I think one of the most discouraging things when beginning your journey in photography is constantly wondering why your photos don't come out looking magical. You finished a photo session, you think the photos were spot on, you upload them to your computer and as you begin to scroll through them your heart sinks. The images look flat and a little dull. You're left wondering why your photos aren't looking so rad.

There were plenty of photo sessions that I tackled in the beginning of my journey that left me feeling a little discouraged. I knew editing my photos was a part of the game, but I wasn't sure how to get started. I began my editing journey using Photoshop Elements. It was the perfect software to start with because it's incredibly user friendly and it gave me the opportunity to learn without feeling over whelmed. Eventually I switched over to Photoshop CS and I've never looked back. There are plenty of photographers out there that use Lightroom too, I've just always been a photoshop girl. Today, I'm going to walk you through a few steps to help you bring the magic into your photos.

Before we talk about editing I want to emphasis the importance of starting with a good solid image. Editing is made easier when you are staring with good ingredients; a well exposed photo, good lighting, an interesting composition, and so forth. When you start with a good foundation it's all about making your image pop! The photos for todays examples are all from the same shoot. We had really good lighting, shooting during sunset. We also shot near a body of water, which I love because it acts as a natural reflector.

For each photo you'll see a before and after so that you'll be able to see how the image came straight from my camera and how it changed after processing. For todays examples I used the same formal in my editing process.


To start, let's talk about shooting in RAW. Shooting in raw will give you the most freedom when editing and is your best bet for creating the finish product you want. It's shooting in RAW that really allows you to manipulate the photo how you wish.


White balance has a lot to do with how your photos look straight out of camera. Depending on how you use your white balance will determine how your photos look. For the most part I shoot in two different white balance settings. I either shoot in AWB (auto white balance) or I shoot in the "cloudy" white balance setting. If you're feeling ambitious, you can shoot in Kelvin, which allows you to choose your exact white balance. I've worked in Kelvin before and while I really appreciate what it can do, I prefer to shoot in the two white balances I mentioned above. For the most part my photos will either come out too cool or too warm, but because I shoot in RAW I can adjust it in post.


Once you begin to establish an editing style or an editing routine you start to see that often times you get a feel about your editing and you'll be able to gauge what a photo needs and how you want to manipulate it. The eight steps I'm about to share are my base for adding magic to my photos and bringing out a richness in them.

1 - 2.) The first thing I do is adjust my white balance. I determine whether my photo is too cool or too warm. Often times my photos are too cool so I'll adjust the "temperature" of the photo and bring the warmth back. My photos also have a tendency to have a little bit of green haze to them, so I'll adjust the "tone" of my photo. With the tone of a photo you are either adding green or magenta.

3.) After I've adjusted my white balance I'll determine whether I feel my photo is underexposed. When you're shooting, it's okay to error on the side of underexposed. If your photo is underexposed you have the opportunity to bring the exposure up without loosing any details in your image. If you're photo is overexposed to begin with it's difficult to get those details back.

4.) For the most part I shoot backlit or in the shade. Because of this my photos have a tendency to look washed out. I'm able to bring back richness in my photos by adjusting the blacks. The before and after photo right above is a good example of one of my washed out photos. The light was really pretty pouring in through the trees behind the couple, but because it was backlit I lost some of the richness, but in post I was able to bring it back.

5.) Even if my photo is properly exposed sometimes I want it to be a smidge  brighter. This is personal preference and one of those things that you'll begin to develop over time. I don't ever want my photos to be over-exposed or too bright. But, occasionally I'll pump up the brightness by 8 or 10.

6 - 8.) Steps five through eight are like finishing touches and sometimes I'll enter change them and I'll adjust the brightness last. Steps six through eight deal with contrast, clarity, and vibrance. For nearly every photo I edit I adjust each by 10.

You can see in the image above the different tools I've mentioned in these eight steps and you'll have a better understanding of the numbers I've mentioned as well. To view the image larger and download, click here


Editing can be really overwhelming when you're first getting started and learning a new software can be just as challenging as learning your camera. But give yourself time and plenty of time to practice. Don't be afraid of trying different tools to see how they change your photos. Over time, you'll find the tools you like best and you'll begin to start developing you own editing style as well. Do y'all have any specific questions about editing or photography? On Wednesday I'm addressing a readers specific question and I would love to address yours if you have one too! xoxo! Samantha