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How to make your photos look like they were taken by a pro

Updated on March 14, 2015
Tiger original
Tiger original

Photo projects

Book on special landscape projects that will make you a better photographer.

Make photos pop

One of the most disappointing things about looking at your photos after you take them is finding shots that you thought were great when you took them but look flat and unimpressive when you see them on the computer. Here are 7 easy ways that I have found to make your photos look much better with just a little tweaking. You can do these on Photoshop or what I use most Corel Paint Shop Photo Pro, or Gimp, a free program you can find online, and on other photo programs with layers and adjustments for specific characteristics of the photo. Make all your adjustments on a copy of the original just in case you mess up bad and can’t fix it you will not ruin your original.

I did these with the same photo to give you a comparison for you to see, the shot above is the original with no adjustments. Not all types of photos will look the same, you will need to play with the setting and see what works best for each photo and each type of photo. You may find setting that work for all your landscapes or all your portraits, but the same setting will not work very well for portraits and landscapes.

Blur photo
Blur photo

Gaussian blur technique

Technique number 1, make a duplicate layer, make a gaussian blur adjustment to the duplicate layer, then select the blend mode of overlay or multiply.  Adjust the amount to the best look and flatten the layers and sharpen to your liking.

Curves adjustment

Curves adjustment
Curves adjustment

Curves adjustments

Technique 2, open the photo and make a curves adjustment by putting a point in the center of the line, then move the top part to the left and move the bottom part to the right.  When you’re done the line will look like a flattened out S, adjust to your liking, then sharpen slightly.

Saturation only
Saturation only

Saturation only

Technique 3 is a little harder but not much.  Make a selection around your subject, make sure you feather the selection to avoid have a line that is noticeable around the subject, then raise the saturation of the subject, then invert the selection and lower the saturation of the surrounding part of the image.    You can also use the soften tool to smooth out the blend if you need to.  When done sharpen to your liking.

Contrast only
Contrast only

Contrast only

Technique 4 is as simple as just doing a contrast bump on the photo.  Depending on the surrounding background this can be enough to make the photo look much better. You can see that upping the contrast makes more difference in this photo than upping just the saturation.  If you up the saturation and the contrast you can also get good results.  Be careful with these adjustments as you can overdue this very easily and make the shot look fake.

Cropped image
Cropped image

Cropped image

Number 5 is to crop as much of the background out of the shot that you can and then maybe a slight contrast or saturation adjustment or both.  The key to all of these is that there is no set amount for any adjustment.  You will find what works good to start with, but you will have to tweak most setting for every shot.

Tone mapped
Tone mapped

Tone mapping

Number 6 is called tone mapping, on Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 and older versions this was called Clarify instead of tone mapping you can play with the settings and get very different results, some look good, and some look terrible, look at it and compare to the original and do a little at a time so you don’t overdue it.



Number 7 is to desaturate all but the subject.  There are many ways to do this but the way I prefer is to make a duplicate layer, then desaturate that layer and then use the erase tool to erase the parts that you want to be in color, this leaves the rest of the shot in grayscale. Then flatten and sharpen.

Give these easy techniques a try to see how they help you shots look better.  The nice thing about these techniques are you don’t have to have raw shots to work with, you can start with a shot right out of your point and shoot camera and make it look much better.  Let me know if you have any other easy techniques that you use for fixing dull flat looking shots.

Other good photo articles

Take pictures of beautiful flowers

How to take clear sharp photos

How to take great vacation photos


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    • epbooks profile image

      Elizabeth Parker 

      6 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Thanks for posting! I'll have to look into these!

    • VagabondE profile image


      9 years ago from Hitting the road again

      Great hub and very useful.


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