The secret of editing your photos whilst still making them look natural

This article will cover the following:

- The need for photo editing
- The secrets of successful and natural editing
- Summing It All Up
  • Photoshopping is the norm for many businesses. The fact is that you want your business and your products to be reflected in the best possible light.

    Despite the backlash against altering images there is still a definitive market for editing your photos while still making them look natural. As one anonymous retoucher admits; 100% of images in fashion magazines are retouched but in many cases it is needed to remove distractions.

    The simple fact is that you need to edit your photo to ensure the attention of the viewer is drawn where you need it to be.

Discover the Secrets Of Editing

Follow these steps and you’ll have natural looking photos which you can happily post anywhere:

The Software

You can use the services of a professional image enhancer; this will leave you free to focus on promoting your business and services. However, if you decide to edit the image yourself you need to purchase the right software.

Photoshop remains the most popular photo editing software partly due to how easy it is to use. It is worth purchasing and using the best tool for the job.


The first step and one that is often overlooked is backing up your picture. Some apps will allow you to save a copy of your edited photo; others simply edit your original. The problem with that is the original is then altered; even if you don’t like the alteration.

An original means you can always scrap your editing and start again. It also gives you something to compare the changes to; this will help to ensure your photo still looks natural.

It is worth saving your edited picture every time you are happy with a change. This will make sure that you can undo a bad edit without having to start all over again.

Straighten The Image

You might not get the perfect picture in the moment; especially if you’re using the camera on your cell phone. Simply use the ruler line and create a line on your photo. The line should reflect horizontal in your picture. You can use a fixed reference point or just do this by eye.

Then locate the ‘straighten layer’ option and your picture will look right; but still natural.

Heal & Repair

It is generally a good idea to avoid cropping if your picture is already the right size. There are many arguments regarding the effects of cropping on a picture. In short cropping does not reduce the pixel density and so will not affect the image; unless you wish to crop and then resize the image. This will stretch the existing image and can cause a distorted or softer look.

To keep the photo looking natural you should use the healing or repair functions. This can remove specific items from your image without disturbing the authenticity of the rest of the photo. It’s the perfect way to eliminate a stray branch or even a car in the background that is likely to distract the viewer.

You can use either the healing brush or the spot healing brush. The main difference is that the healing brush will allow you to pick your own source points. This means you can choose the skin colour that matches best when removing spots or other impurities. The spot healing brush chooses the colour for you; this may not be the exact look you’re after.

You can select your own cover piece by using a clone stamp and selecting an area that is the colour or image you want. You need to have opacity of 100% for this area. Then simply spray these pixels over the object that you wish to remove. It is generally beneficial to use pixels that are close to the object you are removing; this will help to ensure the colour and image looks natural.

It is important to consider how natural you want the photo to look. Completely removing blemishes may be important in the world of fashion. But, in the real world it may be better to reduce the blemish by using opacity of 80% instead of 100%. This will leave a trace of the blemish making the person look much more human and natural.

Don’t forget that pinching to zoom while taking a picture on your phone is effectively the same as cropping. It will reduce the quality of the photo for editing later. Digital zoom is not the same as optical zoom.

Enhancing The Effects of The Sliders

Before you start playing with the colours and contrast you may find that it is a good idea to flatten your image. This involves lowering the highlights to approximately -50 and the shadows to +50.

This will dull your highlights and flatten the shadows. Your picture will look flat and dull.
But, this will ensure Photoshop can give you the best and most natural results.

Use Black And White

This technique will increase the contrast of your picture and may result in you needing to drop the opacity to approximately 40%.

Simply open a black and white layer and then adjust the blending to soft light. With the opacity at 40% you’ll notice a really professional clarity to your photo. You can then adjust every individual colour to get the right result.

This is an especially effective way of warming the skin colour while keeping the natural look.

Brightness, Contrast, Saturation

The majority of photo editing software has simple sliders which control the brightness, contrast, saturation, hue, sharpness, ambiance and warmth.

The slider makes it easy to change the look of your image. The best approach is to move one slider at a time. Instead of adjusting it a little bit slide it all the way to both ends and back several times. You’ll soon be able to see where the picture looks best but still natural.

This process can take a long time as you may wish to go back to the previous slider after adjusting another one. The important thing is to keep looking at the picture to ensure it remains looking natural.

The best tip here is to set a slider where you think it looks best and then move it to reduce the effect very slightly. This will keep it looking natural.

It is a good idea to do the sliders in a set order as they influence each other:
- Contrast
- Brightness
- Shadow
- Ambience
- Sharpness
- Saturation
- Warmth

The last 3 are the trickiest as they may have the biggest impact on how natural your image looks. It is best to adjust these very slightly; large movements will make your photo look unnatural.

This stage can really alter the image; taking it from a dull day to a sunny one; without adding the sun! It can even restore the sun when too much sun has washed out the colour from the photo.

Don’t forget increasing vibrance is more effective than saturation at eliminating sunburned skin. You’ll never get natural looking skin by increasing the saturation.

Save & Repeat

At this stage it is an excellent idea to save your photo. You should be very happy with it! You can then wait a few minutes and open your edited photo. Your first reaction is important; this will tell you how natural the image really appears.

Once opened you can repeat the editing process described so far to see if it improves the image or not. Be sure to save this attempt as a third image. You can even do this several times.

This will enable you to study all the different images next to each other and help you decide which looks the most natural.

Understand The Light

Now that you’ve adjusted the colours and brushed the image to remove unwanted blemishes you will want to make the photo ‘pop’.

This involves creating a shadow or even blacking out the background to push the focus onto the person or the product. Blackened an unnecessary background will give the image more depth and make it look like the focus point is literally coming out of the image.

What you are looking for here is an effect that will focus attention on the product but does so in a way that is natural looking while providing an image that you wouldn’t normally see.

This can take a lot of practice to get right but the end result is worth it. Your image will start to do more than just look good; it will capture the attention of anyone who sees it. This is the best way of getting your message across.

Using Filters

There are several filter options in Photoshop which will enable you to enhance your image. All you need to do is to click on the filters and test them; you don’t need to keep every change.

Graduated filters are an excellent option if you want to ground the bottom of your photo. Simply set the graduated filter to approximately -33 and drag the mouse up from the bottom of your image. You should only drag it half way up the image to create a grounding effect.

The White Balance

You can use the brush to reduce the effects of the warming tool and get the exact effect you desire. Simply set the brush colour to black and spray the required area. This will darken the colours, creating a shadow effect and allowing you to focus on the desired subject.

Learn The Shortcuts

Every photo editing software app has its own shortcuts to help you save time when adjusting your image. This is the extremely useful if you want the best results in the shortest possible time.

It is worth looking at the guide to your specific software in order to discover the shortcuts that you might need to know. You can also get guidance from online forums.

It is worth mentioning that there are hundreds of online forums with people who will happily share their tips regarding creating the best possible images. This process actually starts with taking the right photo and then editing it; thinking about what you are trying to capture can save you a lot of editing time.

There are also a number of preset options in your software; it is essential that you try these before you edit your photo. This will allow you to see how these affect your image; a preset tool may be all the adjustment you need. If it doesn’t give you the required look then you will at least know what it can do for future editing.


If you go into the effects panel you should find an option that allows you to post crop vignette.
Select this option and reduce it to -15. This will darken the edges of the photo effectively drawing the eye of the viewer to the centre of your image.

To achieve a lighter and airier look of your photo you can change the vignette to +15. This will lighten the edges.

A quick play with this setting will show you just how beneficial it can be.


Adding grain will not make your image look grainy but it will remove the plastic look that can be created when using digital cameras. You only need to move the slider to 5 to create a more natural look to your photo.

Summing It Up

Editing your photos and keeping them looking natural is important to ensure you have the right look for a marketing campaign or just for your personal memories.

Whilst the tips in this guide will help you to improve your editing skills, it is essential that you remember the importance of practice. This is the one thing that will ensure your editing time is kept to a minimum whilst providing the results you really want.