Friday Find – How to Improve Your Photos

MML Rock the shot Main Yankee 500 copy

I thought it would be fun, for a Friday Find post, to go back through my photo files and share some of the processes & resources I use to improve my photos. Photo Editing Tools are what I use to improve my many bad photos and, also, to make the decent photos more interesting & reflective of what I want the photo to SAY.

Aren’t we ALL shooting more photos in this digital world? Statistics show, in 1960 55% of the photos shot were of babies. Today more than 1 trillion photos are taken per year. That is a conservative estimate, some say it is 5 trillion photos per year – no of just babies either! Two of the most popular social media are based on images. Instagram & Pinterest. As a blogger, I know that both these sites are the main drivers of viewers to my blog. This year, I have had to step up my game, when it comes to photo quality & making eye-catching photos. For me, that translates to following & imitating the many photographers & bloggers, whose work I admire. But mostly it comes down to a few SIMPLE Photo Basics and a few AFFORDABLE Tools, to Rock my Shot.

For fun, let’s get started by deconstructing the Yankee Doodle title photo at the top of this post…

Note: SOOC = Straight Out Of Camera (Original shot)  and Ephemera=digital stuff like; frames, brushes, staples, strings, edge overlays etc.  Oh, and grab a pillow this is a long post!

Problem: Busy background, (this is common in my holiday & snapshot photos, grrr)

Solution: Remove background and Replace with an appropriate texture or another background. This is a great trick to manipulate the feel of the photo to what you want it to say.

MML 3 compos yankee 500

Editing Process: I used Photoshop Elements for its layering ability, the background is removed (masked out) using Topaz Labs Remask, then in Elements I flipped the dog’s direction and added two Kim Klassen textures and a font to make a beautiful pet portrait. Wow, that was a pretty messed up original photo! Legs and a dock coming out of the dog’s head and a boat edge chopping him in half. The labradoodle dog’s name is Yankee Doodle, so the music texture ties his name to a song…for those under 50 years old…”Yankee Doodle Dandy” – that is a song. That whole edit was really simple to do, using a few great editing tools. I could have replaced the background with a solid color or a landscape, but this texture is eye candy. I added text, Yankee Doodle, using a font called, Pea Noodle’s Girlfriends. Isn’t it great? Info on the font site is in my Nitty Gritty section, later.

Screen Shot shows layers. blue tone texture, Providence is mode:Normal 36% brushed off of dog. Lighter music texture is mode:Normal 49%. It helps to brighten the dog as well.

Screen Shot shows layers. blue tone texture, Providence is mode:Normal 36% brushed off  dog.
Lighter music texture is mode:Normal 49%. It helps to brighten the dog as well.

If, “A picture speaks 1000 words,” then, why not let your picture SAY what it said when you shot it? Sometimes, means the feeling you had when you were compelled to shoot the photo in the first place. You want that feeling to come out in the photo…maybe it is a feeling of warmth, humor, loneliness or just feeling that something is really special (like this darling dog)…right? But without the BASICS of Exposure, Focus and Composition, the photo is not ever going to accomplish that very well.

Let me show you what I mean…these are the Basics…

Problem: Exposure (too light or too dark – or my usual, flat “blah”)

Solution: Bring back detail in highlights/shadows and Color Correct to get the mood of the moment when shot.

Tip: It is better to have a little bit dark photo (underexposed) than to overexpose and blow-out the whites. Because, information is still in the dark areas and can be brought back, in editing.  BUT once an area is blown-out white, the info to bring back details is totally lost.

In Elements I added a gradient and text, Sunrise. Font:

This Sunrise photo was taken in Sidney, BC, at the golden hour, so I was seeing a beautiful golden glow and an early morning mist over the bay…unfortunately my camera, truthfully, me, did not setup the camera correctly to catch that lighting. So, below, the SOOC image was cool blue with a flat contrast. Blah! Not what I really saw.

Editing Process: I took the SOOC photo into Topaz Labs (TL), ADJUST, to fix the exposure and warm it up and then into TL’s STAR EFFECTS to add brightness to sun that carried onto the water. That also brightened the birds on the pier. Such a radiant effect for the, otherwise, dull photo! Then, back in Elements, a Sunflare was added to the water in the bottom left area. For the final version, above, I used the crop tool to define photo edge then pulled it out to the left and added a peach gradient and text (all done in Elements.) The flat photo now has the feeling of a “serene NEW day,” which is how it felt when I shot it.

sunrise B & A

Left: SOOC  Right: edited in Topaz Labs, Adjust, and Star Effects

here’s another…

Problem: Out of Focus

Solution: “When given Lemons, make Limocello,” ha… this Paris in the Rain edit really rocks my bad shot!

I quickly shot this photo trying to capture A Special Moment. It was taken at night as I was quickly moving off of a bus, so no time to think, just shoot from the hip…I was about to take my first step onto the streets of PARIS! The photo is totally out of focus and full of noise (grainy.) I did not want to toss it out, come on its Paris in the rain, so I just kept it buried in my files, until one day I saw this smeared technique used on a photo during a webinar. I loved its abstract-look.

Editing Process: In a topaz labs’ webinar the presenter used Topaz Labs LensEffects, Streaked preset, to get the look for his example, so I experimented with that, too. The movement, of the streaked effect, gave the mood of traffic rushing by (and me rushing out onto the street.) LOTS of movement and color, just the way I felt when I shot it. Side note: I also use plugins specifically made to correct focus and detail on many of my less blurry photos.

Paris in the Rain compos B&A copy

Added text, Paris in the Rain, font: Before the rain.

Added text, Paris (Rat Infested font) in the Rain (Before the Rain font)

Nitty Gritty Info & Links:

Really, it is Photo Editing that floats my boat! That is my passion. I use 2 editing Applications, Photoshop Elements (cheaper and less bulky for my older laptop) and Lightroom. With those two applications I am able to run my favorite Plugins, Actions, Textures & Presets. Most of which are FREE! I did purchase Topaz Labs complete suite, about five years ago, it soon became my Go-to photo editing tool. I, also, use textures and presets, templates, overlays and brushes from both & Both ladies are talented artists and photographers who give free product and tutorials, as well as have the best & most amazing high-quality products for purchase, at affordable prices. The other places I get ephemera (that is stuff) and classes from… and They, also, have freebies and a huge variety of affordable digital ephemera (that’s stuff like frames, staples, string, watercolor doodles.) is my Go-to for graphics. Fonts, I have to mention, because I use them often in my photos for quotes or titles. I get type fonts free from online font sites. Just Google, “Free fonts” and download what you like. is one of my favorite blogs to follow, Amanda, also, offers free Hand-writing fonts that she makes from her readers’ submitted handwriting. The fonts are part of her Pea family. I used a Pea font in the “Yankee Doodle” photo. I love her fonts!

Enough talk…

Problem: “What was I thinking?” (or seeing? when I shot this)  I take a lot of these “??” kind of photos when traveling, sigh. A quick look and these type of photos get deleted real fast. But instead…

Solution: My solution now is to have fun with those photos. I experiment with new techniques learned online. Amazing results can happen!

MML vatican gypsy compos500

This photo was taken just outside the Vatican City wall. A gypsy… I like her smirk and fake tears. Editing Process: Crop, to change the Composition, using Rule of Thirds (her face is positioned on a grid intersection, whoohoo that worked out!) Convert color to B&W. I used Elements Levels adjustment before adding Textures (from French Kiss Collections,) which also brightened shadows while adding grit and crackle. Then I added Overlays of writing & Brush postage stamps (French Kiss) Honestly, this would have been a “deletable photo,” had I not edited it. Now it has a story and mystery to it. That makes a photo interesting, don’t you agree?

Okay, one more just for fun. This photo was shot in Rome, near where I saw the gypsy lady. Captain was going to sit and enjoy a big cup of coffee…Haaaaa. It’s Italy! Long story short, after I shopped and Captain finished his tiny cuppa’ joeseppe : )  I turned back and shot this (below) photo of the trattoria…

Original SOOC Tratatoria sscene shot in Roma

Original SOOC Trattoria scene shot in Roma

I wish I had taken time to setup the photo angle, the trattoria was so charming. To remember that day, I rocked the shot with a few tricks. See caption for process…notice how editing took care SOOC’s blown-out white side of the building. Genius, did you say?? I know it surprised me too, ha – that is why the TL milk glass effect worked so well. The preset whites-out the edges anyway, giving a vintage look of hand-painting on milk glass. That gave a whitened left-hand side so when the gritty post card texture was added both sides of the building were balanced.

1. Taken into Topaz Labs, Adjust, Milk Glass Preset. 2. Desaturated 3. Texture added and brushed out. Texxture:

1. The SOOC was taken into Topaz Labs, Adjust, Milk Glass Preset. 2. Desaturated color 3. Texture added and brushed out. I used a free texture, Tango postale, free from:

Fianl with Text added to bottom Right. "Wish you were mio amore" Font My Old Remington

Total Charm… with Text added to bottom Right. “Wish you were here…il mio amore” Font: My Old Remington

My editing tools are not only AFFORDABLE but SIMPLE to use. If you are new to photo editing, I encourage you to start by getting as much FREE stuff (textures, presets and ephemera) and FREE tutorials as you can. Take advantage of free trials before purchasing a software and their free training on how to use it. Then, as you learn what you like to do with your photos, you can break open the piggy for only the things you will use. Also, to understand some layer basics in Elements, see my last post and a downloadable tutorial HERE. Photo-editing will transform your photos, and, it will change the way you shoot photos. I am learning to photo-edit using my iPhone apps, but still find my way back to my computer to use these more refined editing tools when I really want to Rock the Shot!

What TOOLS do you use to Improve your photos?

Thanks for stopping by!

Disclaimer: I am an Affiliate of Topaz Labs, but that relationship does not influence my opinion of their product. I affiliate with them because I think their product, training and support is the BEST. I get a small commission when you Click on their advertisement box, on my site, then purchase a Topaz Labs product. Depending on how your viewing device, Topaz Labs’ ad is on the right-side panel or at the bottom of Meet Me Lakeside.

new Kathy sig w wc & big mug 159x50




2 thoughts on “Friday Find – How to Improve Your Photos

  1. I think you still have to have an eye to visualize the “imperfect” pic to get to the new improved pic. You have it and it shows in all of your pictures, improved or not.

  2. I must thank you for the efforts you’ve put in penning
    this site. I really hope to check out the same high-grade blog posts from you
    later on as well. In truth, your creative writing abilities has motivated
    me to get my very own site now 😉

Comments are closed.