photo editing

The Five-Minute Photo Fix: fix your iphone photos instantly

Have you ever wondered how to get that crisp, clear, perfect image on Instagram? How some food photos look good enough to eat, while others look a little... ick?

In this week's quick tip of the week, I'll show you how to turn your food photo from "are you sure that's edible?" to "holy cow, get in my belly now!" in less than five minutes. That's no joke - it's THAT easy. Really, the most difficult thing about this tutorial is not eating the cookies before I finished taking photos. 

 
The Five-Minute Photo Fix. Turn your food photo from "are you sure that's edible?" to "holy cow, get in my belly now!" in less than five minutes.  Really, the most difficult thing about this tutorial is not eating the cookies while shooting!
 

what you'll need

Here's what you'll need to produce a studio-quality image in five minutes flat:

  • A spot near a window
  • Daylight (clouds or sunshine work!)
  • A sheet of white paper
  • Your object(s)

This little trick is all about lighting. By using daylight near a window and not in direct sunlight, you'll create the nice, soft shadows. Is it cloudy out? Even better! The after photo in this post was actually taken on a very overcast day. With sunlight, your shadows will be a bit harsher, but cloudy will give you just enough light, unless of course, it's thunderstorming.

the set up

The set up is so incredibly easy. Grab a spot near a window. Grab a sheet of white paper - even the simple, day-to-day computer paper works. As long as your object is smaller that the paper, you're golden. Here's a look at my crazy simple set up. It's almost funny how simple it is:

 
The Five-Minute Photo Fix. Turn your food photo from "are you sure that's edible?" to "holy cow, get in my belly now!" in less than five minutes.  Really, the most difficult thing about this tutorial is not eating the cookies while shooting!
 

I lightly fold the sheet of paper to more easily prop the piece of paper up against an object behind the subject (in this case, cookies). When you shoot, you'll be eye-level with your subject, which will give the image a nice, seamless background, much like a mini studio photo! There are more advanced ways to set up a lightbox for images like this, but this is the fast and easy, super budget-friendly method.

 
The Five-Minute Photo Fix. Turn your food photo from "are you sure that's edible?" to "holy cow, get in my belly now!" in less than five minutes.  Really, the most difficult thing about this tutorial is not eating the cookies while shooting!
 

See the above photo? The colors are off, the shadows are harsh, the background is dark. All-in-all, not a great photo. Do you know why? It was taken with the curtains drawn and flash on. The iPhone's flash is not your friend in most situations. Turn it off! Always! Okay, almost always. There's a time and place for everything, but when natural light is available, there's no need for it.

You can easily toggle your iPhone camera's flash: When your camera app is open, in the top right corner is a little lighting bolt. Tap it and three options appear: Auto, On and Off. Tap off and you're good to go.

 
The Five-Minute Photo Fix. Turn your food photo from "are you sure that's edible?" to "holy cow, get in my belly now!" in less than five minutes.  Really, the most difficult thing about this tutorial is not eating the cookies while shooting!
 

Here's the finished product with natural light. Open up that curtain, let the light in. Jump down to eye level and once your camera app is open, tap your subject on the screen to get that beautiful focus. With my final photo, I popped it into one of my favorite mobile apps, VSCO, brightened it up, sharpened just a bit and lightened the shadows. Easy as pie, right? Er, cookies.

Post in the comments your before and after photos using the 5-minute photo fix or tag me on Instagram @brendagdalton. I'd love to see how you use this quick method to improve your photos.


Improve your iPhone photography plus free workbook!

Not sure why every single photo you take with your iPhone is blurry? Are you ready to kick dark, grainy images to the curb?

Here you'll find my favorite tricks to using your iPhone to produce professional-quality images for your blog and social media. Plus, snag the free four-page iPhone Photography Workbook for Bloggers and Creatives at the bottom of this post for even more tips!

 
The best tips to improve your iPhone photography for your website, blog or social media!
 

great lighting

A great source of natural light is the single best way to create sharp images with soft shadows. How do you find natural light? Indoors, find a room that’s well lit, but without direct sunlight (bright, but not harsh). Whether you’re shooting from above, from the side or eye-level, be sure not to stand between your light source (the window) and your object.

focus!

This is one of the biggest questions I'm asked: Why are all of my iPhone photos blurry? It's a bit of a hidden feature with your phone: tap to focus. That's it! Tap the subject on your screen and wah-la! You're in focus. If your images are still blurry, try giving your iPhone's lens a little wipe down with a soft cloth. Even with a case on, the lens can get a bit dirty, causing your images to be blurry and grainy.

burst mode

At a sporting event or trying to capture your cat sprinting around the house full-speed? Try the iPhone's burst mode, which takes photos in quick succession. Instead of tapping the shutter button to take a photo, press and hold. From there, numbers will appear (and continue counting!) until you let go of the button. The same works if you use the volume button to take photos, too. This is a great feature to capture high-speed motion at its peak.

try a new angle

Some angles work, some angles don't. Until you've nailed your brand style when it comes to your photos, experiment! Jump on a stool and shoot from far above. Lay down in the grass to find a new perspective. Get up close on your subject and try the same shot with the whole room. As you work on your photography, try each image in a variety of angles (and shoot lots!), which will help you figure out your own style.

use filters sparingly

Filters are popular! In fact, they're so popular that Instagram's filter names are showing up on top baby names lists in 2015. Unfortunately, slapping a filter on your photos won't make your image much better. Some of the top pros on Instagram won't even touch filters (shocking, isn't it?), instead opting for mild adjustments in VSCO and Instagram such as brightness, contrast and sharpen. With the right lighting, you'll never have to rely on Valencia again!

want more tips and tricks?

 
 

Don't forget to pick up your free four-page iPhone Photography Workbook for Bloggers and Creatives with even more detailed tips and tricks! Pop your info below and you'll receive an instant link to download. I can't wait to see what you come up with, so tag me in your new and improved photos on Instagram with @brendagdalton!

Download the Improve Your iPhone Photography Workbook through the Resource Library! 

 
 

The best FREE photo editing tools for bloggers & creatives

 
Best free photo editing tools for bloggers and creatives on a budget
 

It's time to round up the best free picks when it comes to editing images for your blog, social media or website! Whether you're just starting out and have a limited budget, your computer crashed and you're sans software for a while or you only edit photos once in a blue moon, here are the top tools for zip, zero, nada to help make your images shine their very best.

pixlr

Though I personally work in Photoshop and Lightroom, Pixlr is my favorite free app, especially for bloggers and creatives on a budget. Pop open right in your browser, this website offers two versions: Pixlr Editor and Pixlr Express. Express is perfect if your photo is a tad too dark and you need to lighten it up, a photo is a little caddy-wonky and needs to be straighten up a bit or go for a basic, all around, no-thought-required auto-fix.

Pixlr Editor

Pixlr Express

My preference though, and the best bang for your free buck, is Pixlr Editor. It looks like a browser version of Photoshop and works (and looks!) eerily similar to the Adobe workhorse. Spot heal, burn, sharpen, lighten, smudge, clone stamp… you name it, Pixlr Editor has it. You can even work with layers! If you’ve used Photoshop in the past and miss it, crave it, but can’t quite work it into your budget, jump on over to Pixlr. Speaking as a professional, Pixlr is the most cohesive and intuitive free image editing program.

fotor

Fotor is a great, basic in-browser photo editor, similar to Pixlr. Access simple editing features like exposure, contrast, curves, sharpness, among other necessities. Take it to the next level by clicking on the beauty tab on the left and with (majorly!) advanced tweaks like skin smoothing, blemish fixes and tools to make your teeth sparkle. And there’s a first time for everything: Fotor even includes a tool to make your eyebrows on fleek. I’m not hip. I think I used that slang wrong. Or too late. Whoops!

Be aware, though: In order to use the browser version of Fotor, your image must be smaller than 8MB; however, you can download Fotor for desktop and get to editing those larger files, plus features like batch processing, collage and more.

Bonus! You can also take Fotor on the road by downloading the app for iOS or Android. Double bonus! You can also design everything from social media cover photos to posters and greeting cards all in the browser, too. Just hit the Design link at the top of the homepage.

gimp

In terms of free photo editing tools, GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is a little different, since it requires you to download the program right to your computer; however, the features are worth having. It’s possible that GIMP is the most advanced free image editing tool out there, so long as you aren’t being illegal with a hacked version of Photoshop. Don’t do that! Download GIMP.

GIMP offers nearly all of the tools you'll get from Photoshop - yep, Photoshop, not just Elements - but with a slightly different layout and overall theme, but those differences are purely visual. GIMP also uses the same shortcuts and keyboard commands as Photoshop, so if you're a big nerd like me and shortcuts are second nature, I'd recommend you download GIMP immediately. It's also great if you absolutely don't have access to Illustrator and need a quick fix to create graphics and logos using the pen tool. 

You'd think there would be commercial restrictions to such a full-bodied, free program, right? Nope. Use GIMP to edit to your heart's desire to produce work commercially. 

Bonus! GIMP also offers a small archive of tutorials, which offers guidance on how to get started with image manipulation and advanced photo editing.

In the meantime, what are your favorite tools to edit photos for your blog, social media or website?

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