Improve Any Photo with These Three Simple Editing Steps

by Matt McMonagle from

I consider myself somewhat of a photograph gunslinger. I take shots from the hip, no look shots, hanging-out-of-the-window-of-a-moving-car shots. Some of them turn out great. Some of them don’t. Some just need work. For the images that aren’t solid gold straight out of camera, these three steps are the first and most important issues that I address to improve my photos. And luckily, it doesn’t matter if I’m editing in Lightroom, Photoshop, or even on my phone— any editing application worth it’s salt can help you with these three techniques.

Expose for the Subject

I believe that every picture should have at least one clearly defined subject. Whether it’s a person, a group of people, a sunset, or a plate of food; it doesn’t much matter. The subject is the star of your photo and it is the most important part of your image to have properly exposed.

I generally edit my photos in Lightroom and the quickest way I’ve found to get a decent exposure is to open the image in the Develop module (d) and use the (+) and (-) keys to respectively raise and lower the overall exposure of the image.

Photo: Matt McMonagle

Here’s an image that I took, straight out of camera. It looks a bit dark. Take notice of how bright her face looks, specifically. Her face is the subject of the photo. Her face is the exposure priority.

Here’s the same image, after raising the exposure. I ended up bumping the exposure +1.5. It’s starting to look better already!

Photo: Matt McMonagle

Level the Horizon

What do you notice about the photo that might seem just a bit off? Are you tilting your head ever so slightly when you look at it? Me too. So, what’s the problem? The picture is crooked, and especially apparent because of the perceived tilt of the horizon.

Want to learn more Photoshop techniques and tricks? Learn all the best shortcuts today.

My favorite way to level the horizon is to open (more on this article here)

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