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BlogTalk: Photo Editing

by - Thursday, February 09, 2012

What a wonderful response to last week's discussion on Networking! I'm hoping you're enjoying this new Friday BlogTalk series. There are so many topics left to discuss. Let me know if there is something specific you want to talk about!

Onto the next topic...judging by last week's comments, today's topic is one a lot of folks are curious about it.
The quality of photos you show on your blog have a direct impact on the first impression you make on your readers. When I first started blogging, I had many posts with no photos. I couldn't even imagine doing that today. Who wants to read pages and pages of text? Then, I slowly progressed to including photos like this one:

Huh. That's a photo of my old condo. The photo quality is definitely lacking; its too small, the resolution is low and grainy, its washed out, and the dresser in the bottom right takes up some of the shot. As the years passed, I learned to use the manual settings on my camera and I learned how to use Photoshop. Now my photos look like this:

Through the magic of photo editing, my photos look sharper and brighter. Colours are more balanced. They're more interesting with the addition of text and shapes and cropping the photo to just the essentials. Photos help you tell a story and if they are compelling enough, readers will come back for more. Long after the text is forgotten, the photograph will stay in your mind.

I try to get the best photo straight out of the camera, but I still retouch about 95% of the photos I upload here on the blog. Whether its just to brighten things up or fix the white balance, most photos need a tweak. As a blogger, you're probably taking photos in dimly lit rooms or at night when you're finishing up a project. Luckily, there are a plethora of photo editing programs out there to help you get your photos looking their best. I have only tried a few programs so hopefully some of you can chime in with your experience!

Photoshop - It is an investment to buy this software, but Photoshop really is the most powerful photo editing tool out there. The learning curve is steep but your editing options are only limited by your imagination. As well, Photoshop is fantastic for graphic design tasks like creating banners, photo collages, or logos like this one I made for my Great Reads series:
I am actually a Photoshop "hacker". I don't know a lot of the commands in Photoshop but instead rely on Actions which are a preset series of commands that help you achieve a certain look without actually having to manually apply each process. Basically, they are one-click shortcuts. My favourite actions (and they were free to download!) are from super-blogger The Pioneer Woman

Photoshop is really too much for my low-level needs. I have heard that the less expensive Photoshop Elements is more than sufficient for the hobby photographer and bloggers. You can download 30-day free trial versions of both Photoshop and Photoshop Elements from the Adobe site.

Pixlr Editor - Pixlr Editor is a free program which looks very similar to Photoshop. This is an advanced program and not for someone who is looking for "one click" editing. The tools aren't intuitive though they seem easy to pick up with trial and error. There's also a good selection of filters to give you many different looks.

Pixlr Express - Pixlr Express is a very easy to use program. If you want a simple program where you can apply filters, adjust colours with a click, or add simple text, this is for you. It doesn't seem to have the ability to add shape or speech bubble overlays though.

Fotoflexer - While the interface doesn't seem as intuitive to use as Pixlr, Fotoflexer is nonetheless simple and user-friendly. Its offers most of the functions bloggers are probably looking for: applying text and shapes, creating collages, and applying filters/effects. I'm quite fond of the colour sketch effect which turned my photo into this:

Mosaic Maker: Mosaic Maker isn't a photo editing tool, but it is great for making collages. Its very simple and you can make collages in custom sizes and shapes. I made this one a few years ago when we finished the kitchen renovation:

So those are a few programs I've used. What do you use for your photos? Any great programs you recommend? Or photo editing tips you want to share? Do you have a photo editing question you want help with? Chime in!

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