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10 Steps To Great Photos

Updated on November 26, 2014

Photo-Editing Tips for Beginners and Improvers

Do you know how to repair faults and blemishes on your photos? Or, how to make them look more professional? Whether you use the latest, high resolution digital camera or the oldest or cheapest, the photographs will usually need to be prepared (or repaired) before you can use them or print them out.

You can make big changes, such as rotating or cropping a photo, or more subtle changes to remove a damaged area. I've even turned up the corner of this guys mouth to give a hint of a smile...

Back to the basics, there are many aspects that might need to be tweaked or improved - rotation, cropping, color enhancement. You can use any good photo editing software to make the improvements, but if you get them in the wrong order, you simply won't get the best results.

Not every photo will need every one of these steps so, if your photo doesn't need to be cropped, don't crop it!

All the photos on this page are mine, and copyright to me, unless otherwise stated.

Excuse me... which way is up?
Excuse me... which way is up?

The Beginning : Save

Excuse me... which way is up?

It's very upsetting to lose an important photo by making a simple mistake, but this is easy to avoid. Save a "working" copy of your file. If you're using Photoshop, save it as a "Photoshop Document" (a .PSD), that will keep all your layers safe. Also remember to keep the original of your photo in case of disasters and for comparison later.

This photo of a stork doesn't look too promising at the moment, does it..?

that's better
that's better

Try A Little Rotation

that's better...

If the camera was wonky or at an angle when you took that masterpiece, it will need to be rotated.

You can see that I've rotated this photo 90 degrees to make it upright. Then, I've rotated it a few degrees more, so the poor bird is standing up straight. That gives a funny effect around the sides, but we'll fix that by cropping.

a little better, but what's with the purple?
a little better, but what's with the purple?

If It Shouldn't Be There, Crop It!

a little better, but what's with the purple?

Cropping allows us to focus in on the subject, without unnecessary or distracting elements. Cropping also reduces the size of the image, and of the file - useful if you are going to email the finished photo to someone or post it out on the web.

much tidier now!
much tidier now!

Colour, Tone, Flaws and Cosmetics

much tidier now!

Most photo-editing programs, have some automatic photo-editing tools for correcting colours, tones, brightness and contrast. Usually, you'll get good results with these, but if you're feeling brave try out some manual adjustments too. Try correction with "auto-colour", "auto-contrast" or "auto levels", but if one of these tools does not improve the photo, you can always "undo" and try a different tool.

Now you're ready to remove dust specks, flaws and scratches. Again, some software will have auto-tools for this, which makes life a little easier.

And the sixth step? Cosmetic improvements... dealing with red-eye, removing blemishes, smoothing skin tone and removing that strange purple flash!

Easy to use, best value cameras - Some great little cameras to get you started

My first digital camera was a three megapixel Olympus - I loved it. Cameras have moved on a lot now, and the resolutions available are much higher - 14, 16 or 18 megapixel cameras are common, and good value for money. Most now arrive with software to help you download, organise and edit your photos.

Kodak has an Easyshare system, which is excellent for beginners, and with a Kodak, you'll get some great shots.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX150 18.2 MP Exmor R CMOS Digital Camera with 10x Optical Zoom and 3.0-inch LCD (Silver) (2012 Model)
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX150 18.2 MP Exmor R CMOS Digital Camera with 10x Optical Zoom and 3.0-inch LCD (Silver) (2012 Model)

Sony is a name we know and can trust. This 18.2 mega-pixel 18.2 megapixels Sony Cyber-shot has excellent performance in normal and in low light conditions. It has a 10X optical zoom, and 10x digital zoom, with high speed auto-focus and a 3.0-inch LCD. It will capture up to 10 frames each second - perfect for high speed action. You can also record crystal-clear movies with the full HD 1080/60i AVCHD™ video capture.


Don't Lose It...

You really should get in the habit of saving your work regularly; you never know when the computer might crash or the "electricity people" go on strike. But, now is the time to save that "working file" again to keep a final copy of your corrected and improved photo.

she cropped me again!
she cropped me again!

Last steps... depending on your project

she cropped me again!

Resize or resample to adjust the size and resolution of your photo. For the web, you'll need a resolution of 72 ppi. For printing, you need significantly more... 150-300 ppi for a normal print, 600 ppi for a glossy magazine. Set the resolution first, as this affects the print size. Then, adjust the size.

Adjusting the image, by rotating, retouching and resizing, will have affected the quality of your image. It might now be a little "soft". So, now is the time to use the "unsharp mask" to re-sharpen the image.

And finally...

Save a copy of the photo in the format you need for your project. If you want to email the photo or post it on the web, save as a JPEG. JPEG are squished to make the file size smaller, but you will lose a bit of quality, so don't save this way until the end of the process. For photos that will be printed, save in an "uncompressed" format, like a TIFF, to keep the best quality.

Beginners Guides to Digital Photography

Digital photography techniques are easy to learn, and it's nice to know that you can make any improvements that your photos need to change them from ok photos to great photos. The books below are packed with hints and tips to help you do so.

The Digital Photography Book
The Digital Photography Book

This book is full of the most closely guarded photographic "tricks of the trade". It doesn't waste your time with confusing jargon or overly-detailed theory. It answers your questions about which button or setting you need to use to get better, sharper, more professional-looking photos.


Some great software for photo-editing

I find Adobe Photoshop software straightforward for photo-editing, and I usually recommend it to my photography students. But, there are other brands out there. Whichever you choose, don't worry about taking the first steps!

Corel PaintShop Pro X6 Ultimate [Old Version]
Corel PaintShop Pro X6 Ultimate [Old Version]

A friend of mine absolutely loves Corel Paintshop Pro. She uses it for personal and professional projects.


A selection of free online photo-editing resources

If you don't have any photo-editing software yet, don't despair! It is possible to go to an online photo-editing website, and here's a selection of the top-rated sites on google.

I'd be pleased to get feedback on this page... how to improve it, any other info you'd like included, your experience with digital photography...

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    • Zeross4 profile image

      Renee Dixon 

      4 years ago from Kentucky

      This was very informative, I'm always looking for ways to improve my photos. I love Photo Shop, but I use the PicMonkey site for a lot of my quick edits. Great lens, and very helpful. I'll have to look into the Corel Paintshop Pro, I haven't tried that one yet.

    • maryseena profile image


      5 years ago

      Thanks for the tips.

    • Judy Filarecki profile image

      Judy Filarecki 

      5 years ago from SW Arizona and Northern New York

      Great tips for improving your photos.

    • goldenrulecomics profile image


      5 years ago from New Jersey

      very good advice. Thanks for sharing.

    • VineetBhandari profile image


      5 years ago

      Beautiful pics & nice lens

    • savateuse profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @GramaBarb: Thanks for visiting! You could be right about the intro photo...

    • GramaBarb profile image


      5 years ago from Vancouver

      Good tips! We need one for making 250px x 250px square intro photographs too.

    • savateuse profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @DrBillSmithWriter: thanks very much for the visit and the blessing!

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile image

      William Leverne Smith 

      5 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Very usefu, to the point! Blessed! ;-)

    • savateuse profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @anonymous: Thanks for visiting. And, indeed, this lens is designed as a starting point for beginners!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      @Dressage Husband: While I agree with you, that the tips are light on the "How-To", it would be a monstrous undertaking to include instructions for the various popular editing programs available. I expect the average lensmaster is using something less pricey.

      This lens is a good starting point, with good tips that should entice someone to check out the capabilities of their software, if they don't already know how to do these.

    • orange3 lm profile image

      orange3 lm 

      5 years ago

      Thanks for the photo tips. I'm not great at editing my photos - so every tip is helpful to me!

    • savateuse profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @Dressage Husband: Thanks for your comments... perhaps I'll review the lens and add some more detail!

    • Dressage Husband profile image

      Stephen J Parkin 

      6 years ago from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada

      Good tips, a little light on how to do it. I use Photoshop too and it is quite a bit harder than the impression you give here.

      I found it quite impressive that you recovered a decent shot from a really poor first picture though.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      great tips... I will be referring back to them

    • rawwwwwws lm profile image

      rawwwwwws lm 

      6 years ago

      Thanks for the tips!

    • savateuse profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @TheJewelryStore: Thanks!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I love that bird!

    • savateuse profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @esichrissa: Thanks for your feedback and suggestion! I think the bird is a Marabou stork

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      The improvement of the photo is very visible! maybe you can add your opinion on the the editing tools also.. like which is good for beginners or for business use. Thanks for sharing this lens. btw, what kind of bird is on the photo?

    • lesliesinclair profile image


      6 years ago

      Simple and to the point lens. I think it's the concise tips that make it into the memory bank.

    • BLemley profile image

      Beverly Lemley 

      6 years ago from Raleigh, NC

      Great lens, with useful helps and places for information. I love the photography stuff, and I always enjoy reading up on tips others know that I might not be aware of ~ so thanks for the resources! B : )

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Some good basic tips. Thanks.

    • microfarmproject profile image


      6 years ago

      I love the tips that you have posted here, and the photo is wonderful with the "hint of a smile." Thank you!

    • gatornic15 profile image


      6 years ago

      Thanks for sharing your tips.

    • savateuse profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Thanks, everyone, for your encouraging comments!

    • magictricksdotcom profile image


      6 years ago

      Great tips. You have an excellent way of explaining things.

    • LittleLindaPinda profile image

      Little Linda Pinda 

      6 years ago from Florida

      Thank you for the information on taking great photos. I never thought of taking a photo on an angle.

    • whats4dinner profile image


      6 years ago

      Informative lens that shares good tips, thanks for sharing.

    • MelonyVaughan profile image


      6 years ago

      Great tips - thanks for sharing!

    • virtualboy profile image


      6 years ago

      you can tell that you were usinga dugital camera most likely

    • BlueTrane profile image


      6 years ago

      good tips!

    • savateuse profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Thanks, I like simple concepts like this one.. Actually quite powerful.

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 

      6 years ago from Arkansas USA

      Informative, and I really like your example photo!

    • TransplantedSoul profile image


      6 years ago

      Photography has come a long way. I love how economical is is now to play with different setting and composiitons


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