Can You Re-Edit a Photo and Get a Better Result?

A few weeks ago, I beat Lee Morris in our Puerto Rico Landscape Challenge. With that victory, many of our readers said my edit in Photoshop was simply too over the top. Today, I try to re-edit my photo to see if I can create something a bit more realistic.

Have you ever spent hours editing one of your photos only to make a stupid mistake like resizing it for web and saving over all your hard work? Yeah, I hate to admit it, but I've done this a few times. I've noticed this strange phenomenon where it is almost impossible to ever edit a photo a second time and get similar or better results. 90 percent of the time, I will still prefer the initial edit no matter how much time I put into the second edit. 

Despite this common theme, I thought it would be interesting to try to edit my landscape photograph of Las Garzas Waterfall in San Sebastian a second time. Taking some of the comments from our readers on YouTube to heart, the goal for this second edit was to decrease the overall saturation, make the colors look more natural, resize the photo to a vertical composition, and also edit the entire thing in less than 10 minutes. As an added challenge, I also decided to use completely different raw processing software.

The folks over at Skylum Software liked this second edit idea and decided to help sponsor this article and video by supplying me with a free trial of their newest photo editing suite, Luminar 3. Up until a few weeks ago, I had never really used Luminar 3 before, although Elia Locardi has used their Luminar Photoshop plugin in a few lessons of "Photographing the World 4." The standalone software is designed as an all-in-one photo editor that allows you to cull, edit, batch, stylize, and catalog your entire photo library all in one piece of software. 

For someone like me who hasn't deviated much from the Adobe ecosystem, Luminar 3 was pretty intuitive and even had a few interesting tricks packed under the hood. Unlike other raw editors, Luminar 3 is built around customizable modules or effects that you can add to your own workflow. This means that you only have to add and view the exact sliders you like to use when editing your photos, but even more than that, Luminar also allows you to save different workspaces to use for different genres of photography. You can check out a bunch of the cool features packed into Luminar in the video above, but let's now take a look at the final edits below.

Original Edit

Second Edit

At the end of the day, I have to ask myself if my theory of "is the first edit always the best" still true? I can't say that I'm a huge fan of the vertical crop that many readers suggested, but I do think I like the natural colors a bit more when I see them side by side. It was fun using Luminar 3 to edit this photo, as it allowed me to try a completely different approach to my raw adjustments than what I would have done in Photoshop or Lightroom. This second edit was completed in less than 15 minutes, whereas the original edit took me about 45 minutes start to finish. I can credit much of that increase in efficiency to using Luminar, but I also think a lot of time was saved simply because I was familiar with this file, because I already edited it once before. 

What are your thoughts? Do you like the colors and/or the crop in the second image better or do you think the first image still stands out with the slightly over-the-top color grade? 

If you want to experiment and try editing some of your photos with Luminar 3, you can download a trial here for free. Also, Skylum is offering $10 off any of their software to Fstoppers readers if you use the promo code "FSTOPPERS" on the Luminar 3 sales page. Unlike many other photo-editing programs that charge a subscription model, Luminar 3 is only $69, and you can use it as much or as long as you like. 

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Stas F's picture

I use Bridge + Photoshop. Never liked Lightroom importing.

Michael Holst's picture

Who's the doink that said the first edit is always best?

Chris Denny's picture

I think the original edit is just fine. The vertical crop doesn’t do your photo justice.

user-206807's picture

I think that square would have been a better choice

"Have you ever spent hours editing one of your photos only to make a stupid mistake like resizing it for web and saving over all your hard work? Yeah, I hate to admit it, but I've done this a few times...As an added challenge, I also decided to use completely different raw processing software."

It's impossible to resize raw files; you can only export jpg (or other format) copies. Unless you deleted your original raw file?

With Lightroom you can revert step by step through every edit, with history panel, and also always revert to original file (even if original is jpg).

Patrick Hall's picture

No I mean when you edit a raw and then send it to Photoshop for retocuhing. In photoshop you are editing a tiff or jpeg. The final export is always a jpeg and sometimes I’ve saved that resized file over the master photoshop file and have to start all the way back at the processed raw. If you never export from Lightroom to Photoshop then you probably have never experienced this.

Ah, I see what you mean. What works for me is right-clicking on a LR image, selecting edit in PS, do the editing, and hit save in PS. Then you'll have a TIF in LR, original size. From there, in LR, you can export the edited TIF to smaller size jpg or whatever (LR is much better at exporting than PS). But I'm guessing you already figured that out...

This shouldn't be a problem with any kind of backup system.

Jaran Gaarder Heggen's picture

Why not just open the RAW with Smart Objects in Photoshop?

That way you can always reedit or go back to the original "exported" TIFF or PSD file...

I don't use PS much but have always done that, and added i.e. Nik Silver Efex to a Smart Object Layer...

Any reason not to do that?

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

I like the 1st one more gooder...err...more better. :D

Not a fan of the boulder getting cut off with the vertical. It feels off-balanced; and almost like cutting off at the joints (of a person). Also, feels like I got jipped after seeing the horizontal version. In this case, more is more.

user-206807's picture

Do you know that you could also crop it "square"?

Dave Terry's picture

I like this too.

Keith Davis's picture

Hi Patrick
Glad I’m not alone in saving for the web over my original work...but I have an excuse.... I’m old.
I have mixed feelings over your redo. I like the sky in the first...the water in the second...and I believe the vertical crop puts too much emphasis on the forground boulder.


Paul Lindqvist's picture

I do not like Lightroom, slow and clunky. Luminar looks like a nice alternative in many instances.

Deacon Blues's picture

Definitely prefer the composition on the original edit. Plus, the burned out sky in the vertical edit isn't helping.
If you prefer the more natural colors, just take the first edit, pull back the saturation in the greens /aquas and leave it at that.

Post processing gets better every year. A raw D100 image processed today would turn out a lot better than when it was introduced in 2002.

Patrick Hall's picture

That's an interesting idea. I wonder if it really would be that much better or if you would still see the limits of the D100 image?

Dave Terry's picture

I love that you're so open to trying something different. It's hard for many photographers (or any other kind of artist) to take critiques to heart and just ask themselves if the critic has a point. We can always choose to ignore it or maybe they just don't get us, but maybe they do. Growth always comes from challenge. If we let people challenge us and our decisions - after we have already established our own core self-confidence enough to know that ultimately WE will make a decision we feel good about - once our self-assurance is standing on solid skills and artistic instincts, sometimes just stepping momentarily into someone else's perception and perspective on our work might reveal something about ourselves TO ourselves that we may not have noticed before. In other words, just trying to briefly step outside of our own artistic worldview and try to see our own work from someone else's point of view without taking it personally. Not just in our art, but in whatever motivates us to do the art in the first place. Learning to take it with humility and grace can make us better.

Dave Terry's picture

I like the wide shot because that is just my preference. Wide just feels more like our natural field of view with two eyes next to each other. But the vertical brings the focus more to the waterfall itself and I can see the appeal of the for some people.

LauraMarie Pepsin's picture

I like your video. kudos to you for working in a photo lab. Fixing other peoples photos based on what they think they remember that it really looked like, versus what they shot is an education.I did it too. Noritsu trained. I was a pioneer in one hour photo processing. hehe. Do I dare join in here? I shoot classic cars a lot. The challenge is that they are really shiny and reflect the blue sky and trees and environment, thus a grey truck has a blue hood and green doors.. You probably are remembering that gorgeous moment when the wet shiny leaves reflected the sky, thats beautiful and you got the real shot and the first edit is correct.It shows the blue reflections on the green leaves. Narrow-minded people cannot conceive of leaves being blue. They think leaves are always green.

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