Editing is where a lot of us put the finishing touches on any portrait session, and each of us has our own style.

We’ve collected some of the best photography editing tips we’ve received throughout the year and compiled them into one article, as well as listed out some of our favorite editing tools and resources. 

Shooting Hybrid

Some photographers even like shooting a hybrid of both digital and film, and using presets to match the digital images to the film images.

This is accomplished by using what’s called an anchor image, and specially-created presets that mimic the look and feel of film (see the examples below).

*Click on each image above to embiggen.

These images above were edited by Kirk Mastin using the aforementioned specialty presets, and he gives a detailed explanation on how to use them along with a detailed explanation of how to edit film + digital images in this article here.

Skin Tones

But regardless of whether or not you’re shooting all film, all digital, or a mix, nailing the skin tones is still one of the most important parts.

One of our featured senior portraits artists discusses her method for making sure her skin tones are on point every time, using a combination of an ExpoDisc while shooting and information from the histogram during editing.


Of course, sometimes even when you’re following the tips above, the skin tones still aren’t quite what you’re looking for.

This is especially common when working with infants and newborns, who can tend to have red, blotchy skin. To remedy this, one of our featured newborn photographers suggests reducing the reds (with a preset, action, or on your own), which will create a beautiful, creamy looking skin tone.


Image Detail and Background

Once you’ve gotten the skin tones exactly where you want them, it’s time to turn your attention to the rest of the image.

Many times while editing, you’ll expose for the subject’s skin and face, but it will leave the background/foreground completely washed out and lacking detail.

Which sometimes can be ok, if you’re going for that bright, hazy afternoon look like this example from one of our senior portrait photographers:


Even so, it’s still recommended to bump the contrast just a bit to make sure you keep in some of the image’s details.

If that still isn’t doing the trick, there’s more you can do in Photoshop like using the multiply adjustment layer with an inverted mask to help bring the detail and richness back into the images.

Here’s a lovely example of one of our glamour photographers that’s done just that with these gorgeous backlit images:


Using Levels in Photoshop

To put the finishing touches on an image, using Levels in Photoshop can help in a couple ways.

First, if you’re still not happy with the amount of detail in the background, you can create a duplicate layer of the image in Photoshop and then open up Levels and increase the blacks (which will make it look less washed out).

That’s what this family portrait photographer did to keep all of the background bright and fresh in this winter session:


Levels is also another great way to bump up the color of an image and really make them pop.


The photographer above used levels to adjust the colors just how she wanted, using a combination of the highlights/shadows/etc. sliders available in Levels.

Then, since sometimes that can create odd colors and affects in areas it’s not wanted, she added a photo mask over the levels layer and used the black paint brush to remove the effect from areas of the images it was unflattering.

And finally…

Editing can be a lot of fun to really play with new styles and looks. Some photographers think it’s important to pick one and stick with it, but there are others that argue that it’s not necessary and even believe it can help them stand out in a market that’s become somewhat saturated.


So don’t hesitate to play around, whether you find a new style and stick with it or are always pushing your own boundaries – hopefully these tips will get you started!

Here are some products that we recommend for editing post-production:

10723218_10152742030955926_649590239_nFor editing digital images to look like film, Mastin Labs film presets are really a great place to start. Crafted by someone who regularly shoots hybrid (digital and film simultaneously), it’s a tried and tested product with highly accurate results.

Screen Shot 2014-11-14 at 2.46.15 PMPhotography Concentrate creates some of the best guides and how-to tutorials that we’ve come across. And their Super Editing Photo Skills tutorial is no different. If you’re not familiar with Lightroom but would like to step up your editing game with one of the industry standard post-production programs, then we absolutely recommend this guide.

Screen Shot 2014-11-14 at 2.50.18 PM

If you’re looking for a way to switch up your editing, Colorvale’s actions (and presets) are a great place to start.  They have a variety of styles and color palettes, and all are easy to use and come at very reasonable prices.


Skin smoothing and blemish removal can really give an image a clean, finished look. Doing it by hand can really eat up your time though. We love and recommend the Portraiture plugin from Imagenomics, which automatically does a lot of the skin smoothing for you in just a click of the button.

before-after-72111-1024x337Black and white images are a great way to evoke emotion, but oftentimes just cutting the saturation doesn’t quite have the same affect because it’s important to remember that you must edit a black and white image differently than a color image, and Photography Concentrate has created a guide to show you how to do just that.

Screen Shot 2014-11-15 at 9.09.00 AMIf you’re not 100% comfortable yet with Lightroom or Photoshop, Lynda.com has dozens of videos on all things digital taught by industry-leading professionals.  Plus it allows you to have a 7-day free trial, so even if you don’t stick with it you can still learn a ton in one week!

Published by Beth Teutschmann

A big fan of food, chaos, and all things fun, Beth is the owner of Starboard Editing, LLC - a photography post-production company focusing on anything from editing to blogging and SEO. When she's required to leave the confines of her dark room, she enjoys martial arts, eating, tattoos, cooking, ice cream, sillyness, eating, and traveling. You should probably say hi.

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