Sunday, September 14, 2008

If your photos don't look real...

Or how to fix over exposed or under exposed pictures with a simple and free graphics program.

We all want our photos to represent a true likeness of our gardens. We want to preserve and share flowers and foliage in all their varied hues and subtle shades. Digital cameras are wonderful tools, but they can produce results that are disappointing.

For example overexposure is too much light or light from a bad angle registering on the camera sensor. Colors look washed out, sometimes the foliage seem grayish and flowers are pale shadows of their true, vibrant selves. This is very frustrating because you see the colors before you are bright and beautiful but your camera is showing an image of colors that are anything but.

Underexposure is the opposite. Not enough light is coming thru the lens and your camera doesn’t see details. Colors are too dark and are not true. Objects are just silhouettes.

If you realize you’ve taken a bad photo, sometimes you can just snap another with better exposure, but not always. What if you are on a garden walk in the blazing sun? Many of your photos may be overexposed but you can’t really go back for a re-take.

Unless you are a professional photographer, bad photos happen. Even professionals, or I should say especially professionals, attempt to fix camera exposure problems and portray pictures as true to natural as possible. Adjusting the settings on your camera is a good place to start. Read the owners manual, it is the first best fix to get good pictures. The second best fix can come with a photo editing program.

Photography is a passion with me. I want to continue learning to take better pictures that I can enjoy and share. I have both Adobe Photo Shop and Paint Shop Pro. Photo Shop does an adequate job of fixing over and underexposures. If you have either of these or a favorite program, you know exactly what to do to make your pictures more true to life. If you don’t have a program, you can download Serif Photo Plus 6 for free. This is probably the best little editing program I’ve used for quick fixes. 1. It works with layers (which you may or may not ever use). 2. It does a good job with over and underexposure provided there is enough detail on the photo card to work with. A simple adjustment with two sliders can make washed out pictures regain their true vibrancy and the colors pop. 3. It allows you to add text to your pictures. Using text you can sign and date your work or add the botanical names of plants. 6. It crops if you want to enlarge a flower or eliminate a kid sticking out his tongue. 5. PP6 has a very simple cloning tool that can be used to remove power lines or other distracting details from photos.

First law of photo editing! Make a copy of your original and work with the copy only.
Second law when working with Serif Photo Plus! Save photos using 'Export'. To save your pictures go to File > Export and be sure the file type is .jpg. (You do not want to use File > Save As because PP6 saves as a file type that Blogger, Photobucket, Flickr, and many other programs cannot read.)

So if you are still reading, here is how to fix a washed out photo and make the natural, true to life color reappear. Photo Plus 6 shines in this department. IMHO, the best feature is the view as you edit. You are not looking at a tiny little pixilated editing screen like you do with most programs. The edits appear in real time with a full screen shot. Do not click OK until the picture looks like the real deal. Even after you click OK to correct the photo, you can go back to >Edit >Undo, and get back the original to start again. When you are done, remember to File > Export as a .jpg file.

Beckie from Dragonfly Corner took the first photo below of her beautiful red caladiums. She was disappointed when she downloaded the picture because her camera had washed out the vivid reds. Beckie thank you so much for allowing me to use your picture. These really are beautiful leaves, just a little overexposed.

All of us get frustrated if we can’t show a flower or object that looks real. I used PP6 and went to Image > Adjust > Brightness/Contrast. First I pulled the top slider Brightness to the left a little to darken and correct washed out colors. Then I moved the bottom contrast slider to the right to make the lost detail reappear. I didn’t have a red caladium so I adjusted from memory until the photo looked like caladiums I’ve seen in the past. Of course it’s easier to get exact colors if you have the plant sitting in your yard.

Same with this washed out, overexposed cottage. Trust me, the foliage was not really pale and gray. This cottage garden may have been past its prime in mid July but it never had the smoky haze this photo shows. The first photo is not true to life. The second is a much more realistic representation of how it appeared to the human eye.
I’m sorry, this is running on much longer than I intended. I will show the PP6 photo text feature, fixing underexposure, and the cloning feature in later postings.




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39 comments:

Gail said...

Marnie,

I didn't think the post was too long at all! You could have continued, I would read more. Can I use this program with mac? I use iphoto and it is limited in photo enhancement...but honestly, that could be me. I have tried to play with a few photos but not to this beautiful effect! In fact my favorite button has been 'undo' because I forgot to work with a copy of the photo! Great suggestion.

Thanks, I hope you continue educating us!

I shall google and see if it is mac compatible!

Gail

tina said...

You are very talented with the photoshop stuff. I am going to download the program and try to figure out the text thing and hopefully I will have enough patience to figure it out. Those photos really do look better and you are so right when sometimes you just can't retake your photos.

Mary said...

That is really interesting and I desperately need to learn how to work on my photos. Will have to print this and study it. Thanks for the info.

Cosmo said...

What a great posting--it's good to know what options are out there. I don't know what "layers" are--does that mean you can fix background elements? This is so helpful.

beckie said...

Marnie, thank you!I have downloaded the program and will start playing with it soon. This is so neat and you make it sound simple enough-although I am very techno-challenged! The caladium leaves do look so much more like the real life ones. Now I should never have a bad photo.:)

The Birdlady said...

Very nice work.

Roses and Lilacs said...

Good morning Gail. I think I've let you down again, I don't find anything about Mac's in their info. These little, free programs are mostly for PC's just because of the numbers of people using them. I'm sorry.
Marnie

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Tina, it isn't hard to pick up the process for texting on photos. I'll post later but just download and place your cursor where the text starts. Choose the 'A' on the left tool bar. A box pops up, chose a font, size and color and fill in the text. Edit > Undo if you don't like the result.

Roses and Lilacs said...

Mary I hope you find it useful sometime.
Marnie

Roses and Lilacs said...

Cosmo, truthfully, I haven't worked with layers much in PP6. In Photo Shop you do everything with layers including simple adjustments like the ones I made on these overexposed photos. Using layers prevents the original from being changed and allows you to go back to the original if necessary.
Marnie

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Beckie, it is simple. Just spend some time playing with it. That 's the only way to learn it. It can save some photos that are otherwise ruined.
Marnie

Roses and Lilacs said...

Good morning Bird Lady. This program makes simple adjustments pretty well. For certain adjustments I like it as well, maybe better than Photo Shop.
Marnie

Gail said...

Marnie,
You can't let me down! I will find a compatible program...what you've done is nudge me to explore and that is one of my favorite things! Have a great day!
gail

Rose said...

Marnie, Thanks so much for all this info! I still haven't had time to check out the framing program, and now my computer isn't working. But I'm saving both of these posts so I can try both of these programs when I have more time to work with them. What you did with Beckie's photo and the cottage garden is pretty amazing!

BeadedTail said...

What a great, informative post! I struggle with my photos all the time so will certainly use your tips!

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Rose, that is a pretty cottage garden isn't it? I've got to try for some spring pictures.

Plenty of time this winter to play around with the computer. Not much to do outside.
Marnie

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Gail, Mac has to do a better job for it's users. The only programs I see designed for Mac are expensive ones. I'll keep my eyes open for good Mac programs too.

I guess it's a trade off. You get a better operating system and PC's get more 'stuff' to crash the poor operating system;)
Marnie

Adrienne said...

Hi Marnie -
I came here from Lallee's Cottage just to take a peek at your blog and I will return often! This was such a helpful post. Lots of good information. I'll play with some of my 'bad' photos and see what wonderful results I get. Thanks a lot. I'll be back soon.
~Adrienne`

Kathleen said...

That's a great tutorial Marnie. I'm lucky enough to have photo shop and love it (even tho I'm still learning about its many, many capabilities).

flydragon said...

Marnie,
I too have photo shop but still haven't figured it all out. It's been a while since I played with it and I've forgotten all that I did know. After seeing what you've done, I'm going to start all over again. Thanks

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi Marnie,
I'm finally catching up a bit on my visits despite crazy time at work, but I always look forward to your posts and visits at my place!

You have put together an excellent primer on doing basic photo editing here. I don't often retouch mine (thanks to the S700), but sometimes I have to work with the color a bit to make it more true. I'm still intimidated by the learning curve and price of PShop, so I'm using Corel Photo Album 6 for now to do basic editing functions and organization. Fortunately it also does a lot of the higher end stuff, but I just don't use it that much (yet).

My current obsession is getting the calendar software chosen and getting that project off the ground!

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Adrienne, thanks for visiting. I'm glad you're inspired to play around some with your photos. On days when I can't be outside working, I find it's a lot of fun to try to get the colors corrected. I guess I just like everything about digital photos.
Marnie

Roses and Lilacs said...

I flydragon, about 1% of the people who have Photo Shop ever figure out all the stuff it can do. But it's fun to try. I've been playing a little with the artistic filters. That's fun.
Marnie

Roses and Lilacs said...

IVG, good luck with you calander. I know you're working hard on it. Thanks again for the tip on the Cosmos. That's high on my list for next year.
Marnie

walk2write said...

Thank you, Marnie, for wanting to help us digital neophytes. I have often wondered how people consistently produce photos with so much clarity and color. I guess programs like the PP6 are bloggers' version of plastic surgery. A little nip here, a little tuck there!

Phillip said...

Great tips. I love Photoshop and I'm always amazed at what one can do with it. My major problem is photographing red flowers. In fact, I took photos yesterday of two different red roses for my Bloom Day post and neither one was useable and I never could adjust the color properly even in Photoshop. You would think that with cameras and technology today, they could make one that could properly capture the color red!

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Phillip. My camera doesn't do true reds either. Like you, I'm never quite satisfied with what Photo Shop produces. I can get close. I spent an afternoon determined to get Mirandy right. Never did.
Marnie

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Walk2Write. Wonderful as they are, digital cameras almost never get everything just right. If you hold a photo up beside the real flower, the photo always suffers--mostly the colors. I like to try and make the photos pop just like the flowers do in real life.
Marnie

Dawn said...

Hello, my sister sent me to your post today. Sooo many pictures I need to fix including todays photos, thanks for point me in the right direction! download ready!

DP Nguyen said...

What a cool lesson. I love what you can do!

RainbowMom said...

Great post! I'm definately downloading PP6 right now (tho the PP8 is on for only 9.99.. is it worth it I wonder?) and you offered great tips and they are easy to remember. Thank you!

Michelle's Rambling Woods said...

Marnie..Thank you so much. This is exactly what I need to learn and certainly not too long a post.

ChrisND said...

Those are some good examples...sometimes I use software to sharpen a photo that is just a little out of focus. It works especially well if the final production will be at a lower resolution (thus hiding some of the processing flaws).

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Dawn, hope it does what your need. Good luck.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Hi DP, I hope at least a few people can use the info.
Marnie

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi RainbowMom. If possible I always go with the free program at first. If you like it really well, get the pay version. I haven't ever tried 8 so I don't know the difference.
Marnie

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Michelle I hope it helps you. It's free so there isn't much to lose.
Marnie

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Chrisnd. I sharpen some of mine too. What processing flaws are you talking about? I get noise sometimes when I sharpen.
Marnie

Morning Glories in Round Rock said...

Marnie, thank you so much for the information. I get so frustrated with my pictures. I can't wait to download the program and start playing around with it. If this keeps up, I may never get back in the garden again!!! ;-)

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Morning Glories. Our winter weather gives us plenty of indoor time to view garden photos and play around. Hope this program helps a few people.
Marnie