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Interesting Photography Ideas You Can Use to Create Art Prints for Your Walls

Updated on February 5, 2014

Old Stuff is Good Stuff

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Same Tractor - Less Cropped - Saturated Color

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The Artist Inside

Creativity lives in each of us. You, are an artist... somewhere in there...that artist is patiently waiting to come out and show you what it can do. For some of you, art is a part of every day. There are people in the world who inherently see things around them as more than they are, and who seem able to capture it in a way that conveys their vision to others. And then there are normal people. People who every now and then take the most awesome photo ever with their cell phone or digital camera and think, "Wow, did I do that?" then quietly in disbelief tuck that photo away never to be seen again. Please allow me to encourage each of you who are sitting there reading this article to recognize that you have art within you and that you are talented enough to create awesome photos worthy of putting up on your walls that will impress the most cynical friend. You, can do this.

Recently while walking through a variety store in my neighborhood, I spotted a photo which had been printed on canvas. It was interesting but not spectacular. An old farm truck, with its big eyeball-like headlights and black fendered grin, printed in a heavily saturated black and white style was staring me down. In my head the following thought appeared, "Hmm. I have taken dozens like that, some better, some just as good, with my cell phone..." As I was pondering how this piece got "published" for sale so to speak and why mine are still sitting in my memory card - a very well put together thirty-something woman in riding boots and stretchy pants - perfectly twisted scarf blowing in her wake - walked up and took that print. Pleased with her harvest - she hurried off to pay for this treasure. It was in that moment that I knew - anyone could create quality art that someone would buy, and that most of us probably already have some in our phones or on our hard drives right now. Oddly, a door in one's mind, once opened, becomes incredibly difficult to shut.

Think about all the photographic art you've seen in home décor stores or at the local Ross and Target. Their shelves and walls are loaded with close up shots of interesting yet common things. To name a few, close ups of flowers or leaf clusters; rusted metal gears or pulleys with half frayed rope dangling; old wheels; fences and trees in a field; old houses; interesting architecture; close up's of a hinge holding a broken shutter; trains and tractors. These are things we all have around us - we walk past them every day - so ask yourself, "Why buy this stuff, when I can create it myself?", and trust me, you can.

One of my very favorite photo storage and printing sites is shutterfly.com. I have used them for years, and there are a lot of reasons for that choice which are discussed in my hubpage article http://hubpages.com/hub/How-To-Preserve-and-Easily-Share-Digital-Photographs for information on shutterfly and other great sites to print and store photos. Basically, Shutterfly lets you store unlimited photos forever and has excellent printing prices and literally hundreds of printing options. Their prints are exceptionally high quality and quickly sent to your home. So, I visited their site. Printing on a canvas, wood, wall decal, acrylic is totally do-able. Their prices are reasonable and in fact less costly than that lovely print the fancy scarf lady purchased at the variety store while I looked on.

Curiosity being what it is, I uploaded a photo i took with my iPhone a while back, of a tractor sitting with other tractors under a tree on an old farm, rusting away. Quickly, and with great excitement, I uploaded that photo to Pixlr.com where one can edit photos for free on line. Using Pixlr the photo was cropped and edited in 2 different ways. First as a black and white that was heavily saturated (an editing technique) and tightly cropped. You can view that edit above. Then as a color photo slightly cropped with deeply intensified colors which used a filter called "erode" to create an interesting final edit. You can see that below. Shutterfly could print it on gallery wrapped canvas for about 60 bucks and send it to my door. If this was possible using a random photo on my iPhone - imagine what you could do if you were actually trying? You will be unstoppable!

Same Tractor - Original Size - Saturated and "Eroded"

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Architectural Details Are Art

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"This is AWESOME, How Do I Get Started?"

Ready to learn how to do this yourself? Well, let's get this party started.

What you need:

  • Digital Photograph Taking Device - could be a camera or an iPhone or a smartphone.
  • Computer, Tablet or smartphone - a device capable of pulling in your photos whether by email or by accessing from a cloud AND able to access the Pixlr and Shutterfly websites.
  • Some Free Time - you'll want to be out and about, looking for things to photograph. I will provide examples and ideas but you'll need to find them in your area and take the photos yourself because this is about You becoming an awesome artist.
  • Some Patience - learning to edit photos on Pixlr will take slightly more patience th
  • an waiting for a traffic light to change. You'll need to save each edit and test options and filters. This requires an understanding that throwing your computer out a window would end badly, and a willingness to stay calm and carry on as they say.
  • Paypal or Credit Card or Debit Card - to pay for your Shutterfly order once you've decided what to print.
  • More Patience - while you wait for your creative awesomeness to arrive at your home in Shutterfly's orange box.

Now, go through the photos on your phone or in your computer/tablet. Do you have anything interesting and for now, not a human or a pet? While humans and pets are awesome subjects, beginners should consider staying focused on objects that are more easily edited and fine tuned, like rusty cars, architecture, flowers, etc. A few ideas that show what you could be looking for are to the right and below. Please know that sometimes you'll have a photo of an entire train, flower plant or building which can be tightly cropped when editing to look more like what I have posted, so look at your photos with that in mind.

Did you find something you can use? Super! If not, you'll need to go out and locate a few things to photograph so you can move to the next step. Visit a train station or transportation museum; drive or walk around your community looking for old buildings, farms, machinery or mechanical things with rust and peeling paint; interesting doors or hardware pieces on buildings; colorful flowers and plants; Basically, just anything that you really feel drawn to and that you feel could be edited to fit in with your home's décor. Once you have something to use - you can continue to the next step.

Old Cars Can Be Art

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Flowers Make Great Art Prints

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Metal and Machinery Can Be Art

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Not Knowing What It Is Creates Interest

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Pixlr Screen Shot

Got My Photo - Now, How Do I Turn It Into Art?

Congratulations on choosing a photo to work with and create your artwork. Let's upload that photo to Pixlr.com so we can edit that baby! Click that link. Choose "Pixlr Editor" When the window opens.

  • Click "Open Image From Computer"
  • Choose your photo and either double click the photo or single click and then click the "open" button
  • Your photo is now on screen and on line with pixlr. I have chosen an old caboose to work with - your screen should look like the photo to the right.
  • You'll need to crop your photo in a way that makes it really interesting. Try to use the "rule of thirds" Which means you imagine your drawing divided by 4 lines two vertical lines that divide the image into thirds, and two horizontal lines that divide the image into thirds (see illustration below and to the right). Place the heaviest area of your image along one or two of those lines, rather than dead center.

Rule of Thirds

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  • In Pixlr, you can crop and then undo but even if you couldn't undo the crop, you could just close the window and re-load the photo again from your hard drive, because the original is still there.
  • Use the pixlr crop tool on the left-hand side of your pixlr screen right under the word "file" (looks like a square). Click that square.
  • "constraint" is found in the box next to that crop tool. As a beginner set it to "output size" so you know the final will print in a way that fits most sizes. If you don't select "constraint" you will be able to free form crop, making them non-standard sizes.
  • With Crop selected, move the mouse to your image, it becomes a plus sign "+" place it on the image where you want your final image to start.
  • Click and drag to the place you'd like the image to end and let go. All the area outside that box will go away when you are done. Adjust your crop box using the little blue boxes on the corners and sides. Move it up and down or left and right by clicking inside the box and while holding that click moving the box around until you like how it looks.
  • If you like what you see in the box, hit enter. It will now be cropped. The caboose photo above was my original - look at the photo below to see my cropped image.
  • You may notice that the weight of the image is along 2 of the lines in the rule of thirds. Also, in my crop the train tracks are placed at the corner leading in so your eye wants to follow them to the caboose. Lines that lead the eye are very helpful in creating art, so try to find those in your images and use them in your work.
  • Save your work now. Click the "file" menu button and choose "save..." Give the image a name you can recognize. Check that the format says .jpg file extension (default) and move the quality bar up to 100%.
  • Click "ok" and the prompt lets you locate the file in your computer where you want to save this project. Pick the file and click "save". Now you can move to the next step.

My First Save - Cropped Caboose Image

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Step Two - Saturation; Filters; Contrast

Now we will explore how the nicely composed cropped photo becomes "art". Yes it was always art, but we're going to make it really outstanding and worth framing. Here's how we make the photo unique and memorable:

  • Locate the "Adjustment" menu tab. Click once and a drop down menu appears.
  • First choose "brightness & Contrast" I like to increase my contrast to a point at which colors "pop" then need to be real enough to be believed but unnatural enough to make someone pause and look at the photo. I slid my contrast up to +27 for this edit.
  • Typically, brightness is only needed if the original was too dark or too bright, in this case, I didn't need to adjust that. You may like to use it for your project.
  • Click Ok when it looks the way you want.
  • Choose "Adjustment" again. Select 'Hue & Saturation"
  • Slide the saturation up or down and see what strikes you - I added saturation.
  • Slide the lightness up or down and see what strikes you - I decreased lightness a tad.
  • Slide Hue up or down and see if you like it. Typically I don't use that one, but for this demo I increased hue by 5.
  • Click ok when you like what you see.
  • Again in "Adjustment" "color vibrance". I increased mine a little to give a glow, but you may not need to do this, it's a personal choice.
  • There are many other "Adjustments" but those are the ones most beginners use.
  • Now would be a good time to save. Click save - the window will open with your prior save name; change the name just enough to know what it is when looking for it later.
  • My edit is pictured below. It is very different from the crop version. I bet your photo is too!

Adjustments to Hue, Saturation, Contrast

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Which Edit Did You Prefer?

Consider the 3 edits I created and let me know which you liked best:

See results

You Could Stop Here OR Make It Really Artistic

For some, this would be a good place to stop. I know I would print my project as is and be happy. That said, we are going to push the envelope and try some of the special effects. Remember, your last save is still alive and well in your computer. So have fun and try some of the effects Pixlr offers.

  • Special effects are available in the "Adjustment Tab" as well as the "Filter Tab"
  • Under "Adjustment" they begin with "Invert" try each one, one at a time, and play with the sliders. If you like something - save it with a new name on your computer, then after it's saved you can hit "ctrl + Z" on your keyboard to revert to the original and try other things.
  • Under the "Filter" tab try each filter and see what strikes your fancy. If you find one you like again save it with a new name and then undo it with "ctrl + z" and try something else.
  • You can also use more than one filter or adjustment - like sometimes I pair Invert with Posterize and get something really unusual!

I have put two final versions below for you to consider. One was created with "Invert" and the other with a combination of "Old Photo" and "Hope" Please answer the survey to the right and tell me which of the three edits you prefer.

The only limits are your imagination and the memory space in your computer. Play with this, have a good time exploring. Sepia photos are awesome and look really old, as do photos filtered with "old photo". Inverted photos are crazy colorful, and posterize makes things look surreal. Experiment, create, find your inner artist. I wish you much joy and success in this new endeavor.

Invert Filter Version

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Old Photo & Hope Filter Version

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© 2014 Karen Quinn

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    • Danext profile image

      Dan Lema 3 years ago from Tanzania

      Yah, this is indeed good for wall art at your home....but it is also good for selling it online and making money while you're at it....fineartsamerica.com accepts such beautiful pictures for canvas selling......so you upload for the canvas creation process on your own profile, make it available for sale then at the same time you print yours for home decoration.....so you make money and decorate your home at the same time....

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      I love the continuity of your example, in that you used some of the same photos with different closeups, croppings, saturations to demonstrate what you can do. A terrific tutorial! Voted up +++ and shared.

    • WiccanSage profile image

      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      Nice work. One of my favorite places to shoot is at a local preserved historic village with structures, vehicles, etc. from the 1700s-early 1900s. I also like doing the close-up thing. You have presented some great ideas, it's such an awesome way to create your own art & backgrounds.