How-To Edit Photos: Make People Think You Have a Good Camera (When You Don’t)

I like to trick you on this blog. Every post, I do my best to convince you that I actually have an amazing, expensive camera and well, it’s a lie. The truth is, I have a pretty basic point-and-shoot digital camera, but the images I put up don’t really come from my camera, they comes from the editing that I do afterwards.

The camera I use is the Panasonic Lumix SZ7, which I bought for $130 on Amazon, but it is now being sold at $200 (I got lucky on the price, I guess). I use Photoshop CS6 for my editing, which I was able to buy through my university at a discounted student price. There are also free editing programs out there (like Gimp), but Photoshop is what works for me and what I prefer to use.

goodvsbad

First, the best photography advice I have ever gotten was regarding using the macro setting for close-ups. If you have a digital camera, most likely there is a macro setting. It’s usually the tiny flower symbol.

Taking pictures in macro will save you so much grief when it comes to taking close-up images such as with makeup products or something that is less than a foot away. Almost every photo on this blog is taken in macro, which is the reason the focus is so much better than it would be in manual mode.

macronotmacro

Second, color saturation can make or break your pictures. In almost every photo on this blog, I have checked the levels in Photoshop and altered them. Let’s look at our fire picture. This picture was made so much better just by adjusting the levels.

It’s going to take a bit of learning curve to figure out which adjustments need to be made, but usually I just play around with it a bit until I get a color balance that I am happy with.

levels2levels3

Third, gaussian blur can be your friend. With most photographs of myself that I put up, I like to use a little gaussian blur to help define the foreground and the background. It gives the picture more of DSLR (bigger, expensive cameras with changeable lenses) vibe because usually the focus on DSLRs is a lot better. It also helps minimize the noise from a messy background. I won’t get into in this post, but I am also a fan of using content-aware deletion to clean up busy backgrounds (as you can see in the before/after picture).

goodvsbad3blur1blur2blur3

Finally, in combination with altering the levels, raising the brightness and contrast of a photo can make all the difference.

In most of my photos, even though they are well lit with natural light, I usually boost the contrast and brightness by 30. It gives the image more depth, and I like how these two things can work together to alter the composition of the entire photo.

You can tell in the swan picture that I lowered the green level and upped the blue, and the brightness and contrast has been upped. It takes the original flatter picture and makes it look more detailed and real, and therefore, gives more of an impression it was taken by a much more expensive camera.

goodvsbad1I’m not a camera or editing genius. I took a photography class in high school, and I learned some of the basics of composition and Photoshop, but all the rest of my knowledge is self-taught. I know there are million different ways of editing photos, and people tend to get very passionate about the “right and wrong” ways of editing (so please don’t bite my head off if you do things another way).

I hope that this helps out anyone struggling to improve their photographs. I’ve still got a lot to learn, but I can say that I am proud of all of the pictures I put up on my blog even though they all came from a point-and-shoot.

What kind of camera do you use? Editing software?

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13 thoughts on “How-To Edit Photos: Make People Think You Have a Good Camera (When You Don’t)

    • Sam October 9, 2013 / 2:14 pm

      No prob.

  1. Jordannah October 9, 2013 / 11:31 am

    That was really helpful! Great post

  2. Sam October 9, 2013 / 2:18 pm

    Thanks! :)

  3. myclosetnbeautyfinds90 October 9, 2013 / 3:10 pm

    wow i’m shocked! lol you always take amazing photos! i seriously thought it was a DSLR! my point and shoot camera takes terrible photos, it’s old though so maybe I should upgrade.

    • Sam October 9, 2013 / 9:03 pm

      Aw thanks. It’s nice to hear that I have successfully fooled people with my editing :)

  4. lilses October 9, 2013 / 3:26 pm

    would be cool if you could make video tutorials, lilses

    • Sam October 9, 2013 / 9:04 pm

      True, but sometimes having a written tutorial is easier to refer to. ;)

  5. Ashley October 9, 2013 / 4:16 pm

    Great tips! I use two different camera depending on my mood, a Canon Powershot and Canon Rebel T3i. I also like to use Adobe Photoshop to edit all my photos – you can do so many wonderful things in that program!

    • Sam October 9, 2013 / 9:05 pm

      Yes! It is so awesome – definitely a good investment!

  6. Colleen October 23, 2013 / 5:08 pm

    Awesome post! I’ll probably use the blur feature on Photoshop. How do you lasso the image without messing it up? I’ve always had a hard time with that…lol

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