How To Make Picture Perfect Photos

Geek!This is Zoey Smith’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:

I love photography, so naturally, I take lots of photographs. I take photographs of my family, NASCAR races I attend, friends and co-workers, bugs I locate while hiking, my dogs… you get the picture. My biggest obstacle is that I have a relatively inexpensive camera and no formal training. Therefore my photographs are not always appealing to the eyes. Consequently, I have had to harvest some tricks to mask my ineptness in my chosen hobby.

Before I get to the heart of my guidance, here are the two most important rules to remember:

  1. Back up all your digital photographs to external storage. This could be CDs, DVDs, or an external hard drive. Spare yourself the heartache of losing all your treasures. (I keep a copy of all my digital images on a hard drive that resides at a friend’s house, because I live in a wildfire area and never know when disaster might hit.)
  2. Remember the ‘Six P Rule’. Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance. You cannot produce great photographs if you forget your memory chip or if your camera’s battery is uncharged. Always try to think ahead about what you want to accomplish and what you need to bring to get that job done.

Now to the fun part; once you have taken your photographs (in high resolution), you will most likely need to edit them to fit your need or project. I edit all my photographs in Adobe Fireworks 8; most image editors have the same or similar functions I am going to mention.

The first thing you need to do is open your digital image. Be sure you save the photograph you are going to edit in a different location with a different name before you begin. You do not want to work on your original photograph.

Step One: Take a good look at the photograph.

If it is not up to your standards, is there part of it that you can use? Use the Crop tool to crop off the surrounding unwanted part of the photograph. You do not have to stick to the middle of the photograph. It could be something of interest and focus in the background.

At each step of your process, save your work to a file with a different name in an editable format. To clarify, I am working on a photograph I took at a NASCAR race. I do not like most of the photograph because it is blurry and dark; however, to the left there is a really nice image of my youngest son Zack. So I used my crop tool to isolate just that small part of the photograph, I make it a .png file and save file as Zack.png.

Step Two: Duplicate your image in another layer.

Once you have the image you want to work on, use your Layers Panel and duplicate the layer. The Layers feature is a powerful tool that helps you manage and organize objects on your page. Layers are transparent planes where you can create and store objects.

Step Three: Use Blend Mode to make subtle changes.

Working on the duplicated layer (top layer), use your Blend Mode to make subtle changes to your photograph. There are so many blends to choose from, take your time and experiment. I move down to each different blend and take notice of the change. When I have gone through each blend, I chose the effect that most improves the photograph.

Step Four: Use Opacity to adjust your blending effect.

Right next to the Blend Mode, there is the Opacity box. You can pick an Opacity from 1 to 100 percent to adjust the opacity of your selected layer and adjust the strength of your blending effect. An Opacity setting of 100 renders an layer completely opaque. A setting of 0 (zero) renders an layer completely transparent.

Step Five: Flatten, compare and save.

When you are happy with the effect, select both layers and flatten the selection. Do you like the changes that you made? If the answer is yes, save your work ‘save as’ using a different name. To clarify, I would take my project, which is named Zack.png and save it as Zack2.png.

Now continue to go through all the steps for the photos you wish to edit until you are happy with your end product. Since you have saved each change in a file with a different name, you can always go back to an earlier version of the photograph should you ‘mess up’ your project. It also allows you to experiment wildly without the fear of having to start over completely. Now go out and have yourself a picture perfect day!