Blog: How to Take Blog Photos: Editing & Saving for Web

February 28, 2013

How to Take Blog Photos: Editing & Saving for WebThe magic happens post-production. That’s my attitude about blog photography. I’ve heard many other bloggers say that they never go into a shoot planning to making edits to the photos. I wish I was that good. I’m not. I know that almost every photo that I take will need to be edited. Sometimes I get lucky and the photo doesn’t need much help – but usually it does. As a result, I have a pretty systemized, albeit, simplistic routine for editing my photos.

Today, we’re wrapping up “The Non-Photogs Guide…” with what is perhaps the most blasphemous of all the posts in this series. I’ve said it before, but I’ll repeat myself – if you are a professional photographer or if you have a reasonable knowledge of photo editing techniques – I suggest you turn back now. I am neither of these things and I am probably doing this all wrong…but I’m cool with that. In the end, I just want photos that look pretty to me. With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s get started.

Here’s an example of what editing does for my photos. What first looked like a good photo, looks dingy, muted and overcast once the editing process is finished. How to Take Blog Photos: The Difference Editing can make | Damask Love Blog Click through for the full post on editing!

SoftwareI use Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator Cs4 for all of the photo editing and graphic design that you see on Damask Love. In today’s post, I’ll be referencing Photoshop CS4 and all the tools that I use within this program. Of course, this will be directly applicable for those of you who also use Photoshop. If you use another editing software, I hope that you’ll find this information useful and can translate it into your own programs. LevelsMy preference for all the photos on Damask Love is to err on the side of bright and maybe even a little overexposed, with moderate saturation. To my eye, that is more visually consistent with the look my blog and the photos look “at home” when they are very bright white with vivid colors.

Each time I open a photo in Photoshop, the very first thing I do is work with the “Levels.” (Image>Adjustments>Levels). Here’s the lowdown on “Levels.”

Levels refer to the range of white, black and midtone colors that exists in your photo. Ideally, the histogram in your Levels window will span all the way from the black slider, all the way to the white slider. For me, this rarely happens – so I have to adjust the sliders. I usually start by sliding the black and white sliders to the edge of the histogram and see what happens. As long as you have the “Preview” option checked, you’ll be able to see your changes happen live as you make them.

Levels-ComparisonYou can see, that in the second photo the black of the tag is darker, the white is brighter and the overall photo is more vibrant. SaturationOnce I’ve adjusted the Levels, I usually move to Saturation (Image>Adjustments>Hue/Saturation). I think of Saturation as the “er” tool. Not every photo needs more “er” but I like to add “er” to many of mine. What do I mean by “er” ? Saturation makes reds redder, greens greener, yellows yellower…you get the point. Saturation makes colors more…well…saturated. A word of advice about Saturation, don’t go nuts. Too much can make your photos look radio active. With that in mind – have fun with it! I found the Saturation tool especially useful for the Superhero Party I hosted. In this case, the colors needed to be super vibrant… Saturation-ComparisonFor this photo, I jacked up the Saturation slider to +36, which is much higher than I usually use, but it works for the purpose of this photograph. Superheros don’t like dull colors. Thanks to Elena for her tip on this.

Brush-ToolMy adjustments to each photo usually only include levels and adjustments – I find that this gets me to where I want to be. A bright photo with vivid colors. Every so often, I break out the brush tool for a little airbrushing to remedy uneven backgrounds that result from uneven light. Here’s what I mean:

For this airbrushing technique, you’ll need three items from your tool palette in Photoshop: Dropper-and-Brush-Tools NoEdits Levels-Edits

Selecting-Brush-Tool

{1} Access your “Brushes” toolbar (Window>Brushes) and select the brush shape you will use. I work with larger sizes, the blending is better that way.

{2} Adjust the “Opacity” and “Flow” – I usually set Opacity to 55% and Flow to 35% or so. Doing this allows you to create subtle brushstrokes that will blend and look natural in your photo.

Selecting-color

{3} Click on the Foreground Color Picker on the tools palette to bring up the selection window. With the window open, hover over your photo. This will bring up the dropper tool. Use the dropper tool to select one of the lighter shades in the background in your photo. By simply clicking on it, the dropper tool will “suck up” the color you chose and apply that as the foreground color. By doing this, you have now chosen the color that your paintbrush will apply when used.

Applying Brushstrokes{4} Create a new layer (Layer>New>Layer) and apply your brushstrokes to the areas that need correction. You can go over areas that need more coverage and use quicker movements to blend. You’ll see it come together as you go, and if  the color doesn’t look quite right, return to step 3 and select a different color.

Brushtool-Editing-ResultsHere’s another example of this same approach with a white background that was not so white at first…

Brush-Tool-Results2

SavingforWebSo your photo is done and ready to make it’s blog debut! It’s time to save it properly so that your readers won’t be waiting forever for the photos to load.

You’ll want to save your photos for web (File>Save for Web & Devices)…

Saving-for-Web

{1} Once you access the “Save for Web & Devices” window, select the “4-Up” tab. This will bring up four images of your photo – each with a different quality. This will allow you to see the visual differences in quality ratings.

{2} You’ll now want to select JPEG as the type of image, then adjust the quality. I used to think that all my photos had to be 100% quality, but turns out that 100 looks just the same as 80…and 80 has a much lower file size and load time.

{3} As you adjust the quality, you will see the specs on your photo change. You’ll be able to see how it compares to the original file and what the load time will be. The goal is to find a balance between load time, quality and size. I typically keep my photos in the 70-85 range and that works well…your server will thank you for not overloading it! (I learned this the hard way!)

PHEW! And so ends our little (not-so-little) lecture on blog photos…from a girl who doesn’t really know a ton about photography. This is just how I do things around here…I hope this has been helpful!

Now..what shall we tackle next? Let me know your ideas for the next Office Hours!