How to Edit Digital Photos

by Contributor

Digital photos have become the preferred method of photography, especially with the affordability of digital cameras. The advantage of digital photography is that you can edit and print your own photos from your computer. Here are some tips for basic digital photo editing.

Store and Edit Digital Photos

Keep up with your digital photos before and after editing with two basic computer programs: photo catalog software and a database of where files are stored. Your camera usually comes with a catalog-type software, but it can be cumbersome and unreliable.

Do not store photos on your computer's hard drive permanently. You need a backup storage device such as a dedicated hard drive (external or internal) or burned CDs or DVDs to ensure the safety of digital photos. Create a running database of your photo names and locations, such as an Excel spreadsheet.

To edit digital photos you need a photo editing program. Programs range from free basic programs that accompany digital cameras to professional photo editing software such as Adobe Photoshop, Photo Genetics, and Picture Window to free downloads like Picasa 2.

Photo Sizing

Photo editing capabilities vary across programs, but there are some basic features common to all programs. The first step in editing photos is to look at image size. Correlate the image size to the medium you will publish to-print or the Web. Make sure to click the "maintain aspect ratio" control for an undistorted image.

Maintain the size of the original photo if you need to use it again. Enlarging a smaller photo causes distortion. Choose the "Save As" option for the resized photo.

To cut out unnecessary or distracting parts of the photo, use the "Crop" feature in your editing software. This feature can make photos more dramatic or can make it fit in a publication space. Select the Crop option from your toolbox. Create a box around the photo. By dragging in or out on the corners, you will cut everything out beyond the box. This forms a new image.

Color and Light Controls

Familiarize yourself with the numerous controls in your photo editing programs to change the brightness and contrast of photos, usually operated by slider bars.

Play with the color output to adjust the color balance of your photos. Most basic programs use red, green and blue channels or RGB. Some of the more advanced programs use other channels such as cyan, magenta, yellow and key (CMYK). For basic editing purposes, the RGB channels are fine. Professional printers use CMYK.

Adjust the color saturation of your photos by using slider bars to add more or less of one of these colors. You can work with the color balance and saturation to produce color photos that look great.

Know that different programs have different filters. Filters can change the photo's finish to something that looks like paintings or drawings.

Correcting Errors

Use photo editing software for common errors in digital photos. Cropping can remove some errors and straighten edges.

Use the red eye feature. Red eye is one of the most common errors in digital photography. Most editing software has a feature to reduce red eye. This feature takes a sample of the area around the red eye and replaced the redness with a layer of these same pixels as the surrounding area.


  • check For printed photos, set the resolution higher than photos published to the Web or for email. Measure photo resolution in pixels. A good rule of thumb is to remember printed photos need at least 300 dots (pixels) per inch or 300 dpi, and Web photos or emailed photos need to be 72 dpi. You can change the photo resolution through the image size menu.
  • check Keep backups of your original photos by using the "Save As" feature on your editing program.
  • check Name files wisely when saving. It will help in locating photos later.
  • check Read the help sections or Read Me files of your software for tips and tricks on photo editing.

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