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Habit 3 for Amazing Photographs

Updated on September 2, 2014
Red-tailed Hawk Juvenile - photo by Bron Praslicka
Red-tailed Hawk Juvenile - photo by Bron Praslicka

Habit 3 - Edit Your Photos For Added Effect.

Not every subject is going to be willing to pose for you while you check your ISO, shutter speed and aperture. So rather than take the chance of losing an awesome photo opportunity - let the camera deal with the lighting and shutter speed - while you make sure you capture a great photo.

I have been a huge nature lover ever since I can remember. Along with studying the names and characteristics of the flora and fauna of the north central Texas area where I live - I have learned over time which species of birds will sit still long enough for you to take several photos of them - and which species will not.

One secret to taking great bird photos is to take photos from within your car. Whereas most birds will fly away when they see a human approaching, they will rarely take notice of a car. Some of my best bird photos have been taken from inside my car. Large birds of prey are the exception to this rule. They won't take notice of a car driving by but if they see the car slowing down or coming to a stop they will quickly fly away. As a result large birds of prey, such as the Red-tailed Hawk in the photos above and below, are without a doubt one of the most difficult species of birds you will ever try to photograph.

While out and about one December day I noticed this young Red-tailed Hawk sitting on the fence looking for his next meal. I noticed the hawk as I drove by which meant that I would have to turn around and loop back by in order to capture a photo. I knew that he would fly the moment I stopped my car which meant that I would only have one chance at a good photo. I defiantly knew I would not have time to play with the various exposure settings.

As I guessed, the moment I stopped my car the hawk turned to see what I was up to. This is the only photo I had time to take before he took flight. Although the original photo is nothing to brag about, I knew that with the use of a decent photo editor I had all I needed to create an eye catching image.

Red-tailed Hawk Juvenile - photo by Bron Praslicka
Red-tailed Hawk Juvenile - photo by Bron Praslicka

Choosing A Photo Editor.

For those who dislike having to learn and use new software products please stay with me. The great news about enhancing your photos is that it doesn't take someone certified in Photoshop to do it.

All the editing tools you need to create amazing photos are the most basic - a cropping tool, and the ability to enhance colors and lighting - that's pretty much it. Because I am going to hope that I have attracted new photographers who are unfamiliar with some of the basics of photo editing let me give you a quick overview.

Cropping a photo simply means you are going to cut out a section of the original photo rather than use the original photo as is. In order to zoom in on the hawk in my photo I cropped out a 5x7 section of the original photo. The other reason I cropped the photo was because I felt that the houses in the background distracted the focus away from my main subject.

When I mention the ability to enhance colors and lighting I mean just that. All of the most basic photo editors allow you to enhance the lighting - either making your photo darker or lighter, and they allow you to alter the color - either making the colors softer or more brilliant. These basic functions are now available even in most office desktop software such as Microsoft Word or PowerPoint.

One quick note: Although I am familiar with Apple technology I am predominantly a Microsoft Windows user. Since I plan on sharing information about editors available on the internet I don't believe it will matter all that much.

There are any number of great (and free) photo editors on the market today. Because this article is designed to simply cover the basics of photo editing I am not going to spend a lot of time discussing all of the options available. If you use a web site such as Flickr.com to store your photos Flickr offers an on-line editor that you can use. I believe Google+ also offers an editor as well.

My personal favorite is Picmonkey.com. I actually discovered Picmonkey many years ago when it was called Picnic and it was the editor available in Flickr. Picnic was later purchased by Google and added to it's on-line apps - although I was disappointed to discover that Google made a number of changes to Picnic that I didn't care for.

The good news is that the original developers of Picnic - after waiting a required period of time probably outlined in a non-compete agreement - recreated all the original features and functions once found in Picnic and re-launched it at Picmonkey.com.

A Better Photo In A Few Easy Steps.

Just to give you an idea how easy it is to enhance a photo I've included a couple of screenshots from PicMonkey. The photo to the right is the original photo. We had a rare snowfall in the early part of December 2013 which gave me an opportunity to take a few winter photos.

The first thing I usually do after loading the photo is to crop the photo to the size I want for my final images. In cropping the photo I also take the opportunity to use one of the standard rules of photography known as the rule-of-thirds. Simply put it means to place your subject off to one side of the photograph. After completing this series on basic photo composition I plan on creating a series on some of the more technical concepts of photography such as the rule-of-thirds.

I typically don't like to use a flash when taking photos because I don't like the un-natural look a flash gives to the subject. However since a cloudy winter day means very little light, I knew my photos would need some enhancing.

With a photo editor it is an easy task to brighten the image as well as enhance the color. Note that I am not actually changing the contents of the photo, but simply enhancing what is already there.

Basic Edits and Beyond.

Once you get the hang of basic photo edits there are all kinds of additional features to be found in today's photo editors. I used one of the more advanced features to turn my photo into a Christmas greeting (included at the end of this article) that I e-mailed to friends.

The best advice I can offer to those who are just getting started with using an editor is to simply dive in and give the various features a try. Once you make changes to the original photo I do recommend that you save your new photo under a different name - that way you always have your original photo should you want to play with other editing options.

If you have never tried a photo editor you owe it to yourself to give it a try - I can assure you the world of photography will take on a whole new level of enjoyment if you do.

Until next time. Enjoy.

Bron


The following link will take you to Habit 4 in my series on taking better photographs, or if you just happened across this article and would like to review my full series on the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Photographers the link at the end of this article will take you to the opening article of my series.

© 2014 Bron Praslicka

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    • Brie Hoffman profile image

      Brie Hoffman 3 years ago from Manhattan

      Thanks and welcome, come by anytime the tea kettle is on ;)

      By the way, almost all of my photos are edited through picmonkey.

    • BronPraslicka profile image
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      Bron Praslicka 3 years ago from Dallas / Fort Worth area of Texas

      I agree - They make it easy - I really like that. I'm still very new to Hubpages - and to blogging for that matter. I'll be dropping by since it is obvious you know what you are doing - and I like your hubs.

    • Brie Hoffman profile image

      Brie Hoffman 3 years ago from Manhattan

      PicMonkey is the Bomb! I love it! Great hub.