How I edit my photos (both digital and scanned)

As a follow up to my previous post on How I Organize My Digital Photos, I'm sharing how I edit my photos. 

Let me start off by explaining that how I edit my photographs depends on what kind of photos I'm working on. These are the four types of pictures I'm editing:

  1. Pre-digital photos that have been scanned and are now essentially digital photographs. I have scanned some of these myself and I particularly love my new Canon Pixma MG7520 printer with scanner bed. I have also had thousands (yes, thousands!) of pictures scanned with Scan My Photos service and I highly recommend it. All of my photos from before the year 2003 are paper and have had to be scanned if I want to edit them or use them on digital scrapbook pages. It's also important to me to have these in digital form so that they can be shared with my family. It's also a great form of backup in case anything ever happens to the original photos.
  2. Early digital photos. These are the pictures that were taken with early (aka lousy) digital camera technology from approximately 2003-2005. 
  3. Digital photos taken with a digital point and shoot or DSLR camera. 
  4. iPhone photos - this is what most of my photos are from the last two years.

I also want to clarify here that I'm talking about general photo editing - making sure the images are bright, clear, crisp, and not overly processed. I like to have my photos looking their best and have them ready to print or share with others. If I want to get artistic or creative with editing, I tackle those edits one at a time when I'm ready to use them. 


Editing pre-digital photos with Lightroom

editing old photos in lightroom scrapbookladypages.JPG

I use a different approach on editing scanned photographs because they don't have any attached metadata such as the date they were taken. This makes it hard to sort them for organization (see previous post). I use Lightroom for editing these photos because I can change the photo date and add keywords to make sorting easier. I can also edit a ton of pictures at the same time. Here are a few thoughts about Lightroom:

  • I subscribe to the monthly creative cloud plan for photographers that includes Photoshop and Lightroom. I rarely use Photoshop as I'm a big fan of Photoshop Elements. I do use Lightroom frequently. I like the creative cloud option because it's like renting the software and I always have the most up to date version. No need to buy a new copy every time they come out with an upgrade.
  • It's easy to change the actual capture date on a photo in Lightroom, but you can also do that by just editing the metadata on a photo. The big difference with using Lightroom is that you can select multiple photos at once to make the same change. If you don't want to go through each picture individually, you could simply select all the photos for a certain year and change the date to some date from that year. Or you could simply add the year as a keyword.
  • Batch editing in Lightroom is a HUGE timesaver! I could not even stand the thought of ever going through decades of old photos one by one. No way! But I can apply a general preset, or easily tweak pictures in huge batches in Lightroom. Love this!


Editing early (aka lousy) digital photos with Lightroom

If you had a digital camera before 2004, you know what I'm talking about here. Yikes for 2 megapixel photos. So grainy! I pretty much treat these like old scanned photos and generally batch edit them in Lightroom. The noise reduction tools in Lightroom are so helpful!


Digital photos taken with a point and shoot or DSLR camera

Once I had access to nice digital cameras, my photos didn't need so much editing. The metadata is already embedded in the file so my computer knows when each picture was taken. The images usually turn out pretty nice because you can see what you are shooting as you are taking the picture. Ah, the beauty of digital photography! Again, I'm mostly relying on Lightroom for editing these photos because it's just so quick and easy. If I have multiple photos from an event or setting, it's easy to copy and paste the settings I use to edit one photo and paste those settings to other pictures in the series. I think one of the biggest temptations to overcome with editing these photos is to NOT overdo post processing. Don't make your images so sharp and vibrant that they don't even look real. It's hard when you have that much power at your fingertips!


Recent phone photos mostly edited in apps on my device

afterlight app                                iPhone photos app                    mextures app

afterlight app                                iPhone photos app                    mextures app

Yes, I still love Lightroom and I often run my current photos through Lightroom just to quickly add keywords. However, I'm finding that as my phone camera (I'm using an iPhone 6) and the apps on my phone have improved, that there just isn't much editing to do once the picture finally makes it to Lightroom. I know there is a Lightroom app for phones and tablets and I have to admit that I haven't even used it yet. Here's why:

  • I usually edit photos almost as I take them just by using the iPhone's native photography app edits. It's super quick and easy and then when they are automatically uploaded to Flickr or Dropbox (see previous post) they are all ready to go and look fantastic.
  • If I feel like getting fancier with my edits, I use a handful of apps that are listed in this post. My favorite one is Photogene for the iPad. 
  • While I rarely get all that creative with editing old photos, I just love trying out new filters, effects, and apps on my phone photos. I can turn pictures into watercolor masterpieces with the touch of a button. I can add textures, colors, and words in just seconds. 
  • With apps like Over, I can use png files and word art to make my own art pieces and collage apps like Diptych let me combine photos to tell a story. Of course, I have to mention the Project Life app as well. And all of these apps also let me edit the photographs as I'm working with them. All in the palm of my hand!


A few other tools

I use Lightroom or my iPhone/iPad for almost all of my photo editing these days, especially when I'm working with large numbers of images at the same time.  That doesn't mean that I don't use other programs and tools though. Often, as I'm scrapbooking, I want to change a picture to fit with a page I'm working on. Or sometimes I have a special treatment in mind for a few photographs. There are plenty of times where I decide to edit only one photo or just a handful at a time. Here are some of my favorite ways to make my pictures special:

  • Editing photos in Photoshop Elements. When I have a picture open and I'm ready to put it on a digital page or use it in a template, it's the perfect time to add some quick edits right there in my Photoshop Elements program. You can use guided or advanced edits and get great results!
  • I really love using PicMonkey on my computer. I wish they had an app system. But for super quick editing, it's hard to beat their foolproof tools. They even have nice video tutorials to show you the way. 
  • Trying new apps. I try out a lot of different apps on my iPhone and iPad. Some are free and some only cost a dollar or two. It's worth it to me to be able to find new looks and experiment with different filters and tools for bringing out the best in my pictures. Don't be afraid to play around a bit. Have fun with your photos!