Tag Archives: photo editing

Photo Editing for Amateurs: Discovering Canva

photo editing softwareIn late 2014 and early 2015 I wrote a series of posts about photo editing that focused on software and techniques to make good photos even better.  In the first post I covered photo editing software and introduced numerous programs and apps that offer a variety of functions in varying degrees of difficulty (click here to read that post).  Recently I discovered a program that, in my opinion, is the best of the best for amateur photo editing.  It’s called Canva Photo Editor.  And it’s awesome!  Canva Photo Editor is a FREE online photo editing program and it is exceptionally easy to use.  I opened the page and within 30 seconds I was working on a photo.  The homepage of the app features a big green “Upload” button in the center.  Click on that or drag a photo file onto the screen and you’re in business.

Fun Photo Filters

photo editing softwareMy image loaded quickly and the fun began!  Canva Photo Editor offers a number of tools to enhance and modify photographs, and they start with Filters.  I chose to play with a flattering selfie and it was fun and easy to click through the various filters to see what each did to my portrait.  Eventually I settled on “Edge” because, well, I’m nothing if not edgy!

Brightness, Contrast and Saturation

photo editing softwareWhen I clicked on the Edge filter I liked what it did to the look of the image but it also made it a little to bright for my taste.  No problem!  All I had to do was click on the “Adjust” icon and I was presented with sliders to adjust for Brightness, Contrast, and Saturation.  I LOVE sliders in photo editing software!  They make it so easy to make adjustments while watching the effects on the image.  On this pic I decreased the brightness and bumped up the contrast and saturation.

Simple Cropping

photo editing softwareI was satisfied with the look I created so I moved on to the Crop tool.  If you don’t do a lot of photo editing, cropping a photo can cause a brain cramp.  Not in the Canva Photo Editor!  Above the image you’ll find boxes that link to several aspect ratios, and you can click on each to see how a pic will look cropped to that ratio.  From there you simply grab the handle in one of the corners and drag the ratio box in and out until you like the look.  It’s that simple!  Though I would have liked to have additional options (like 4:5 to make 8×10 prints or 851×315 pixels to create a Facebook cover photo), those that are there will work in a lot of scenarios.

Easy Resizing

Sometimes I need to change the physical size of a photo.  In more complicated photo editing software that requires multiple actions.  In the Canva Photo Editor it is handled simply by clicking on the Resize icon and typing in the size you need.

Flip Flop

photo editing softwarePerhaps my favorite function in Canva is the Flip feature.  With one click I changed my right-leaning head tilt to a left-leaner.  I turned myself upside down too!  This can be useful when trying to make a photo fit into a design but a person or object is placed in a spot that doesn’t work.  Move them!

When I finished making magic I clicked on the Download button in the upper right and was able to easily save my masterpiece.  The software also gave me the option of checking out the Canva app.  Canva describes itself as “Amazingly Simple Graphic Design Software”, and I can attest that they are not exaggerating.  But that is a story for another day!

If you love taking photos and/or like to use them on social media but have a little intimidated by photo editing software I highly recommend that you check out Canva Photo Editor.  You’ll find it’s easy to use and produces great results – and the price is right!  Give it a try and have fun!


Photo Editing for Amateurs: Part V – Cropping (and the Rule of Thirds)

Cropping is one of the best – and easiest – ways of making a good photograph even better.  Cropping is simply eliminating some of the data that emerged from the camera.  Sometimes we crop to get in closer to a subject.  Other times it might be to eliminate a distraction that takes away from the main subject.  We might crop to change the proportions of a picture for printing, like taking a 4×6 proportion image and making it an 8×10.  And sometimes it might be to make the photograph more dynamic by changing the placement of the subject(s).

Here are a couple of examples of how cropping improves an image:


Even with a telephoto lens I couldn’t get very close to the far fence, but by cropping the image I am able to bring attention to Augusta and her pony.



The original photo (left) of me and one of my very reluctant models includes lots of distractions – the white tube, the fence, lots of colors, textures, etc. Cropping in and changing the orientation from landscape to portrait completely transforms the image.



Most cameras will capture an image with a ratio of 2:3 (e.g. 4″x6″, 8″x12″, etc.) like the original photo on the left. A portrait will often look great in an 8″x10″ format as in the version on the right. It eliminates the unimportant aspects of the photograph at the top and bottom but retains and leaves room for the important elements like the head, shoulders and arms. The 8″x10″ enlargement is one of the most popular print sizes and one of the easiest to find a frame for.


The Rule of Thirds

One of my favorite reasons to crop is to create a more dynamic image.  It’s always great to capture a photograph perfectly framed in the camera.  While that’s relatively easy to do with a still life or a landscape, that’s not always so when your subject is human, canine or feline.  Especially young versions of those life forms!  When you need to you can turn to the crop tool.  A terrific way of adding interest to a photograph is to employ the Rule of Thirds.  This technique has been used for centuries in paintings and design, and is implemented regularly in photography and cinema. When you look at a picture, imagine an overlay that divides a photo into three evenly-spaced columns and three evenly-spaced rows (see top half of second image below).  The points where the dividing lines meet is a great location to place your subject as it creates more energy and interest in the photograph.


This picture of Roxy is fun, but placing her in the center of the frame limits the energy of the photograph.

Rule of Thirds

By applying the Rule of Thirds a viewer’s eye travels around the photograph, making it more interesting and dynamic.


Most photo editing software will have a simple cropping function.  Typically they will offer the option of cropping to predetermined dimensions (e.g. 4×6, 8×10, etc.) as well as the ability to crop to non-standard proportions.  They all work in WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) mode, so you can view the results of your changes as you make them.

So dive into your crop tool and give it a try!  Make a good picture better.  Make several versions of the same image and see which you like best.  Move the subject to a different part of the frame to make it more interesting.  You’ll be amazed at what a difference you can make in your photographs.

Photo Editing for Amateurs: Part IV – Color Temperature

Before diving into color temperature I feel compelled to make excuses for the gap in time since my last post.  So here goes.  My wife and I moved to our new home two weeks before Christmas.  Perfect timing.  Then the holidays came and went.  And, well, here we are.  So despite my best intentions to blog on the regular, it didn’t happen.  The road to hell, and all that.  But I’m back and ready to roll!  So let’s dive into color temperature.

Color temperature is one of the most important – and also one of the easiest! – adjustments you can make to your photos.  I’d argue that if you are going to make one adjustment to an image it should be the color temperature.  You can adjust the exposure and add contrast and do a host of other things, but it won’t matter if your white dog looks blue!

What Is Color Temperature – And Do I Need A Jacket?

Every light source we encounter has a temperature.  Measured in degrees Kelvin (you remember that from 8th grade physics class, right?), “cool” light has a low temperature like 3000 degrees and makes white things look blue (think of a pile of snow on a cloudy day) while “warm” light in the range of 7000 degrees makes white things look orange (think of the glow of a fire in the fireplace or the golden light at sunset).  Middle-of-the-day sunlight is right in the middle at around 5500 degrees, so daylight tends to be neutral in color.  Camera flashes are set to mimic that color, which is why things look okay when we use flash.   Artificial lights that we encounter at home or inside buildings each have their own color temperature – regular incandescent light bulbs are warm, fluorescent lights are cool, and those sodium vapor lights in your child’s gym are just plain ugly!  Our brains have been trained to filter out these colors, so when you see someone wearing a white shirt next to a table lamp your brain tells you the shirt is white even though your eyes see it as yellow-orange.  When you see your white dog in the snow your eyes see blue, but your brain tells you Fluffy is white.  If you look at photographs of those subjects the camera captures the light as your eyes see the scene, not the way your brain interprets it.  So when we think about color temperature in photography we are considering the coolness or warmth of the color of the light landing on our subject.  We’re not going to worry about Dr. Kelvin, but we are going to pay attention to how the light looks.

Digital cameras can recognize the color of the light coming in and make an educated guess as to how to balance it or make it neutral.  Most cameras have an Auto White Balance setting to do just that.  Or you can change the setting if you know the light in which you’ll be shooting.  But the camera doesn’t always get it spot on.  And sometimes you might have the camera set for one condition and you shoot in a different light.  That’s easy to fix in your photo editing software.

How Do I Adjust For Color Temperature?

The easiest place to start when assessing and adjusting for color temperature is selecting something white.  Because white is white it’s easy to tell if there is a color cast on that part of the photo.  Check out the two versions below of the dog running on the beach.

color temperature

The photo on the left is what the camera captured.  Not bad.  But the temperature of the image is “cool”, so when I look at Fluffy’s white fur I see that it isn’t really white.  It’s blue.  But because my brain knows from experience that there aren’t usually blue dogs running on a beach, I perceive that blue color as white.  Similarly, after adjusting the color temperature in my editing software I went too far to the other end of the spectrum (literally!) and made Fluffy too warm.  Now he’s not white but he’s orange.  Finally, I backed off the warm temperature a bit and ended up with a neutral color cast – and a white Fluffy!

color temperature

As with many edits you can make to your photos, there is no “right” way a picture should look.  I like very much the warm photo (on the right) above.  It makes me feel like it was taken late on a warm July day, when in fact it was shot in the middle of the day in below-freezing December.  I may choose to print it warmer because I like that.  And that’s fine.  I often adjust the temperature a touch to the warm side for my people pictures as humans tend to look better that way.  If I’m shooting photos for a story on shelter animals I may adjust the cage shots to a cooler temperature to make them feel cold and impersonal.  The point is that I am making an artistic decision to make a photo look a certain way rather than just accepting an image the way the camera delivers it to me.  And you can too!

What Beautiful Yellow Skin You Have!

Sometimes color temperature needs to be adjusted to present and accurate image.  Pictures taken indoors, even with flash, often require some color temperature love after the fact.  The photos below of my friends Tori and Josh illustrate the difference between what the camera will do and what an editing adjustment will do.  My, what beautiful jaundiced skin you two have!

color temperature

So when you’re working with your images take a moment to consider the color temperature.  Is white white?  Is the overall look too blue or too orange?  Do you want to warm it up to create a certain mood?  Or cool it down to send a certain message?  Did the gym lights make everyone look a garish orange?  Cool it down with your color temperature slider.  Did the clouds and snow make Fluffy look blue?  Warm Fluffy up with a slide to a warmer temperature!

As always, I’m interested to see your photos, so if you do any work with color temperature please share it with me!

In my next post I’ll talk about a cool, easy way to improve your photos: Cropping and using the Rule of Thirds!