Photo Editing for Beginners: Simple Guide to Get Started

Photo editing is of paramount importance for those who want to create eye-grabbing and professionally-looking pics. Having over 10 years of experience in this field at FixThePhoto, I created this guide with handy tips about basic photo editing for beginners that you can take advantage of when editing pics.

photoshop logo

In my opinion, Adobe Photoshop is the best option for illustrating how all these tips work, as this editor offers a fully featured toolkit for performing various manipulations. It includes layers, filters, blending modes, and more. Photoshop is compatible with Windows and Mac, meaning that it is accessible to virtually any user.

1. RAW Files Give More Data

There is no doubt that JPEG format is the best for quick snapshots, but serious editing is only possible when using RAW files. The RAW format allows tweaking the exposure, WB, color, and more considerably. As for JPEG files, they are not for heavy editing. But if you decide to apply some serious changes to such files, you’ll have to deal with different undesired artifacts, like banding.

2. Straighten and Crop Your Image

photo editing tips cropping

An angle tool, which is offered by many photo editing software for beginners, allows straightening a bit wonky horizon. The outer lines or the edge of the pic will let you straighten your image. However, keep in mind that the picture does not have to be ideally horizontal, as it depends on the perspective. In such cases, you should be guided by your opinion.

The cropping tool is an ideal instrument for deleting undesired elements from the edges of the pic or changing the position of objects to create an ideal composition. Sometimes, it is possible to transform an image beyond recognition by cutting off only a small section of the photo.

Besides, you need to consider the position of your subject. If the provided tools for adjusting the dimensions of a picture are too confusing for you, have a look at Calculate Aspect Ratio service.

crop your image in photoshop

How to do:

Choose the Crop tool in the Tools panel in Photoshop. Pull any edge of a picture or its corner to resize it and change the shape of the crop border. Check the list of options and select the check mark or press Enter (Windows) or Return (macOS) to finish the cropping task.

3. Remove Unwanted Elements from a Photo

Some photos may have such defects as spots or red eyes that spoil the overall look distracting the viewers’ attention from the subject. It is necessary to delete such elements to polish an image.

Depending on the photo editing software for PC, there are different tools to perform this task like repair brush or the object eraser. They remove the affected image section filling it with a similar or surrounding area.

remove unwanted elements in photoshop

How to do:

Upload an image to Photoshop. Choose an object with the Object Selection tool. Enlarge your selection. Now you need Content-Aware Fill to erase objects from the image. Confirm the action with the OK button.

4. Correct Your Exposure

Increase or decrease the brightness of the entire photo, if the whole image is too bright or too dark. Or adjust the bright areas of the pic. Altering the exposure, you can easily make the photo brighter or save underexposed areas.

A histogram is another handy option. It illustrates how tones in your image are distributed. Peaks toward the middle part of the histogram represent midtones, while peaks directed to the left represent shadows, and peaks forwarded to the right represent highlights.

Take a look at the image, analyze the histogram, and then get the desired result by dragging the Exposure slider.

correct exposure in photoshop

How to do:

Click on the Create new fill or adjustment layer icon to add a Photoshop Exposure adjustment layer. Select Exposure. Drag the Exposure slider to any side to correct the exposure.

5. Adjust the Right White Balance

adjusting white balance before after photo editing tips

White balance (or temperature) setting can adjust the color temperature of the pic. Tweak it according to your liking or what your photo should represent. A warm color temperature makes the overall image atmosphere more inviting, whereas a cool WB makes the subject more distant.

The majority of image editors let users select a white balance dropper. For instance, you won’t struggle to adjust white balance in Photoshop. To do this, click on the image section that should be a neutral gray or white. It is also possible to correct the tint to neutralize green or magenta hues in a photo.

How to do:

Select a Photo Adjustment layer. Use a Cooling or Warming Filter to correct colors in a jiffy.

6. Make Color Corrections

One of the most important tips for editing photos for beginners is to proceed with editing colors after exposure and WB corrections, which can alter the colors in your image. These options are required to brighten the colors in your pic:

Saturation: By tweaking this setting, you can manage to change the colors in the photo equally. A high saturation intensifies the colors of your image, whereas a low saturation makes them less radiant.

Dynamics: This configuration alters the colors that lack saturation. With it, altering the color effect in a more targeted and subtle way is an intuitive procedure.

Adjustment of individual color channels: Many photo editing tools allow editing individual colors. Use the red color channel to adjust the red color, making it more intensive or desaturated.

color corrections in photoshop

How to do:

Open the Adjustments panel, and click the icon tool for performing the required correction. To adjust tones and colors, choose Levels or Curves. To tweak color, select Color Balance or Hue/Saturation. To turn a color image into a B&W pic, choose Black & White.

7. Adjust the Brightness and Contrast

brightness and contrast photo editing tips before after

The difference between the darks and lights is an image is described with a term contrast. If an image features intense dark and light colors, the contrast is high, whereas softer darks and softer lights result in low contrast. Usually, RAW files are not so contrasted, but you can fix the situation with the Contrast slider and drag it until you get the desired result.

But do not get overboard with contrast, otherwise, you’ll end up with a spine-chilling effect.

Take note that by decreasing the Contrast slider, you’ll manage to achieve a soft and ethereal look. This works well for images taken in foggy weather, as the low contrast can help create the appropriate mood.

How to do:

Go to the menu bar, choose Image > Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast. Move the Brightness slider to adjust the overall brightness of the pic. Drag the Contrast slider to make the image more contrasted. Confirm your choice with the OK button. All the corrections will only affect the selected layer.

8. Check the Saturation

By increasing the photography saturation, you can enhance the overall look of your pic. Some photo editors offer users to adjust the vibrance, which is similar to saturation. However, by tweaking this setting, you will only manage to make subtle changes.

Sometimes, editors need to make images less vibrant or saturated. For example, you’ll need to decrease the brightness of color to create a moody image. Even a slight drop of saturation will let you achieve a sophisticated cinematic effect.

saturation in photoshop

How to do:

Select Enhance > Adjust Color > Adjust Hue/Saturation. Or pick Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue/Saturation, or open an existing Hue/Saturation adjustment layer.

9. Reduce Noise and Sharpen Your Image

RAW photos often suffer from blurriness. Leverage photo sharpening software to fix this issue. Frequently, even subtle changes can make your photos look more realistic.

One of the handiest photo editing tips for beginners is to use the Masking slider to exclude the image sections that you do not want to be sharpened like a subject’s face.

Keep in mind that noise reduction does not necessarily work for any image. If at 100% magnification, you’ll notice little speckles, try to minimize luminance and color noise. Be aware that too much can decrease sharpness and deteriorate the overall look of a pic, so do not go to extremes.

reduce noise in photoshop

How to do:

The Reduce Noise Filter is the easiest way to minimize noise in Photoshop. To take advantage of this filter, choose Filter > Noise > Reduce Noise. Select the “Advanced” mode and process each color channel to decrease the noise in the image as accurately as possible,

To make the image sharper, select Enhance > Adjust Sharpness. Pick the Preview check box. Configure any of the following features to increase the sharpness of your image, and confirm it with the OK button.

10. Try Complex Photo Editing

It will let you bring your post-production to a new level and won’t be limited by simple color corrections or brightness adjustments.

Photoshop enables editors to import their custom brushes or create their own ones to retouch images like a pro. Using them, it is easy to create a completely new setting like putting snow in a photo taken in a cloudy or even a sunny day (be sure to fade the colors first).

brush adding in photoshop

How to do:

Select the Brush tool to create a brush in Photoshop. Follow this path Window > Brush Settings and open the Brush Settings panel. Choose the appropriate Brush Tip Shape to fit the look you are going to create. After you are satisfied with a new brush, you can use it. Do not forget to save it for your future workflow. Choose New Brush Preset from the hamburger menu to save your tool.

Of course, as with editing photos for beginners on Photoshop or any other editor, you’ll need time to learn more complex editing techniques and tools. However, sometimes it is more reasonable and cost-effective to address the task of image retouching to professionals who are sure to deliver top-level outcomes.

fixthephoto portrait retouching before after fixthephoto portrait retouching before after

FixThePhoto specialists are experts in editing pics providing high-quality touch-ups for just $1.50 per photo. You’ll get pics with professionally corrected colors and retouched skin without any imperfection. These guys will make your photos eye-grabbing in no time.

Other Software & Apps

Adobe Lightroom. Lightroom is quite an intuitive software. It is the best fit for all those who need to enhance photos, spruce them up with the effects, or change their size or crop. The batch-processing mode is a real highlight of this editor. This time-saving feature lets editors process multiple images in one go.

GIMP. GIMP allows performing as many corrections as required. It also allows altering the source code. This is a perfect solution for all those who need to improve lighting, exposure, and contrast. GIMP for beginners is available for free and offers unique graphic design elements, components, and effects to jazz up pics.

Luminar Neo. The editor leverages AI to automate many complex manual tasks. Besides, it comes with intuitive one-click tools to upgrade your images in the shortest possible time. Try the Enhance AI tool first to tweak your image’s color, details, contrast, and depth.

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate. The main advantages of this editor are a GPU-powered system and updated adjustment layers. Thanks to these features, you can easily satisfy all your creative needs and achieve the results your clients expect. ACDSee comes with a color palette enhancer, non-destructive specific area targeting, fast facial recognition, black-and-white modes, and excellent contrast and exposure tools that ensure top-rated outcomes.

Fotor. Fotor is the most functional solution for creating collages. The editor offers multiple ready-made samples, as well as allows users to implement all their creative ideas. Besides, it is an ideal tool for fixing blurry pics. Leveraging advanced AI technology, the app can clear up your pics and increase their sharpness in an instant.

Although these applications are effective, you will need much time to edit pics using them. Besides, the result often looks artificial. Those who need to get professionally retouched images in no time getting naturally-looking pics should consider using the Fix The Photo Editor & Retouch app.

The team of experienced specialists will cover all your requirements, no matter how complex they are. Import your photos, provide instructions, and get brilliant results in just a few hours.

fix the photo editor retouch app example

Whether you need to make your face slimmer, correct makeup, remove objects, or change the color of your hair, this photo editor is what you need. Retouchers work round-the-clock to realize all your creative ideas, providing you with pics of top-level quality.

Bonus Tools

photo editing freebies for beginners

Editing photos for beginners can become easier thanks to these photo editing freebies. They can make your photo editing workflow more productive and creative. The package includes freebies for Lightroom, Photoshop, templates, plugins for photographers, overlay freebies, etc.

These tools can help you achieve vintage film, matte, pastel, light & airy, B&W, and other effects to jazz up portrait, food, street, product, and interior photography. With these filters, any photo editing task becomes a one-click procedure.