Monday, January 31, 2011

Taking better blog pictures: free editing tools and some things I've learned

One of my goals in the latter part of 2010 was to take better outfit pictures.
  • Ixnay on the mirror shots
  • always using a tripod or having someone photograph me
  • trying to get pictures in outside light if at all possible (spoiler, it's not super possible with the winter weather we've been having here)

While I definitely don't think I have arrived at photo perfection, and there's LOTS of room for me to improve, when I look back, the progress is still very noticeable!

Here's one of my early OOTD pictures:

And here's a recent favorite:

I haven't even changed cameras (heck, I still use my cell phone camera much of the time).

One other way I've been trying to improve my pictures is doing post-processing - i.e., using image editing software. I am not into complicated things, and software like Photoshop just frightens me. There are free versions of image editing software, like gimp for mac, but it is also really complicated-seeming to me.

So, since I was already using Picasa web albums to store and organize my pictures online, when Picasa added Picnik on as a free image editing app, I started taking advantage of it since it was so simple to use!

One thing I always do with pictures is crop and adjust the exposure. Cropping helps take the focus away from the hallway/floor/countertop/desk/cars going by/photobombing pets and put it on you, the stylish blogger.

see the difference cropping makes?

Adjusting the exposure is a great way to salvage indoor photos that you just couldn't get to be light enough. This has happened to me a LOT this winter when outdoor photos weren't an option due to the rain and gloom:

so gloomy!

An outdoor picture in filtered sunlight is always going to look better than an indoor photo that has had more fill light added to it, but that doesn't mean you can't get a serviceable picture from an indoor photo session:

see, this pic isn't perfect but it's still sassy and shows the outfit.

Other than enabling cropping/exposure adjustement, Picnik has a wide variety of other free effects you can try. They are all under the "create" tab > "effects" category.

Here's the result of playing around with a single picture the other night:





There are a couple other things I try to keep in mind as well:
  • Try to shoot at head level or lower to avoid the distorted "myspace angle", but not too low or you get exaggerated chins (which is the name of my band. Just kidding.)
  • There are lots of free, cool iphone and android apps to take pictures with effects (I recommend fxcamera for android and hipstamatic or camerabag for iphone). I will do that sometimes, but I often just shoot plain format so I can add effects later.
  • I decided I'd rather try to post less often and have better pictures than feel like I have to post daily.

What are some of your photo tips and tricks? Are there any photo pitfalls you see yourself falling into time and time again?


heavyaura said...

I love Picasa! It's simple, and you can do all the basics along with red eye correction (I get wicked red eye all the time).

I think my biggest pitfall is forgetting to have my camera on hand, or bringing my camera but forgetting the memory card. ;P

Allison said...

I'm using Picasa on your recommendation - and I haven't looked back! I'm trying to make my pictures appear more consistent in size, but it's a work in progress. Love that last photo of you - very Mad Men!

geetabix said...

Ha ha ... exaggerated chins ... I don't think that band name's been taken.

Those Picnik effects are really neat.

Anonymous said...

Your so pretty! i LOVE the blue dress and the polka dot one :)

P.S i did a post about your blog on my page. stop by to check it out!

Pretty Penny Mae said...

This is a really great post! I also wanted to say that the colors of your outfit in the first photo are great and your glasses in the last series of photos are fantastic. I think I may be jealous of those!


Kandi said...

I love Piknic and use it on all my photos that go onto my blog. I did sign up so I could use the premium stuff too and I make scrapbook pages and family birthday cards on there now. I adore your specs in those last few photos.
Kandi x

neffbot said...

Nly - I agree, I really love picasa. I also forget my camera A LOT, which is why I started using my cell phone camera. My work gave me a nice smartphone that has a pretty good camera, so I'm really fortunate to always have one with me.

Allison - you're right, I did suggest that to you (and so glad you didn't take it the wrong way when I was like "hey, you need to edit your pictures..." :)

Geetabix - thanks! Yeah, I am now seriously considering using that name if I ever have a band. Or it could be my roller derby name if I ever do roller derby.

Elizabeth - you are so sweet! I did check out your blog and comment over there, I can't believe you featured me, it's so nice of you!

Penny - thank you! I started writing and writing and realized "hey, this post actually has substance" and got pretty excited about it. The glasses are new as of last week, I got them at and had a great experience with them. I'm going to do a post on them I think. They are my new favorite thing in my wardrobe for sure.

Brenda Jean said...

Excellent advice! Also wanted to hit you up to say that I found a sweater that same greyish/lavender color (of the picture near the top with the tights that you know I LOVE) and I plan on recreating the look <3

thomessa said...

Nice post. I think of my image quality all the time, and even more while I'm in the middle of taking the photos. I use gimp to edit my photos and I just do the same thing over and over so that's gotten relatively easy. I must say, you have made significant progress from that first photo!! :)

neffbot said...

Thanks so much Beej! I'm so excited that you want to recreate one of my outfits!!!!

Thomessa - thank you! It's just hard to get good pics sometimes. I'll have such a cute outfit and nothing but terrible pictures of it.

Anonymous said...

This is a real coincidence - my husband and I (I always think I sound like the Queen when I say that! Anyway I digress) have been discussing investing in a better camera and tripod to improve the quality of my blog pictures. A friend has mentioned that the pictures are the one thing she would say need to get better. So I'm thinking new camera, new tripod and see what happens there! There is also someone I know who's a semi professional photographer who's desperate to take my pics for her portfolio and my blog. I'm slightly apprehensive - although doing my blog has removed some of the hatred of having my picture taken, the husband knows how what angles I like and I can boss him around - can't really do that with one of the husband's friend's girlfriend can I?

The Merry Traveller said...

Haha way to go! I think photographer makes a difference. My bf doesn't take good pictures but my female coworker does! I think it's a girl's instinct to know what we would like to see in an outfit post!

neffbot said...

Monkey - tripods can make the difference for sure. I would recommend the gorillapod, they are flexible and you can attach them to things (and they fit in a purse). I still get the best pictures with my husband taking them though! I think you should let your semi pro friend take your pics and just see how it turns out!

Merry - I totally agree :), though I am too shy to ask my coworkers to take my pic!

Rachele said...

Eek! You are so adorable and I can't believe I don't know you!

P.S. Sometimes I like the cell phone pictures better. I use "vignette" on android all the time.


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