobe Express for free, but the best of the service is accessible only with a premium membership.

Pixlr homepage

Pixlr is a free online photo editor that offers a wide range of editing tools and features. It has a beginner-oriented version, Pixlr X, which is great for quick and easy designs. There is the advanced editing tool Pixlr R where you can go in-depth with photo editing.

This platform includes AI features and is great for amateurs who don't want to invest in expensive software, although the free accounts have limited access, and they offer paid subscriptions for the full range of the service, including its most powerful functions.

Here we have a special Pixlr free trial for you!

Fotor homepage

Fotor is an all-in-one online photo editing and graphic design platform where you can do anything from creating a design to editing a photo to making a collage, among many other possibilities. It's packed with templates and editing features, and lately, it has added AI technology to improve the user experience and achieve better results.

Fotor has a basic, free version, but the premium plan (which is paid) has a lot more to offer and is very complete, including things like batch editing and cloud storage.

13 Pro Editing Tips for Beginners

Now that we've covered why photo editing is so important and the best photo editing applications, let's dive into some pro tips to help you turn your photos into great photos.

Keep in mind this is a basic list of what aspects you should take care of when editing photos to make them look their best. For more in-depth instructions on how to perform these edits, you can check free online tutorials or take courses, depending on how serious you are and what your budget is.

1. Crop and Straighten

One of the easiest ways to improve or fix the composition of your photos is to crop and straighten them. By cropping an image, you can correct the composition frame, modify the aspect ratio and angle, define or enhance the focal point, eliminate unnecessary background, and achieve better symmetry.

If your images are tilted, straightening them is relatively easy and will ensure they are level with the horizon and easy on the eyes. But if you wish, you can purposely tilt the position of an image for creative reasons using the same tool.

Most software options handle cropping and straightening with a drag-and-drop square selection tool and/or level controls, so it's really very simple to get it done.

2. Adjust Exposure

If you have an underexposed (too dark) or overexposed (too bright) photo that would otherwise be a great fit for your design, it's possible to adjust the exposure during editing and fix the problem. Plus, modifying an image's exposure can improve its brightness and contrast as well, making it more defined and visually attractive.

Your chosen photo editor will likely have a tool to adjust the overall exposure of your photo. It might be labeled “exposure” directly, or it'll have controls for exposure values –such as camera-related ones like aperture, ISO, and shutter speed, or image-based ones like brightness and contrast– that you can use to correct image exposure.

3. Adjust Brightness and Contrast

Changing the brightness levels can help fine-tune the picture's light and dark areas for a perfect, eye-catching finish, particularly in areas that are still not up to standard after adjusting exposure settings. Correcting the image's shadows and highlights will help define all elements in the photograph.

Contrast settings can be used to give the photo a defined style: high contrast results in more dramatic and sharper pictures, and low contrast makes images look faded, but there is a tonal range in between to explore.

Most photo editing software has a levels tool to adjust all these components, so you can experiment with the sliders until you find the right balance very easily.

4. Adjust White Balance

In photography, white balance refers to the temperature of the light. Through white balance settings, you can define a warmer or colder lighting (and overall feel) for your photo.

Editing white balance usually means modifying the color temperature –which covers the spectrum from orange tones for warm and blue tones for cold– and tint, which goes through the color spectrum from green to magenta. By tweaking these settings, you can find the perfect white balance for your shot.

5. Correct Color

Correcting the color of your photos has various effects. It can make them look more natural and true to life or help highlight objects in your composition by making certain colors pop more than others, for example.

Depending on the editor you're using, you might find a unified color balance feature or have to modify the different aspects of color –saturation and vibrancy– independently. Saturation defines the intensity of all colors in an image, where more saturation is more intense hues and less saturation is less intense tones. Vibrancy controls the levels of muted colors and skin tones.

These features tend to have intensity sliders, so you can check until you find the right levels for each. 

Don't forget to learn about the best color combinations before diving into the color correction of your pictures!

6. Sharpen Details

Sharpening the details in your photos will correct the textures in them, a trademark of high-resolution imagery and a crucial step in images for printing. This isn’t so much about fixing a blurry photo as it is about making any good photo crispier and clearer.

Use the sharpen tool that comes with most editing apps to enhance the details in your photos, but be careful not to overdo it: excessively sharp photos look unnatural, which is a huge turn-off for most audiences today, who prefer authentic-looking images.

7. Remove blemishes

If you're editing photos of people, you may want to remove any blemishes or imperfections to make them more attractive and fresh-looking. 

Some advanced image editing apps include features like a spot-healing brush tool to remove unwanted skin marks or spots. If a spot-removing tool isn’t available, you can do this manually as well: usually, a patch tool can get the work done. 

Just remember not to go too far, the best people photos are the ones that look realistic – you want smooth yet naturally textured skin, not an over-edited, nontextured fake finish. 

8. Remove Unwanted Objects

Perhaps your photo has a distracting visual element that would be best erased or an object that shouldn't be there managed to sneak in. In those cases, you can improve the picture by removing the unwanted object with an image editor.

Small elements can be erased relatively easily, but larger elements require more time and skill to be deleted successfully and seamlessly. Some advanced apps have features like Photoshop's magic wand that uses AI to select an object automatically, making the task a bit easier.

Always make sure that the fill where the removed object was, looks smoothly integrated into the rest of the photo.

9. Add filters

Adding a filter (a combination of preset edits to alter an original photo) is an easy way to create a specific mood or atmosphere in your pictures and save time. 

You can experiment with different filters to find the right one for your brand and the message you're trying to convey. 

Some photo editors let you customize values in a filter to achieve a unique look, and you can then apply it to all your images for visual cohesion, too. 

10. Add Text

Whether it’s photos for Instagram posts or other social media graphics, or product photos for your next advertising campaign, you may want to add text to them to create a complete visual design. 

The best photo editing tools include a text tool to add copy, as well as a selection of font styles you can use and customize in terms of size, colors, effect, and more. Some apps also let you upload custom fonts. 

11. Remove Background

There are multiple reasons to want to remove the background of your photos. To get a perfect cutout of an item for a white background product image or to replace a not-so-good background with a better one, for example. One simple edit like this can really transform your pictures!

Almost all graphic design tools worth using include a background eraser tool that makes this process a lot simpler by letting you select and distinguish the background layer from the rest of the composition, delete it, and even replace it with a different one with a few clicks on different buttons and controllers.

12. Add a Vignette

You've likely seen vignettes before – it's the name given to a photo edit where the corners of the image are darkened, usually in a circular shape. This is a photo editing trick that helps draw the viewer's attention to the center of the picture. As simple as it sounds, it's effective!

Most applications to edit photos come with a vignette tool that darkens the edges of your picture, and you can experiment with the intensity until you find the ideal intensity and size of the obscured area.

13. Use Editing Presets

If you're short on time or don't want to spend too much time editing your photos, use presets. Presets are pre-made editing settings that you can apply to your photos with just one click. Similar to filters, with a great level of details being manipulated.

Many photo editing software options offer presets for different styles and moods. And then, there are services that provide installable presets for the most popular editing tools, such as Photoshop.

How to Edit Photos: FAQ

Before we go, we will answer the most frequently asked questions about editing photos digitally.

What is the best way to edit photos? 

To edit pictures successfully, it’s ideal to choose photo editing programs that match your skill level, to have a clearly defined style and look, and to aim to have sharp and beautiful images without losing authenticity. 

How do I make my photos look professional?

Edit photos like a pro doesn’t take as much as you’d think. You must pay attention to crucial technical details while keeping it simple. You can do things like adjust white balance, adjust contrast, reduce noise, check the image’s shadows, and fine-tune a model’s face to remove imperfections, for example, to achieve a sharp and smooth-looking picture. 

How do I edit good pictures on my iPhone?

There are good photo editing apps for mobile phones, both iOS and Android. Adobe Photoshop Express, for example. 
There are also built in editing tools within popular image-sharing platforms, such as the Instagram app, which is great if you’re going to edit Instagram photos. While the reduced screen and some feature limitations can change the photo editing process to that of a desktop, if you apply the tips from this guide, you should be able to produce a good photo. 

How do I edit photos on my computer? 

Once you have chosen the perfect tool for your editing needs, all you must do is launch the software or open the website if it’s web-based, select the particular photo, and open it on the editor, and that’s it, you’re ready to begin. Once your post-production process is complete, you simply export and save the edited image to your local drive. 

Edit Away and Get Pro-Styled Photos

In conclusion, editing photos professionally is crucial for marketing and advertising in today's digital world.

By following these pro editing tips and using popular photo editing software options like Adobe Photoshop, Canva Pro, Adobe Express, Pixlr, and Fotor, you can create stunning images that will grab the attention of your audience and help you achieve your business goals.

Happy editing!

Ivanna Attié
Ivanna Attié

I am Content Manager, Researcher, and Author in and Stock Photo Press and its many stock media-oriented publications. I am a passionate communicator with a love for visual imagery and an inexhaustible thirst for knowledge. Lucky enough to enter the wonderful world of stock photography working side-by-side with experienced experts, I am happy to share my research, insights, and advice about image licensing, stock photography offers, and the stock media industry with everyone in the creative community. My background is in Communication and Journalism, and I also love literature and performing arts.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply

Stock Photo Secrets