With the large number of photo editing apps for the iPhone, there are countless opportunities to make your pictures look even better than ever. Of course with this ability comes the danger of over-editing. Garish HDR, ridiculous saturation, intense contrast and washed-out vintage filters – we’ve all been there. In this tutorial I’ll show you some examples of over-editing in various photographs, as well as tips and tricks to help you prevent excessive photo editing.
I’ll be using examples of photos I’ve edited in Snapseed, which is an app you’ve probably heard about. If you haven’t, you can download it for free on the App Store.
Problem 1: Garish HDR
I’ve seen and done this more times than I care to tell. The HDR option in Snapseed does allow you to bring out colors and detail if it’s utilized correctly. However, because it’s not actual HDR processing (which is done by layering several different shots of the same scene), you can get some very nasty side effects.
For instance, the effect in the above picture causes splotches of light and dark areas, halos of light around the tree, and unrealistic coloring. In addition, excessive utilization of HDR can wash out contrast and take away definition from the photograph, as well as add noise (grain).
Solution: Reduce Filter Strength
Instead of going all out with HDR, have the filter strength be between +20 and +40. Also, try selecting the People option instead of using the Nature option. You can also lower brightness in order to keep the original detail. As you can see in the below screenshot, the splotches and inconsistency in color is gone, although there are still a few very small halos.
Problem 2: Unrealistic Saturation
This is a very easy trap to fall into. In an effort to make colors pop in your picture, you might end up increasing the saturation to very high levels, and the result you get is less than satisfactory. First of all, over-saturation causes your pictures to look fake.
Another side effect is that detail is almost always obliterated, especially in macro shots such as the following one. Note that in the unedited “before” picture, the daffodil has clearly detailed lines on its petals, but in the heavily saturated “after” picture, the lines are washed out.
In this second example, featuring a sunset, notice how fake the color looks in the edited “after” picture. It’s almost painful to look at!
Solution: Use Other Effects
Although extra saturation might look nice, you should also try boosting your color with other effects such as Detail, Ambience, or HDR with a low filter strength value.
Problem 3: Excessive Contrast
The final photography vice in my trifecta is the abuse of contrast. Although the editor may have good intentions to bring out definition in the picture by layering on the contrast, the eventual outcome is absolutely horrid.
In the unedited “before” picture, you can plainly see that it looks rather dull.
Despite the fact that the contrast in the edited picture on the right brings out some detail in the foreground, the background is washed out, and the clouds have all but disappeared. Note that the level of contrast wasn’t even terrifically high for this unfortunate effect to be achieved.
Solution: Use Contrast in Moderation
Use Contrast in moderation, and really don’t go above +20 strength. Combine contrast with small touches of Warmth, Ambience, and Brightness to combat its harshness.
Today we’ve gone over three very popular mistakes caused by over-editing, as well as their solutions. Don’t ever edit a picture using a single effect, like only Contrast or only Brightness. That would be like making a cake using only flour. Mix and match different effects, and always increase or decrease their strength by very small amounts until you get your the combination just right.
About the Author
Brad Weisman discovered his passion for photography when he received his very first camera, a Nikon S600, for his 12th Christmas. He enjoys, in addition to iPhone photography, sailing, traveling, reading, and writing.