From artistic fashion photoshoots to carefully crafted lifestyle videos, you’ve probably seen plenty of gorgeous visuals in magazines or on platforms like Instagram and Pinterest. Of course, what you don’t see is the painstaking editing process behind those breathtaking shots. Most photos or videos you enjoy have gone through some kind of post processing where they’ve been tweaked to perfection. 

Curious how you can refine your visuals yourself? We’ll show you a few popular post production techniques as well as some processing tutorials you can use to master the art of the edit. 

What Does Post-Processing Mean?

people at a table with their hands up
See the power of post-processing by comparing the left side of this image to the right. 

Post-processing encompasses every change you make to a video or photo after you download the RAW file to your computer. It’s the process that takes unrefined images and polishes them into perfect captures.

The fundamentals of post-processing include everything from cropping to sharpening. The type of editing you do depends on the image you’re starting with and what kind of result you’re going for. For example, photographer Brandon Woelfel’s post-processing involves tweaking contrast, temperature, and tints to achieve a whimsical, dreamy look.

girl with lights
Brandon Woelfel’s signature photo editing style.

For Photography

Post-processing images generally includes a combination of cropping, correcting colors, adjusting exposure, and making images appear sharper. 

Post-processing for photography also includes adjusting specific areas of the images by removing distracting background images (like a trash can from a park scene) or by lightening or darkening different sections. It can also mean blending multiple images together to create a composite—an imaginative image using realistic photos.

For Video

Videography takes post-processing one step further. In addition to making the images look interesting using the techniques mentioned above, you also need to assemble your clips and audio together into a cohesive storyline. 

You can adjust clip lengths, change the order of clips, and add transitions and text. Post-processing also includes fixing audio problems (like removing background noise) or adding music.

What Tools Do You Use for Post-Processing?

Professional and amateur photographers use the Adobe Creative Cloud (which includes Lightroom and Photoshop) for post photo processing. For videography post production, Adobe Premiere Pro or Final Cut Pro are the best choices. 

Some photographers will use different plugins and presets to make the editing process faster and easier. Photographer Jellis Vaes recommends quite a few plugins for beginners.

How to Post-Process Photography

The way you post-process photography will depend on your image and your desired end result, which means there’s a lot of room for creativity here.

But, if you’re looking for a starting point, we’re covering some of the most common types of photography edits that happen in post-processing. 

Adjust Colors By Changing White Balance, Saturation, and More

Color is what makes your images sing. Bright colors like a yellow horizon or pink glow might make a photo feel optimistic, while dark colors create a moodier vibe. Adjusting specific colors gives you the control to convey specific feelings.

Lightroom has a panel for hue, saturation, and luminance where you can make these types of changes. Adjusting the hue slider can change the exact shade of a color (like going from black to grey) while sliding the luminance changes the lightness or darkness of the shade (like the difference between slate grey and blue grey).

Sharpen the Image 

editing photos
Sharpening your photo makes it pop. 

You can also give your photos a crisper appearance by sharpening them. In Photoshop, you’ll go to the filter menu, choose “Sharpen,” and then select “Unsharp Mask.” You can use those sliders to adjust the sharpening effect. 

Skillshare instructor and professional photographer Daniel Gastager uses a more advanced technique called focus stacking, where he layers multiple identical photos together in Photoshop to reveal the sharpest parts of each photo. To do this, click “File,” then “Scripts,” and then “Load File to Stack.”

“There’s no exactly aligned image when you use two different focal points, and it’s the reason why we need Photoshop to overcome this issue,” says Gastager in his Skillshare class.

Watermark Your Work Before Sharing

When you’ve worked hard to perfect a photo, you want to make sure you get credit for your work. 

Photographer Jellis Vaes advises adding a watermark to any professional shot you share. To make a watermark, take the PNG file of your logo and create a new layer in Photoshop. Then, size and position your logo in the layer and add a transparent background. Once you have that saved, you can insert the watermark into any photo you need to.

How to Post-Process Video

Just like with photography, there are many different ways to edit video. Here are a few simple methods to start with.

Trim Clips

Regardless of what kind of video you’re making—commercial, YouTube channel episode, time lapse—you’re sure to have way more footage than you actually need for your finished product.

For that reason, you’ll need to import your media into Adobe Premiere Pro or Final Cut Pro. and trim your video clips down by selecting sections of them and deleting as needed. You can also use the slider on the timeline track to align clips. Most importantly, you’ll need to line up your clips to create seamless movements that aren’t jarring for your viewer. 

Adjust Color

photo half edited
Color grading and adjustments can have a major impact on your finished video. 

Just like with photography, you can change the colors used in your video to achieve a cohesive final project. For example, you may need to correct colors to create a seamless project that doesn’t have drastic variations in brightness from one shot to the next.

Use temperature and tint sliders to adjust the white balance of any shot in Premiere Pro. You can also adjust the exact exposure, contrast, and saturation of any shade.

Add Visual Effects

Any video can be improved with graphics or special effects like transitions. Using transitions like a dissolve effect can help move from one scene to the next, while adding graphics like a logo can strengthen your brand awareness. 

You’ll also add any necessary text to your video in post-production, like numbered step-by-step guides or a list of people to credit. For instance, if you’ve made a call to action that says “Learn More” or “Keep Watching,” you’ll need to insert it at the end of your video. 

Clean Up Audio

If you’re using audio in your video project, you’ll need to go through it to remove any distracting background noises like a dog barking or the sound of a door closing. Edit audio in Adobe Audition to apply a “noise reduction” technique. Unfortunately, sometimes it is entirely impossible to fully clean up audio—so try to capture clean sound the first time so you don’t have to record again later.

Get Started Post-Processing!

Fundamentals of Lightroom II: Editing and Post Processing

Written by:

Kaitlyn Arford