Can we trade tips?

See here’s the thing.  I know a little about photography and making pictures sharper and editing photos and making them brighter.

But baking chocolate chip cookies?

I got nothing.

I tried for the zillionth time to make them over the weekend and for the zillionth time they ran off the edge of the baking stone.  I just can’t get them right.  They are either hard as stone or too runny and the chocolate chips scold me from the batter and wish they had showed up in someone else’s kitchen.

So I thought I would ask you.

You.  The incredible baker.  You.  The person with the happy chocolate chips.  You.  The person waiting for a call back from The Great American Baking Show.

I’ll talk about my very best photography editing tips and maybe you can give me your very best tip for making chocolate chips behave.

My kitchen is all ears. 🙂

Before we get started, I just wanted to explain I’m using PicMonkey for this.  I have Photoshop.  I have other photo editing software, but I like PicMonkey the best.  It’s super easy to use and not intimidating and only costs about a really good shopping trip to the dollar store….

….but if you have other photo editing software many of the concepts we’ll talk about today are the same.

Most of what I’m doing with PicMonkey you can do using the free version.  You can see all about it here.  The paid version isn’t very expensive and you get everything on PicMonkey that has a crown next to it.

This isn’t a sponsored post.

It’s just what I use and what I know and what I use every single day.

Ready to get started?

Oh, good.  Me, too.

Here’s the before photo (this is a carving my brother made for me for Christmas that you can read about here).

Not bad.

A little dark and needs some cropping and cleaning up.

Go to PicMonkey and click on the edit button on the far left of the screen that pops up.   It will pull up a screen to upload a photo from your computer.  Upload a photograph and then your screen should look like this.

Photo uploaded.  Check.

Step 1:  Curves

The first thing I do is click on the little glittering wand on the tabs to the left (where the top arrow is pointing).

Then go all the way down to the bottom of the page and find the Curves tab.

Click on it.

This is your best photo editing friend.

I wish I could carry one of these around in my pocket for my face.

It makes parts of the picture lighter and brighter and other parts of the picture darker.  You’ll want to spend a little time experimenting with this.  Just pull the curves up and down to create the look you want for your photo.  It takes a little practice, but you’ll be amazed at how easy it is.

Go back and look at where we started.

I’ll wait.

You’re back?  Can you even believe the difference?  I know, right?

Step 2:  Crop

Now go back to the lines at the top of the menu on the very left.

These are your basic edits.

Crop is right there at the top.

I always straighten a photo first and then crop.  In this picture, for example, we want to focus on those flowers.  See how they kind of get lost in the larger picture?  I cropped it to bring them into focus.  I like my subjects to be slightly off center.  See how when you crop it, the carved board and the flowers move to the left?

It’s actually called the rule of thirds.

The basic premise states that your flowers (or subject) will look cuter when they are off-centered, but you can read more about it here.

Step 3:  Lighten and darken

Click on the sparkle wand on the far left and go to the bottom of the menu and find the Dodge tab.

This is what you’ll use to make certain parts of the photo lighter.  I used it here to remove shadows under the table.

Do NOT over use this or your pictures will have blotches on them.  If your picture isn’t light enough, go back to Curves or use the brightness tab on the basic edits section.

Right under Dodge, you’ll find the Burn tab.

This makes portions of the photo darker.

I used it to slightly darken the table top and the flowers.

Step 4:  Wrinkle Remover

Go over to the tabs again on the very left and click on the silhouette of the girl.

Then click on the wrinkle remover tab.

You can use this to smooth any surfaces or remove blemishes.

I used it to take off a few scratches on the table.

Step 5:  Resize and Sharpen

After you’ve finished all your edits go back to the lines at the top of the menu on the very left.

The last step is to resize your photos for your blog.

The resize tab is at the very bottom.  I try to resize my photos no smaller than 650 pixels wide.

The VERY LAST step is to sharpen.

If you do this as the very last thing right before your pictures are saved, your pictures will always look sharp and bright and ready for their close-up.

There are technical reasons for this that involve a long explanation, but we won’t go into all of them here.

Just take the word of someone who has edited more than 20,000 photos in her lifetime.

Sharpen last.

Here’s the final photo in all it’s glory with one final tip.

Don’t over edit.

Don’t over think it.

In editing sometimes less is more.

Unlike chocolate chips. 🙂

PS  Let the cookie tips commence. 🙂

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