how much photo editing is too much?

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Posted 12/3/2012 by lizj in Digital Scrapbooking

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PeaNut 242,431
January 2006
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Posted: 12/3/2012 7:19:59 PM
My dd recently posted on one of my Facebook posts that she thought I would just edit out a garden hose on one of the photos she contributed to my lo... this got me thinking about how much I DO edit photos, versus how much I SHOULD edit photos. I always swore I would never doctor a photo to change the "reality" of the experience, but that was before I had three squirmy granddaughters who refuse to simultaneously sit looking at the camera without a finger up a nose! I used my new PSE 11 feature to combine three photos taken at the same location in the same position to make a really good composite photo. Am I cheating? I didn't alter world history or claim the photo proved I had a winning lottery ticket. But I admit to feeling a little like a cheater.

I definitely am in the habit of cleaning up dirty faces in photos (so much easier than actually chasing the girls down and washing them off!), and I love that spot healer for the odd blemish removal now and again. How about you? Do you edit photos in a minor way, or do you go the whole way and slim down the overweight and edit out people who don't belong? How much editing is too much, does anyone know?


PeaNut 307,816
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Posted: 12/3/2012 7:40:25 PM
I feel ya, Liz! I'm pretty much a minimalist myself, I usually just tweak the levels a bit to brighten & add a bit of contrast. With faces, I usually just remove the minor blemishes and call it good. On photos of myself, I've been known to slim my arms & neck just a weeeeee bit (but no one else gets that treatment, LOL!)

The other night, my sister emailed me a photo of her friend that she wanted to put in a photo book as a gift to the friend. This lady is 60+, and very pretty, but that closeup was NOT particularly flattering... lots of lines, neck wrinkles, bags under the eyes, blotchy skin, etc. She asked for a 'little' help, and that's all I did. There just aren't enough hours in the day to give someone a face lift (for free!) So, I just duplicated the layer, laid on a modest gaussian blur to soften the face lines, erased through to the original photo around the eyes, hair and mouth, and did a tiny bit of skin tone evening. My sis was thrilled. I told her that I was NOT going to give it the full Photoshop treatment, and she seemed happy with it. I think we are a lot more critical of our own photos than others are!
(well, there are exceptions!)

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PeaNut 242,431
January 2006
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Posted: 12/3/2012 9:03:18 PM
Oh yeah, that gaussian blur is a photo editor's best friend!

2Ps Digital Creative Team

PeaNut 5,096
June 2000
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Posted: 12/3/2012 9:12:30 PM
Honestly I don't edit much at all. One thing I wish I could correct is the gaininess of my old photos. Ugh-

Dirty faces - you might not recognize my DGS (s) if their faces were clean.

Of course I'm the one that didn't notice either the hose or the naked statue . Just the pretty little girl reflected in the water.


PeaNut 307,816
April 2007
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Posted: 12/3/2012 9:37:56 PM
I'll tell you one photography 'style' I'm not overly fond of- that's HDR. I'm sure there are masters of the technique that can make it look subtle, yet dramatic, but mostly it looks so over-the-top processed it bothers my eyes. Garish & harsh, just isn't my style. The other day an amateur photographer posted some photos on a professional board, asking for CC. They were photos she had taken of her (or someone elses) family, and she had post-produced them so much that they all looked like each person was Photoshopped in. Weird. Then she stopped back and posted the originals, straight out of the camera, and they were really just fine. I think she just felt obligated to tweak them, and tweak them again, and keep going, until they looked just unnatural. IMHO just a little is all most photos need. (And I'm not overly fond of that style of lightening the faces so much that the people look like flat ghosts. I like a few subtle shadows!

*ETA I'm not trying to start bashing different photographers or styles. I'm just commenting, as a purely amateur photographer, that I think less is often best. And of course, there are exceptions! Remove that hose!

Nursie Pea

PeaNut 243,673
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Posted: 12/3/2012 9:46:31 PM
I don't feel like I am very good at editing photos. I usually take the easy way out and try for an autofix. And having been disappointed with how dark my pictures look in photobooks, I tend to really lighten up my photos now so they don't look so dark.

The one time that I was really thrilled with the result of doing some editing using an action was for the photo I took of Tom in the library earlier in the year as his graduation picture. I was just hoping for an OK picture to do some graduation announcements and the picture was OK--but the action I tried out on it made it fantastic. It was totally by accident and trialing a few things but I was so happy with the result.

I had to look up the HDR technique. I'm not sure how good I would be at it. I do like a lot of the photos that are landscapes or buildings--makes them look pretty cool. But I can't imagine using it on a family photo.


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susan mc

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Posted: 12/3/2012 10:07:44 PM
If my descendants ever get interested in genealogy and look at some of my pix, they will probably think "WOW....Granny sure did look good for 90!"

At 65, I've earned a few lines, but I would rather not have to look at them. I use a light touch and don't try to eliminate flaws, just make them a little less noticeable.

And in group photos(several shots taken under the same conditions) I will swap heads and/or faces so everyone looks their best.

2Ps Digital Creative Team

PeaNut 242,431
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Posted: 12/3/2012 10:17:20 PM
What's "HDR," Stef?

And Shannon, I am SO with you on the power of actions!!! I love them! Someone else already did the hard work?!! I'm in.

Susan, you are right about making the best of what we've got!

Dabbling in Digi

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Posted: 12/3/2012 10:24:18 PM
I do very little processing of my photos, but sure would like some help in making older digital photographs taken at 72 dpi look better...any ideas? Is there a specific size to print them at so they look decent?

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Posted: 12/4/2012 5:43:11 AM
I don't edit a lot, partly because I'm not that fantastic at it. I have whitened teeth a bit. Once, my husband photoshopped the mess off our table on an Easter egg-dying-day. My husband has removed glare from my son's glasses in an otherwise-great photo. Once I removed an---um---animal stain (ahem) from the ground on one of our petting zoo photos! How much I edit kind of depends on what kind of layout I'm doing. Sometimes it is fun to see the stuff of life in the background.



PeaNut 187,882
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Posted: 12/4/2012 7:17:26 AM
I like editing photos. Most of my LO use one or 2 big photos so I like to make them good ones!

A really good pic of my niece but she has some hair blowing in her face I'll fix that, its not changing her.

boosting some colour or contrast in a landscape to make it pop more, again no problem,

I have seen some great HDR (high dynamic range) photos but I look at them more like artwork, not meant to capture reality. They are more like paintings to me, I don't necessarily look at a painting and think, I can tell thats a painting and not real so its not very good

I will clone out distractions in photos or do a head swap if needed.

I won't take out some ones birthmark or drop 30lbs off them, thats not them anymore.

I shoot in RAW so photos really need editing to bring out the best in them, I don't feel its cheating at all.

emily a

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Posted: 12/4/2012 8:52:18 AM

There just aren't enough hours in the day to give someone a face lift (for free!)

stef...this made me laugh. i need a real life gaussian blur. or a bag. not sure which. LOL.


PeaNut 91,198
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Posted: 12/5/2012 10:27:03 PM
Good question, Liz. Personally, I think it's whatever you like. What I don't like to see is any photo editing for photo contests, unless it's for a specific kind of treatment to a photo. That just bugs me. Scrapbooking is really all about personal preferences. I'm not into those fantasy-type LOs because they're not "real." It's putting the subject in a fake background. However, they're not going to go in my scrapbooks, so why should I care?

I've never thought to take out wrinkles. LOL Taking out things like garden hoses, other people, and a blemish here and there, IMO, does not alter the intent of the photo.


Janelle Miller

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Posted: 12/6/2012 12:12:39 AM
I do just minimal stuff - mostly because I'm lazy and don't want to take the time. Unless it is of me with my sisters. Just kidding - kind of.

-- Janelle


PeaNut 330,399
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Posted: 12/6/2012 8:14:04 AM
I'll run an action or two on my photos, more to even out skin tone (like removing red) or for a color or contrast boost. I love really pushing B&W photos to really high contrast on occasion, but that's more for creative effect, not to keep the photo "real".

I think editing goes too far when eyes have been made SO bright and the catch-lights so intense that it LOOKS processed. Same with smoothing skin. My goal with editing is to make it look like the photo hasn't been edited at all. Of course, I'm not always successful at that - but I love to keep playing and figuring it out

Livin' in My Own "Pea-rivate" Idaho

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Posted: 12/7/2012 12:14:10 PM
I run actions on my photos as well, or sometimes I use filters, adjust levels, remove color casts, fix red eye and sometimes fix blemishes. I don't bother with slimming people or whitening teeth...because I don't want to spend time to do it, and also because you can mess those two things up and make the people in the photos look like mannequins....LOL!

I mostly adjust color and lighting on my pictures, because our house doesn't have the best lighting...we need some more fixtures throughout, and the way our house is facing, it's either too harsh or too dim... depending on the time of day. I loathe taking pictures in one of my son's rooms because they always have a light green tinge to them (he has light green curtains that match his bedspread, and the light reflects off that...).

Since I don't always have the opportunity (or the desire) to get every shot perfect, a little editing goes a long way to making an average photo look really nice. I sometimes have to snap pictures of our family activities quickly, or I'll lose the moment. Short attention spans, tantrums, a time crunch, or just the fact that my kids are active make it so that I either snap the shot and capture what's happening, or I can try to get everything set up perfectly, and often miss the chance to get something on film. Once in awhile, like in holidays or other special occasions, we'll do posed photos, but that doesn't work on an everyday basis. So, after all of that, I guess what I'm trying to say is that I snap away and hope to find some decent shots that I can salvage later with a bit of editing...

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