Top 5 photo-editing tips

We’re sure that shot of the kids beaming by their snowman is absolutely adorable, but is it really ready to be sent to Grandma? Follow our quick tips to perfecting your pics.

Before and after of boy skating on lake

By Heather Camlot

We’re sure that shot of the kids beaming by their snowman is absolutely adorable, but is it really ready to be sent to Grandma?

Follow our photo-editing tutorial to perfecting your pics. All you need is the photo-editing software that came with your camera or your computer, or one of the free versions you can find online.

Just one note before beginning: always save a copy of the photo, especially if you’re new to editing. That way if you make a terrible mistake, you still have the original.

De-devil the eyes

A flash can do wonders for illuminating the scene, but it can also wreak havoc on a subject’s eyes. Most programs have an automatic red-eye removal function built in to its basic editing tools. If your version is manual, no problem. Enlarge the photo with the magnifying glass, select the red-eye button (if available) and move your mouse over the eye. A circle should appear to allow you to define the red-eye area. Once over the spot, click and the red will disappear. Repeat with the other eye, save the image and say bye-bye to the devil-child.

Let in the light

A great shot can be ruined by underexposure, but you can easily add a few degrees of brightness. Look for a color/brightness adjustment option among your basic editing tools. Play with the slide adjusters for brightness, saturation and contrast until you find the perfect combination. You can always undo and start over as long as you haven’t saved the picture.

Straighten up

Does your cross-country skier look like she’s doing downhill? It’s hard to shoot straight when you only have one second to get the perfect pic.. Look for a straighten picture option in your editing menu. Some programs will ask you to pick a starting point and end point, and then automatically shift the image for you – a great option if you have a horizon or other line in the picture to work with. Other programs will ask you to enter a rotation value and select left or right. Start small. If the value isn’t correct, start over with a higher value to avoid possible blur. Save when happy with the result.

Come closer

You thought you took a close up of the kids on the toboggan run, but instead you have 10 other kids sailing down the hill as well. Trim background distractions so your focus is on your subject. In your basic editing menu, look for a crop or trim photos option. Many programs will offer suggestions on how best to trim your photo, but you can also move and/or resize the crop box that appears by clicking on the box or pulling at its corners. When ready, hit the crop or trim button and save.

Bigger isn’t better

You finally have the picture you wished you’d taken! Now it’s time to share it with everyone. The larger the size the better when it comes to printing. But for emailing, you want to reduce it to an acceptable size to avoid clogging inboxes.  Some photo-editing programs – specifically those that came with a digital camera — will automatically make an image smaller when you choose to email. If your program doesn’t, then look in the edit, image or format menu for a resize image option. You may see multiple settings available. Leave image size and resolution, but adjust the pixel dimensions to 640 x 480 (or 480 x 640 depending on your photo’s layout). Choose save as and rename your image with a “small” tag at the end so you always have it at the ready. Because you never know whom you forgot in the mass email distribution. Hopefully it wasn’t Grandma!

First published January 17, 2011, on



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