How to Make Pictures Look Professional: Photo Editing Tips 📸

  • Design & Creative
Contra Tips
· 7 min read

Master the art of photography! In this comprehensive guide, discover how to make pictures look professional, even as a beginner.

Lights, camera, action! Capturing picture-perfect moments isn’t just for professionals anymore, but what if you’re a photographer without formal training? 

Navigating the world of professional photography might seem daunting, and understandably so. After all, mastering the art of post-production is no simple feat. Even seemingly easy tasks such as adjusting an image’s brightness, contrast, and shadows can wind up being a complex affair. Nevertheless, producing high-quality images is a must for many Independents. The good news? Technology is here to help.

In this guide, we’ll dive into how to make pictures look professional, including the best way to edit photos, need-to-know photography hacks, and cutting-edge tools to help you create stunning images for your clients.

Mastering the pro look 🤳

Producing professional photos may seem complicated, but it’s not as hard as it looks, even without an expensive camera. With today’s technological advancements, you only need a smartphone, the proper know-how, and a few simple supplemental tools.

To learn how to edit photos professionally, consider the art of lighting, contrast, and editing — these are the skills you need to enhance your images. They’ll give you confidence, add a professional look and feel to your photos, and help you meet your client’s expectations while elevating your brand. 

What makes a photo look professional? 🔥

Making a picture look pro is all about balancing several vital elements to reach its overall quality and visual appeal. Carefully fine-tuning the following technical aspects will help you achieve a polished final product: 

Good lighting 💡

There’s a reason why professional photographers obsess over lighting — getting it right is the most essential element in capturing a great photo. Ensure your subject is well-lit and keep shadows to a minimum to avoid harsh contrasts and unflattering effects. Choose unique, exciting lighting when possible, and always consider the time of day when shooting outdoors.

Correct exposure 🎞️

Adjusting your exposure setting — the amount of light the camera captures — prevents your photos from being too light or dark and to help preserve the details in highlights and shadows. Control the exposure through the aperture, ISO, or shutter speed. While this is a tricky element of photography to learn, it’s well worth the effort. 

Correct contrast 📽️

Contrast, the difference between a photo’s darkest and lightest areas, requires a delicate balance. Doing this well adds depth, dimension, and visual interest to photos. This element can make or break how appealing an image is to viewers. 

Visual symmetry 🎨

Professional photos often appear balanced and harmonious. This is because they incorporate elements of symmetry, leading lines, and the rule of thirds to create pleasing compositions. 

Sharpness 🪒

A crisp, sharp image conveys excellent attention to detail. Numerous elements can influence the clarity of an image, making it challenging to pinpoint the exact cause of reduced sharpness. That said, one surefire way to improve the sharpness of your pictures is to have your subject in focus. You can also use editing software to enhance a photo’s sharpness and clarity. 

Perspective 🖼️

Professional photographers often utilize specialized perspectives. This approach boosts the impact of images — for example, a portrait taken from a low angle evokes a sense of authority and power. Similarly, high vantage points are helpful when capturing landscapes — a bird’s eye view is visually engaging. Play around with perspective to enhance your photography skills. 

How to make iPhone pictures look professional ✨

Whether you’re using an iPhone, Android, or digital camera, elevating your images to make them look stunning takes less effort than you might think. 

Here’s how to take professional photos: 

  1. Choose the correct aperture. Selecting the appropriate aperture setting for your image makes a huge difference. A smaller aperture (higher f-number) increases the depth of field, making your image sharper, while a larger aperture (lower f-number) creates a blurred background.
  2. Correct the white balance and exposure. It’s all about the settings. Adjust your camera’s white balance and exposure settings to ensure accurate color representation and control how much light gets in. 
  3. Adjust the lighting and contrast. Get creative with your lighting and contrast settings to create interesting images. Experiment with lighting sources and angles to balance light and shadow and add depth by boosting the contrast.
  4. Remove distractions. Take a look at your photo. Do any elements detract from your subject? Eliminate these to ensure a clean, focused composition.
  5. Don’t overcrop. Avoid cropping or cutting off too much of your image, which can lead to a loss of detail or an awkward composition.
  6. Adjust the saturation and vibrance. Enhance your photos by adjusting their saturation and vibrance. Learning basic color theory is a great way to do this effectively. Avoid over-adjusting, as this can throw the appearance of your photo off. 
  7. Apply the rule of thirds. Divide your frame into thirds and position your subject in the left, right, or top or bottom third. This composition technique creates a visually pleasing, balanced image by leaving two out of three-thirds open. 

The best photo editing tools 💫

Numerous photo editing tools are available for beginners looking to enhance their photos. These offer a broad range of filters and preset modes — they’re so easy to use that it’s almost like automatically editing your pictures. 

However, we encourage Independents to follow our tips to learn how to produce outstanding professional photographs on their own, without automatic settings. By exploring and investing time in learning to use these photo editing tools, you can create professional photographs that exceed your and your client’s expectations. 

Adobe Lightroom CC ☀️

Lightroom CC is a powerful, cloud-based editing tool available for web, desktop, and mobile. The new, enhanced version of Adobe Lightroom Classic, Lightroom CC allows you to organize, edit, and share your photos easily. Intuitive and streamlined, it offers a range of advanced features and presets, making it suitable for beginners and professionals alike. Lightroom CC is available through a subscription-based plan, to be purchased on its own or alongside other Adobe software.

Adobe Photoshop 🖌️

Adobe Photoshop is a comprehensive editing tool with advanced features and capabilities for photo manipulation, retouching, and compositing. It’s a popular choice amongst photography Independents, but may have a steeper learning curve for beginners than other programs. It’s available for Windows and Mac through a subscription-based plan.


A mobile app known for its stylish filters, VSCO is one of today’s top photo and video editors. Catering to beginner and advanced photographers, it has more than 200 quality presets and tools and a curated photo option. Available on Apple and Android, VSCO offers a free version with basic editing tools, while subscribing unlocks additional features and presets. 

Afterlight 💥

Available for both iOS and Android devices, Afterlight is a user-friendly photo editing app that offers a variety of powerful filters and adjustment tools. The basic version of the app is free to download; the paid version includes access to premium features. 

Join the Contra community 👪

With our helpful tips and tricks, achieving professional-quality photos is within reach for Independents and clients! 

If you’re seeking skilled Independent photo editors to help you reach your goals, browse our Discover feed. We’re the perfect place to research and book freelancers from all over the world. 

If you’re an Independent offering photography services, join Contra to expand your creative reach and find a broad network of suitable clients. Our platform is commission-free and designed with your needs in mind. For more insights on growing your independent business, browse The Contrarian’s helpful archive of blog posts for tips and tricks on everything from becoming a freelancer and growing your online business to rocking project deliverables, getting more views on TikTok, and making more money.

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