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Overused Post Processing Effects

A Guest Post by Hannah Gordon

All too often I see budding photographers attempting to overuse effects. Whether this is an attempt to hide their inexperience or they genuinely think it improves the image, I do not know. However, customers will notice the obvious difference between portraits done with expertise and ones done with overuse of effects.

The “Top 2” effects overused are:

  • Vignette – What can I say? Used sparingly, this effect can add depth and accentuate the subject in the portrait. Overused, it looks tacky and darkens the middle of the portrait horrendously.
  • Softening – Again, a soft effect can bring out the subject, but too much just makes it look overexposed and blurry.

My first example is an outdoor portrait session with a family of three. Everything looks pretty good in the original.


The first enhancement is just a touch of vignette, which really makes the center pop and accentuates the family.


Unfortunately the third one is a literal example of what I have been seeing a lot of lately in perusing amateur photographers’ facebook pages and websites.


It is entirely too much, blacks out part of the subjects, and actually takes away from the depth the portrait should portray.

My second example is an indoor portrait session. Firstly, it can be a bit tough doing a black and white indoor, and the first mistake I have seen, as demonstrated, is make a black and white out of a subject with a black background.


Then a common additional mistake is to add a vignette. A big vignette, and a big mistake (sample2-2).


My third example is another outdoor portrait session. This family had the fabulous idea of matching shoes and jeans, and I just had to get a shot of it! As you can see, the turnout was spectacularly crisp, and clear.

Add softening, and it just does… not… work.


It makes it blurry and, frankly, hurts the eyes to look at for more than a millisecond.

When you edit too much, it is blatantly obvious and clients will not like it as much. Photographers should make it their goal to do as much as possible during the shoot to lessen how much editing or enhancement is needed post-shoot.

Hannah Gordon is a professional photographer based out of Tulsa, OK who specializes in portraits and commercial photography. Her services are showcased at http://www.photographybyhannah.net as well as on Facebook under Photography by Hannah.

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