Five Editing Mistakes to Avoid

This post is by Andrea Thomas of Speechless Photography.

There are a few things that I did to my photos when I was just starting out that really make me cringe when I look back. I know I’m not alone in this, as these issues seem to be pretty common when it comes to new photographers.

I so desperately wanted my images to look like something more than snapshots and I thought these edits and techniques did the trick. Time and experience has taught me that what really makes images look professional are good focus, proper exposure, and a strong clean edit. But maybe airing my photography-related dirty laundry will help someone else come to this realization a little quicker than I did.

#1 – A Super Strong Vignette

Super Strong Vignette

A light vignette can be a great way to draw attention to your subject, but I think we can all agree that a heavy one just draws attention to itself.

#2 – Too Smooth Skin

Too Smooth Skin

Reducing the look of skin problems, pores and wrinkles is a good idea for certain subjects, but give them texture-less “Barbie” skin and they won’t even look human in your photos.

#3 – Over Saturation

Over saturation

I love a slight color pop, but over saturated colors don’t print well and are sort of like the photography equivalent of typing in ALL CAPS.

#4 – Alien Eyes

Alien eyes

Seriously, when was the last time you saw someone walking around with alien laser-eyes in the real world? A small amount of brightening and sharpening is fine, but be careful of eyes that look fake.

#5 – Action/Preset Overload

Action/Preset overload

Artistic actions and presets can be fun, but when you don’t really know what they do, you run the risk of getting crazy results. People just shouldn’t be blue, and every photo doesn’t necessarily need a yellow, vintage effect. A clean edit will never go out of style.

Now, one extra one because it is a common problem, either in camera or done with the crop in post-processing.

#6 – The Tilt

The Tilt

The tilt is less an editing issue and more a photography issue. I’m including it because when I was starting out, I thought that a severe tilt made my photos look so professional that I crazily tilted almost every photo.

This one is subjective since some people really like this look, but I got tired of tilting my head to look at my photos and having my subjects look like they were going to slide out of the frame. I do really hate a crooked horizon, so please, please fix those when you edit. However, if the tilt is part of your style, then really go for it. A slight tilt just looks like a mistake.

My examples above were definitely on the extreme end of the spectrum, but even if your vignettes, eye edits, saturation, etc. aren’t quite to that level, it’s possible they could still be overdone. I like to think of my straight out of the camera photos like a clean, fresh face. It’s not the finished product, but by getting the basics as close to perfect as I can in camera, I have a good foundation to start with. Then my edits are like makeup.

Done correctly, photo edits simply polish and accentuate the good that was already there. Also like makeup, if you can easily see exactly what you added, then you probably did too much.

So now you’ve seen some of the mistakes I made as I was finding my way towards my final style. Are you guilty of any of these in the past? Have you you left them behind as you gained more experience and found your own style? Or, does your style include rocking some of these techniques and you think I’m a crazy person for not liking them?

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About Andrea Thomas

I'm Andrea. I'm a Canon-shooting mom to a little boy who runs from my camera and a baby girl born on Halloween. I'm also a wife to a husband who usually obliges me when I yell at him to pull over so I can take a picture! I love learning about photography and editing and am passionate about sharing what I've learned with others.


  1. Yes, yes and yes – done them all! I still tilt though. 🙂

    • Some people love the tilt, and I do think it’s very subjective. Just for me personally, I remember thinking that it made my photos look “professional” and I seriously was tilting every single photo just for that reason, so that’s why I shy away from it now. If you love it and it works for you, then that’s what matters. 😀

  2. I am sure I’ve made a few editing mistakes too. I just try to make my photos look how I think I want them to, so technically they may be “wrong.”

    One thing that drives me crazy is the alien eyes. There’s a photographer I was following on Instagram that did this to babies everytime she posted a photo and I just had to stop following because it was killing me, the crazy, overdone eyes!

    I am one who does like the tilting, but only for specific photos. Not every shot works at a tilt. I have one of my son playing a puzzle that’s tilted – he’s sitting on the floor (he was only a year old at the time) and I think the tilt in that one works perfectly. Or a tilted shot of a bride & groom walking down the aisle. But really, not everything looks appropriate when tilted.

    Great examples!

    • Yes, the alien eyes drive me crazy now! And once you see them, that’s all you will notice about the photo from that point forward. I think your comment about a tilt working for some photos but that it’s not appropriate for all photos is spot on!

  3. Yup, been there, done all of that. I can’t really say I’m sorry though, it’s just part of the journey of learning, of maturing your craft, of finding your editing style.

  4. Thank you for these great tips! Sometimes it is easy to get caught up “trying” to make images better, when really – sometimes less is more!

  5. Thanks for the tips! Haven’t done some and have done some. Never did the tilt though. It drives me nuts when I see it. Looks to me like the photographer was falling down when the photo was taken.

  6. I use the tilt on an occasional basis, especially if I’m trying to get a tall, thin object, eg. a lighthouse, tower, church steeple, into my photo. Crooked horizons don’t bother me too much but I really don’t like alien eyes either.


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