Thursday, May 31, 2012

tips for better Blog Photos

Photos are big part of blogging. Getting a great photo doesn't come natural to most folks.  There's a learning curve for sure.  If you're a beginner and aren't sure where to start, here's a helpful post on Lighting, Perspective, Background and Camera.  Since then, I actually bought a new camera that really helps me take nice pictures in low lighting.  Even though I admire those who use more professional cameras, I'm very happy with my Canon powershoot, which only cost $130. 

I always try my best to take a beautiful picture from the get go.  But, the fact is that most all my pictures benefit from a little boost after the fact.  Yours probably will too.  For me, post production is a regular part of my process.  I shoot with a digital camera, often in low lighting since I won't use flash, so my pictures always need added contrast, saturation and sharpness.  If that means nothing to you, have no fear, just read on.  Since my husband is a professional photographer, we own Adobe Photoshop, which I use to process my images before uploading them to Flickr.  Let's talk today about free online resources to help you photograph your fabulous craftiness!

If you are taking pictures of your work to share on a blog, by all means use Flickr!  Flickr is way fun.  It's a social community based on pictures.  It's free.  And, you're sure to be inspired by all the beauty there!

I start "processing" my pictures by choosing my favorites and deleting the rest.  Then I shrink them down to a very manageable size so that they upload into Flickr quite quickly.  I use Canon's "Digital Photo Professional" to resize my pictures to about 600 x 450 pixels all in one batch, saving the large originals in case I need them later.  You don't have to do this though - Flickr will accept very large images.  But, small images load quickly.

Flickr has a new built-in tool to help you improve photos.  And it's free!  To access it, click on your photo and choose Actions/edit photo in Aviary.  I used Aviary today for the first time and it was very intuitive.  If you haven't resized your images to make them smaller before loading to Flickr, you can use the Crop tool to do so.  You can select the entire image so that you're not really cropping it - just making it a smaller file size, which will help your final blog post load quickly.

The first tool in the Aviary consul is Enhance.  It has little stars by it because it's magical.  If you aren't interested in adjusting contrast/saturation/brightness etc. individually (and you probably aren't) this is the button for you.  Click on Enhance and then click "Enhance" again to make it happen.  If you feel that your image is too dark, the "Night" button in the Enhance consul brightens the image quite nicely. 

After using Enhance, you might be done. But, if you took your image in low lighting, it might be a bit out of focus.  Use the slider on the Sharpness tool until the image looks better.  Careful not to sharpen too much, as it will increase graininess and can create little white lines around the shapes in your image. 

Here's a typical image of mine of some stashings from Fresh Modern Fabric, taken in reasonably good natural lighting:

Fresh Modern stashings

Here's the improved Aviary version with Enhance and a little Sharpness.  In this case, since the original photo was pretty decent, the improved Aviary version looks quite a lot like the improved Photoshop version (not shown).

Fresh Modern stashings w/Aviary

Here's another example, shot yesterday in poor lighting conditions.  Because it was overcast, there was not enough light for me to get a clear shot and the image is definitely not sharp.

Tossed Polaroids

In Aviary, I used Enhance.  Then, I added the Night button in the Enhance consul to brighten the image.  I added lots of Sharpness since it was blurry.  To show you what Saturation does, I also used the Saturation tool to make the colors richer/brighter than they are in real life.

Tossed Polaroids w/Aviary

Looks fun, right?  The image is grainy (you can see some pixelation/grain since it was a low quality image), but it's still a fun image to share.  If you have a poor quality image that you really want to share, you can also experiment with Effects in Aviary to give the image a whole new life.  This is the Ventura effect:

Tossed Polaroids w/Aviary & Ventura

Before we move on from this image, here is the Photoshop corrected image without any bumps in lighting or saturation, just for your reference.  It's slightly less grainy than the Aviary version and not overly saturated:

Tossed Polaroids w/Photoshop

One last example.  Here's an image I took of my floor during the design process of my latest quilt.  This was a functional image, taken with artificial lighting at night and not one I intended to share on the blog.  See how it has those awful glare spots from our lights?  Those totally bother me. Plus, it's really blurry and lacking color/contrast.  Blech.

Design floor

Here's what Aviary was able to do to rescue the image with Enhance and lots of sharpness:

Design floor w/Aviary

I still would have not been thrilled to share this image on my blog.  But, it's not too bad, if it was an important image.  Still, I think this version with the Indiglow Effect would have been more fun to share:

Design floor w/Aviary Indiglow

And, just in case you're wondering, I did use Aviary to put those "Original" labels on the original photos, using the Text tool.

Big Huge Labs/Mosaic Maker
One last tip, you can make mosaics with a few or LOTS of pictures quite easily by using Big Huge Labs.  Link your Big Huge Labs account with your Flickr acount so that you can painlessly add pictures to the mosaic and publish the mosaic to Flickr, including text that links to each original flickr image.  Go to the Mosaic Maker.  Have fun!

When your pictures are ready in Flickr, use the "share this" tab above any picture to "Grab the HTML/BBCode".  I copy that code into the HTML version of my post to drop in pictures that automatically link to my Flickr account.

I hope this was helpful info and let me know if you have any questions!


  1. Excellent tips.
    I often brighten my photos if it's a day without sun, though sometimes you can go to far.
    I use Picmonkey.

    ps. your floor pic looks awesome after you photoshopped it!

    1. Thanks, Clare! Just to clarify, the last floor picture was created using Aviary's Indiglow effect.

  2. Thanks for that - I've been using Picmonkey and it's automatic fixes for color and such really seem to overdo it, I've been having trouble keeping things looking natural looking pictures even with tinkering with aspects of photos individually. I'll have to get to know flickr a bit better!

  3. wow...aviary is brilliant...thanks so much for the tip

  4. Well, now I think I may be doing something wrong?? :) You're pictures do look great! It may also be that I was so use to and comfortable with picnik, that it may take me awhile until I feel that way about Aviary? I could show you an example of what happens to my pictures with enhance, it makes them so funny looking and the fabric colors change so dramatically that I don't feel like I am represented them well anymore.

    I'll have to check out this Picmonkey that the others mentioned!

    1. Well I agree that Aviary is less flexible than Picnic, especially with text. I hope you find what you're looking for, Maureen! You might also check Gimp, which is an open source version of Photoshop. I've heard it's hard to learn to use, but powerful.

  5. Thanks for the tips! I have a flickr account, but haven't really spent much time with it. Even just for ease of loading pictures, it probably is something I need to move toward.

  6. I use photoshop, but I think I tend to make my pictures too saturated and contrasty.. sometimes I don't know when to stop!
    Also, sometimes I get lazy when taking the pictures (bad!) and if I don't hold still enough they can be a bit blurry.
    Thanks for the tips, it was a fun read!

  7. i would vote trying picmonkey. i use it for almost every photo i put on flickr, usually just for cropping. it's VERY easy to use and they just added a collage feature. i think it's easier than bighugelabs for some things and although i only used pinic a little, picmonkey seems to be just as easy to use.

  8. What a great post!! So informative! I just posted a picture today on my blog and noted that the photo wasn't true to it's actual color! I didn't change the white balance setting but I'm going to try some of your tips just to see what would happen!! Thanks so much!!!

  9. Thank you for the wonderful tips! I just got a fancy new camera, but there's only so much that can do ;)

  10. Great tips! loving all those Polariod blocks! =D

  11. Thanks for such great info! I usually use Photoshop Elements, but it looks like Aviary has some great tools.

  12. Thank you, Rachael! Great info, did not know it was available. I usually us photoshop. Love your Polaroid Blocks!

  13. Very timely post. I just spent the past 2 days taking pictures of quilts and tops. I use Iphoto and Photoshop to tweak my photos but am just learning the ends and outs of Flickr. And my blog is kind of new so I'm working on that too.

  14. thanks for letting me know about Aviary! I used to have an awesome photo program that did all that stuff with my old computer, but since it died I've been sadly stuck in the land of terrible, un-edited photos for the last year, and it really shows on my blog. Looking forward to trying it.

  15. Thank you so so much for this! I find many of your posts inspiring and helpful, but this will definitely go to the bookmarks and be used for reference again and again.

  16. That is really helpful! I used to use picnic and now it is closed of course, and picmonkey helps but you can only upload one picture at the time which is quite time consuming... Will check out the new Flickr edition feature!

  17. great ideas! i use and love it! simple, totally easy and you can do everything you want!
    just thought i'd share.

  18. I recommed using picmonkey as a free online photo editing tool. It's got loads of features, and you can even make collages!

  19. thank you for a great post!

  20. thankyou for the great info in your post on taking photos.


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