Better Pictures Project: How I Edit Blog Photos

Let’s lift the curtain a bit, shall we? What do I really look like before my pics are editied???

Heather from Closet Case Files took us through her editing process, and offered advice on editing for a clean, modern look. She swears by Lightroom, but I go with two free options: iPhoto and Snapseed. It’s a combo I’ve been using for years, but I’m excited to try out some other options this month too.

I prefer to spend some extra time taking photos and less time editing them after. Editing photos is great, but it can only do so much!

For example, here are some photos from my recent Appleton post – for all these examples, the original is on the left, and the edited version is on the right.

portrait Collage

This picture has had 2 simple edits in iPhoto, and that’s it. For most of my pictures, that’s all I do. Like this:

screen grab_Snapseed

For each project, I play around to find the basic edits needed, given the lighting, time of day, exposure etc for that particular photoshoot. In this case, and for the portrait above, all I did was bump up the black 3% (so the darks are darker) and increase warmth 4% (to counteract the blue light in the shade where I took pictures.) Then I copy those edits, and paste them onto the other pics in the series. Easy! There are always some shots that need more work, but for that, I prefer to use Snapseed.

PicMonkey Collage

Snapseed is a free app and computer program for picture editing. It does all the normal stuff like brighten, increase contrast, crop, tilt-and-shift, apply filters etc, but it also lets you adjust certain areas independently. For example, in the picture above, I use the “Centre Focus” tool to brighten the dress, and then I used “Add Control Point” under “Tune Image” to select the shadows on my skin and brighten them up. Adjusting just those specific points means I can make the clothes pop without affecting the whole picture! You can also save your favourite edits as presets, and apply them to any photo later.

Here’s what Snapseed looks like:

snapseed grab_Snapseed

It has all the same functionality on the phone/iPad app, but it might take a couple of minutes to get used to the interface. 

Here’s a picture that needed a bit more work:

medium editing Collage

As I mentioned in my Appleton post, this pic was underexposed, but I loved the bright colours in the background. I used the same tools as above to brighten my dress and face, and did a little bit of overall brightening. I can’t decide if I should have pushed the colours warmer, or if that would ruin the blue sky! When in doubt, I’m trying to do less, so I won’t regret it later.

Speaking of which – wanna see my editing style in 2012???

truffle Collage

AGHHHHH! Look at the overuse of the tilt-and-shift (making some parts blurry) and the dark vignetting in the corners. What was I thinking? (Actually, my Dad recently pointed out his love for subtle vignetting, to draw the eye the eye inwards, and he’s totally right. I was just going to far!)

Sometimes though, all you can do is make the best of a mediocre picture, like this shot from Me-Made May.

MMM Collage

This shot was taken at 7am while the sun was still coming up, and I was heading off to a (disasterous) class trip. Dim lighting, poor choice of background colours, and no time, so this was GOOD ENOUGH! I edited it to be a bit brighter, and moved on with my life.

Sometimes a picture is almost great, but the camera settings weren’t quite right:

fixing overexposed Collage

In this case I darkened things a bit. Overexposed pics are heard because there just isn’t any picture information in the blown out white parts to rescue – see how the skin on my cheeks is a bit grey in the edited version, because it essentially just photographed as white? I think maybe shooting in RAW could help this, but I’ve yet to experiment!

I hope that’s a helpful view into how I edit pictures – I can’t wait to start reading your posts and see how you go about it! Remember, the “homework” this week is to try a new editing method, and show us the before and after pictures. (Or maybe show us your before and afters for how you edit now, or maybe show us one picture edited for different looks. I’m not a strict teacher – make the assignment your own!)

Do you edit your pics? If yes, how do you do it? If no, is there anything you’d like to learn to do?

17 thoughts on “Better Pictures Project: How I Edit Blog Photos

  1. Hi Gillian,
    All your photos are great – you always look so relaxed in front of the camera! I really love the winter one with the hat and scarf.

    I’ve never used photoshop but I do like snapseed for desktop and iPhone – really handy especially for quick fixes.

    I’m really enjoying this series!


    1. Yay, another Snapseed user! It really is handy, eh? I like that it does just enough, but not so much that it’s overwhelming. I’ve been trying to teach myself a different iphone app that allows for adjusting curves, but I”m not feeling it yet!


  2. I have Photoshop Elements, but only use it for the photos that need the most work, because I never had the time to really figure out how to use it properly. I’m also a believer in trying to get the settings right on the camera, and I do most of my editing in Picasa because it’s fast and easy and conveniently organizes my photos at the same time. I do use Snapseed on my phone, when I’m not just using an Instagram filter, but I wasn’t aware that it is available for computers as well!


    1. I’ve never used any form of Photoshop, you you are ahead of me! I’m torn between feeling like I should up my game, or just stay with the nice free options I use now!


  3. Great post, Gillian! I’ve never used either of those programs, but your editing looks superb. I am, like Heather, a devoted Lightroom user. One of my best friends is a professional photographer and instilled a few key lessons in me, over the years: get the best possible picture out of my camera first (aka: shooting in manual and RAW), pay attention to the time of day, and use a light hand with editing. I really like how Lightroom allows me to do that last one–it’s so easy to brighten and warm things in a natural, subtle way, with that program. Once I switched from using Photoshop actions to manually editing things in LR, my blog photos really upped their game. I’m now a total zealot for both LR and shooting in manual!


    1. Of course, I should say that, since both the husband and I are employed by universities, access to the Adobe suite is considerably lower cost. While I love both Lightroom and Photoshop dearly, they also can be fairly prohibitive for many budgets. :/


    2. Arg, manual and RAW – I know I should use them too, but I just… ugh! I’m not quite ready for that learning curve. (Mind you, when I plotted out this series, I definitely wrote down those goals for some month coming up – I’m almost afraid to check when! 😉 How was the learning curve for you when you switched over?
      You and Heather make Lightroom sound great – I’m going to try out the free trial and see if it’s worth my $$$!


  4. this is very interesting, and some very cool tips here! I generally edit by straightening and cropping, sometimes de-shadow so the colours show more true. Apart from that, not much!


    1. There’s nothing like doing a whole photoshoot only to realise the tripod was crooked the whole time! Thank goodness for straightening tools!


  5. It’s always interesting to see the before and afters…editing really makes photos shine. What would we do without straightening tools indeed? I use a combo of Capture NX-D on my Nikon to process the RAW format before I clean up what the Nikon software doesn’t in GIMP. I tried a couple of free RAW processing programs and hated them, and gave up on RAW for a long while. But that little Nikon program is super useful though it’s basic. I should have read my manual (cough cough). I haven’t played around with effects too much, but I know GIMP can do a lot of those. The only thing I’ve tried is creating a coloring book page from a photo for my boys…not a useful thing for every day photos, but a fun rainy day activity for them.


    1. That’s really interesting! I haven’t tried RAW yet, but I keep meaning to… I hadn’t really thought about needing a seperate program to process RAW photos!


      1. It’s possibly the only annoying thing about RAW. If you try to open a RAW file in your regular editor, it doesn’t work, so you have to convert them to JPEG. Urgh, but there’s so much you can fix in the RAW editor with the lighting, that I’ve come to be ok with it.


  6. This is great info Gillian. This is basically all the editing I do too. I definitely prefer to have the photo itself be great and not need editing, but that really doesn’t happen. I love photoshop elements because like your snapseed, it has a few more tools than iPhoto – actually I’m sure it has a lot more tools, I just don’t know how to use them!


  7. Hehe, I’m totally guilty of over-editing pictures, most recently it’s instagram filters but I was a huge fan of cross processing for a while. Of course, in the last couple of years I don’t think I have done much more than cropping, because I hardly have time for photographing and writing blog posts, so editing just fell to the wayside… I like your pics a lot, though. I’ll have to see if I can find a good substitute for my operating system of choice (Linux), or a way to make the process smoother in GIMP…


  8. So, Snapseed. How do I find it? I can’t seem to find a website for it. I have found a few links, but as I’m not familiar with the websites featuring them, I’m loathe to press download. I did find an article from 2014 saying its no longer available as a desktop app, but I presume that’s not correct if you are still using it? Help!


    1. Sadly, that article is right! It worked fine for me until December when suddenly the desktop version wouldn’t even open. The phone app still works great, but that’s not much good! I’ve switched to Lightroom, which is pay-per-month… I blogged more about it here!
      If you are looking for something free, people in the comments suggested GIMP… Good luck! 🙂


      1. Thanks, Gillian. I will try that. I’d like to play around with a free editor and learn my trade, before deciding if I want to commit to pay-per-month. I’ll take a look at GIMP. Horrible name, though! 🙂


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