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editing photos {sort of} like a pro

    If I could, I would have our family photos taken every few months. I absolutely adore having professional photos done. But, alas, photographers can be spendy and so I have to be realistic about the frequency of scheduling shoots.

    My sweet girl turning 18 months did not quite merit a photo shoot. At least not by a professional.  Instead, I thought I’d pretend and do a photo session myself. So last week I grabbed a torn up chair {that I will someday recover}, headed out to the empty lots in our development and snapped away at my baby who is really not a baby anymore.

    Once the photos were taken, I realized that good photos are great but what I really love about a professional photographer is his/her ability to edit. And so, I thought I’d give that a shot as well.  The gorgeous photos on Jennifer’s blog {dear lillie} and her helpful photoshop tutorial gave me the encouragement I needed.

    What I learned was that ACTIONS make all the difference {at least for us photoshop beginners}. An action, in case you are new to the whole photoshop editing world, is a set of pre-designed  functions that automatically adjust your photo. All you have to do is press play. Seriously, it is super easy. From there, you can adjust the settings to make it just right for your liking.

    I found a few great resources for actions – both free and paid – and have enjoyed playing around with the photos of Audrey. Here are my results:


    {straight out of the camera – or SOOC, as the pros say}

    side clean edit

    {using Paint the Moon’s essentials and miracle makeover actions}

    side sweet vintage copy

    {adding Florabella’s sweet vintage action}



    on the grass clean edit on the grass vintage summer II

    {on the left: Paint the Moon’s essentials & miracle makeover actions and Pioneer Woman’s boost

    on the right: added Florabella’s summer vintage II action}

    The next photo was a little tricky for me because I think it was too washed out to begin with. I still have quite a bit of learning to do as far as basic camera operation goes!



     standing in chair boost standing in chair vintage summer

    {on the left: a mix of Pioneer Woman’s actions and Paint the Moon’s essentials

    on the right: added Florabella’s summer vintage}



    vintage laying

    {Florabella’s vintage action}



    vintage hug

    {Florabella’s vintage action}

    And one more:



    in yellow

    {Paint the Moon’s essentials and miracle makeover actions}

    bw beauty

    {adding Pioneer Woman’s b&w beauty}

    I know I have much more practicing to do, but I am really excited about the results.

    zig zag

    Here are some very helpful resources if you would like to give photo-editing a try.

    The first is Paint the Moon – an amazingly helpful site where you can purchase actions, watch how-to videos and view lots of before & afters.


    There are also a handful of freebies on Paint The Moon’s facebook page.

    Paint the Moon Free Action Samplers {here}

     Paint the Moon Free Facebook Exclusive {here}

    Next is the Flora Bella Collection. I love the dreamy, vintagy feel you get when you use these actions. There are many different sets to choose from {I bought vintage, but hope to add more over time} and they are very easy to use.

    The lovely Shana has even offered a discount to JDC readers : just enter JONES10 to receive 10% off your order.


    The Pioneer Woman has created a bunch of free actions which are also great {I especially like boost and bring on the eyes}


    {download here}

    zig zag

    I know very little about photography, but I love taking pictures. I have a Canon Rebel XTi {similar to this one on amazon}. We bought ours a few years ago at Costco and have been very happy with the camera and lenses that came in the bundle.

    Someday soon I am hoping to take Ashley Ann’s SnapShop course to learn how to shoot manually.  If you are a beginner photographer and want to improve, I’m pretty sure this online class would be amazing.


    I know that was a very long-winded post, but I hope it inspires you to take a few extra photos and edit them like a pro. Sort of.

    54 thoughts on “editing photos {sort of} like a pro”

    1. Ahh! I agree completely! I love getting new photos taken and printing large prints, but I am a terrible editor and some of the apps don’t work with large scale files. I just found and LOVE IT.

      It has helped me soo much with all of my projects and photography. As I continue to learn the ins and outs of photoshop, I will def. use this service!

    2. Awesome results! By the way, I hand-pick the best free Photoshop Actions from all over the web, from all different developers, and sort them into categories on my website!

      Have a browse through our collection of: Free Photoshop Actions, you may find ones you like, they are all free!

      Cheers and happy Photoshopping!!

    3. Emily, I was wondering if you (or any fellow readers) have any suggestions of a good photography blog to follow. I love photography and just got my first high power point-and-shoot (not quite an SLR, but enough for me). Let me know if you have anything!

    4. I’m loving that you’re getting into photography more! Now I’m not an expert, but I am a photographer, and I’d recommend a few things:

      1. Make sure you’re shooting in RAW. It gives a lot more control over the editing of the photo’s levels, exposure, and color.
      2. Compose your frame, focus, and wait for the right moment to take the picture. The first picture you posted has very nice framing.
      3. Learn to get good exposures in your camera’s manual setting. You want the SOOC to be very close to your finished product. Don’t just settle for “fixing it in Photoshop.”
      4. Learn about shooting in available light. Direct sun is pretty difficult to shoot in, the shadows can be very harsh. I recommend open shade and overcast skies.
      5. Please keep backups of your unedited photos. As a photographer, sometimes it concerns me when I see heavy “actioned” child photos. I’m praying that people like you and Dear Lillie are keeping the originals. The reality is as you grow in photography skill, and trends change, that pee-wash action is not going to be timeless. It’s going to be dated. So are things that are overly retouched, plastic looking skin, glossy eyes, unnaturally-brightened whites, and over-saturation. Saving the unedited originals means you can go back and re-edit those photos. Actions come and go, but natural, quality photos are always timeless.
      6. Finally, as you’re working on your photography, compare your photos with a real photographer’s work, and maybe check out some their tutorials.

      After a quick google search, I found a nice beginner tutorial on open shade



      1. I know your trying to be helpful….But I think her edited photos are classic and beautiful. They look as well done as many Child photographers in my area. I felt that her daughter was not overly poised, and while learning a few techniques will help they look great so far! I know plenty of professionals who edit a ton. I also know many who love natural light. While it is good to work off of, sometimes that hlowy feel is nice in pictures. Plus if she loves the pictures then they will always be timeless to her. I didn’t know we had to keep our family photos instyle. Shoot what you love, edit how you love, and hang them and enjoy. Most people won’t know the difference. Your daughter is beautiful! Thanks for the tips!

    5. what a great post! I’m just starting to learn all about taking pictures in manual mode, photoshop, composition, etc. Have you ever checked out That’s what I am using to learn photoshop and have found it to be immensely helpful. I just love it. Thanks for all the really useful links. Your shots look amazing!

    6. Wow…I’m sure that post took a lot of time to develop. Thank you so much for sharing that! You just saved me hundreds from buying a new camera lens.

    7. My girl (after two fun boys) will be 18 months in September…not far behind Audrey. Thanks for the photo tips. Your posts are so practical and easy to follow!

    8. Such a fun post! I am in LOVE with a photographer, Sheye Rosemeyer and her “eye candy actions and workshops” also. Lots of vintage, pink and whimsy. Her web site is just to live for! I think you would like it heaps and possibly stay up way too late going all around it, as I do. :)
      Thanks again for the step by step!

    9. My cousin got married on Saturday and since it was a backyard, low-budget wedding, my uncle took the pictures and I – a photoshop novice – have been charged with touching them up. This couldn’t have come at a better time! I feel so inspired to take her pictures and do amazingly beautiful things with them now! Thank you so much for sharing! :-)

    10. You’ve gotten a head start, having such a beautiful little girl! I like the Paint the Moon images best and need to check out their product! Your shots are impressive!

    11. This is such a timely post as I was just thinking about trying some myself. Your daughter is adorable and love the props (now I know why I have been hanging onto that broken antique chair in my garage)!
      I have a birthday coming up next week, I think I will put photoshop for my Mac on my wish list!

    12. Adorable! Your photos are just lovely. What a beautiful little girl! I vote to never refinish the chair! Leave it tattered. Well, at least until “tattered” goes out of style! :) Thanks for all the info!

    13. Your sweet little Audrey is such a beautiful child. I may be just a little biased because my Mom (who is also very sweet) is named Audrey. Your photos are wonderful and maybe someday I’ll take that photography class that I’ve always wanted to and be able to shoot some nice photos also.
      Thanks for sharing your photo editing tips!

      1. I would definitely get the Essentials or Makeover Magic by Paint the Moon. It is $70 for the bundle, but you can get your photos looking amazing with the tools. I love the skin smoothing, eye pop and exposure fix features on these.

        If you are looking for a more stylized way to edit your photos, florabella is great. They have more of the hazy, romantic looking actions.

    14. I’m also interested to know what version of Photoshop you use. I’ve been waiting to purchase Photoshop, but it’s pricey…now i’m really tempted!
      Thank you for sharing this with us. Good to hear from someone who is not a professional photographer!

    15. Emily,
      I was interested in photography before the digital age. Classes at local university said “film cheapest thing in your pack”. In other words shoot alot! They would remind us that you are really looking for one or two fabulous pics when you are doing a portrait. I liked the comment of working on camera skills. If you can master manual you can control light and depth of field. Have you ever seen a fabulous picture done by photographer where your children seem to be seperated from background where it is not as in focus as they are? Alot of the time that is the goal. On some cameras like my Nikon, they have an automatic setting called portrait, which goal is the same thing. When you learn f stop you will have control (as best you can with lighting conditions) over what is in focus by your depth of field being shorter for instance if you only want subject to be in sharp focus. Look at others photos and learn what you like from them. Classes help with exposure but they also should be helpful for construction of image. You can learn about things like the “rule of thirds” that will help with composition. I think you did a great job don’t take me wrong, just chatting! My last suggestion would be to do your photography of Audrey either in early morning or very late afternoon. Or if your schedule does not permit that, a cloudy day (not dark) would work. We learned in class that time of day was the magic hours where there was not harsh shadows. Because of your creativity you have an eye for photography. Can’t wait to see what you do in the future.
      Audrey is such a cutie. My twin grandsons are 16 months and they are so fun. By the way, love the name. That was my mother’s name and has been special to me because she died when I was 2.
      Have a blessed day!
      P.S. I need those sites also because I have fought against digital as long as I can. I love my B & W darkroom. I love film. But need to get with the new. I booked marked your post so I can work on my digital skills also.

    16. Thanks so much! This comes at a perfect time since I just bought a Canon Rebel. I also love editing pictures. I mostly use Picasa. These websites might have some new interesting edits. I can’t wait to start snappin.

    17. I know the Photoshop can do wonders, but I have never known which version of Photoshop to purchase. They all seem so expensive. Do you mind sharing which version of you have?

      1. Photoshop is expensive. I have CS3 – and outdated version, but it works just fine for what I need. Maybe someday I will upgrade.

        Many of these actions {especially the ones by Paint the Moon} are also available on Photoshop Elements which is much less expensive than the full version. You could try that instead of Photoshop.

    18. I love this post. I love taking pictures, but my editing skills are less than satisfactory……I definitely need to go play with some actions to see what it’s all about. Your daughter is gorgeous, by the way, just precious!

    19. I’ve been trying to teach myself a Photoshop a little to edit my photos – it’s hard! I have a very good friend who’s a PDX/Seattle based photographer and she’s really sweet, if you’re ever looking for anyone…

    20. I’m guessing these actions are only for photoshop though? I really love them, and wish I could afford photoshop, maybe in the future. For now I stick to cheap editing software and picnik. ;)

    21. Your daughter is adorable and I love the props you used, but it was so neat to see what additional polish that these tricks can add! Wow – I have taken notes as my interest in photography grows by the day! Thanks so much.

    22. I love all those! What a pretty baby girl you have! Another website that you can buy great action sites is!

    23. Love this post. I knew about Pioneer Woman’s but not about the other two. I am a beginner at this and I need a better camera – but this is great advice for when I get to the editing point.

    24. Glad you’re enjoying diving in a little more into photography! It’s a crucial investment in archiving your family’s memories!! I’d say the best advice I can give to any newbie photographer is to invest the lion’s share of their time in learning about their camera (how it functions and how to get control over it) and learning to see and use the light before spending much time in Photoshop- because almost everything that makes a photograph great happens before you ever click the shutter, and most pitfalls we may try to “fix” in Photoshop can actually be avoided altogether with command over our cameras and using available light to it’s best advantage. Have fun!!!

    25. Awesome job editing! I almost always run the PW Boost action on most of my photos…especially food photography. Coffee Shop blog also has a great assortment of actions to choose from. I’ll definitely check out the ones you suggested because I’m always looking for more actions..they’re addicting! :)

    26. Somebody little and sweet sure looks like her mommy! Just finished the Snapshop course, and it was very well done, and that chair is perfect for shoots! I have yet to try Photoshop – thank you for the push.

    27. Your editing turned out wonderful and your daughter is a beauty for sure!
      I’m glad you hadn’t recovered that chair yet- it really added feeling to all your pictures!

    28. beautiful pictures!! i took Ashley Ann’s SnapShops course and it was awesome! I highly recommend it. And of course, i love playing with my photos on photoshop too! It can totally eat up all my free time though :)

    29. your photos look amazing Emily!! great job. Audrey is so sweet. i wish i had your talent and a good camera to take sweet pictures of my little girls

    30. I continue to be amazed at how Photoshop actions can make me look like I know why I’m doing. ;-). These photos are great and your daughter is adorable – 18 months is such a sweet age. Bookmarking this for future reference!

    31. Great job, Emily! They look perfect! I have downloaded all of PW’s actions as well and LOVE them, especially Boost, Define and Sharpen, B&W Beauty, Fresh and Colorful, and any of the vintage ones. MCP Actions are also another favorite of mine. I have all of her free actions and use them ALL the time. High Definition Sharpening and Blog Basics are two actions that I use on pretty much every photo–I’m obsessed! Here is a link to her site: . You will love them!

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