Simple Tricks to Improve Your Photos

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Team member Jacki knows her way around Photoshop Elements and has taught all of us many things! I asked her if she would start sharing some tips here once a month and I’m super excited that she has agreed! This is her first post in a new series…

If you’re like me, you have more tasks to complete in a day than there are hours. And although you may love digital scrapbooking, you often don’t have large chunks of time to experiment or play with your photos. There are wonderfully detailed tutorials and video clips on improving your photos, but if you don’t have time to watch them, they won’t do you any good. Here are two simple things you can do to improve your photos.

1. Brighten your photo. Digital cameras are amazing these days and the camera settings are smart and precise. However, I always find my photos have that extra “pop” when I do one simple step – adjusting the lighting levels. Most photo editing software has this option, but I will use Photoshop Elements to show you. In the upper tool bar, look for Enhance. Slide down the menu and select Adjust Lighting and then choose Levels.

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A little box will appear with an image that looks like a mountain (or mountains), with the left being the darker lighting and the right the lighter end. Using your mouse, move the arrows so that they line up with the very bottom edges of that mountain. Play with it a little to see how you like the result. Your photo will show the changes as you work with the arrows.

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I often give it a little extra lightness by pushing that arrow past the base of the mountain to give it a little more “pop.” Give it a try! It’s surprising what a big difference a small adjustment will make.

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2. Straighten your photo. Although digital cameras are awfully smart, we still have to hold them and when they’re heavy, it’s easy to tip a little to the side and end up with a photo in which the horizon is off kilter. There’s an easy fix. In your photo editing program, duplicate the photo. In Photoshop Elements, right click on the photo in your Layers Palette and choose Duplicate Layer. Now use your mouse to click on the top layer of the photo and you’ll see a dashed line outlining the photo and small boxes in the corner, click on a box and you can rotate the photo. If you’ve got a good eye, you’ll be able to line it up nicely. If you need a little extra help, there is an option in the top tool bar called View. Click on it and select Grid. A series of squares will show up on your screen and you can use those to line up your photo perfectly.

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Undo the Grid and go to your Layers Palette and merge the two layers of photos together (Control click layers, Control E to merge). Now you can crop your photo so those background bits don’t show. Viola! Now you’re photo is straight.

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If you find these tips helpful, let us know. There are simple tricks to brightening eyes, brightening teeth, removing blemishes, cooling or warming a photo, removing shadows, adjusting pixelated photos and more that I will share with you over the next few months.