Photo Editing Process, Program & Benefits

Photo Editing

7 minute read

The photo editing service domain has been undergoing a rapid transformation with the evolution of ground-breaking photo editing programs that support world-class photo retouching operations and help professional photographers and studios to address the unique needs of their clients that include professionals, individuals, and businesses in diverse industries. In this article, we have discussed about the diverse possibilities that photo editing support can bring, thereby helping professionals and businesses to make the most out of modern photo editing techniques and to create a great marketing portfolio.

Before we delve deeper into this topic, let’s start with the definition of photo editing and why you need photo editing.

What is photo editing?

Photo editing, or image editing, is the digitized process of enhancing or altering a 2D photo, usually with the help of a photo editing software. Whether one needs to correct some errors in a photo or make it a masterpiece, editing is mandatory.

The fundamental motto of any image editing is to enhance and manipulate the original version. It is also done to add further creative visual elements to the image. Photo editing has the following other terms in the graphic design industry:

  • Photo post-processing
  • Photo manipulation
  • Image manipulation
  • Photoshopping
  • Photoshop services
  • Image enhancement
  • Photo enhancement

Why is photo editing needed?

The main purpose of photo editing is to enhance raw photos optimally so as to make them suitable for use for diverse purposes. With photo editing, you can make ordinary images appear extraordinary. Whether you need to beautify your personal pictures or you want to finetune images for your Ecommerce platform, getting your images professionally edited would help you preserve your images in the best possible way while being able to use them for professional purpose. With image editing, you can boost your business’s scope and improve its potential. For example, if you are running a food businesses or a real estate business, using refined images of your products would help you to grab the attention of your target audience. With photo editing, you can instill desired effects in your images and use them for varied purposes. From converting black-and-white images into their colored counterparts to old photo restoration to making color corrections, photo editing brings along multiple opportunities that you can use to get optimal business results.

The history of photo editing

Even though digital photography and photo editing are modern elements, the editing of photographs can be dated back to the 19th century. In the 1880s, precisely in 1846, Calvert Richard Jonas was the first recorded man in history to manipulate a photograph.

He managed to remove the fifth monk from a group of four Capuchin monks. He took the negative of the photo and painted on the silhouette of the fifth monk, who stood a few feet away from the rest. The positive print showed the painted area as a white patch.

Back then, the retouching process majorly revolved around making the changes manually on the negative. Some early photographers made the retouches on special tables made for the purpose. The negative was placed on the surface of the table in an inclined manner. It was then illuminated by a reflective substance from behind.

The early photo manipulators used to coat the negative with emulsion before the editing. The manual retouching process was done with sharp blades, also called surgeon’s scalpel. This delicate process was also called etching.

In short, only a handful of the aristocrats could afford to retouch their photographs. This was mainly due to the humongous time taken during the process. Also the cost and effort were two other reasons. As we know, the overall photography process was an arduous task back then.

Importance of photo editing

As the world became more visual-driven from the start of the 20th century, the demand for photographs skyrocketed. Journalism was at its peak, which spawned a new concept, “photo-journalism”. These significant cultural events made it clear that the visual medium is a powerful tool for reaching the masses.

The same is applicable to the contemporary digital era we live in. Regardless of the industry, visually captivating photos are the first priority. Be it eCommerce, real estate, fashion, F&B, hospitality, healthcare, apparel, manufacturing, or any other sector, high-quality images are integral.

However, often digital photos don’t turn up the way expected, and therefore, photo retouching becomes the only option. Professionally edited images not only enhance a picture, but also convey product USPs clearly to the audience.

Several expert agencies are there that offer outstanding Photoshop services. This includes old photo restoration, image manipulation, backdrop recreation, and replacement, and so much more. Hiring their high-end services can make a great difference to any new-age business.

Types of photo editing

There can be several types of photo editing based on the requirements. Some of them are:

  • Portrait retouching

    Photo editors remove blemishes, dark spots, dust stains, wrinkles, visible birth marks, braces, flyaway hairs, and more.

  • Damaged photo restoration

    Highly experienced image editing specialists restore water or fire damaged photos, torn or crumples images, making them new again.

  • Clipping path

    This is mostly used for retouching eCommerce product photos. Retouchers meticulously separates the product from the background and removes the background altogether.

  • Product photo retouching

    Editors enhance the product photos to increase their visual appeal. Some of the techniques can be reflection/shadow addition, resizing, color correction, spot removal, etc.

  • Photo masking

    Photo masking, or image masking, is a more detailed editing process than clipping path. Editors use advanced tools and cut out an image from its background non-destructively.

  • Headshot retouching

    This type of image enhancement includes skin smoothening, eye correction, teeth whitening, mole/pimple removal, nose fixing, red-eye removal, hair volume adjustment, etc.

  • Digital image manipulation

    Photo or image manipulation involves extending or replacing backdrops.

    It is also used to add creative visual elements to an image making it appear larger than life.

- and more.

Each of these types has due significance and requires precise skill sets. Only an expert photo retoucher has the required competency and expertise to edit images without making them look ‘edited’. This is highly important. Editing must not be overdone, which renders a photo appear artificial and fake.

Photo editing techniques

The alteration techniques can be basic level and advanced level. The levels are usually defined per the project scope, the objective of the photos, as well as budget. Professional image editing companies have experienced editors. They can produce the best quality outcomes using a strategic mix of these techniques.

The basic level changes include:

  • Color correction
  • Shadow fixing
  • HSL (hue, saturation, and lightness) correction
  • Brightness and contrast adjustment
  • Cropping and resizing
  • White/black balance
  • Image sharpening

- etc.

Advanced levels of changes can include:

  • Blemish removal
  • HDR blending
  • Reflection removal
  • Background replacement/change
  • Noise reduction
  • Red eye removal
  • Skin retouching
  • Spot removal
  • Clipping path
  • Alpha channel masking
  • Creating ghost mannequin effect

- and much more.

Examples of photo editing

The emergence of Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom has opened newer possibilities for photo editing professionals. They can now play around with different techniques in the post-processing stage. These strategic modifications create amazing aesthetic results, improving image quality and making the images captivating.

Below are a few of the fine examples of high-end photo editing and retouching. Each of these images is edited using the latest technologies and software, yielding flawless results. One can try using these software to enhance their images. But it is always recommended to consult a professional agency.

Top 10 photo editing software (free & paid)

With the growing demand for high-quality images, the number of photo editing software applications has also increased. While all these tools serve many purposes, the challenge is to identify the right software for your workflow. Finding the right tool will not just speed up your editing process but will also generate effective results.

Below is a list of a few of the paid and free image editing tools. This list will help beginners and amateurs, as well as professionals. So, keep scrolling till the end. You will find the ideal picture retouching program to make your editing more efficient.

Free software

  1. GIMP


    A free, feature-rich photo retouching and editing software, ideal for beginners and first-timers.

    Feature highlights:

    • Masking
    • Filters
    • Layer support
    • Text tools

    OS compatibility: macOS, Windows, and Linux

  2. Paint.NET

    Paint.NET comes with an intuitive and user-friendly interface, along with several multi-purpose tools.

    Feature highlights:

    • Unlimited undo
    • Special effects
    • Layer support
    • Plugins
    • 3D rotation

    OS compatibility: Windows

  3. Fotor


    A free digital photo editing tool that has quickly gained popularity among editing enthusiasts. It is best for one-click enhancements.

    Feature highlights:

    • Premium filters
    • High-rez image export
    • Batch editing
    • Visual effects

    OS compatibility: Windows, macOS, and Linux

  4. Inkscape


    Inscape is a powerful, free, and open-source online photo editing tool. It is ideal for graphic artists, web designers, or simply interested in editing your photos.

    Feature highlights:

    • Multi-format support
    • Export PNG to multiple vector file formats
    • Object creation tools
    • Text support

    OS compatibility: Windows

  5. Pixlr


    A browser-based, free photo editor, Pixlr is a very easy-to-use photo editor. The tool is designed for both mobile and web purposes.

    Feature highlights:

    • Set of gradient tools
    • Sponge tool
    • Brush tool
    • Red-eye corrector
    • Convenient blurring and sharpening tool

    OS compatibility: Web-based

  6. Ashampoo Photo Optimizer

    An effective, hassle-free, and most importantly, free-of-cost photo retouching tool. Ashampoo Photo Optimizer also has multiple auto-optimization tools.

    Feature highlights:

    • Advanced manual controls
    • One-click optimization
    • Easy to navigate
    • Filters and effects
    • Charcoal effect

    OS compatibility: Windows

  7. Canva


    Another browser-based online photo editor, ideal for professional-level edits. Canva is free for all and best for online graphic design tasks.

    Feature highlights:

    • One-click background removal
    • Amazing set of templates
    • Easy to use and navigate
    • Free cloud storage
    • Mobile app available

    OS compatibility: Windows, Linux, and macOS

  8. Photo POS Pro

    Photo POS Pro

    An advanced photo editing tool, yet Photo Pos Pro is completely free to use. The tool is ideal for professionals and beginners alike.

    Feature highlights:

    • Brush tool
    • Layers and layer mask
    • RAW file support
    • Gradient tools
    • Selection tools

    OS compatibility: Windows and macOS

  9. PhotoScape X

    PhotoScape X is deemed one of the best alternatives to Photoshop. Besides photo editing, this tool can also be used to create social media graphics from scratch.

    Feature highlights:

    • Amazing set of filters
    • RAW file selection
    • Photo splitting/merging
    • Animated GIF creation

    OS compatibility: macOS and Windows

  10. PiZap

    PiZap is a quirky, free, and fun tool, ideal for retouching social media graphics, memes, creating collages, etc.

    Feature highlights:

    • Easy edit and enhance photo
    • Lots of font choices
    • Huge stock image repository
    • Lots of social media image templates
    • Multiple collage layouts

    OS compatibility: macOS, Linux, and Windows

  1. Adobe Photoshop

    Adobe Photoshop

    The ultimate go-to choice for all professional image artists and editing specialists. Adobe Photoshop offers numerous advanced photo editing tools. Each of these tools performs a distinct function in photo post-processing.

    Feature highlights:

    • Automated editing
    • Easy-to-use tools
    • User-friendly interface
    • Step-by-step guides
    • Highly customizable

    OS compatibility: macOS, Linux, and Windows

    Price: Starts at $20.99/month

  2. Movavi Photo Editor

    A very powerful, yet user-friendly tool for all kinds of image retouching tasks. It is ideal for beginners, intermediates, and professionals alike.

    Feature highlights:

    • Supports major file formats
    • Handy image editing filters
    • Low system requirements
    • Vast array of graphic effects

    OS compatibility: macOS


    • $69.95 - Lifetime purchase
    • $49.95 - One-year-subscription
  3. Adobe Lightroom Classic

    Adobe Lightroom

    Adobe Lightroom is hands-down the best photo editing tool for big organizations with bulk projects. The tool provides top-notch editing functions and is considered an all-rounder.

    Feature highlights:

    • Supports major file formats
    • Handy image editing filters
    • Low system requirements
    • Vast array of graphic effects

    OS compatibility: macOS


    • $69.95 - Lifetime purchase
    • $49.95 - One-year-subscription
  4. Skylum Luminar Neo

    Skylum Luminar

    Skylum Luminar Neo provides the best use of AI to enhance images. It is also considered the best tool for beginners in image post-processing.

    Feature highlights:

    • Highly user-friendly UI
    • Super fast program
    • Batch processing
    • Color enhancer
    • Lens correction
    • 3 fantastic AI tools

    OS compatibility: macOS and Windows

    Price: $79

  5. Corel PaintShop Pro 2023 Ultimate

    Corel PaintShop Pro is an affordable alternative to Photoshop. The tool has been in the industry for more than two decades with satisfied users. The latest 2023 version supports advanced AI-based editing tools.

    Feature highlights:

    • Frame tool (AI-based)
    • Background replacement tool (AI-based)
    • Denoise tool (AI-based)
    • Portrait mode (AI-based)
    • Text tools
    • RAW, HDR, and 360° camera support

    OS compatibility: Windows

    Price: $79.99

  6. ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate

    Popular opinions say this tool is one of the best pro-level software programs for retouching digital images. With a huge set of robust tools, ACDSee is a great tool one can avail themselves of.

    Feature highlights:

    • Outstanding Light EQ (equalizer) tool
    • Face recognition
    • Responsive browsing and editing
    • Geotagging
    • Effective skin retouching tools

    OS compatibility: Windows and macOS


    • $149.99 - Lifetime purchase
    • $8.90/month
  7. Capture One Pro

    The best RAW image editor for large teams of professionals. Initially known as Phase One, Capture One has rapidly become one of the ultimate choices for professional studio photographers and image editors.

    Feature highlights:

    • Smart adjustment tool
    • Layer-based style edit tool (AI-based)
    • Skin tone editing
    • Advanced color editor
    • Heal and clone brush tools

    OS compatibility: Windows and macOS


    • $299 - Lifetime purchase
    • $14.92/month
  8. Affinity Photo 2

    Affinity Photo is considered another handy Photoshop alternative with value for money. For anyone looking for a professional photo post-processing tool at a reasonable price, Affinity Photo is the one. The latest version offers further advanced editing features.

    Feature highlights:

    • Smart adjustment tool
    • Layer-based style edit tool (AI-based)
    • Skin tone editing
    • Advanced color editor
    • Heal and clone brush tools

    OS compatibility: Windows, macOS, and iPad

    Price: $69.99 - Lifetime purchase

  9. Radiant Photo

    Whether you are a first-timer or a pro editing specialist, Radiant Photo can help you transform images into beautiful masterpieces. Also, with one-click AI-enhanced adjustments. This relatively new tool has already made its place among content creators, photographers, and photo editors.

    Feature highlights:

    • Multiple presets
    • Subject recognition
    • Portrait controls
    • Smart editing tools (Radiant Tone, Radiant Color, Radiant Detail, Radiant Portrait)

    OS compatibility: Windows and macOS

    Price: $159 - Lifetime purchase

  10. CyberLink PhotoDirector 365

    The last entry to our list of paid picture retouching tools is PhotoDirector 365, by CyberLink. It is an all-in-one editing suite that comes with some powerful tools and a user-friendly interface. It also offers several tutorials for beginners.

    Feature highlights:

    • Content aware features
    • Multiple exposure effect
    • AI-style transfer
    • AI blur fixing
    • People beautifier

    OS compatibility: Windows and macOS

    Price: $54.99 - Lifetime purchase (PhotoDirector 12 Ultra)


That’s all, folks! It’s time to wrap up our detailed resource on photo editing, its history, types of photo editing, image retouching techniques, and, of course, the different photo retouching and enhancement software available online.

Hope this comprehensive article could give you adequate insights into the concept. It’s over to you now. Brace yourself with the software mentioned above, and start your editing workflow.

Alternatively, if you require any professional help, consult the experts. Several professional photo editing companies are there that offer stellar Photoshop services. Reach out to such a team and enhance your brand recall, conversion, and revenue. Good luck!