Photo Editing Tutorial

Kiwi (Photoshop, levels)

There is not a recipe for a good photo. There is no perfect camera, there is no perfect lens, and there is no perfect lightning. There is only a perfect shot. And what is a good photo is a highly subjective matter. I am not tending to elaborate on this matter as ther are already just perfect tutorials on basics of food photography from Lolo and Helen for My Cooking Hut. I decided to show you how to do some simple editing of your photos. I chose a tungsten day on purpose, as I knew photos would get darker and set White Balance to Auto and had no additional lightning but the daylight. I have a Canon EOS 350D and shoot my images in RAW format. If your camera has that option, and you’re still not using it, I suggest you begin. There is a software that came with my camera, but as it’s Canon’s, I’ll show you how to edit photos in Photoshop.

Kiwi (Original, Rebel)Kiwi (Photoshop)

Left: RAW image; Right: curves edited

So, what have I done? In Photoshop, click Image->Adjustements->Curves. It will open a small window like on the photo bellow. Move the line in the direction of the arrow until you’re satisfied with the result. In order to save it as JPEG you’ll have to switch to 8 Bits/Channel (Image->Mode->8 Bits/Channel). RAW image processing operations are performed at 16 Bits/Channel or greater, and Photoshop won’t let you save it as JPEG if it’s higher than 8 Bits/Channel.

Editing Curves in Photoshop


Kiwi (Photoshop, auto levels)Kiwi (Photoshop, levels)

Left: Auto Levels did nothing smart; Right: manualy adjusted levels, much better.

Another useful tool is Levels. There is an Image->Adjustments->Auto Levels, and sometimes it can work miracles, but it was powerless with my kiwi. Manual adjustment is always the best solution (Image->Adjustments->Levels). The photo I got with Level adjustments is not too different than the one with the curves tool, but the white background is whiter, and my kiwi looks more natural.

Editing Levels in Photoshop
No RAW? Don’t Worry :)

Kiwi (Original 2)Kiwi (Photoshop) 2

Left: Original JPEG shot with PowerShot A460; Right: curves adjusted

Kiwi (Photoshop, auto levels) 2Kiwi (Photoshop, levels) 2

Left: Auto Levels; Right: Manually adjusted levels

For comparison, I tried shooting the same photo with my old camera, Canon PowerShot A460 in Macro mode (that is a flower option). I placed examples of both methods I used. It’s not perfect, but it’s something. And much better than grayish original.

With my photos, mostly I use curve editing tools, but that’s just me :) On a perfect sunny day, you wont need any editing. And for the advanced users, there are many ways to set up a good lightning (Lowel EGO or a DIY version of the same, but more on that in some later post).


If you’re looking for some free photo editing software, I highly recommend GIMP – The GNU Image Manipulation Program. GIMP doesn’t natively work with RAW images. But, there is a small plug-in that will make him to. First, install the GIMP, then UFRaw and you’re all set :)


Importing UFraw manager. Arrow on the left shows slider for exposure setting, and the one on the right shows tabs for White Balance, Curves, Color, etc.

After exporting the file into the GIMP (by clicking OK), most of the other options are pretty much the same as in Photoshop.

GIMP (brightnes,contrast)

Brightness/Contrast slider in Gimp

And here is how the kiwi looks like after GIMP. Nice?

Kiwi (GIMP)

There is another high quality free image manipulation program – Paint.NET. But, it requires Microsoft .NET Framework to be installed on the machine. Working with it is pretty much the same as in Photoshop and GIMP. So, if there are any geeks here with VS, I know you won’t need instructions on how to install ;) Just give this program a try, you will be very happy with it :)

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  • Medena (-Melitta-) February 19, 2009 8:33 am

    Wow, you’re the best!!! Wonderful tutorial!!! Thank you!

  • nlo February 19, 2009 9:02 am

    slažem se s Medenom:)) svaka čast i hvala!!!

  • Andrea February 19, 2009 9:21 am

    Bravo Marija, odličan post!Ja se zbog prirode svog posla svakodnevno koristim photoshopom tako da sam upoznata s većinom stvari ali ipak mi je ponešto bilo i novo. Sigurna sam da će ovo mnogima pomoći.Moj fotić ima i Raw format ali ga često zaboravim prebaciti na njega.;) Da je lakši za kasnije hendlanje je istina i mislim da ću ga u budućnosti puno više koristiti. Tvoje fotke su lijepe i bez obrade pa s njima nema puno posla ali photoshop nije čarobni alat i lošoj slici će teško pomoći. :)

  • makarone February 19, 2009 9:22 am

    Pa, ti si majstor, pravi geek, meni je sve to komplikpvano, nikad nisam radila u photoshopu…ali vreme je da probam :-)))

  • Dragana February 19, 2009 9:33 am

    I have been using my little Cannon PowerShot with a jammed lens so far! I also edit in Word and then Paint. We recently bought a Cannon EOS Rebel XSi but I haven’t had much chance to use it (reading the manuals is not a favorite pasttime for me!). Your tutorial will help tremendously when I figure it out. Hvala!

  • Rosa’s Yummy Yums February 19, 2009 11:40 am

    Great tutorial! Thanks for sharing these tips with us!Cheers,Rosa

  • Snooky doodle February 19, 2009 12:38 pm

    wow this is great! I ll have to try these :) thanks alot and alot :)

  • kellypea February 19, 2009 1:34 pm

    Great information and examples! I recently began experimenting with RAW and also with curves and really like what it does. Now I need some patience!

  • Vera February 19, 2009 1:57 pm

    hvala puno,bas si me obradovala!

  • mycookinghut February 19, 2009 2:48 pm

    Great photoshop tutorial!

  • farida February 19, 2009 2:54 pm

    Great tutorial, Marija! You took the time to show us all the tricks and tips that go into food photo editing. Thank you. I love your photos – they are smooth and soft. I use curves and levels too.I don’t take pics in raw but I think I should, especially for my cookbook.

  • Nathalie February 19, 2009 3:42 pm

    Thank you for this very helpful tutorial! It will certainly help me make and publish better pictures :)

  • Passionate About Baking February 19, 2009 8:56 pm

    WOW Marija. I've saved this brilliant piece of work. Will read it at length & follow it step by step! Fantastic!!

  • maslinka February 20, 2009 1:00 am

    fantastican post :)

  • mamajac February 20, 2009 1:22 am

    Odlican tekst, jasan i koncizan.Bravo Marija!

  • SweetSensation February 20, 2009 1:53 am

    super tutorial! dragi i ja smo počeli konačno sastavljati tutorial za izradu homemade osvjetljenja…nadam se da će se uskoro naći na mom blogu :)

  • Gurma February 20, 2009 3:24 am

    ovo je genijalno, i ja bih se time trebala pozabaviti, ali do sad nisam imala od koga naučiti tako da će mi ovo jako puno pomoći, HVALA =D

  • 5 Star Foodie February 20, 2009 12:11 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing these tips. I use the levels and other things but I didn’t know about the curves. Very useful!

  • Jessica604 February 20, 2009 5:12 pm

    Thanks for the simplistic tutorial!Now all I have to do is wait for the perfect shot. :)

  • CRIS February 21, 2009 1:34 pm

    Great post,thank you!!!we want more.You have an amazing blog , congratulations.

  • Maureen February 22, 2009 1:40 am

    Thanks for this tutorial. Very clear and I can’t wait to get home to try it.

  • heidileon February 24, 2009 6:42 am

    Marija, can I be honest? I have never used photoshop because I found it very difficult to me (shame on my).I’m a newbie at photography and I’m still learning how to use my new Canon 40D, but now after reading your post I feel more confident and def will give photoshop a try….thank you so much for posting these tutorial, keep doing it!

  • baobabs March 10, 2009 8:31 pm

    Thanks for this, it was really helpful!!

  • Gayathri January 17, 2010 11:55 pm

    Great tutorial. The instructions shared through this photo editing tutorial is really very useful. Simply well-explained. Keep blogging. Thanks.

  • Anonymous August 30, 2010 9:07 am

    Excellent !!!!!!! Please keep posting …. :)

  • fYen September 15, 2010 6:42 am

    Love it..thanks a lot :D

  • web designer January 14, 2013 4:11 am

    Thank you for making the only actual tutorial that I’ve been able to find. Other ‘tutorials’ haven’a actually explained how to do things, but you did so, very clearly..

  • MD Yusuf April 17, 2014 12:46 pm

    Love this article

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