Picture of basic photo editing

In this instructable I'll go over how I edit my photos for my instructables and for the products in my Etsy store. I don't spend a ton of time doing it, but I ALWAYS do a little tweaking on my phone or computer. There are quite a few quick and easy ways to edit your photos and make them look great!

Whether you're using a cellphone, a point and shoot or a DSLR camera, it's always a good idea to edit your photos. Just a few simple tweaks can take your photos from meh to amazing!

With the amount of projects we get posted on the site every day, basic photo editing will help your projects stand out and get noticed. This is especially important if you want to get your project featured to the front page and end up in contest finalists. :D

P.S. Are you using a smartphone to take photos? Check out my How to Take Great Photos With an iPhone tutorial!

Step 1: Start with a good base photo

Picture of Start with a good base photo

Above are four photos, all taken with the same camera and completely unedited.

Clockwise starting with top left:

  • indirect daylight (taken next to a window) - ohhhhhhhhh yeeeeeaaaaahhhh that's good
  • inside with overhead lighting (no flash) - see how washed out the colors are?
  • inside with overhead lighting (with flash on) - lots of sharp shadows and bright spots, colors are strange
  • inside with overhead lighting (no flash, no tripod, shaky hands) - eek! not even saveable.

See what a huge difference nice indirect sunlight makes?

Before you start photographing a project, make sure you think about how you want to photograph it. If you take bad photos, it will be harder to rescue them during editing. While you can always tweak the brightness, contrast and saturation, you probably won't be able to fix blurry photos, extremely dark photos or photos taken with a bright flash as easily.

Here are the basic rules I follow for taking photos:

  • natural, indirect sunlight is always best. Document during the day near a window if possible.
  • If you don't have a good indirect light, try using a light box or two to three diffused lights.
  • Try to avoid using the flash if possible - if you have the option on your camera use a flash diffuser instead.
  • If you're taking detailed and up close photos make sure to use the macro setting on your camera. This tutorial will walk you through it!
  • In you're shooting in low light or you have an older camera - use a tripod! Older cameras tend to not have any sort of stabilization feature, and low lighting is always where camera shake shows up the worst. I have both a tabletop tripod and standard tripod for this reason.
  • Clean up the area you're shooting in! Try to keep the surface you're working on and the wall behind it nice and clear (or at least organized) if possible. If not, take process shots in another location. You want your project to be the focal point.
lughnatic1 year ago

Here are two more free but also open source programs.

LightZone was the former commercial editor LightCraft that also handles RAW files.

It has been described as being similar to Lightroom.

LightZone http://lightzoneproject.org/

Gimp has been a free Linux distro that is available for other OS's.

Gimp http://www.gimp.org/

I have used Gimp for years and love it

jessyratfink (author)  lughnatic1 year ago

LightZone looks pretty nice, thanks! Never head of that one before. :)

I love Super Refocus and Super Denosing

Super Refocus professionally adds focus and depth to your Photos. It easily defines a focus area and achieves lens blur, motion blur effects. Super Refocus extends filter and lens functionality beyond your camera and allows you to adjustable controls to add custom focus options to make any photo stand-out.

Super Denoising is a powerful, professional image noise reduction software that detects and removes noise from images, perfect for handling grainy and underexposed digital images. Super Denoising uses advanced smart denoising technology to quickly and effectively remove noise and improve image quality without disrupting crisp outlines and image colors for clearer, more natural images.

hettye10 months ago
Very comprehensive and useful. Thank you for the links embedded. I am shooting photos for my web site and this is exactly what I needed. One question, do you have a suggestion for close ups of metal, shiny objects? Hot spots being the main problem. Anyway. Thanks for the I'ble

Thanks for the great tips! :)

People seem to be recommending Gimp, and I agree it is a fantastic tool. However, user be warned- it is open source, so it has a bit of a learning curve to it. I was able to pick it up quickly due to experience in Photoshop CS6, which helped. Still, there are tutorials available online for it that should help. Once you get familiar with how it acts, Gimp is a fantastic tool.

Ernest121 year ago

GIMP is a open source image manipulation program that rivals Photoshop and is ported for windows, mac, and is in almost all linux distributions. It edits RAW and almost all other format images.

Kaiven1 year ago

Never even crossed my mind that people edit photos in their Instructables. Wow. I'll have to do that next time I make something.

heltones1 year ago

#10 is by far the most important, and not just for Instructables, but in all other aspects of social media and photo albums. Thank you for including it. Maybe it could have even been worth mentioning first, as telling the story is paramount, and it's easy to waste time editing photos that won't end up being used/shown if the selection process doesn't happen first.

Nice work!

cjirawat1 year ago

Thanks for giving the good idea

rdy4trvl1 year ago

Just curious what software are you using in Step 4. Well done! Thanks

jessyratfink (author)  rdy4trvl1 year ago

Should have noted that, whoops! That's iPhoto. :)

A very useful free viewer/editor program is Irfanview, from Irfanview.com

Okok1 year ago
A great program for photo editing is paint.net (not the paint that comes with Photoshop).
It's free, available at softonic and other sites, works with layers and is a simplified version of Photoshop.
thecapper1 year ago

Good stuff all around. Thanks Jessy! I have Photoshop, but find I use IrfanView when I just want to resize or crop an image. It's a pretty simple interface.

grrr211 year ago

Wow - this is why you're employed by Instructables! Great job!

lbrewer421 year ago

Anyone wanting a serious photo/graphics program that is very user friendly compared to the gimp of Adobe needs to look into Ulead Photo Impact (now owned by Corel). I include the Ulead name b/c there is another program out there by the name Photo Impact. I have been using it since 1998 and always have people ask me how I do my pics. It is pretty much self explanatory when you play with the buttons (like adding frames and text).

For example, when you want to add a frame, you click the frame icon and a window pops up with very plainly laid out options for colors, 3D vs 2D, fill colors, shapes, shadow etc. It is all very common sense.

When adjusting colors like white balance - you click the icon and it opens a window with 9 layed-out-on-a-graph pics of which one you want to choose... OR... you can hit "Smart" and it allows you to click on the color in the pic you want to be white (with real time preview ).

I have found very little I cannot do with it - even compared to the big boys like the Gimp and Adobe, this one is much preferred by me..

The price? On ebay, last I looked, the newest version will set you back a whole 20.00 with shipping - and Corel was selling it recently (might still be) for around the same price. Don;t let the lack of cost fool you. I do use it professionally and believe it is superior to anything out there.

Oh - its Windows only - but I use it on my Mac by running Parallels (or you could us ethe free option of using Apple's boot camp to boot your machine in Windows). In fact this program is the only reason I even have Windows anymore.

Sample pic included - very simple to do - never read a manual:

Ninzerbean1 year ago

That idea about text on a transparent overlay is brilliant. Thank you for sharing, this is a great 'ible.

Jessy ... I am so happy to see this ible. This is so helpful and what is so exciting for me that there are already many things in this ible that I follow, glad to know I am doing it right :)

This is a really helpfull ible Jessy, I'll surely use it!!

Great tutorial! Definitely going to follow this when making new Instructables!!!

This is extremely useful! I have a lot to learn from this instructable and I MUST be picky :D I will keep all of these things in mind next time...!! :)

Cool! perfect ible for all the instructablers! Thanks sooo much for sharing ^_^

Jan_Henrik1 year ago

Very cool!!

sunshiine1 year ago

Would like to learn layering as well.

sunshiine1 year ago

Again thanks so much for sharing another great instructable. I too would love to learn transparent overlays. I recently tried but need more practice to learn how. Have a beautiful week Jess!


Very nice! I need to learn how to do transparent overlays :)