Photo Editing for Beginners

Photo editing for beginners can still feel like...a lot. Photo editing tools are kinda like power tools in that they each have a specific purpose and people can do amazing things with them, but sometimes you can’t help feeling that if you pick one up you’ll ch(r)op off a finger. Fret not, image-embettering novice. We’ve put together a quick rundown of photo editing basics so you can go from “I just don’t know!” to photo editing pro. Take a look, and we’ll help you add your favorite picture perfectors to your editing tool chest. But you’re gonna have to ask someone wearing an apron or toolbelt about that circular saw.

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Photo editing for beginners

The basics

Meet our lineup of basic-yet-powerful photo fixers. These tools frequently top lists of go-to edits. In PicMonkey, you’ll find them all in the Edits tab.

Hot tip: While you're getting your feet wet with basic photo editing, you can also use are Auto adjust button under Basic Edits to instantly edit your image. If you're not happy with the look or would rather do it yourself, just click Undo on the bottom toolbar.


Cropping and pictures are total BFFs, probably because cropping is the quickest way to remove distracting image elements and improve composition. The Crop tool under Canvas Edits makes it easy to crop to specific dimensions, scale your photo, and get it lookin’ right.


Whether your camera inverted your image or it’s just slightly askew, you can remedy it on the quick with the rotate handle at the top of the image. Use the Straighten slider in the Rotate tool under Canvas Edits for small adjustments, or click the arrows for a total flip.


Fix an under- or overexposed photo with this tool. Brightness adjusts your overall exposure, Highlights makes your bright tones brighter or darker, Mid Tones works on those not-so-bright-but-not-so-dark tones, Shadows makes the dark tones brighter or darker, and Contrast adjusts the difference between your light and dark tones.


Saturation dictates how intense your colors are. Go vivid and bright or subtle and washed out simply by adjusting the Saturation slider in Colors.


Sharpening has to do with line definition, and makes little details more apparent. There are a couple best practices when it comes to sharpening: zoom in close (at least 100 percent) to get a good idea of what happens to your image when you adjust the Strength and Clarity sliders, since over-sharpening can make your image look grainy. For best results, make sharpening the last item in your editing lineup.

Read more on basic photo editing in PicMonkey:

Touch up

No matter how great the subject of your photo looks, you can use touch-up tools to enhance it. The first rule of touch up (no, it isn’t “don’t talk about touch up”) is to not go overboard, or your subject can end up looking like some sort of alien/doll/clown hybrid. While you certainly can achieve that look if you really, really want to, we think using these tools for subtle, natural editing works best. You’ll find a list of photo-perfectors in the Touch Up tab.

Among PicMonkey’s plethora of tools are:

  • Teeth Whiten

  • Blemish Fix

  • Eye Brighten

  • Airbrush

  • Wrinkle Remover

Remember to adjust the Brush size and Fade sliders to achieve a natural look.

Creative stuff

Photo edits don’t always need to be incognito. Obviously altered photos can showcase your creativity. Get artistic with photo effects, give your pics a voice by adding text, add a frame, or pop a graphic on top of your image to give it a whole new feel. Here are a few reads to get you started:

Mobile editing

Now that you’ve got the rundown on how to improve your pics on your computer, let’s talk about on-the-go editing. PicMonkey mobile is kinda like a Swiss Army Knife with a bubble wand attachment: it has everything you need, nothing you don’t, and a little bit of fun mixed in.

Check out Adjust to alter the brightness, contrast, saturation, and temperature of your pics. Apply a little bit of Blur, crop in seconds, and apply effects (Orton and Boost are good go-tos) to perfect your photos while you’re out and about.

Hot tip: Apply a little bit of Soften to your mobile portraits to beautify them fast.

And if you’re a PicMonkey Pro subscriber or want to pony up a one-time $1.99 payment, you can get Presto, our one-touch photo editor that intelligently identifies facial features for automatic retouching; whiten teeth, smooth wrinkles, and unblemish the blemished with a single tap.

Other fantabulous tutorials to get you started

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This article was written by PicMonkey Staff, a multicellular organism of hive-minded sub-parts who just wanna get you the ideas and information you crave, so you can make powerful images that level up your business.