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5 Photo Editing Mistakes Every Beginner Must Avoid

We are fortunate enough to be able to capture photos in digital format and edit them later using multiple software. You can adjust exposure, white balance and replace the background with only a few clicks. Being able to edit our photos as per our requirement is a great power – but we must not overuse it. In this article, I share 5 photo editing mistakes which I have made in my initial days as a photographer. I hope that some of you photography enthusiasts will benefit from my learning over the years.

1. Selective coloring


The image on the left looks more professional and is an ideal portrait, while the image in the right looks very unprofessional.

Sometimes we get so obsessed with a particular element in our frame that we desperately want to highlight it. One of the options that you might opt for is selective coloring, and it can easily go wrong. This is a technique where you keep a selective part of the image colored, making the remainder of the image black and white.

As a beginner, you might be super excited while working on your first few selective-colored images. And you should be.

However, if you wish to step up your photography game and make your images look more professional, avoid using selective coloring.


I would suggest you work on your perspective and composition if you wish to highlight a particular object or color in the frame. Try to frame that highlighting subject in a manner that it stands out in the frame.

If not, you can selectively boost the exposure or saturation in editing without applying the selective coloring method.

2. Overuse of HDR technique

Of the 5 photo editing mistakes I list, if there is an award for the most overused editing technique, it must go to the HDR effect. I must admit that during the first two years, I used to click multiple exposures of almost everything. Then later, I used to merge those exposures to get the HDR effect, thinking I was such a cool photographer.

You must understand the actual meaning of HDR, which is High Dynamic Range. Use it only when you feel that the camera is not able to capture the dynamic range of the scene the way you see it with your eyes. All you have to do is capture 3, 6, or 9 frames of different exposures and later merge them using apps such as Adobe Lightroom.

Image: This is an over-processed HDR image.

This is an over-processed HDR image.

There are few apps which allow you to get the HDR effect using a single photo, but that is simply a gimmick which you must use carefully.

3. Over-saturation

We all come across photos with vibrant and attractive colors, especially on photo-sharing apps such as Instagram. Trying to gain similar results, you might be boosting the saturation level way too far. Over-saturation in your photos can make a well-composed frame look average because you boosted the colors way too much.

Image: The image on the right has way too much saturation, as can be clearly seen on the face.

The image on the right has way too much saturation, as can be clearly seen on the face.

While editing a photo for 3-5 minutes or more, it’s difficult to tell if the photo is well-saturated or over-saturated. Here is a quick tip that I follow that may help you as well: After your final edit is complete, take a 2-minute break from the screen. Now come back to your device and see if the saturation level works or is too much. Trust me; this practice is going to help you a lot if you edit a single photo for more than 4-5 minutes.

4. Converting to ‘Black & White’ when not required

Simply taking the saturation slider all the way to ‘-100’ does not make any image look good in monochrome. If I am converting any image black and white in editing, I check if the frame has contrast in it. If not, I try and avoid converting that image to monochrome.

Image: The colors in the image on the left are much more appealing as compared to the monochrome ima...

The colors in the image on the left are much more appealing as compared to the monochrome image on the right.

Even if a scene has good contrast, check if any prominent colors might complement the colored image. Your frame might have a beautiful and colorful sunset, but because you are used to converting any image into monochrome, you might make a wrong decision.

Be patient and analyze the image. If you feel the colors are not that appealing or the image has high contrast, go ahead and convert it to black and white.

5. Overuse of vignetting effect

The use of the vignetting effect in editing is a personal preference. I have seen many beginners use strong vignetting effects, especially in portraits. I love using a vignetting effect in photos where I want emphasis on a particular subject – but not in every image.

Try and avoid using this effect on photos such as landscapes, or try to keep it subtle so that the overall beauty of the frame does not get destroyed.


The image on the right does not look good because of the overuse of the vignetting effect.

Have you been making any of these 5 photo editing mistakes? Or if you wish to add any editing mistake to the list, feel free to comment below.



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Kunal Malhotra
Kunal Malhotra

is a photography enthusiast whose passion for photography started 6 years back during his college days. Kunal is also a photography blogger, based out of Delhi, India. He loves sharing his knowledge about photography with fellow aspiring photographers by writing regular posts on his blog. Some of his favorite genres of photography are product, street, fitness, and architecture.

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