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How To Turn Bad Digtial Photos Into Cool Art

Updated on September 18, 2014
Nightcat profile image

Nightcat loves photography and has been a hobbyist for decades who enjoys talking to other photographers and comparing rigs and photos.

Pretty awesome compared to the original photo in my book.
Pretty awesome compared to the original photo in my book.

Make Your Own Art? Yes, You Can!

We've all done it. You take a shot you think will be wonderful, and it sure looks good in the tiny viewer of your camera. But you get it home, prepare to upload it to a site and can't believe how terrible it looks on your screen. Well, do not panic, any photo can be saved by digging into a basic photo editing suite, many of which can be found free online.

The photo editing programs used in this article to manipulate the photo were PhotoPad Image Editor and Photo Explosion SE. But please remember that any photo editing program can make wonderful art out of your photos. So gather up you rejected photos and let's get started!

Step One: Pick A Photo

Out of respect for the dead I shot these stones from the back, so total strangers didn't get to snoop. I didn't think the plant leaves would be all that noticeable, but as you can see they destroy the shot and I wasn't going to disturb a grave just to clean up a shot. True, I could have tried editing it out, but I had other ideas.

Also, I had the over-exposure of the shot to deal with, and that can get tricky in a hurry if you also managed, as I did, to have areas of deep shadow. But again, don't freak out. And remember the point here is to make art, so it doesn't have to be the perfect photo in the first place, and if it was, you wouldn't be rescuing it, right?

Make sure when you start altering you photo you choose a different name, so you can always start over from your original. Many programs will warn you, but most often an edit once saved, cannot be undone.

A good tip is to choose a name you won't forget for a copy of your original photo and save it in a file specifically for your project. I should have renamed this photo, but didn't so I had to scramble to find it again amidst other photos not related to my project.

I'd like to lie and say I didn't take this shot, but I did.
I'd like to lie and say I didn't take this shot, but I did.

How do You Make Art?

Which program do you use to your turn photos into art?

See results

A Big Improvement Using Hue

See how much better with a simple edit of hue?
See how much better with a simple edit of hue?

Step Two: Run a Basic Edit

This shot actually looked worse in black and white, so I played with the hue option in PhotoPad. I tried out many different hues, and settled on this purple range. It was already looking better, more interesting than just a graveyard shot.

True the overexposed sky is still there, but you've got to admit there is something about purple that catches the eye, and at first I thought I was done. Until I uploaded to Deviant Art and saw how bland it looked in my gallery.

But keep trying options and undoing them if you don't like them. You can't really hurt the original file, so get creative. Try sepia, a basic effect, or whatever other options might interest you like cropping or auto enhancing your photo.

Save this step under a different name. So if the photo file name is A this can be A2, or B, or whatever you like. I know it seems like a lot of work, but this gives you the ability to play around as much as you like, yet still have a backup version of your edited photo in case you change your mind later.

Play Around With Your Editing Options

Here I went with saturation and exposure. Notice the lighter tone the emerging art has taken on.
Here I went with saturation and exposure. Notice the lighter tone the emerging art has taken on.

Need a Photoshop Idea?

Interest Can Include



Spotlight Effects

Step Three: Add Some Interest

Switching back and forth between Photo Pad and Photo Explosion SE I added interest by playing around with exposure and saturation of color in the photo. The more I turned up the saturation, the more odd colors started to appear. Notice how the mood changes from something that could have been spooky or somber to some to something more cheerful?

You don't have to choose the effects I did of course. Try negative and starting from there, or try adding an effect such as spot light and going to a black and white version of your photo, but remember to keep playing around until you're happy. This should be fun.

Again, remember to save this step as well, under a different file name. So you could have A, A2 and A3 at this point. I do this all the time. True, I may only ever use the final photo, but I like to think of the other files as alternate versions.

Details Make Your Art Pop!

Adding in some preset effects can make your art pop. Remember it is your art, so if you want to go freehand you can do that too.
Adding in some preset effects can make your art pop. Remember it is your art, so if you want to go freehand you can do that too.

Don't Forget The Details!

Staying in the same program I decided I needed some spirits in this graveyard, so in Photo Explosion SE after playing with some bubbles I settled on the firefly option, trying several out until I got an effect like the spirit orbs people often see in photos today.

I did try freehand, but these programs include special effects for a reason. Sure, if you know the program, you spot them right away, but you always have the option to paint or draw in many programs, so you could add any effect you like.

Pick whatever name you like for this photo and save it as well. Keep in mind you will appreciate having saved each step in the future as each part of the process can be used for different projects or on different sites.

And as you gain in abilities or get better editing programs you'll appreciate having each step to play around with. Remember to get creative and remember to share your creations with people on networking sites, art sites, or even have it printed up to a canvas.

This is now your art and you should be proud of your hard work. So show it off to the world.

Liked the Project?

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    • Nightcat profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago

      My absolute pleasure, PinkstonePictures! I'm happy you enjoyed the articles and thanks for commenting! :)

    • PinkstonePictures profile image


      4 years ago from Miami Beach, FL

      I can spend many an hour playing around with photos and love all the effects you can add. Thanks for sharing your tips.

    • Nightcat profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago

      Thanks so very much, WiccanSage! I love fooling around in my programs for hours, lol! Glad you liked the article and thanks for commenting! :)

    • WiccanSage profile image

      Mackenzie Sage Wright 

      4 years ago

      Wow, that is so very cool. Love what you did with that! I love messing around with things in photoshop, I'm going to try these. Nice work here, well done.


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