Post Production: 7 Tips for Professional Photographers

(Last Updated On: June 26, 2019)
Post production techniques can help you create timeless photographs that evoke an emotional response, such as the feeling created by the setting sun shining through a lone tree at the edge of the water.
Post production processing can create timeless photographs

As a professional photographer, you do your best to take beautiful photographs. You do everything you can to make sure the camera settings are perfect for the location and subject. But, there are always complications that post production processing can help. In fact, the post production process can turn a good photograph into a great photograph.

Before you start, you’ll need a software program. Though Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom are one of the most demanded photo editing softwares, but there are many other programs to choose from depending on your needs.

Another pre-processing tip is shoot and edit in RAW, as it has thousands of tones compared to hundreds in JPEG.

Once you’re ready to go, here are 7 post production tips that can give your photographs that professional appearance:

Adjust the Horizon and Remove Unwanted Elements.

Adjust the horizon to remove any tilt. A tilted horizon can produce a dizzying effect, so unless you want that style, you should make it level. Next, remove unwanted elements by either using a clone or stamp tool (Photoshop) or a spot healing brush (Lightroom). These can remove dust spots too. Cropping an image is also an option if the elements are along the borders.

A tilted horizon can be used for stylistic reasons, as in a photograph of rock climbing where you want a dizzying effect.
An example of a stylistically tilted horizon, one that needs no post production correction.

Adjust the Color Temperature and Exposure

Adjusting the brightness can lighten or darken the image in accordance with the mood you’re creating, but remember, you might also have to adjust the contrast.

Flatten the Image

Set the highlight slider to -30 to -80 and the shadow slider to +30 to +80. This makes the highlights dull and the shadows flat—about the same tonal range as the midtones. Then, when you edit the flattened image, the techniques you use will give it the right amount of contrast.

Use Layer Masks

Use layers masks to mask out parts of the image you want to affect, while leaving the rest of the image unchanged. For example, with the black and white layer in soft blending mode and your curves layer set to luminosity, changes affect only the contrast of the image instead of both the contrast and the saturation. You can also paint over an unwanted color and eliminate uneven tones.

Make Your Subject Pop

Use the clone stamp or healing brush to smooth out skin inconsistencies, and set the clone stamp to approximately 15% opacity to smooth out transitions in the sky or in patterns without much detail. Set a curve adjustment layer to a brighter exposure and another to a darker exposure. Then, use a layer mask and brushes to dodge and burn, that is, to affect the highlights, midtones, and shadows in various parts of the image.

Set a Black and White Layer to Soft Light Blending Mode

In a black and white layer, change the blending mode to soft light, and drag the opacity to around 20 – 60%. This gives the image a sharp commercial look and allows you to control the luminance of each color with sliders on this layer.

Use Adjustment Layers to Pop or Subdue Colors

A color balance layer allows you to add blues, cyans, or magentas to the shadows, reds, greens, or yellow to the midtones, and red or yellow to the highlights. This keeps the colors realistic and allows you to experiment with creating different looks. Use a levels adjustment layer to add blues or greens on top of the shadows. This fills in the shadows with the colors and almost give them a film quality appearance. Finally, adjust the hue and saturation to fine tune the colors.

You work hard to get that perfect shot, but good post production techniques can give your photograph a professional edge. Using these techniques can help you create the concept you were shooting for, a photograph that has a timeless feel—one that evokes an emotional connection for years to come.


If you would like to learn from professional photographers, here are some recommended courses:

  1. Post-Processing for Outdoor and Travel Photographers
  2. Adobe Lightroom CC for Beginners
  3. Adobe Photoshop Compositing: Essential Techniques
  4. Efficient Lighting & Post-Production


Image sources:
Photo #1 by Liam Pozz on Unsplash
Photo #2 by McCall Alexander on Unsplash
Photo #3 by Gaetano Cessati on Unsplash


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