The Basic Rule with Photoshop: Less Is More

This may seem like something so basic that it’s basically for beginners, but since most members of our community are more or less beginners up to some extent, this post is for them. Becoming a professional photographer is a continuous and very challenging process, and some of us never manage to transition properly from being an amateur photographer to becoming a pro. That is perfectly fine, of course, since having photography as a hobby is rewarding enough in itself, and most of us are in need of a job before we can make it as a pro, but these tips are still useful if you’re trying to have ago at it, and even if you don’t.

To get to the point of this post, photo editing is a big part of the photography process, and most photo editing is done via Photoshop, but most beginners tend to overdo it. We’ve previously talked about portfolio mistakes which are easy to make, but didn’t include this one in them as the post would have become too long. The bottom line is that when a potential client notices anything that seems a bit fake within your previous works, they might be understandably put off by it. The one rule to keep in mind is that when it comes to editing, less is more. Let’s develop on that a bit.

The most common Photoshop fails (are not what you expect).


Photoshop mistakes are a very common source of fun and jokes all over the internet. There are numerous posts which just seem to centralize and present the most appalling editing fails one can find online. While most of them are definitely funny, it should go without saying that this isn’t the kind of thing we’re talking about here. Of course no serious photographer or aspiring one is going to do something as preposterous as cropping extra family members in a portrait or anything like that! But there are more subtle ways in which you can fail if you forget the basic less is more rule.

The main areas where you may get in trouble are the colors (and especially the overall color temperature) and the contrast. This is the areas that need a bit of retouching most often, and also the areas where you may get a little overeager and keep adding a bit just because you’re excited about how you can turn something ordinary into something wonderful and full of impact. If you’re having trouble properly assessing where you should stop, the best thing to do is to further your photo editing education. Look at many good pictures, as many as possible. Soon enough your eye will be trained to detect a too much or too little when it comes to contrast, enhanced colors and color temperatures.

When in doubt, less is more.

To make sure you find the perfect balance and train your hand to not go overboard with the editing, we would suggest starting with something a bit more basic than Photoshop. Why don’t you try Google’s Picasa instead? Even if Photoshop will still remain something you need to get more skilled with, you can use Picasa just for its auto contrast and auto color enhancement features. You can also make your pictures warmer or colder, color-wise, depending on the idea you’d like to transmit. With this kind of help, it will be harder to forget that less is more and any change will be easy to undo.

Have patience and remember: it’s preferable to not edit your photos enough than to aim for a more visually compelling result only to come up with something that seems off. Your clients and portfolio viewers may not have the photography skills to easily spot mistakes, but they too can instinctively sense that less is more and there’s just something unclean about an overly edited photo. Take it slow until your train your hand and good luck with your contrast settings.