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The Beginner's Guide to Editing and Printing Photos

Since the earliest days of photography, people have wanted to improve the quality of the photos they create and be able to share them with others. When photos were all taken on film, editing them after the fact was much more difficult, and the only people who had the equipment and expertise to do this were professionals or very dedicated hobbyists. But the advent of digital cameras made it easier for hobbyists to edit and improve their pictures. Modern technology also gave everyone the ability to print their own photos. With film cameras, you needed a darkroom stocked with chemicals and equipment to make prints. Now, you can send images to a printer with a few clicks.

Photo Editing Software

Between apps, websites, and traditional software, there are a wealth of options available to help people do digital photo editing. The options range from free programs to pricey professional tools.

  • Picasa is a free software option. It allows users to crop photos, adjust contrast, manipulate shadows, and remove red-eye.
  • Online options like BeFunky, Fotor, and PicMonkey offer a range of editing options. All include essential abilities like cropping and white balancing. Each platform provides different advanced options, but each includes some graphic design capabilities, like placing the photo on a background or applying text. Some of these platforms are free, while others charge a monthly subscription fee.
  • Adobe makes both Lightroom and Photoshop. Lightroom is the less expensive alternative, and it offers robust photo editing and manipulation functionality. Many professional photographers use Lightroom. Photoshop is more costly. It provides the same robust photo editing as Lightroom but also offers graphic design tools for advanced photo manipulation.
  • Phone apps make editing and manipulating pictures taken with your phone incredibly easy. Some apps are designed with one particular purpose, like Instasize, which allows users to resize their photos to fit their desired social media platform. Other apps, like Snapseed, offer a full range of photo editing and manipulation tools. Afterlight and VSCO, which are apps that apply filters and also provide some other editing abilities, are also incredibly popular.

Photo Manipulation

Photo manipulation is a step beyond editing and improving photos. The advent of apps and photo editing software has made manipulation very popular, and today, many tutorials are available to help even complete beginners learn new skills.

  • Combining images is one common type of photo manipulation. Usually, this consists of adding a person or object to an existing photo.
  • Touching up photos is so prevalent now that most images people see of celebrities have been touched up to some degree. Removing skin imperfections and making the person appear slimmer are common manipulations.
  • What about replacing an entire face? Some internet pranks revolve around doctored photos in which a famous person's face has been grafted onto someone else's body.
  • The entire background of an object can be changed. For example, if someone is selling an item, they might want to cut out the original background of the photo and place the object on a pure white background, so potential buyers only see the object and don't get distracted by what's around it.


Printing digital photos can be simple as hitting "print" on a computer, but the best-quality images will take a bit more work than that. Digital images may need some preparation before printing. For instance, a low-resolution photo will not print clearly. Photos that will be printed should be saved at the highest resolution possible. The more megapixels the picture has, the better the quality of the printed image will be. It's also essential to choose the right file format. Most photos should be saved as a TIFF file or a low-compression JPG for printing. Pictures that include vector-based images (like logos) should be saved as a PDF when preparing them for printing. Also, make sure to save your images in CMYK format if they're going to be printed out: RGB photos will look muddy when they're printed.

Additional Resources