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Doing your own photography – editing and colour management

  |   Northlight Blog, Northlight Information, Photography Business

Doing your own photography

Editing images and colour management

Whilst taking your own photos isn’t difficult, being able to edit them and handle colour can give them just the edge you need for using them to promote your business.

Part 4 of our series of articles aimed at helping small businesses.

Part 1 | Part 2Part 3 | Part 4

Northlight Images’ Karen Cooper takes a look at some of the technical issues you may need to tackle when doing your own photography for your business

sw240 and orange flowers

Better Photos 4 – Editing and colour management

While it’s tempting to use images straight out of the camera – in the same way many people use photos from their phone on social media – it’s highly likely that to get the professional images you need to promote your business, you’ll need to do at least some editing or processing of your images.

Here are some tips to get you started – and you can take a look at our previous article Better Photos 2 for a short list of editing software.

Image Formats

If you’ve followed our previous recommendation and have a DSLR camera you’ll find it can shoot in both JPEG and RAW formats and can actually take pictures in both formats at the same time – which is what we strongly recommend.

In general JPEGs are easier to use and quicker and easier to view.

JPEG files have been edited by the camera and so, any further editing is very limited.

RAW files, however have not been edited by the camera, leaving you with far more options when editing.

The golden rule:

The most important rule about editing any photograph is to ALWAYS remember to rename an image after you’ve edited it – in exactly the same way you would edit and re-name a template document. This means you’ll never ‘overwrite’ and replace the original image/camera file and so will always have it to go back on and perhaps reuse and re-edit in the future.

  • Work out before you crop an image what space you need to fill on your website/publication – trying to ‘force’ an image into a space on a website that it does not fit, so for example an square shot in a oblong space, will distort the image
  • Know what you want the photo to look like before you crop it – or experiment with the cropping tool until you get a photograph you like. If you follow the golden rule of re-naming the image once it’s cropped you’ll always have to original shot to go back on and try again
  • Remember – if you want a ‘landscape’ shaped picture or a ‘portrait’ photo, then that’s what you need to take. There will always be a limit to how much you can change the shape of a photo in cropping without losing too much detail
  • Think about using cropping to change/improve the emphasis of a picture. This is why you should never delete an image – it may be possible that with cropping you can create a ‘new’ photo
  • The larger the original file, the tighter you’ll be able to crop without losing detail and sharpness
  • For maximum flexibility, take several shots in different orientations – you never know which might work best in six months time


Two different versions of the same photo of a Griffon, part of a fountain. The detail shows the head and water, but the full shot gives more context and leaves space for an overlay of text at the right.



How you are going to use your final image will influence the amount of sharpening you need.


  • Over sharpening can leave a ‘halo’ around the parts you’ve sharpened that, in print or on the web, can be very obvious and often unattractive
  • Thumbnail (i.e. small) images usually benefit the most from sharpening
  • Photos for large scale printing – banners etc – may only need careful, selective sharpening
  • On photos of people the key is to make the eyes sharp – either when taking the photo or in software
Brightness and Contrast:

If your photos are either too dark or too bright or the balance between the light and dark areas is too great, then you can correct the image in software.

Brightness: if your photo is too bright or too dark simply adjust the brightness levels in the software until you have an image you are happy with.

Contrast: Is the balance between the light and dark areas in your photograph. High contrast has lots of bright areas with little in between. Low contrast reduces the amount of highlights and shadow. Again adjust the levels in your software to suit your needs.

Remember – brightness and contrast work hand in hand. Start with brightness then go on to adjust the contrast and go back and forth between the two if necessary until you have an image you are happy with.

Colour editing:

Colour is often a matter of taste and you may wish to adjust the strength of a colour/colours depending on how you want to use the image.

Most software packages will give you control over the strength of a colour from washed out to vivid and intense, often with subtle changes in between.

Again experiment with the colour adjustments in the software you have until you reach to look you’re after.

Black & White conversion:

Always take the original photograph in colour – the black and white mode on most cameras is very restrictive. Converting from a colour version will give you more options as you will have more control over how different colours are mapped to grey tones, so giving you the option of different tonal ranges.

Most software packages will give you a number of style options when creating a black and white image – experiment until you find a look you like.

If you want to know more about black and white photography and printing there is an index page covering Keith’s hundreds of B&W articles and reviews.

mixed conversions Wyoming

How different black and white looks can come from the same colour photo

Keith has a short video explaining more about converting to B&W

Managing Colour

Colour management is a bit of a dark art but, if you master even the basics, it should give you the best chance of showing accurate, consistent colour – and so is particularly important when using photographs to sell a product.

Steps to good colour management:
  • Don’t have your monitor set too bright or use it in direct sunlight
  • Calibrate your monitor – and do it regularly – then you can be sure when you edit your photos that colour representation is as consistent and accurate as your monitor is capable of
s5 pro calibration

One calibrator will work on your laptop and any other computers you use

  • Don’t get hung up about how other people see the colour of your images. Your PC screen will show colour differently to your colleagues and colour will look different again on your phone or tablet – even if you’re viewing the same page. There is no such thing as an exact colour match from device to device – and trying to find it a guaranteed path to madness
  • Avoid CMYK – if you can’t, always duplicate the original photo first. CMYK conversion is a destructive process and you’ll not be able to reverse it and return to the original colour photo file once you have converted it
Help is at hand…

Convinced you now want – and need – to take your own photos but don’t know where to start?

We offer bespoke photography training courses that will teach you everything you need to know

Doing your own photography Part 1 | Part 2Part 3 | Part 4