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Filters vs. Editing | What's The Difference?

Lots of photographers have heard phrases like these before:

"I love that filter!"

"Can you use a different filter?"

"Your filters are incredible!"

Here's why the word filter doesn't actually describe what we use when we edit an image:

We are used to filters every day on social media. For some that aren't photographers, they might assume that when photographers change the color and lighting in a photograph that they are using a filter to alter the image. The truth is that photographers hand-edit images from the raw form (literally— the RAW file) to manually adjust single parts of an image; unlike filters, which overlay on top of a photo and aren't as adjustable.


Filters on apps overlay on top of an image and can change the color tones and the lighting. You may be able to adjust the amount of a filter that is added over the image, however you cannot directly adjust every detail of the image with only a filter. Plus, filters are used over images that are already compressed, and can lessen the overall quality of the photograph. Filters can be great tools for everyday photo taking and posting, but they won't work for professional quality images.

Photo Editing

For a professional photographer, editing the photo starts when we take the photo: by using manual adjustments in the camera to change the aperture (amount of blurriness in the background), shutter speed (how fast the camera takes pictures), and ISO (amount of lighting). Also, we shoot our images as RAW files. JPEG files (which is the format phones use for photos) are a compressed version of an image, and do not save all of the data a camera sensor can capture.

RAW files on the other hand can be saved by professional cameras. RAW photos contain all of the data the camera captured on it's sensor. These images contain a lot more detail, and therefore are much larger files than the compressed JPEG form.

Only professional photography software, like Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom, can be used to view or edit RAW photos.

When we go in to edit the photo, there are so many options to edit every detail of the image. We can use the tone curve to adjust brightness and darkness, and change every color's hue, saturation, and luminance. We can add tones to the shadows, highlights, and midtones, as well as mask (select) only certain parts of the image to edit. Not only those things but retouch and remove or add things to an image. These are only some of the things we can change when editing a photo.

Once the photo is edited, it gets exported and converted to a JPEG image. Editing the RAW form and then compressing the image to JPEG creates a shareable file that won't take up too much space while also maintaining the quality of the image.

It's So Much More

Photo editing can be incredibly complex in comparison to using filters. Please keep this in mind while you wait for your photographer to finish editing your images, and remember that the reason we edit is to create the best results for you!

P.S. Make sure not to put filters over the photos that your photographer worked hard to edit 😉


Here is an original photo without filters or editing.

This is the same photo with an Instagram filter (with the brightness adjusted using Instagram's editing tool). You can see that it's not bad, but the quality of the image isn't great, and there are other changes that can be made to make this photo better.

Here is a fully edited image, as you can see the quality is better than the filtered version, and there are individual adjustments to lighting, tone, skin texture, colors, etc. that create the best overall version of the image.

Eugene & Springfield Oregon Family Maternity Motherhood Lifestyle Photographer


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