15 Basic Photo Editing Terms Explained | PixelPhant

Updated on October 30, 2023 in Photo Editing by

15 Basic Photo Editing Terms Explained | PixelPhant

Undoubtedly, learning about photo editing can be tedious work, especially if you have no idea what the terms used to mean.

In order to get the desired results, you will either have to play with each every setting on your panel or—you can simply learn about these 15 basic photo editing terms.

In this article, we are sharing with you the most basic photo editing terms that will help you understand your images better and tools that will help you edit the images exactly the way you want.

15 Basic Photo Editing Terms

Transform tools

Transform tools are the one that helps in optimizing your overall presentation of the images. This includes resizing, rotating and warping the image to correct compositional issues or create a new perspective. They help in improving the overall presentation of the image and enhancing the subject presented to the viewer.

Retouching tools

Retouching tools are specialized tools that help in editing a particular spot or an area to make sure no flaws can be spotted, and the image looks smooth and professional. The most commonly used tools are the Healing Brush and Clone Stamp, which helps in removing blemishes, dust, scratches, or any unwanted elements from the image.


Cropping is a part of a transform tool that removes the unwanted parts of the image, specifically around the edges of the image, to focus on the subject. You can also use cropping to shift the focus of the viewer–either through a shift in perspective or through a new presentation of the image.

Brightness and contrast

Brightness in photo editing terms means the lightness and the darkness of the image. The setting allows you to edit how bright or dark the image will be. Contrast is the difference between the brightest and darkest areas of your image.


Saturation in photo editing terms settings helps you adjust the intensity of the color in your image. That is, in a low-saturation image, the color will look dull, and in a high-intensity color will pop and look more bright.


Photo Editing Terms - Sharpness

Sharpness in photo editing terms, is a setting that controls how defined the details of the image will be. Images with high sharpness will have clear details, whereas images with lower sharpness will look smooth and fewer details will be visible.


Exposure in photo editing terms adjusts the overall brightness of the image. While the brightness setting deals with both light and dark parts of the image, Exposure only deals with the bright parts, that is, the highlights of the image.

Highlights and shadows

Highlights in photo editing are the areas of the image that are bright and well-illuminated. Shadows are the darker side of the image. Highlights and shadows help you Adjust the brightest and darkest areas of the image separately.

White balance

White balance in photo editing is the setting that lets you adjust the color tone of the image, formed due to light sources while capturing the image. Adjusting the overall color cast of the image to make it look more natural.


Photo Editing Terms - clarity

Clarity is an editing setting that helps in adjusting the overall definition and sharpness of the image. Images with higher clarity may appear grainy, while lower clarity results in faded effect.


Vibrance is a photo editing setting that allows you to adjust the intensity of the less-saturated colors in the image without affecting the more-saturated colors of your image. It is mainly used to increase the saturation of the skin tone without making it look unreal or “plastic”.


Curves in photo editing are advanced tools used by professionals to adjust the brightness and contrast of the image using software like Photoshop.


Levels is a photo editing tool in professional software that lets users adjust the overall brightness and contrast with the help of an image histogram.


HSL stands for Hue, Saturation, and Luminance. It is a photoshop setting that lets you adjust the saturation and hue of specific colors in the image. It is used for color correction and color matching services.

Color Balance

Color balance in photo editing means adjusting the balance of colors in an image. This helps to make sure that the colors are highly accurate and match the product in real life.


With that, we conclude this complete list of 15 photo editing terms for you. As you will find, all these terms are used very frequently in the industry, and learning about them makes a lot of difference.

You’ll also learn that these terms and functionalities are highly correlated. This means if you are looking to edit your images—it is essential that you at least learn about what tool to use in order to optimize your photos.

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