If there’s one important rule to remember when you’re editing your photos it’s this: many of the mistakes made in camera can’t really be fixed while editing. However, you can ruin a great photo really quickly with poor editing habits. Just like learning how to work your camera, post processing is a skill that needs studied and practiced. Especially given the complexity of some of the more powerful editing software like Photoshop and Lightroom.

Let’s take a look at a few of the most common editing mistakes beginner photographers make and discuss a few ways to avoid making them.

Excessive Skin Smoothing

Portrait photography is always going to be a popular style of photography and with that comes trends and fads. Some work better than others, but one that never looked good is excessive skin smoothing. If you’re going to shoot portraits and want to do the editing yourself, it’s essetial you learn how to edit them correctly. Afterall, you don’t want your subjects to look like porcelain dolls unless thay actually are!

If you’re shooting actual humans, one of the best ways to do this is through a process called color seperation. In the video tutorial below, I will walk you through the entire process from start to finish. This method is the method used by professional retouchers and image editors.

Fake Bokeh

The appeal of bokeh is undeniable. Those soft, dreamy backgrounds can make for outstanding photographs. But blurry backgrounds are something best done in camera, not Photoshop. To capture nice bokeh in camera, using a narrow (small f number) is ideal. Making sure there is some distance between the subject and background can also help boost the bokeh.

But when you attempt to single out the subject in Photoshop then apply a blur to the background, things can get a little, well, fake looking. Not something you want your photos to look like. Real bokeh is always better.

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Over Sharpening

On the other side of blurry bokeh, is sharpness. There’s no question about it, a good photo needs to be sharp in all the right place. For example, when shooting portraits, the subjects eyes need to be ¬†sharp and clear. They are what a viewer looks at first when they’re looking at the photo. It’s a popular saying among photograpehrs that if you don’t have sharp eyes, you don’t really have a good photo. It’s a harsh reality, but a reality nonetheless.

It’s tempting to correct missed focus by getting a little heavy handed with sharpening when you’re editing your photos. Unfortunately, this never really works out quite as well one hope. The result usually tends to look grainy, over processed, and unrealistic.

The Workbench

Editing Alternatives

One way to avoid over processing and making rookie editing mistakes is to find a nice preset or action that agrees with your personal editing style and doesn’t make your photos look overcooked. We have a wide a assortment for you to choose from right here on Exposure School.

What’s great about presets is they make it extremely simple to create consistent results that you know will look good. Give them a try, they could save you a lot of time and help you create the images you envision in the process!

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