How To Improve Photos With The 10 Most Powerful Changes

There’s no perfect recipe for enhancing your photos and achieving the best results, but with experience and time, you’ll learn the most important edits and how to apply them properly. Photo enhancement is quite a complicated process, and it’s very easy to overdo it, so the first thing you should think about is trying to be moderate and maintain as much photo quality as possible.

Also, editing a portrait photo isn’t the same as editing a landscape photo – the style needs to be different, and that’s another thing you should learn if you’re a beginner.

Once you learn to apply moderate changes that look good, you can start experimenting more and maybe create something edgy and artistic that won’t look outlandish and overdone.

In this article, we’ll cover the most standard image enhancement tools you can find in Lightroom and Photoshop but also in any free photo editor. In fact, any photo enhancer can give you great results if you use it in moderation and with a clear idea of ​​what you want to achieve.

Crop Your Shots Carefully To Improve Photo Quality

Cropping is important because it can greatly improve the composition of your photo, and it can also help you remove some distracting elements. When you think about cropping a photo, ask yourself a few questions, such as:

  • What is the main subject of my photo, and how can I make it stand out?
  • Are the edges of the photo clean? Are there any distracting objects near the edges?
  • Will I use this photo on Instagram? Should I try a different aspect ratio, maybe a square crop?

These are just some guidelines. Cropping should be used to improve composition, but if you’ve already composed your photos in the camera perfectly, you might get lucky and not have to crop anything.

Portraits are usually more difficult to crop. Avoid trimming too tightly and cutting off your subject’s arms, legs, etc.

crop your shot
Photo by George Bakos

Align Horizontal And Vertical For Optimal Photo Quality

Slanted horizons don’t usually look good; the same goes for verticals that are not straight. This is important, especially in architectural and landscape photography. If you’re shooting portraits, you can use a Dutch angle and create something fun without getting hung up on straight horizontals and verticals.

It’s easy to straighten your photos if you use Lightroom. You have to go to the Transform panel and choose the type of alignment you want. The ”Automatic” option usually solves the problem (or ”vertical”), but you can also fix it manually.

Improve Shots By Dodging And Burning

You can enhance images by dodging and burning for more depth and definition. Dodging and burning are important steps in portraiture because they allow you to enhance your model’s features by selectively lightening and darkening. For example, you can burn your jawline to make it look thinner and lighten your cheekbones to make it look fuller.

The same goes for landscape photos – using dodging and burning properly can make existing lighting that much more dramatic.

Don’t forget that dodging and burning should look natural – usually, you should lighten what is already light a bit and darken what is dark. In a way, it’s like adding selective micro contrast.

dodge and burn
Photo by Max Muselmann

Contrast For More Impact

How do you enhance a photo with contrast? Well, these are basic and simple steps, and you can do them in Lightroom or Photoshop. If the photo looks too gray or if the lighting may be too diffuse, slightly increasing the contrast will enhance the overall look of your image and make it bolder.

You can also experiment with the dehaze slider in Lightroom if blurring is the main problem.

Remember that too much contrast can ruin your image, and loss of quality is definitely something you should avoid. Look at the histogram as you change the contrast to avoid clipping shadows and highlights.

Experimenting With Black People

Can you improve image quality by playing with the blacks slider in Lightroom?

While black doesn’t directly affect the quality of your photo, increasing or decreasing it will help you achieve certain effects. Solid black is great if you want to add depth and drama. On the other hand, off-black colors can create a vintage look that you might like, especially if you are a big fan of analog photography.

Again, pay attention to the quality of the image, and don’t over-edit this as it can distort the image and spoil the details of the photo.

blacks in Lightroom
Photo by Pooja Chaudhary

Vignette: Photo Enhancer For Special Effects

Using sketches skillfully can result in perfect photos. A vignette sets the mood and makes the subject stand out while making the background less distracting. The easiest way to add a vignette is in Lightroom – it’s in the Presets module, and you can choose anything from a light vignette to a heavy vignette, depending on your artistic vision.

However, don’t routinely use a vignette on every photo. Sometimes, darkening the edges of a photo doesn’t look good, especially if the background is bright. Vignettes can enhance your images with a centered composition or images with distracting elements near the edges of the frame.

How to Use Blur

Blur won’t affect image quality by itself, and it’s one of those photo effects you’ll probably rarely use.

However, the blur (Gaussian blur) can be part of a more complex editing process, such as frequency separation, which is often used in portraits. This advanced technique is used for precise skin retouching, and feel free to read this article if you want to learn more about it.

There are also other creative ways to use blur. Blur can suggest and amplify movement (there’s a blur option in Photoshop), whereas radial blur can emulate a shallow depth of field. You can also play with linear blur to mimic tilt-shift photography.

motion blur
Photo by Donny Jiang

Using Saturation And Vibrance To Improve Image Quality

Saturation, vibration, and HSL panels in Lightroom are some of the most important photo enhancement tools.

Image quality is highly dependent on color. You have to fine-tune the colors so that the atmosphere in your photo matches your artistic vision. Color conveys emotion, and how you use warm and cool colors or different color combinations will directly impact the viewer.

You can change saturation and vibration in the Presence panel in Lightroom. The HSL panel is much more powerful because it allows you to adjust the hue, saturation and luminosity of each color separately.

To avoid the mistake many beginners make, don’t apply too much saturation because it doesn’t look good.

Other Photo Enhancer: Filters And Presets

Using filters and presets can save you a lot of time. You can apply presets to multiple images and adjust them slightly whenever needed. Photo enhancement with presets is easy – just a few taps and you’ll have a perfectly enhanced image.

Presets can change many things, such as contrast, white, black, highlights, shadows, clarity, texture, color, etc. If you’re not good at judging colors, presets can teach you what color combinations of shadows, midtones, and highlights work well so you can apply this knowledge later and create your own presets.

There are tons of free presets in beautiful Lightroom, and you can use them to automatically enhance portraits, landscapes, and so on. You can also use some of the other photo enhancers – there are plenty of them nowadays; You need to read the reviews carefully.

It’s important to customize each preset you use at least a little – they usually don’t fit in just one click! To enhance a photo, you need to adjust presets, and this usually means changing highlights, shadows, blacks, whites, vibrance, and so on.

vintage preset
Photo by Raphael Lovaski

Remove Noises To Enhance Photos

Image quality is significantly affected by potential interference. Sometimes, the subject looks perfect, but the background isn’t quite right, or there may be too much noise in the foreground.

The only way to solve this problem is to use Photoshop tools like clone stamp tool, healing brush, patch tool, content aware fill and so on. You will usually need to combine these tools as part of the editing process. Luckily, Photoshop’s AI is getting more and more complex, and these days, removing distractions can be a painless, less time-consuming process.

Conclusion: Upgrading Without Sacrificing Photo Quality

I hope this list of editing and enhancing tools was helpful, especially if you’re still a beginner. While learning how to enhance photos is a long process, it’s worth starting with basic enhancements and slowly developing your own style as you learn how to maintain image quality and create something unique.


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