I thought it was about time I did another Photo Tips Friday post… it’s been a while, and I’ve lots more tips to share with you!
So following on from basics covering camera equipment essentials, how to achieve bokeh, photographing in bright sunlight, etc., I thought I’d write about some basics about what to do with those photos now you’ve followed all my advice(!!) and produced top quality, sharp images for your outfit posts:
CLEAN UP will show you how to get rid of annoying nasty bits that distract from the main subject (that’s you) and subtly enhance tone and contrast
RESIZE will make all your images the same width
OPTIMIZE will show how you can utilise free websites or free/cheap apps to create creative and subtle (or not-so-subtle, depending on what you want to achieve) special effects.
Now please note that there are many, many options in terms of what application you could use; there are dozens of free websites or cheap apps available, but I will just give a few examples of what I think may help. The main thing I personally use for my photos is Photoshop, but as it’s not cheap I won’t give any Photoshop examples – I want this to be an accessible post to everyone from students to bloggers who don’t even own a camera (yes, you read that right!). There are many different ways to do things, so don’t think I am telling everyone “this is the one and only way to do xyz“; please take these ideas and develop your own ways of creating beautiful images!
1.1 Clean up – remove nasty bits
Not everyone agrees with touching up photos to get rid of unwanted nasties; from facial blemishes to cigarette butts, it is totally your choice how “real” you wish the photo to be. Personally, I think it’s entirely up to the blogger whether or not they clean up their photos this way.*
I take the stance that photos are not an exact representation of what was actually in front of the camera. I’ve had comments from bloggers saying that they love my pairing of mint and pink… the actual colours I was wearing were teal and purple. It was simply down to the light at the time changing how my clothes photographed and reacted to that light. It doesn’t matter, but it goes to show how a photograph is simply an interpretation of a scene. So if you do remove a nasty cigarette from the floor or a small but bright traffic cone in the background, it won’t detract any attention away from your fabulous outfit – and in my book there’s nothing wrong with that!
What to use for cleaning up?
The one I read about most often is PicMonkey http://www.picmonkey.com – and although I use Photoshop to touch up any little bits and pieces, from what I’ve seen of this website it really is the doggy’s you-know-whats of image manipulation. Unlike Photoshop, it’s user-friendly because it gives you actual recipes that are relevant to us bloggers: there’s a whole make-up section with Blush Boost, Shine Reduce and Blemish Fix, for example. For the purposes of post photos requirements (i.e. not turning me into Alexa Chung), I subtly touched up one of my most recent images using PicMonkey.
I re-edited my original photo from scratch (where I used Photoshop) with PicMonkey to get rid of the mud on my shoes and all the bits of wet leaves and twigs on the floor:
[Mud on your shoes is a common occurrence when you’re a countryside dweller searching for shooting locations!]
When I touched up the photo for my post, I simply got rid of the mud on my shoes – it was my last entry for the M&S Job Interview Style Blogger Challenge, so I felt justified in touching up the photo as you wouldn’t turn up for an interview with mud on your shoes…! But for the sake of this post, I went further in PicMonkey and cleaned up all the ground around my feet. I also “erased” the bruises on my right shin – I didn’t do this on my original post, but it shows how easily it can be done using this application. I used the “clone” option from (strangely enough) the make-up section for my shoes and the ground.
PicMonkey is VERY easy to use, and the possibilities are endless – from subtle changes in tone, brightness, or colour cast, to full-on changing lipstick or hair colour. How far you want to take it is up to you.
*Not that I know any bloggers that do this, but if you are doing a major air-brushing job à la monthly glossy, it might be nice to let your readers know how you’ve manipulated the photos…?
1.2 Clean up – adjust tone and contrast
I adjusted the colour cast and brightness/contrast of this photo using PicMonkey as the original was taken in slightly different light to that of the full length shots. It was so much colder (bluer) than the rest of the images, and I wanted to warm it up to make it blend in with the other shots.
I optimized the brightness, shadows, highlights and contrast under Exposure, and adjusted the saturation and temperature under Colours. It makes for a more pleasing image, and closer to how my hair looks in bright outdoor light.
2. Resize to make images all the same width
Much to my detriment I am a perfectionist. Although in theory it ‘s a good thing (as a kid I had to colour in neater than anyone else), when compiling blog posts, I simply have to have uniform font styles and sizes and photos all the same width… it does create more work. I don’t know whether other bloggers don’t mind the difference or if they don’t know how to make them all the same width – but if you’re the latter and would like to know how, here’s my way of doing it!
Now obviously all blogs platforms are going to vary; I use Blogger and so am only familiar with their format. But I’m sure this part is uniform across all platforms: it’s simply a case of looking at your HTML coding and making sure your image widths are the same on every image – that’s it. But how do you do that?
In Blogger there are two ways to upload photos into your post – using the “insert image” button, or embedding the HTML code from Picasa, Flickr, Photobucket, etc. Both work absolutely fine and will allow you to upload nice large images. But, as far as I can tell, inserting an image directly does not give you the option of resizing to any exact pixels size. To see if your method of uploading images allows you set an exact width, insert an image in your usual way and take a look at the HTML code for it, as below:
What you need to see is two measurements of height and width. If you don’t see these, you won’t be able to make all images exactly the same width. So you either choose to leave them as they are, or you need to embed them. I use Flickr to store my photos; the way to embed them is by using the “Share” option which offers a “Grab the HTML/BBcode” option. This HTML code has the height and width which is essential for resizing.
Your images can be whatever size you want them to be, but the largest size possible (without losing quality) may be a small width depending on the size of the images your camera produces. If you do have photos that are high-res enough to be made smaller from the originals, I think it’s worth having large images on your blog.
The tricky bit (bear with me – it’s worth it!)
The only part that’s not so straightforward, Which you may have realised already, is that if you change the width without proportionately changing the height, you will end up with either a very squashed photo or a very tall thin one. What you can’t avoid to amend this is a teensy bit of maths, I’m afraid! So I’ve broken it up into three easy steps:
1. Decide what your uniform image width is. Your blog format will have a set width for the blog posts, which can be increased or decreased, and ideally the images should completely fill that width without seeping over into the sidebar. My blog’s maximum image width is 685 pixels.
2. When I take the “large” image option from Flickr, the width of upright images (taller than they are wide) are thankfully all 685 if I haven’t cropped the picture. So it doesn’t matter what the height is, an upright picture will fit in perfectly… job done.
3. Landscape (wider than they are tall) images are the ones I always have to change, for example:
The dimensions are height 685 x width 1024 if I haven’t cropped the image or resized it in Photoshop.
The maths bit:
To make the width 685, the same as upright photos, I have to calculate current width ÷ desired width, or 1024 ÷ 685 = 1.49.
(So 1.49 is the magic width dividing number I have to remember).
Therefore I have to do the same with the height:
Current height ÷ width dividing number, or
685 ÷ 1.49 = 459.
459 is now the new height for my landscape images.
Simply remember this: if I never, ever cropped pictures before uploading to my web album and they were either upright (height 1024 x width 685) or landscape (height 685 x width 1024), then I can leave upright ones as they are, and landscape will always have to be changed to height 459 x width 685. I don’t have to do the maths every time – the two dimensions are stuck on a Post-It note near my computer. It’s only if you’ve cropped or resized images that you have to do some more complicated maths; that’s for another post maybe…?!
3. Optimize – add special effects to your images
I’ve mentioned PicMonkey already, and this can be used for creating fun special effects as well as cleaning up your pictures. Other ones to try are:
TiltshiftMaker is great for creating the effect of miniature scenes with outdoor landscapes, rather than outfit post pictures. So if you have some holiday photos to throw in, consider using TiltshiftMaker:
The best types of images to use are those taken in bright sunlight, with a slightly higher viewpoint; if people and/or cars are included then the effect of little miniatures are heightened. If you like, use PicMonkey first to increase brightness and contrast – the effect will be even more convincing.
Use apps to add special effects to your phone photos
No camera but you have an iPhone? If you think you can’t produce great outfit posts because you don’t have a DSLR, or any camera at all, think again. You probably know you can add some colour casts and frames to what you upload to Instagram, but the choices are limited. Try these:
Picture Frame apps
There are loads of these apps to choose from – upload multiple images to make one. They have many layout options and you can vary the proportions and manipulate the borders:
I think this one is excellent if you don’t have a DSLR, because you can take photos with your phone or tablet’s camera, then create little montages that look really stylish to create an interesting outfit post. Upload them from an Instagram Web Viewer like Webstagram to an image hosting website, then embed them into your blog posts.
So this is just the tip of the iceberg of what you can do to improve the quality, style and variety of your photos during the editing process. I fully appreciate that there will be many, many more free websites and apps to use – if you have more suggestions for everyone please do leave them in the comments below!
I wanted to prove that it’s possible to produce great images without splashing out on Photoshop or any other high-end software – and it’s possible to be a fashion blogger producing great outfit posts even if you don’t own a camera.
I hope this has been of some help – as I always say, let me know how you get on!!