Bloggiesta Mini Challenge: Basic photo editing

Bloggiesta

Hi! Welcome to my mini challenge about basic photo editing.

If you are a blogger you most likely work with images to enhance your blog posts, at least now and then. Maybe all pictures you use on your blog are book covers that you downloaded from the net; maybe you take pictures of your own books, book shelves, book bags, library etc. It doesn’t matter where your pictures come from or whether they were taken with a cell phone, a point and shoot camera or the most sophisticated DSLR camera. Almost every photo can do with a little editing. There is not much work involved, will only take a few minutes and the result is always an improvement.

Today I want to give you some basic photo editing tips that will make the pictures on your blog look so much better than the SOOC (straight out of the camera) ones that you might have used until today.

Don’t worry we will only cover a few easy things that can be done in any photo editing software (e.g. Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Corel Paint Shop Pro, Gimp). After that I will show you a nifty online tool that you can use if you haven’t got any editing software on your computer.
I am doing my editing with Photoshop CS2, so you might have to look around a bit in your software to find an equivalent, but I am sure it is there somewhere.

Before you begin editing, open your image and duplicate it, then close the original. You always want to work on a duplicate, so you have the original to go back to if you don’t like your editing results but accidentally saved them.

 

CROPPING

Cropping iconThe first thing you might want to do is crop your picture. Is there something on the side or in the corner of the picture that distracts from the subject and you would like to get rid of it? If you don’t need or want to stick to a certain ratio of the image, just get out the crop tool and start cropping.

I am using a photo of my Harry Potter books that I took to post for the Harry Potter readalong. I know, the quality is not the best and they would definitely look better if they were all one kind of edition, but it is how it is – I took it with my cell and it is rather grainy; that is why I am going to remove the colours later. Things that don’t go that well together in terms of colour often look better without them.

Do you see those ugly robot’s feet on the left? I used them to prop up the books, but I don’t want to show them.

Uncropped

Open your image and choose the crop tool in your software (it normally looks like the icon I posted at the beginning of this paragraph). Start at the upper left corner where you want your image to begin and drag out a square or rectangle until you cover all the area you want to show.

Cropping

Then commit by hitting Enter or clicking on the checkmark in the menu bar.

There, now your photo is cropped and only shows what you want to show.

Cropped photo

 

RESIZING

Image sizeNow it is time to resize your image. Unless you have your camera set to the lowest image size your image is probably too big to use online.

Go to ->Image, ->Image size. Change the resolution to 72ppi which will automatically decrease your pixel size. Then enter the width pixel size that you would like to have. For my blog a width of 600 is about the maximum that is shown properly. It totally depends on the column sizes of your blog. For the main content column a width of 400 to 500px is a good medium size. For a sidebar a width of 100 to 200px maximum would be suitable.

Image size dialog

Don’t ever increase the size of the image! You might get away with a small increase (especially on a monitor) but in a lot of cases your image will look pixelated and ugly. If your photo is too small for your purpose, instead consider adding a background and /or frame of some sort to make the whole image look bigger. .

See Pedro at the beginning of this post all nice and crisp? Below is what he looks like when increased in size:

Pedro way too big

Not so pretty anymore, is he?

Whatever width you decide on, it is absolutely crucial that you keep the ratio of the picture! Make sure the checkbox "constrain proportions" (or maybe “keep ratio” or something similar) is checked. Then the software will automatically choose the proper height according to the chosen width to keep your image with the correct proportions. Of course, you can always enter the appropriate height yourself, but that involves some maths, why not let the program do the work for you?
If the ratio is not kept your image will be distorted and looks extremely unattractive.

Let’s take Pedro again. You might only have a 100px sidebar spot for the Bloggiesta button, but Pedro is 152px wide. So you go and change his width, but forget to check the proportions checkbox. Now he looks like this:

Pedro too thin

He is recognizable, but still! We can do better than that!

 

COLOR CORRECTION

Color correction iconsNow that you have your image cropped and resized you can correct its colours a bit if you wish to do so.

The two basic things you can do is improve the brightness and contrast of your image, and then you can play with hue, saturation and lightness. If you use Photoshop you might want to do that as an adjustment layer. That is represented by a little button in the bottom of the layers palette. The advantage is that you can always go back and change your settings or remove the adjustment altogether. If you don’t have that option, you just change the values and they change the image for good (unless, of course, you go back with Ctrl+Z).

Go to –>Image, –> Adjustments, –>Brightness and Contrast and move the slider until you like the result. The settings always depend on your image, but do not overdo it. Just play around until you like what you see.

Brightness & Contrast

This makes my image a bit brighter and boosts the contrast. That’s ok for me because I want to give it another tint altogether.

Brighter and more contrast-y

 

–>Image, –> Adjustments, -> Hue, saturation and lightness is not a necessary editing step, but you might want to use it if you want to change the overall colour of your picture, give it a certain tint or desaturate it to make it black and white. There are other methods to turn a picture to black and white but this is the easiest one. Try it out, move the sliders and see what they can do.

Hue & Saturation

Above are the settings I used to make my image look like this:

Colorized

 

This is as far as we are going today. Not hard, is it?

Now, if you do not have any graphics software, there are online tools also that will help you accomplish basic (and also pretty advanced)  editing. The one I am going to show you today is PicMonkey.

 

Picmonkey

 

Snap_2012.09.07_21h21m07s_001I love Picmonkey. It is easy to use, it is free and it requires no registration.

All you need to do is click on “Edit a photo” and upload your image.

Edit a photo button

After you upload you image you might come across this window (which I saw yesterday for the first time when I uploaded a poor quality photo, not sure whether this is a new feature or whether it only turns up in certain cases):

Image setting choice

Since your answer depends entirely on the photo you are using I suggest that for now you just click on “Cance” and use your photo as is.

Picmonkey is rather self-explanatory. You have an auto adjust button that automatically enhances your image. Or at least it should do. If you don’t like whatever Picmonkey is doing just click on the “Undo” button at the top of the screen.

Undo button

On the left you have all the editing options, like cropping, rotating, resizing etc. Hit the apply button when you have adjusted the settings to apply the change (it can be undone with the undone button).

Editing options

But there is more. If you click on the icons on the far left, other menus open. You can add effects, can touch up skin, fix blemishes, whiten teeth and so on.

EffectsTouch up

There are many more options like adding captions, little symbols etc. . Just play around and remember, you can always undo what you have done if you don’t like the result.

Once you are finished click on “Save” to save your image. A dialog box opens on the left, where you can choose a file size, i.e. quality, of the image. The pixel dimensions are always the same, just the size of the file changes according to your settings. Mel is poor quality, Ewan decent and Russell excellent. In my example below the difference in file size is between 500kb and 1.4MB. The file size is down to the fact that I kept my image at its original size and didn’t resize it to web size. If you can afford it space wise always go for the better quality.

Saving the masterpiece

After resizing to a web size my file size difference was only between 22kb and 51kb. And here is my Harry Potter picture after applying the auto adjust, cropping, desaturating and the Lomo effect.

Edited photo

OK, we are done for today.

 

What is the challenge?

I would like you to go and find an image that you would like to post on your blog and edit it in some way. Crop it, improve or change the colours, resize it, add an effect, whatever you like to do in order to make the picture look better. Then post it on your blog (before and after, please) and come back here and link us up to it, so we can come and have a look.

One thing to consider: Please do NOT just take any image from the net that you come across! Always respect the copyright of people and check the terms of use of images on sites where you CAN take images from. 

 

What is the prize for one lucky winner?

I am giving away one copy of Ella Publishing’s e-book Real.Life.Photography by Rebecca Cooper. Ella Publishing’s e-books always give excellent advice and easy to follow instructions, plus, they look great! I know them from own experience and highly recommend them.

real.life.photography

After Bloggiesta I will draw a winner from all participants who were up for my challenge and posted a link to their blog post with the before and after image(s) in the comments of this blog post.

Also, for everybody who did not win the book but is interested in buying it Ella Publishing was so generous to offer a 20% discount for my readers to buy Real.Life.Photography. Just use the discount code REALLIFE20 when you check out to get 20% off. The code expires on December 31, 2012.

If you come across a problem, have any questions about above editing tips or about anything else related to Photoshop or photo editing in general, please send me an email via the contact button on the left, via my Contact Me page, leave a comment to this post or contact me on twitter. I would love to hear from you and will get back to you as soon as possible.

And now, have fun with your images and with all the other fun Bloggiesta events!

You will find everything you need to know about them at It’s all about books and There’s a book.

12 Comments Write a comment

  1. Great post! I’m already familiar with these things, but I’m sure people who are new to basic photo editing will find it very useful.

    Reply

  2. Same here. I had not heard of PicMonkey – it seems similar to Picnic, which is what I used to use, but they discontinued it. So I’m really glad to know of this new editing software. Thanks! I edited a photograph which I will post in my first Bloggiesta update and show you. And I’ll link to it from the comments here.
    Leeswammes (Judith)’s last post ..Bloggiesta: Starting Line #bloggiesta

    Reply

    • Ah, Paint is VERY basic. I would definitely choose PicMonkey over it. Yes, please, play with it and show us your results!

      Reply

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