Photo 101 – Post-Processing with Photoshop

I get a lot of questions from friends about post-processing, wondering how I edit images. I thought I would share a few tips that work for me. I use an iMac and Photoshop, so I get that this isn’t applicable to everyone. Since our Apple fans seem to be growing (Sorry Sarah 🙂 ), I thought I would share anyway.

I shoot primarily RAW images with a DSLR. Why shoot RAW instead of jpeg’s? ‘Cause their awesome, of course!

Okay, you proably wanted a real answer.

Jpegs images are already edited by your camera. They have a lot of information thrown out and are compressed files. By editing RAW images you have a higher quality image, all of the detail, and more control over the image as well.

So shoot RAW.

And don’t do drugs. And stay in school.

Very important stuff.

After taking a few photos, I am ready to upload them to my iMac. When I connect my camera to the computer my images are automatically uploaded into iPhoto.

I like to view images in iPhoto, but I don’t process them there as iPhoto imports them as jpeg files.

What many Mac users don’t know is that your computer also saves the RAW file in a folder titled “originals.”  You need to have your camera set to save RAW in the first place, but once you’ve done that they will be downloaded to your computer.

So, back to iPhoto. After previewing my images, I flag all of my favorites.

Then I make note of which ones I like and want to process in Photoshop. I write down the file title, which is the name it was given by my camera. The file names usually start with DSC and then follow by a number assigned by your camera. (DSC stands for Digital Still Camera.)

Then I open my Originals folder, located at the bottom of my screen. (We set up our computer so it would be located there. Do a search for yours and you can do the same.)

My originals folder saves my photo files by date, so I select the year, and then the specific day I shot my images.

After I find the correct month and day…

I select the right file. You can see that the file below is NEF, which is Nikon’s name for a RAW format.

From this folder I drag my photo into Photoshop.

When my file opens, this is what it looks like:

As you can see it is different than the typical Photoshop window. These are Photoshop tools set up for editing RAW images. The fabulous thing about editing in a RAW window, is that you can open up and edit multiple files at once. I know a lot of Photoshop users that edit a series of images one. At. A. Time.

Who has time for that????

If you shot a series of photos, and the lighting and color are similar, it makes so much more sense to edit your images together. This is super easy by editing one, highlighting the rest of the files, and then selecting “synchronize”.

Still with me?

Now, back to my file that I have open in Photoshop RAW.

After opening my image, the first thing I like to do is adjust the color, and sharpen my image. I don’t do this on every image I process, In fact there is no specific way I  edit all of my images. For the most part I adjust color and sharpening, but everything else depends on the quality of the image. For me the goal is to actually post-process as little as possible. But, if you love the uber trendy filters right now, you are going to spend more time working on your image afterward.

On a side note, when I sharpen my images, I always zoom into my image at 100% to get a good idea of what my sharpening tools is doing, and how the image will look.

When I am done editing in RAW, I will select “open image” on the bottom right hand side of the screen. This opens the image into the traditional Photoshop menu.

This is now the time that I like to use Actions if I feel it will enhance my image.

When I am done processing my image, I save the high res Photoshop file on two separate drives I have near my computer for photo storage.

If I want to print the image, I convert and save it as a jpeg.

If I want to use the image online on my blog or website, I need to resize the image. On my personal website my images are generally 500-700 pixels in size, so I first resize them to those dimensions.

Then I convert the color profile. I do this because it gives the image the best chance of looking correctly on someone else’s screen. In other words, I want what I see on my screen to look the same on yours. If my monitor is calibrated correctly for color, I want to make sure everyone that looks at my images online, see’s the image how I intended for it to look.

I choose SRGB because it is the web standard for color.

Then I save my file in a desktop folder I have titled Blog-Images. After I put these images online, I typically don’t save them in this folder since I have two high-res files backed up on my computer.

And that’s it! That is how I post-process my favorite photographs for printing, sharing, and archival purposes.

For me Photoshop paired with my iMac is the perfect combination. If you have favorite editing software, or a special trick to your post-processign, feel free to share in the comments!

On a side note, Apple recently announced that iPhoto will soon allow editing RAW images within the program. I would suggest sticking with Photoshop though, as your image quality will still be far better than when using iPhoto.



This post may contain affiliate links, which means I receive compensation if you make a purchase using the links.




About the author

Natalie Wright

Natalie Wright is a contributing writer at Organized Mom and Tech4Moms. You can also find her DIY blog online at

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