Top 7 Photo Editing Mistakes & Tips to Avoid Them [2023]

photo editing mistakes

Are you a Photoshop photo editing beginner who wants to level up your photo editing skills and your projects? If so, you are landing in the right place. In this article, Nesso’s photo editing experts will show you the 7 most common photo editing mistakes you might be making and tips to avoid them.

What Is Photo Editing?

Photo editing refers to enhancing or manipulating digital images using photo editing software. This can include adjusting color correction and exposure, cropping, and resizing, removing blemishes, and adding creative effects. 

However, after years of hands-on experience in the photo editing industry, we notice some mistakes many novice photo editors usually make (without knowing it).

So let’s move on to today’s main course: the ten most common photo editing mistakes and tips to avoid them.

💡 Did you know that photo editing is harder than people assume it is? That’s why most businesses opt for photo editing services instead of struggling for hours in front of the screen (and still not getting their desired results).

7 Most Common Photo Editing Mistakes & How to Avoid Them

1. Bad cropping

Improper cropping is one of the most common photo editing mistakes that can ruin an otherwise great image. This mistake happens when you crop your photo incorrectly, resulting in awkward compositions, missing details, or even cutting off important elements in your photo.

photo editing mistakes
The badly-cropped image on the left lacks important details – the ball that keeps the dog excited

How not to make this mistake:

  • Plan your crop: Before you start cropping, think about what part of the photo you want to keep and what you want to eliminate. Make sure to maintain a balanced composition.
  • Check your aspect ratio: Different platforms and applications have different aspect ratio requirements. Be sure to check and adjust accordingly.

2. Colors on screens don’t match colors on print

We cannot stress enough how important it is to be aware of the differences in color representation between print and screen. One common mistake that many people make is assuming that the colors that they see on their screen will be exactly the same as the ones that come out in print. This is simply not the case, and failing to account for this can result in disappointing results. Colors may appear more vibrant on a screen but can come out dull or flat in print.

photo editing mistakes
The colors you see on your screen might not match the ones on your print. This is one of the most common photo editing mistakes

How not to make this mistake:

  • Always work in the correct color space for your project. If you’re working on a print project, use CMYK color mode. If it’s for digital use, use RGB color mode.
  • Use a calibrated monitor to ensure accurate color representation on screen. This will help you get as close as possible to the final printed product.
  • Get test prints made before printing a large batch. This will help you see how the colors look in print and make any necessary adjustments before committing to a large order.

3. Over-smoothening 

As photo editing experts, we’ve seen many cases where skin smoothing has gone too far, resulting in a plastic appearance that looks completely unnatural. While it’s tempting to remove every blemish and wrinkle from a portrait, it’s important to remember that real skin has texture and imperfections. Over-smoothing the skin can make the subject look like a mannequin rather than a real person.

photo editing mistakes
Over-smoothening is one of the common photo editing mistakes that can make your portrait photos look fake

How not to make this mistake:

  • Use a light touch when smoothing skin – Avoid going overboard with the blur tool or other smoothing techniques. Instead, try using a lower opacity brush or layer to build up the effect gradually.
  • Preserve skin texture – While smoothing out larger imperfections like acne or scars can be useful, don’t forget to retain some of the natural texture of the skin. This can be done by using a low-frequency layer to smooth out only the larger details while keeping the smaller details like pores intact.
  • Zoom out frequently – It’s easy to get lost in the details when editing a photo, but it’s important to take a step back and view the image as a whole. This can help you see whether you’ve overdone the skin smoothing or if it still looks natural.

4. Messy background edit

Another mistake that most photo editing amateurs make is letting a messy background ruins their photos. A poorly edited background can draw attention away from the subject, making it harder for viewers to appreciate the main focus of your photo. It can also make your photo appear unprofessional and unpolished.

photo editing mistakes
You don’t want your product image background to look like these

How not to make this mistake:

  • Use the appropriate selection tool to separate your subject from the background accurately. Tools like the Lasso or Magnetic Lasso can make the selection process more manageable.
  • Take the time to refine the edges of your selection to create a more natural and seamless transition between the subject and the background. You can use tools like Refine Edge or Mask Edge to do this.
  • Pay close attention to the lighting and colors in your photo to ensure that the edited background matches the overall tone and style of your image.

5. Oversharpening

When it comes to photo editing, oversharpening is one of the most common mistakes that can ruin your final image. This happens when you overuse the sharpening tool, making the edges of your photo appear too harsh and artificial. Oversharpening can give your photo a grainy or jagged appearance, which can be unattractive to the eye.

photo editing mistakes
Don’t oversharpen your photo in Photoshop Editor if you don’t want it looks too grainy

How not to make this mistake:

  • Use the sharpening tool sparingly and avoid using it on areas that do not need sharpening.
  • Zoom in on your image to check if the details appear natural and not over-sharpened.
  • Use the masking tool when sharpening your photos to only sharpen the edges of your subject rather than the entire image.

6. Over saturation

Over saturation is one of the photo editing mistakes that occur when you increase the vibrancy and saturation levels of your photo to the point where the colors look unnaturally bright and intense. While you may think that adding more color will make your photo look better, over-saturation can actually make your photo look less appealing and less professional.

photo editing mistakes
You want your images to look natural and pleasing to the eye, not overly edited or fake. So don’t make your photo over-saturated

How not to make this mistake:

  • Use the histogram tool in your editing software to ensure that your colors are well-balanced and not too extreme.
  • Adjust the saturation levels gradually and only until the colors look natural and vibrant, not oversaturated.
  • Take a break from editing and come back to your photo with fresh eyes to ensure that you haven’t overdone the saturation. Remember, a little bit of editing can go a long way.

7. Editing on the original (RAW) file

And last but not least, one of the most common photo editing mistakes is editing your original RAW file. This is a common mistake made by many photographers who are new to the editing process. The RAW file contains all the original data captured by the camera, and editing it directly can permanently alter or delete that data, leading to irreparable damage to the image.

photo editing mistakes
Remember not to edit your RAW file, as this is one of the photo editing mistakes people usually make

How not to make this mistake:

  • Always make a backup copy of your RAW file before starting the editing process. This ensures that you have a safe copy of the original data in case anything goes wrong during the editing process.
  • Use non-destructive editing techniques, such as adjustment layers and masks, to make edits to the copy of the RAW file. These techniques allow you to make changes without permanently altering the original data.
  • Save your edited file as a new file with a different name, so you don’t overwrite the original RAW file accidentally. This also allows you to keep a record of your editing process and easily compare the before-and-after versions of the image.

Wrapping Up!

In conclusion, photo editing is a powerful tool that can help enhance your images and bring your creative vision to life. However, it’s important to avoid common photo editing mistakes that can undermine your efforts and result in disappointing results. By following the tips Nesso experts shared here, we hope you can avoid these pitfalls and create images that truly stand out.


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