I've been facing a few questions in my mind about the terms image processing and image editing. What is the difference?


3 Answers 3


We've actually discussed this some on this site's meta, in attempting to make the proper distinction between tags and .

See Are photo-editing and post-processing synonymous? and follow-up Are image manipulation and photo editing synonymous?

In short, in practical use, it's very blurry and there is a lot of overlap. From that discussion, though, let me show you the descriptions we've arrived at for various related tags:

  • Post processing is the process (and art) of adjusting a previously-captured image to obtain a desired look. It encompasses everything from simple whole-image adjustments to detailed per-pixel touch-up work.

  • Image processing is the computational transformation of an image signal. It's about the technical side of batch transformations, conversions, and enhancements, as distinct from post-processing (adjusting an image to achieve a desired look, probably using image processing).

  • Photo editing is the process of reworking an original photo, either produced by film or digital, to create the artistic vision of the photographer.

You're asking about "image editing", which is none of the above, but I think we can extrapolate. Crucially, editing has at least some of the implication remaining from the actual job "photo editor" — see this description from Wikipedia:

... a professional who collects, reviews, and chooses photographs and/or illustrations for publication in alignment with preset guidelines.

So, in one sense, photo editing (and by extension image editing) are the things one might do along those lines. But, clearly, in common use, we also use it to mean "all the stuff one can do with Photoshop".

Likewise, image processing has implications of its own, this time of signal processing. Again from Wikipedia:

... image processing is any form of signal processing for which the input is an image, such as a photograph or video frame

So, from a technical point of view, the term image processing leans much more towards the technical side, and barely what humans do at all — as our tag definition above says. But again in common use, this is used very interchangeably, and if someone referred to their work in Adobe Lightroom as time spent on image processing, we'd all understand.

  • \$\begingroup\$ But when dealing with RAW files, once the editing/post processing is done the files are typically exported via one form or another of image processing. And, in fact, once an adjustment is made during editing, the application must process the image to display the result on your monitor in 8-bits per channel. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Mar 15, 2015 at 3:15
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I really don't see much difference at all between your definitions of post processing and photo editing. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Mar 15, 2015 at 3:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MichaelClark Yeah, I might strike "of the photographer" from the photo-editing tag wiki definition quoted above, actually, because that's basically the key difference -- photo editing is a different role, where the vision may be different from that of the photographer. But, that definition doesn't really line up with how the term is commonly used (where it is basically a synonym for post-processing). \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Mar 15, 2015 at 3:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ Because the question was discussed on Meta, doesn't that imply that it is off topic on the main site? \$\endgroup\$
    – user50888
    Dec 1, 2016 at 15:06

I really don't know, there are too many opinions on the Internet about this. Christopher O'Donnell, for example, considers fixing contrast and such as editing, whereas alterating the image as processing.


Whereas John Peltier says that editing is selecting good photos from the bad ones before starting to work with them. And any work you do later is processing.


And some people will say that cropping, brigthness and such is editing, whereas processing can mean everything (with or without editing).


It seems to me that one way or another, "processing" is the best word to refer to any kind changing, adjusting, alterating, manipulating, and so on.


Well, basically Post-Production services are required for processing film, videos and photography. For making motion pictures, videos, animation etc. From Wikipedia, Post-production, or postproduction, is part of the process of film-making, video production and photography. It occurs in the making of motion pictures, television programs, radio programs, advertising, audio recordings, photography, and digital art. It is a term for all stages of production occurring after shooting or recording individual program segments.

Image Processing is kind of image conversion. For example, image to vector, raster to vector, jpg/png/bitmap to vector etc. These services allow you to get the desired color, shape, size and quality.

And Photo Editing is just altering your image applying some methods for example clipping path, background remove, photo manipulation, photo restoration, image enhancement, color correction, image optimization, photo retouching, glamour retouching, image masking and deep etching etc.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Flagging as spam for "just happening" to link to exactly the same company as this question deleted an hour ago (10k link). \$\endgroup\$
    – Philip Kendall
    Dec 1, 2016 at 11:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PhilipKendall I think this a decent answer. Just remove the link. \$\endgroup\$
    – 10 Replies
    Dec 1, 2016 at 11:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PhilipKendall Deleted the link. I hope it's alright now. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 1, 2016 at 11:24
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ The answer still adds nothing to mattdm's 18 month old answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Philip Kendall
    Dec 1, 2016 at 11:42

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