Friday, September 24, 2010

Basic Photo Editing

Ahhhhhh - Bruce and I just spend the last two hours without power!  I'm not sure what happened, but apparently there were around 4,500 people in our area blacked out for awhile.  Now that everything is back up and running we actually still have the lights off and are enjoying the candlelight, but we are definitely appreciating every bit of our air conditioning, cable and internet. :)

I know ... I sound pathetic.  I need to find a way to ween myself off of electronics.  The second the power went out, the first words out of my mouth where, "I was just about to send a tweet!"

I'll work on it.

Anyway, when I was getting my mom set up on her new macbook last week, I was showing her some of the basic photo editing software on iPhoto and she was amazed at how easy it was to take a good photo and turn it into a great photo.

Now, I'm NOT talking about making skin smoother and waists smaller.  I honestly think that we live in an over-photoshopped world.  I hate the fact that what you see on the cover of a magazine isn't necessarily reality.  It gives people unrealistic ideas about body image and beauty.  But I do think that there is a certain beauty that often doesn't get captured when the shutter closes and there is room for some tweaking.  And these are times when I think it's okay to bring in some basic (basic basic) editing techniques to sharpen your photos.

So because I apparently have nothing better to do on a Friday night than think about photography (that's another post for another day) here is my first (and if you like it and want more, let me know!) attempt at a quasi-tutorial on basic photo editing techniques.

For starters, I use iPhoto.  It's the free software that comes with apple computers.  I have a feeling that PCs probably have similar options for basic editing in their media package, so it's just a matter of finding where everything is.

Here is the photo I am going to use for this quasi-tutorial.  In the spirit of fall, I pulled one of my apple picking pics from my trip to Connecticut ...

Here it is SOOC (straight out of camera).

I actually really like this photo.  It screams FALL.  I think I could frame it in a chocolate brown or orange frame, throw it on my wall and pretend I'm living in a place where the weather is autumn year round.

Wow ... I wonder if heaven is like that ... 

Here's what I like about the photo:  
- I love the narrow depth of field (the fact that the apple is sharply in focus and the background is blurry).
- I love that the one apple is the main focus - so simple!  
Here's what I don't like about the photo:  
- I don't really like that my eyes wander to the other pieces of apples in the frame (the one behind the main apple and the small piece on the very bottom).
- I think the color is a little dull.  Maybe it was my sunglasses, but I feel like the color was much sharper in person.

Let's see what we can do ... 

Here is the photo opened in the editing software in iPhoto.  What I love about iPhoto is that it is a combined library and editing program.  It keeps things super organized and has a really easy interface.

The first thing I usually do is click on the straightening tool (third from the left).  The straightening tool is a photo-saver when you're shooting people, buildings, etc. (subjects with distinct lines) but it's also a good tool to use when you're just trying to see a subject from a different angle.  So here is what we've started with ...

... and here it is moved counterclockwise just a little bit.  You can see that even doing something so simple as this brings your focus solely to the main apple.

Then I click on the cropping tool (second from the left).  Ohhhh, I love the cropping tool.  I think my second quasi-tutorial post should be an ode to the cropping tool.  You'd be amazed what you can do.  But hold that thought and look at the apple.  I'm going to use the tool to tighten the shot on the apple and then move the frame so the photo is covering exactly what I want it to.

I love that you can visualize what it's going to look like before you hit apply so you can adjust as much as you'd like.  Once you've got the box exactly the way you want it, hit apply ...

... and we've managed to solve my issue of the busyness of the photo.  There is one point of focus - the apple.  No distractions.

But the color is still dull!  In order to adjust this, I pull up the adjust box.  When I'm annoyed with the richness of color, the first tool I adjust is the saturation.  It takes colors that already exist and just give them a little bit more oomf.

I adjusted the saturation from 50 (where every photo SOOC starts at) to 70 (cranking it down to 0 will take out all the color and give you a black and white photo).  And with one simple click, I'm seeing an apple that looks like the one I picked that afternoon!

Now before I click "done", I want to adjust one more thing.  When saturated the color, it made the photo a little bit dark ...

... so I increased the exposure from 0 to 0.30 and it gave it just a touch more light to give the photo a nice and polished look.

Then you click DONE!

What do you think?

Do you think it looks better?  Am I kidding myself in thinking I improved the photo at all?

I hope this helps some of you!  Most of the photography editing tutorials I see on blogs feature photoshop and/or lightroom and those are expensive!  I would love to make the investment one day, but for right now, I really do have fabulous free features at my fingertips.  It's just a matter of figuring out how to use them.


What do you all use to edit your photos?  I know people love picasa and I think it has more features than iPhoto, actually - I've tried it before, but I've been trying to clear out the extra programs off of my computer lately.


  1. This was neat! You're making me wish I had a Mac! Maybe one day! :) I don't have a lot of time to edit pics but when I do, I like Picnik. It's free and very easy to use!

  2. I like the color and angle better but not keen on the recrop. I think if you simply removed the bottom piece of apple it would have been better. I think that recropping made it a picture of an apple and took a bit of the feeling of fall away. I love PS3 and 5 but I have never used an apple program to compare

    Love seeing you play with photos - I find it almost therapeutic (especially when I am not doing it for work)

    Does apple allow you to create actions??

    Love Court L <3

  3. I used Picasa. Although I really only use one of their buttons called, "I'm feeling lucky." It's pretty much just takes the pictures sharpens it and brightness it, which works for me because otherwise I'd have no idea what I'm doing.


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