The Good Edit: 5 Editing Mistakes You Should Avoid

By Guest Author - 5 min read

To celebrate our partnership with Skylum as The 2019 EyeEm Awards category 'The Creative,' Evgeny Tchebotarev, Chief Growth Officer at Skylum and avid photographer, offers 5 common editing mistakes to avoid.

Think back to a moment when you’re done with a shoot, packed up your backpack, and headed home, to your studio or a nearby coffee shop. When you pop the memory card in a reader to download your latest photos, the excitement is at its peak, right?

However, in order to achieve excellence, it’s equally important to edit your photos just as well as you shoot them - ensuring both consistency and accuracy.

Some photographers, myself included, tend to get too excited and develop the habit of trying to ‘maximize’ the photos in photo-editing software. With that in mind, here are a few tips on how to avoid the most common editing mistakes and come out a better photographer with a professional-level portfolio.

Be inspired to edit your photos with confidence and submit your visuals to #EyeEmAwards19 ‘The Creative‘ presented by Skylum Software.

Photo Editing Tips to Remember

What Makes a Good Edit?

A good edit has to feel consistent with your other work. This is what differentiates great portfolios with mediocre ones. Whether it be lighting, colours, or subject, they should all blend together coherently, whilst remaining unique to the artist.

Ideally, there’s something that’s personal about your visual style. It’s this that allows you to be instantly identified through your images alone. Think of the Old Masters, and how their paintings are clearly differentiated despite being of the same subject matter (landscapes or people) and the same basic materials (oil and canvas).


The rules that guide the editing process are very simple. If you’re a photographer, rather than a digital artist, your goal is to enhance what you’ve already captured.

The key is your subject matter; be it landscape, portrait, animal or street photo. Through your editing, it should be enhanced, highlighting the most important story or narrative.

What is you’re capturing? If it’s a portrait, it can be a variety of things, such as emotions, eyes, unique features, a scar, or a hair style. Once you’ve identified the key point, your focus should be enhancing this part.

Yet, there are a number of things that we as photographers can do that will dramatically change the mood of the photo. Instead of drawing the viewer to the most interesting component in the photo, the wrong edit can push the viewer away.

Close-up of art and craft equipment against colored background

5 Editing Mistakes to Avoid

1. Oversaturation

It’s quite easy to be enchanted by vivid colors and trying to recreate reality. It’s often easy to overdo the saturation and vibrancy of an image, especially if it’s adjusted as a whole.

Instead of using saturation slider equally on the whole image, create a mask (it’s easy by clicking on the brush icon next to saturation filter in Luminar), and draw over the portion of the image, increasing saturation and vibrancy at the central object of the photo. Here, less is more. Try not to overdo it to ensure saturation doesn’t look artificial.

2. Not Cropping Enough

Back in 2003, when I’d just started out in photography and working as a freelancer for fashion and lifestyle magazines, I was taught a valuable lesson. The attention of viewers is now getting shorter (and of course this trend only progressed due to the information overload we experience everyday.) The photo editor I worked with suggested that all my photos needed a tighter crop.

Modern photography really doesn’t leave anything to chance, and thus tighter crops allow for a quicker grasp and clearer message for the audience. These days you’ll often have less than a few seconds to convey the message to a viewer. If you’re unsure if the crop is tight enough, it probably isn’t.

3. Too Much Retouching

One of the worst editing ‘offences’ most commonly known in the industry is a heavy-handed approach to skin retouching. The reality, is such that it’s more of a cultural issue than a technical one.


4. Fake Blur and Overdoing the Soften Filter

The fascination with a ‘portrait mode’ on our smartphones has led consumers to believe these are equal, at least in some way, to traditional DSLRs or mirrorless cameras. Being subjected to seeing hundreds of portrait shots on their social feeds has led many to apply the ‘over the top’ blur in the hope that it will mimic the real thing. Although smartphone effects are decent, you can’t simply fake the physical qualities of optics.

5. Dramatic Vignette

Almost every effect that I’ve already touched upon can be used both to enhance or ruin a photo. And thus, dramatic vignette can most certainly swing both ways. When applied in moderation, it allows for a quick visual clue to identify the subject of the photo, but if being applied excessively, it can become an almost dark tunnel that will dominate the shot.

The best way to avoid going too far with vignette is to resize the photo so that it takes only a small portion of the screen. Then with that, check whether the effect is noticeable. If it seems like the main feature of the photo, dial the effect back.

Close-up of lizard on tree at night

Taking some time away from your image might be the most effective way to see them with fresh eyes. Once you’re done editing, don’t rush to publish it immediately. Rather, leave it for a day or two, and then review again. It might be just the pause you didn’t know you needed.

Submit your photos to #EyeEmAwards19 ‘The Creative‘ presented by Skylum Software. With just over 24 hours left - what are you waiting for?