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Lightroom: How to Improve and Edit Point and Shoot Photos

Updated on September 1, 2014

What's Your Preferred Photo Editing Software?

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A point and shoot camera can produce images that are on equal footing with DSLR photographs. To achieve this, a simple editing program (such as Photoshop or Lightroom) will allow you to enhance your photos and make the most of each pixel you've captured.

In certain situations, like going to Disneyland, you don't really want to lug around a DSLR camera, but you still want that polished look to your photos.

For this guide, I'll be using Lightroom, as it's my personal preference, but Photoshop or the free image editing program GIMP can achieve the same results. My point and shoot camera is a Canon 330 EPLH, which I have linked to the right. It does pretty well in most situations (grainy in low light as usual). It's also a bit too dark on the shadows for my tastes which I easily correct later.


How Can I Improve My Point and Shoot Photos?

While Point and Shoot cameras don't have RAW capabilities, there is more of a limitation in how much you can do to each photograph. Anything that is overexposed or blown out, cannot be recovered, as there is no information available in the compressed file your camera saves your image into.

However, shadows and underexposed images can be fixed to a certain extent. You can also add color correction which will drastically change your photos. Below is an example of how applying and simple color shift and bringing up the shadows can make this snapshot look more like a pro photos.

Example of lifting shadows and applying a warmer tone to achieve a more professional looking photograph.
Example of lifting shadows and applying a warmer tone to achieve a more professional looking photograph. | Source

Where Do You Start?

The first thing you want to do is look at your photograph. Is the color correct on it? Or did it get left on the fluorescent setting by accident? A lot of cameras allow you to set the white balance manually. Make use of this!

Usually I start with the major issues first, them move onto more artistic choices such as adding filters, borders, and adding a color tone to the photo.

Here's a quick checklist to look for when editing your photograph:

  1. Is the white balance set correctly?
  2. How's the contrast? Too much shadows? Highlights too prominent?
  3. How's the focus? Can it be sharpened?
  4. How's the color? Would it look better with more vibrancy or saturation?
  5. Are there any filters that would make this a better photograph?

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Unedited point and shoot photo.Raising the shadows of the photograph.Lowering the highlights to bring the sky darkerRaiding the black portion of the image to create a more 'dreamy' look to this photoFinally, I added a touch more to the vibrancy of this photo.
Unedited point and shoot photo.
Unedited point and shoot photo. | Source
Raising the shadows of the photograph.
Raising the shadows of the photograph. | Source
Lowering the highlights to bring the sky darker
Lowering the highlights to bring the sky darker | Source
Raiding the black portion of the image to create a more 'dreamy' look to this photo
Raiding the black portion of the image to create a more 'dreamy' look to this photo | Source
Finally, I added a touch more to the vibrancy of this photo.
Finally, I added a touch more to the vibrancy of this photo. | Source

Walk-through of Editing a Photograph

I'll be using the photograph on the right. At a first glance the very first thing that stands out is that this photo is WAY too dark on the lower portion, and that shadows are also very heavy on this whimsical photograph of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse.

  1. The first thing I'm going to take is to bring up the shadows. I do this simply by sliding the shadows slider all the way to 100. Already this makes this photo 1000x better.
  2. Next I brought down the highlights a little to allow the sky to be a bit more blue.
  3. An artistic decision: I prefer my images to be less contrasty, especially on a photograph that would suit to be a little more soft and dreamy looking. To achieve this, I simply raised the 'black' slider.
  4. Next I usually would increase the clarity, but this photo didn't need it, so increased the vibrancy to make the colors pop a little more.

More Examples of Editing Point and Shoot Photos

Click thumbnail to view full-size
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Other Ways to Improve Your Photos

Even though you're only using a point in shoot, it is still vital to consider your composition, lighting and your focal point. After all, you don't want it to just look like a plain old snapshot. Be mindful of shadows and especially keep in mind the places where your images is overexposing as you won't be able to fix this! Sometimes just shifting the camera or changing a few settings on your camera will prevent this.

Want to Improve Your Photographs?

If you're interested in some more of these advanced techniques, I've written several Photography tutorials that will improve your eye for composition and improve your photos.

Whenever I'm am setting up to take a pictures, I always keep the following things in mind (it starts to become second nature after a while!) These are just examples, every photograph and background poses different questions.

  1. What is my focal point? A person, a certain flower a landscape?
  2. Is there anything that will make the pictures look funny? Branches sticking out of someone's head, someone standing behind someone else...
  3. How's the lighting? Are there dark shadows on a person's face that will ruin the photo? Is there enough light and how can you use natural lighting to your advantage.
  4. Are you using the right angle? Would it look better from a different perspective?
  5. Is there enough room for your subject? (A person's head or feet isn't cut off or too close to the edge)

A Walk-through via Video Format

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