Five Tips for Taking & Editing Digital Photos

When I started blogging, I rarely paid attention to the photos I used in the posts. Short of cropping them, I used whatever came off of my camera in that exact format. But as I've been working on expanding my bento blog, I realized that the pictures (especially when you're talking about food) had better be appealing.

In that sense, I've started playing around a little more with my DSLR, even though I need one of my much more talented friends to teach me how to use it as more than a really big point & shoot camera. I still use my Canon P&S shoot as my go-to camera. It does fit in my purse. I'm also pretty obsessed with my iPhone 4 camera, because I can use Facebook and TwitPic.

But for blogging, I've gotten in the habit of a few simple editing elements that make the picture look better, even when you really don't know what you're doing.

1. Size counts! Crop and resize your picture first. Depending on what you use the picture for, you really don't need a huge file. For printing, yes, the bigger, the better, but when it comes to blogging (my primary photo need), loading time matters. I resize all my pictures to 1000 pixels max. They still look good on my blog but they are much more manageable when loading for my readers.

2. Crop! Since I am not a photographer and I don't play one on tv, the odds of having random junk in my pictures is high. Crop the picture to show just what you want. No one needs to see your table, or your couch, or your finger. Crop in on what you want to show, eliminate all the background junk and your picture is already looking much better.

3. Sharpen! Even my "steady" pictures can seem a little bit fuzzy, especially on a 17 inch monitor. Sharpen has been my favorite tool lately. It seems to, well, sharpen the edges of your image, making it look a bit crisper and a bit less blurry. This is good when, again, you're not really a pro. Try it out, if you really hate it, there's always the undo button.

4. Brightness and Contrast! I'm really not talented at hitting the right light for my photos. Usually, they look great in my head until I actually see them on my computer screen. Once on screen, they never seem as bright as they did in my dining room. A little bit of brightness lighten the image, a little bit of contrast adds depth. A little bit of both makes a picture seem much better than it really is. Play with the numbers a bit--add a little more bright, a little less contrast, etc. You can even mess around with the red/green/blue values to fix the color.

5. Apply to image box! This is probably my favorite little tool ever. It allows you to apply whatever you're doing as a sort of preview to your big image, before you actually accept the change you make. Many times, the sneak preview in the little 2 inch box looks great, until I see it on the huge on-screen image. Then it's back, undo, erase, and my least favorite, start all over. Use that "apply to image" box, it makes life much easier.

So, five simple tips, from a total non-pro. If that fails, there is always tip #6. Rely on really talented friends or a baby brother who just happens to be a web and graphic designer to fix any major errors. It's always a good extra option to have.

I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and Adobe blogging program, making me eligible to receive a $50 gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here.