Professional photographers regularly take photos and it is their regular task to edit them afterwards.

This is a question that we get asked a lot, both photographers who are starting their own business and setting their initial pricing and as well as the clients after they have done a photoshoot with a relevant agency or photographer.

The article written here should answer both groups of peoples. For the clients, you will be able to expect what other photographers do for you and for the photographers, who will be able to have a vivid idea about their day-to-day work that they are going to face in the future when their business starts running as professionals.

The article written here should answer both groups of peoples. For the clients, you will be able to expect what other photographers do for you and for the photographers, who will be able to have a vivid idea about their day-to-day work that they are going to face in the future when their business starts running as professionals.

Most of the time, it is seen that the time it takes to edit photos varies from project to project. Besides this, maintaining a good workflow, genre of the photoshoot and also the request from the clients will change the total timing of the edit. Usually, it is seen that around 8 to 12 minutes are taken to edit a simple to moderate product or landscape shot.

On the other hand, it might take around 20 to 25 minutes for a basic portrait, to up to 1 to 2 hours for a retouch. As a result, if the photographer does a batch of 10 images, this will generally take from 2 to 3 hours, up to 10 hours or more minimum. This will take further time because the photographer might have to do fine adjustments after the primary editing is done.

A lot of software is used to do this. A typical workflow can be done by software like Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom. Both of these are two of the most popular worldwide. People all over the world use them to do their workflow. Besides these, there are a lot of free software like GIMP that you can download and use for free. They are mostly open source and you can find a lot of people on the internet with vast libraries and helpful communities.

Now, we will tell you about different Photography types and how to edit them in an efficient way. Please keep in mind that what we are telling here is just an example of how we edit them in our company. There are many different ways how different companies use their workflows to complete their day-to-day work. In this article you will know about how long does it take for photographers to edit photos.

How Long Does It Take for Photographers to Edit Photos ( Step by step )

Food/ Landscape/ Street Photography

Most of the images that fall under these categories are done and edited using Adobe Lightroom. However, if there are special cases, then we sometimes use Adobe Photoshop to do the initial touch of the photos.


Step Number 1: Tweaking Your Technical and Other Adjustments (Usually Takes 1-5 Minutes)

This is the first and primary step that includes fixing cropping, transformation, lens distortion and other issues that we might face during photoshoot. Most of the time, since there is a limit of time, the photographer might not properly check each and every image that they take. As a result, we have to make sure that all the photos are in the correct settings.

Step Number 2: Adjusting the Brightness (Usually takes 4-5 minutes)

After completing the first step, we have to adjust the brightness, contrast, local shadow, and highlights of the photo. This can be easily done by checking the histogram. If you don’t know what a histogram is, it is basically a graph that shows all the different color, as well as the background details of the photo. Histogram gives us the ability to see details that are hard to spot with open eyes. This step will mostly show us how the active levels and parameters of the photos that we can tweak.

Step Number 3: Adjusting the Sharpness (Usually Takes Around 1 Minute)

Sharpness can also play a vital role while editing the photos and in fact, if the final image comes our blurred, then all the steps that we did before and will do after will be in vain. We don’t do this because the photos aren’t blurred, but in fact, most of the blurred images don’t even go to the final editing desk. We adjust sharpness just to add an extra flair to the photos.

However, we do have to keep in mind that we can’t really overdo them. Since making them extra sharp is going to break the ratio of softness and sharpness of the image. This is one of the shortest steps among all the editing steps that we have.

Step Number 4: Adjusting the Colors (Usually Takes 5-6 Minutes)

This is one of the most vital steps for photo editing that covers a wide variety of steps, ranging from covering white balance, calibrating the camera to working on the Saturation and Luminosity. It is really important to keep in mind that we need to always be aware of the level of colors because even a slight variation in this step will cause a lot of problems in the long run. As a result, we usually spend the longest time in this step.

Step Number 5: Working With Different Filters and Brushes (This Is an Optional Step) (Usually Takes 5 Minutes)

This is an optional step because this step mostly depends on the contents of the photo. If we find a photo that doesn’t need any additional filtering, we try to avoid this step. Most of the time if we have focus on a single subject, tools like these will definitely come in handy.

Total Time Needed (15-20 Minutes)

By factoring in the variables, each photo usually takes around 15-20 minutes if you are relatively new and if you become professional while mastering the software, you can definitely short it down to about 10-15 minutes. Therefore, if we have a batch of 10 photos, this would take around 2-3 hours of editing, if we want to complete the whole process in a single run.

A lot of times, it is seen that a single batch of photos will have different colors, even though they are taken under similar conditions. When this happens, I usually take all the edits together and put them in front of my screen. This is mainly done so that I can visually see the differences between each photo and if some of them don’t fit with the rest of the set, then I can make final adjustments to make them similar.

Basic Portrait Photography

Basic Portrait Photography

If it is not specified, most of our editing works of portrait are done using Adobe Lightroom. This is really because we most portraits usually need a small to a marginal amount of editing in the lighting and other color specific tweaks.

Step Number 1: Tweaking Your Technical and Other Adjustments (Usually Takes Around 3 Minutes)

Since we are starting our work in Adobe Lightroom, hence most of the work should be done correcting lens distortion, cropping the images and fixing other transformation issues. Mostly, we have to work on the basic structure of the photo in the first step.

When editing portraits, these are necessary steps and are important because this will create a larger room where we can alter the composition in editing. We can possibly make a few crops for the same raw file and work on that. There are also a few cases where the subject’s face gets a few distortions and then we need to take care of this issue when correcting the distortions of lens.

This step usually takes a bit more time than the rest because of thinking about the context. This is because each portrait is different and we usually need to do different things to make the photo ‘pop’.

Step Number 2: Adjusting the Brightness (Usually Takes Around 5-6 Minutes)

In this step, we need to work on the settings that deals with the white point and the black point in the photo. Besides this, we also need to work on global contrast, adjust and tune the local shadows, and work on the highlights. Also, we should definitely keep histogram in mind while working on these topics.

One of the biggest works that we have to work during a portrait is work on the subject’s face. It is the most important thing since the exposure on the subject is really crucial. In our work area, we mostly make sure that the subject spans most of the dynamic range. We can work on this by tweaking the hair, dark shadows in the clothes or eyebrows.

After this, we can take care of the surroundings after exposing the subject and making the subject pop up. We can do that by bringing down unimportant lights or even highlighting the details that are buried in the background. For a shot that is well exposed, we take around 4-6 minutes from starting to finish.

Step Number 3: Adjusting the Sharpness (Usually Takes Around 1 Minute)

This step is pretty self-explanatory, because we mainly have to work on sharpening the subject, and also have to decide the amount of sharpening that needs to be done. Most of the time, mainly in portraits, it is better if the skin is softer because that will not highlight the pores or other shades on the skin. As a result, in these cases, we have to mask out the sharpening settings and don’t try to over sharpen the portrait.

This is a pretty basic step and needs only around 1 minute to complete.

Adjusting The Sharpness

Step Number 4: Adjusting the Color (Usually Takes Around 10-15 Minutes)

This is also a vast and important step while working on portraits because this step covers a lot of fundamental aspects of a photo, from covering white balance and working on Saturation or Luminosity to calibrating the camera and split toning.

Another extra layer that is done here is skin tone. We need to take extra care due to certain conditions during shooting, which adds a color cast over the skin of the subject. For example, if we shoot the subject under neon lights, this may create a red color on the face of the subject’s face. On the other hand, shooting during the sunset will cause a yellowish glow on the subject.

During this period, we must focus on keeping the total photo in a neutral tone, this will definitely keep the portrait in a natural and usable look. After setting the tone of the portrait, we then start working on the background colors and manipulate them accordingly.

This process takes around 10-15 minutes.

Step Number 5: Working With Different Filters and Brushes (Usually Takes Around 5-6 Minutes)

This step involves using different filters and brushes, which is already present in our software and can be used to bring the viewer’s attention to the picture. This step is also done to minimize different distractions that are captured in frame.

This is an important and essential step when working with portraits because it is seen that in a lot cases, the photos were not shot under perfect conditions and we will see some sort of distractions in the image. In our case, we usually brighten up the final touch and apply more blur to the surrounding area so that we can show the face even better.

Total Time Required (25-30 minutes)

If we take into consideration the complexity and other adjustments that are required for doing a basic portrait editing, then the total amount of time that is required is around 25-30 minutes per photo. As a result, if we have a batch of round 10 photos, and we do edit non-stop, then we definitely can finish the batch within 4-5 hours.

Working on a Fully Retouched Portrait

This type of portraits usually requires a skin retouch that is full-blown and is usually pretty expert level. Most of the time, these photos are edited through Adobe Photoshop, which offers a wide range and varieties of tools that are required to do photo manipulation.

Step Number 1: Adjusting the Technical Aspects (Usually Takes Around 10-12 Minutes)

This step is basically needed in every work because this is the foundation of the entire editing process. Usually, in the software, this includes correcting the distortions, removing or stamping out the backgrounds that have unwanted items, liquifying, and also creating composition.

When we are working in a software that is mostly made of layers, we do adjustments that are made by putting new layers on top of the previous layer and working on them. A drawback in this approach is that if we have a problem in the lower layers, then we are going to have a really bad time going back and working on the image.

This stage usually takes around 10-12 minutes

Adjusting The Technical Aspects

Step Number 2: Adjusting the Brightness (Usually Takes Around 5-6 Minutes)

One of the things that I have learned myself and teach my team is that when we are working on portraits, we usually underexpose our photos with a single sitting, so that we can protect the highlight and its details of the skin. We usually do this because if we don’t do that, then the pictures are blown out or without any skin texture.

In general, this step usually takes around 5-6 minutes.

Step Number 3: Adjusting the Color (Usually Takes Around 15-16 Minutes)

Usually, this stage involves the use of different customized gradients, working on color balance on different layers, using filters for different photos, and working on Hue and Saturation. In this step, we can also work on curves and also use histograms so that we can have a great visual for the photo.

As we gained more experience, we have developed a map of gradient that can help us easily make the primary work of each photo and work on the process faster. After working on the photo, each work makes the gradient map evolve and as a result, we can easily tweak here and there to work on that. Besides this, we also work on the color wheel, and match the color of the photo with the desired color on the wheel.

This step is a vital point where we can work on both global and local adjustments, and as a result, we can take around 15-16 minutes.

Step Number 4: Retouching the Skin (Usually Takes Around 20-25 Minutes)

In Adobe Photoshop, there are a few skins retouching techniques where we have to do our best and bring out the best of the photo. This type of work usually involves different layers of high and low frequencies. This is related to the skin texture and the color of the image.

On the frequency layers, we usually work on unwanted wrinkles or messy hair using the stamp tool. We would also smoothen out the skin tones with different brushes.

This is a very long and important step and hence, this will take at least 20-25 minutes, depending on the experience and the type of the project.

Step Number 6: Final Touch of Texture (Usually Takes Around 15-16 Minutes)

Just before finishing the editing process, this final step involves sharpening, blurring, and adding noise.

Depending on the situation and the batch, some areas even need banding that is necessary when there aren’t enough pixels. If we add noise, then we can solve this problem.

We usually blur to reduce and minimize the distraction so that we can bring back the focus on the subject, which is our main priority.

We use sharpening mostly on the eyes of the subjects. We believe that the eyes are the windows to our souls and hence, this is where we put most of our works. I also try to sometime sharpen different accessories that the model wears because this will give more character to the shots that are taken. These final layers are done by everyone and by now, it has become a standard in this industry. It will take around 20-25 minutes to complete.

Total Time Required (1.5 Hours to 2 Hours)

If we want to do professionally retouched portraits, the time taken for editing per photo would be around 1.5 hours to 2 hours. As a result, for a batch of 10 photos, it would take at least 15 to 20 hours if we work non-stop.


Above us, we mainly talked about the time that is required for a photography editing firm like us or any normal photographer to edit photos of landscape, portrait, and other things. We also talked about the process of editing these photos and broken it down into simple bite sized pieces so that you can learn them easily.

Please keep in mind that the estimated time that we have written here vary from person to person and firm to firm. However, most of the stages remain the same. Even though we try our best to bring the best in each photo and work on that, we still have to keep in mind that the photos are also aligning with what the clients want.


Do Professional Photographers Edit Every Photo?

Although there are cases where we have to edit each and every photo that are sent by the client, there are times when we don’t need to follow that step. However, a lot of times, it is seen that the client sometimes sends demo edits or photos that they don’t want to edit because of issues with the photo. At that time, we don’t have to work on those photos and this saves a few precious seconds of our time that we can use to give a better finishing to the photos that matters to the client! Therefore, the main answer to this question will be, it really depends on a lot of things that is pre-determined between the clients and the editing firm.

Do Photographers Touch Up Photos?

Yes, Photographers do touch up photos and it mainly depends on the work that needs to be done in the photo. A lot of photos don’t need any additional touch up and instead, basic editing and doing other simple steps can make the image look better.

However, image touch up is an important thing for the images and in fact, if a photographer sees that the image is not in a good condition and needs a touch up before sending the batch to the editing firm.

Most of the time, it is seen that photographers have a lot of work and in fact, they don’t get the time to work on the photos. So, in those cases, photographers don’t touch up their photos in the beginning.

Image touch up

Is it Rude to Edit Photography Photos?

A lot of people think that editing photography photos is a rude thing to do and instead, a photo should be in its natural form. We think that it is not rude at all and in fact, through editing, we can make the photo come out a lot more natural. This is because a lot of times, we face a lot of issues that can make the photo come out bleak and this can ruin the mood of the photo. Hence, we think that editing photography photos can never be said to be rude.


Editing photos can be a time consuming, but fun work to do. As a result, this creative way of working can really quench a lot of passion for people who are in the artistic line. Please do let us know what else you want to know and what genres should we talk about next. We are also eager to find that out! Please do visit our website regularly so that you can get notified when we release the next piece of content.

Read Also: How to Turn a Landscape Photo into a Portrait