Beware: Don't Over Edit Your Photos

Over Edited Photos

Are you Over Editing Your Photos?

When I first discovered the world of editing and post-processing, I felt like I had gone to school for 13 years and become a plastic surgeon overnight.  The power I had at my fingertips to make my photos whatever I wanted - cross process, sepia, vignettes, cropping, black and white, and 7,000 different kinds!

I had tons of fun wading through the editing waters, but along with that came many photo editing mistakes that are common to photography beginners.

I was definitely over editing my pictures.  My subjects had Chiclet teeth (too white), porcelain doll skin and bright, non-human eyes, and the image colors were over-saturated, just to name a few of the more common problems.

Lightroom Portrait Brushes

I also used so many filters and edits on top of edits that the altering of the image was often the most noticeable part of the photo and not the subject or quality of the photo itself.

I understand editing is a difficult topic to discuss because it’s very subjective; photographers have huge, varying tastes and preferences when it comes to editing photos and any of these preferences are great and fit within many different photography styles.  But I think it is safe to say there are some mistakes that can be universally agreed upon to be avoided.

Over Edit 1. Chiclet Teeth

I’m all for white teeth.  I wish mine were whiter, quite frankly, and I’m not opposed to a little post-processing help.  It saves my wallet and boosts my self-esteem and that’s a win/win in my opinion.  However, I do think teeth can be overly whitened and rather than using the change as a small and natural improvement that boosts the overall quality of the image it becomes the central focus - and not in a good way.

So, you can definitely whiten teeth, but avoid overly whitened Chiclet teeth.

Over Edit 2. Porcelain Doll Skin and Shiny, Non-Human Eyes

Most clients want their photographed face to be a realistic version of their in-person face.  And as disheartening as it may be, most subjects do not have porcelain doll skin or eyes.  The doll effect happens when you move that clarity slider too far to the left or soften skin to the point of losing natural lines and, yes, even wrinkles that make your clients uniquely them.

Softening harsh reds in skin tones or removing blemishes is a great tool we have available in Lightroom to make our clients look their possible best, but let’s make sure you do not overdo it and lose that realistic quality.

Portrait Lightroom Presets

Over Edit 3. Over-Saturation

I love bright colors in photos!  But over-saturated photos tend to make the subject look more Jersey Shore and less Beautiful Subject.  We want to make colors pop but within a reasonable frame of color scale.  I would prefer my client’s first reaction to be, “Wow, I look really great!” not, “Wow, I look really….not like me.  And not human at all really.”  (Ok, maybe that last part is an exaggeration.)

To give a few examples and highlight these common over-editing mistakes, I asked my mom to snap a few impromptu shots of me to show the difference between an over-edited image and a slightly-edited image.

The image below is SOOC and could definitely use some cleaning up and improvement.

Over Edited Photo Example:

Straight Out of Camera Photo of Myself Before Demonstrating an Over Edit

Obviously, this is an exaggerated over edit, but it is honestly not too far from what I have both done myself and seen recently.

Over Edited Selfies

This is a cleaned up natually edited version of the original.  I still look like myself - just a slightly improved version.

edited pictures before and after


I think it is quite reasonable to expect that most clients will appreciate a touched-up version of their photo, just not a made-up version.  Most clients understand that a photographer’s job is not to do plastic surgery on their face, but rather to capture them at their possible best with edits that enhance, not detract.

All of these tips apply to selfies too!  Don't over edit them unless you are trying to look unnatural.

Do you have any questions or comments about Over Editing?  What are some editing skills you have learned along the way?  Leave us a comment below - we would LOVE to hear from you!  And PLEASE SHARE our tutorial using the social sharing buttons (we really appreciate it)!

Lightroom Presets