Getting from good to great photos

Hello and happy Memorial Day! I hope you had a wonderful holiday weekend! We got a lot done outside, went to the pool, got a nap in, played in the sprinkler, the Pup got lots of rolling-around-in-the-grass time, and we generally had a beautiful weekend. :)

First up, I need to announce the winner of the Heal My Sole giveaway! The lucky gal is Teresa at teresacline2001(at)yahoo(dot)com – Teresa be sure to email me and I’ll get you hooked up with your winnings! For everyone else, don’t forget all orders of $30 or more will get $5 off through May 31st (Tuesday) using the coupon code “maydays.”

I got my order this week and have only tried the lip balm so far but I LOVE it!

So anyhoo, I’ve been meaning to do this post for awhile cause it’s a topic I get a lot of questions about. I’ve mentioned a few photography tips in the past, but I’ve learned a lot since then.

This photo post will be a bit different than most though, because I still don’t have a clue what I’m doing. Really. :) This isn’t going to be a how-to on how to use your camera.

And you don’t need a fancy schmancy camera to get good shots. For REAL. Up till last September, I used a simple point and shoot:

cyber shot

So all of my pics up till that point are from that cutie. It works GREAT.

Because I enjoy photography and it’s kind of a hobby of mine, I bit the bullet and bought the Canon Rebel:

canon rebel

And I LOVE it. It’s fantastic. I still don’t know how to do everything (anything?)though. I know, it’s ridiculous. I’ve found plenty of great photography sites with how-to’s, and I do have that thing called the manual that has some pretty useful info in it too. ;)

But I just haven’t dedicated the time to it. Someday. I don’t keep it on the automatic setting, so I guess that’s something. All I have down is how to change the aperture setting – beyond that I’m still clueless.

There is one thing I know for SURE in the three years I’ve been blogging. You do NOT need a fancy camera to take great pictures.

You need three things in my opinion – good light (but even that can be corrected), good composition and good editing.

I use Picnik to edit all of my photos and I love it! It’s so easy to use, has some fun tools, and most of them are FREE.

I took a few pictures on a recent trip to the zoo to explain how I take pictures and how I edit them.

My biggest tip is to get. up. on. it.

Most pictures (depending on the subject) look better close up. With my point and shoot, I used the macro setting ALL the time.

Here’s a series of pictures I took far away to close up:


In the first one, you mostly notice the leaves in the background. In the last one, you see the flowers.

Now it’s time to make those flowers POP!

Enter Picnik. My first step is to hit Auto-fix. It brightens, sharpens, adjusts the picture to where it should be. Sometimes it doesn’t change my pics much, sometimes it makes ALL the difference.

Then I go to the Effects tab and hit Vibrance:

picnik tools

You can adjust how much vibrance you want – but even a little bit makes the colors go padow!

I usually do a little “Boost” action as well, which boosts (duh) the colors even more.

And after some zooming a little clicking, I go from this:

To this:

It took about 30 seconds.

I adjust almost every single picture you see on this blog. If anything, I auto-fix as many pics as I can. (Which you can usually do in the photo software that comes with your camera – you don’t need Picnik to do that.)

I used the same process with the next set of pictures:


The first picture is pretty, but you see the not-so-pretty structure in the background. The middle picture is better, but I’m a close up girl, so I went in even further.

This is where the composition comes in – you don’t always have to center your subject. The flower off to the left adds some interest and gives the photo some movement. (Again, in my non-professional, barely know what I’m doing opinion.)

Remember you can simply crop your photos so the subject isn’t centered – you don’t need any special photo takin’ skills to do this.

Again, this one went from this:

To this:

editing photos BOOYAH!

Love it! Isn’t that beautiful?

Sometimes the background is a good thing though – the first photo below was centered, but I noticed the little stream in the background, so I changed my position a bit to give the stream a little more presence:

With the help of Picnik, this is how it turned out:

Frame-worthy people. Frame. worthy. :)

Another example of moving in close and using the surroundings – the one on the left was from further away, but I knew it would be even better close up:


Now lattice behind doesn’t take away from the picture, it enhances it:

lattice flowers


I should mention another big tip – I get loooooow. :) I get down, sometimes all the way on the ground to take pics. You can see above that I was standing up for the first one, and was level with the flowers for the second one.

You can see the before and afters from some of my recent posts – my window boxes from this post:

  brown window boxes 

Before on the left, after on the right. I like to add the “vignette” to some of my pics, which is the dark shadow around the outside. It just adds a little somethin’.

Using the editing tools just makes the colors pop and brings them to life:

And it takes no time at all! The vibrance tool I use is a “premium” tool through Picnik, but they have a TON of free tools that will help your photos immensely.

I love playing around with photos and seeing all of the possibilities. I used some Picnik options to amp up one of the photos just to show you the fun that can be had. (Each is labeled with the effect I used.):

  lomo picnik


 sepia picnik


 sketch picnik


 texture picnik





Ack! I love them all! Which one is your favorite? (Most of these effects are FREE, by the way.)

So…that’s my secret. Picnik baby – it’s how I get great photos. :) I do try to start with some decent shots, but the editing makes all the difference! And did I mention…fareeeee? :)

(No, Picnik is not paying me to say any of this. They have no idea who I am. I just love them and love to share things that I love.)

Love, me.

**Picnik has now closed down but you can do the exact same edits and looks with PicMonkey now!


I have to give a BIG shout out and lots of love to all of our past, current and future service men and women and their families!

We thank you for your sacrifices!!!

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