Why do Photographers edit their photos?

I’ve had this question before, in various forms from clients, friends, families and even new togs. Infact – I wasn’t sure myself, until I edited my first image. Editing is a rather touchy subject in the industry (one of many such subjects) and the main reason for that, is because of the various methods, styles and tastes of what your editing needs to be/ look like.

To throw some basic history into the equation – Photo editing is NOT a new thing (Duh! Photoshop has been around for years?!). Nope, think prior to Photoshop days and our convenient digital age. Film processing – the original trend setter of the post production. Photographers used a number of different factors to enhance their photos – things like choosing different films, development time and even different photo papers which affected colour and contrast. So essentially ‘editing’ has been around for much longer then many realize.

Let’s fast forward to current times – These days we have a GIANT selection of options available to us to edit our photos. Generally in South Africa the more popular options seem to be photoshop and lightroom. These complex programmes help us to bring out the best in our photos (most of the time). They are difficult to learn and require HOURS of practice.

But back to our question WHY do we need to edit our photos? Surely if you are a good photographer you can just take a great picture?

Well, there are a few simple changes that change a photograph completely, that often need to be done in order to enhance the image.

1. Most Professional photographers shoot in RAW which is almost like a negative would be in film. It cannot be printed until it is edited and it gives us more control when it comes to changing colour, brightening / darkening a photo etc.  (read more about RAW here) because they cannot be printed or processed until converted to another format (like Jpg or Png for example) they need to be edited. 

2. The contrast and colour often needs to be adjusted to make the image clear and rich in colour.

3. It may need to be sharpened to make the image crisp.

4. Hues may need to be adjusted to help with correct colour of skin tone or colour casts etc

5. WHITE Balance – Super important ! This is how warm or cold your photo is and this can affect the entire feel of your picture and once again a huge factor for skin tones.


These are just a few basic adjustments and I am sure that all photographers have their very own list and their very own opinions and explanations on the matter.

Without going into too much detail, there are even more elements then the basic adjustments done to photos. For example, Airbrushing. Airbrushing is used to smooth out uneven skin tones. This tool is used ALOT in the fashion industry as we all know, but it is also a tool that is used by portrait and wedding photographers too. Many photographers who are not in the fashion industry tend to “go – easy” on the airbrushing and leave their clients with a more natural look. Airbrushing is fairly intricate if done correctly and can be quite time consuming, which brings me to my next point.

TIME. Why do we need so much time to edit photos ? How long does it take? Well, I have a photograph below demonstrating the difference and listing my time spent to edit.

Number One – Straight off the camera

Shot By Angel Photography


Number Two – After my typical 8-10 Minute Edit

Shot By Angel Photography


Number Three – 30 Minutes Edit

Shot By Angel Photography



As you can see there is a big difference in the end result. I personally like to keep my photographs fairly natural and just do a few tweaks here and there so option two is my typical edit. Number three is great but sometimes my clients want to look natural and not too over the top. Also if I have 100 Photos to edit each at 30 Mins a photo that means that it will take me 50 Hours to complete the batch!

The editing process is often an indication of a photographers personal taste and how they feel a photo needs to look. Much like artists have their signature elements – we do too. This is developed over time (and plenty cringe worthy trial and error). 


At the end of the day the answer is fairly simple. We edit our photos:-

– To bring out their best elements

– To enhance the quality

– To add our personal touch/style

– To create the vision that we have for the photograph

– To ensure that your photos look great in print AND

– To make you look fabulous.


If you would like to add to this or if you have any questions for me – pop them in the comments section below 🙂


Xx Angel

1 comment

  1. It looks like you split the original in to two layers, one for the background and one for the subject, and in shot two, made the color temperature of the background somewhat warmer, and in shot 3, did the same with the subject’s layer.

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