Before and After with Actions

Many of you may be familiar with Photoshop and know there are almost unlimited possibilities when it comes to editing pictures. I have just recently discovered actions and the time-saving amazing ways they can transform photos.

The next couple of pictures have had nothing more done to them than a couple of simple - and FREE actions. Did I just say free actions?! Yes I did. I got them from the WONDERFUL Pioneer Woman's photography section of her website. Feel free to download them for yourself here. I'm sure she won't mind sharing them even more.

Actions can save hours and hours when it comes down to picture-editing time. By reading, learning, and even playing with current actions you may have, you may eventually get brave and creative enough to make your own actions. With following pictures, I used the Fresh & Colorful on both. I also used the Quick Edge Burn

^--Before and After--v

^--Before and After--v

See what a huge difference actions can make? I look forward to sharing more action tips, information, and before & afters.


Making an 'OK' Picture Good

...Or even Great.

Definitely not impossible! Want proof? Here's an excellent example of an everyday picture, (much like the ones I'm sure everyone has at home) that can be taken to a whole new level with some simple editing.
The original picture - a very special memory, but a mediocre shot at best.

The background was way too distracting for me, especially with the lady peering at us at the table. So lets blur the background.
By using the magic lasso tool, we can select around the girls then inverse the selection (so everything around the gals is selected). Then go to the filters -->blur -->gaussian blur. You can adjust how much you want the background blurred.

Another perk to blurring the background is that it makes the rest of the picture appear just a bit clearer. Something else we can do to enhance the rest of the picture and make it pop is to desaturate the selected background:
A very nice photo.

But wait! There's still more that we can do.
By using a chocolate action --^ and in combo with parts of color--v ...
The picture almost looks professional.

The original and the edited pic side-by-side

What a dramatic difference, huh?

Now, is anyone ready to be really impressed? This photo was taken with a camera phone. We all know camera phones aren't ideal for picture-taking. But if it's the only thing you have on you at the time (as I did on this occasion), take a chance! Go ahead and take a few pictures. The results can be pretty amazing...


Is Desaturation Always Best?

With back & white photos really coming back into style, it's very easy to want to hit the 'desaturate' command every one of out snapshots. Is this always the best thing to do for our work though?

Not always.

For instance, take this photograph of the pretty little girl in black & white...

Compared to the same picture in color:
Both are very pretty, but the color looks even better.
Same with the following set:

So why do these photos look so much better in color? One reason is that they were taken outside during what's known as "The Golden Hour." This magical time of day occurs just after the sun has risen in the morning and just before the sun sets in the evening. This is the one kind of picture that rarely looks better in black & white or sepia than in color, though it's still possible to do both well.


Adjusting Brightness/Contrast & Levels

Some of our fondest memories are of vacations & trips with family and friends. Sometimes our pictures don't exactly depict our wonderful memories... They may be too bright or dark, and they may not even show those in the photo well. There are a few easy ways to fix up these photos though:It's always wonderful to have pictures on the beach, especially with the sunset. But with such a beautiful sunset, the focus is taken off the couple a bit.

By adjusting the Brightness/Contrast and Levels, the photo not only looks clearer but it focuses more upon the couple. Brightness/contrast & levels can be auto or manually adjusted; do whatever yields the best results for you.

This next beach picture is a group of friends on the beach
The brightness of the sky & background made them look especially dark...

Adjusting the brightness/contrast and levels in this one really brought out the subjects of the picture. To pump up their eyes and smiles, I also used the dodge tool. Be careful not to go too bright or they start to look fake, though.Something else that could be done to this photo is to take out the busy area between the two guys. By using a combo of the cloning & bandage tool, it's easy to blend the area so it looks like the distractions were never even there.

*Note - the pictures in this post were taken with a point & shoot digital camera, nothing special. My sis took these pictures while she was on vacation in Florida earlier this year.


Ideas for Infant Photos

When taking pictures of very small babies (considered infants), it can be a bit of a challenge. This is the one stage of childhood that the little one is unable to do much of anything for him or herself. It's not impossible, though - and I'll offer up some ideas and examples of Infant Photography to show you all.

My good friend Jamie was kind enough to let me use her beautiful 4-week-old daughter for this photo shoot. Jamie, thanks so much for letting me photograph Baby Olivia!

The first thing I did was set up a little area to place little Olivia while I took pictures. This does not require much time or money on your part, especially if you do on-site photography like I do. Almost every baby is well equipped with a swing, boppy, or vibrating seat of some type (maybe all 3). A changing table or bassinet would also work pretty well; if nothing else, they surely have a car seat - that can even work in a pinch. I bought just a few yards of 2 or 3 different fabrics and just draped it over the baby-holder (a boppy in this case) and laid little munchkin right in it.
Unfortunately, this little baby was a very sleepy little baby! Though it's not ideal to only get pictures of a slumbering babe, they'll still be cherished for years to come.
If the baby's a very sound sleeper, you can even position her or her hands/arms in different ways. Adding a simple frame adds a little more spunk to the picture as well.

Luckily for us, baby Olivia did wake up...
Some babies have a particular way they like to lay (right side, left side, or even tummy). Use this to your advantage.
Be sure to mix it up with close-ups and full baby shots.
If baby's playing with her fingers, let her enjoy them. Who doesn't love little dimpled hands?

If you and the parent(s) are up for it, try doing a change of clothes - even no clothes.
I just love little unclothed babies...
even if they don't exactly want to cooperate...

Don't' worry. There are plenty of ways to fix up pictures that you may not initially care much for.
Like cropping them, turning them into black & white and adding in bits of color... I'll explain in an upcoming post in detail how to do the black & white with bits of color.

For now, back to some more baby picture ideas:
Catching the beginning or end of a big yawn is simply adorable...
And if you're super lucky, you'll even get the slightest bit of a grin.
It also works in black & white with bits of color.

Here are just a few other ideas:
  • Placing baby on his or her tummy with head turned to the side
  • A close-up of a favorite piece of jewelry (a baby ring, bracelet, or necklace)
  • Little hair bows or shoes
  • Hands and feet
  • Include sibling(s) if possible on just a few shots - giving a kiss on the head or laying down beside baby are a couple of my favorite sibling shots
Finally, try to get some of baby & Mommy and/or Daddy. If they're completely insistent upon keeping their faces out of the photos, see if they'd like some hands & feet pictures...
Something they'll cherish forever...

It's just amazing to see how small that little baby's hands/feet are in comparison to you own - and that little one will grow so quickly. It's great to get these kind of shots when you can.
How it's done: Simply roll up Mom or Dad's sleeves, take baby's bottom half of clothing off (diaper and onesie/top can be left on). Have the parent(s) sit down with baby laying in their lap/on their legs so that the hands are free to place under baby's bare feet. I loosely wrapped some tulle around baby's legs & Mom's wrists - gave the picture a soft look and nice frame.

Luckily, Olivia's Mommy was a willing model:
A pretty good picture, but we can improve it...
By simply desaturating the image (turning it into black & white)
The black & white worked wonders on this picture.
Little Olivia was just a bit upset & was all red from working herself up. You can't tell at all without the color though.

And last but not least, a variation on a gradient fill that I developed into an action:
Mom & Baby - the most beautiful thing in the world.

For a shot like this, just ask Mom to wear a strapless tank top or (if she's comfortable enough) a strapless bra. Let her know that you'll be sure to edit out anything that is the least bit revealing of body parts. Though this picture is a lot of skin, what it shows isn't something risque - all I can see is pure and natural love.


Color Photo Restoration

Today I'm featuring another photo restoration, but this time we have color involved. This can be a benefit, but sometimes it's also more of a challenge depending on the condition of the picture itself. Luckily with this picture, it was in great shape. (Another FYI - this is a picture of me. Again, no image stealing. I think I was about 1 and a half or 2 at the time this pic was taken)

Really not a bad picture at all
It could be improved with some very simple photoshopping.

After brightness/contrast and levels were adjusted.

Makes it look like a brand new picture. But we can still do more...

Making parts of the picture in color and the rest in black & white can be done on any image - as shown here.

Total time involved: less than 10 minutes. How long this picture will now be around & enjoyed: potentially forever.


Holding myself Accountable...

What a great idea from Natalie Norton over at Pics & Kicks! This is a great way to (hopefully) make sure I get everything on my to-do list done this week. I'll come back & strike though each one as I accomplish it. I may add more, too. Especially if I happen to get everything done by like Wednesday (HA! If only...!)

Goals & Gotta Do's:
~ Finish editing & burn pics to CD of ice-skating event for my mom's work
~ Laundry! Fold & put away what's already done & keep up on laundry throughout the week
~ Do bills & work up this month's budget
~ Print out b-day pics from Livia's party & get out thank you's.
~ Do at least one post/day in my photo blog on photo editing
~ In photo blog, feature at least one post of my photography - not just editing techniques
~ Look into the blogs, forums, and workshops an absolutely wonderful photographer recommended to me

Hopefully, I'll be able to knock all this out with absolutely no problems! Much love to you all and God Bless!

Photo Restoration

Today I'm featuring a very old photo that was scanned in, and I'll show some easy steps I took to restore the image as much as possible...

Just an FYI, the little girl in the picture is either my great-grandmother or my great-great-grandmother (I believe on my father's side of the family). Just so no one will think I'm stealing random images off the Internet!

I first scanned in the picture - the scanner was nothing special, just an all-in-one printer that came with my old computer. (*Note: please click pictures enlarge)
And here is the initial image...

A bit hazy and several small trouble areas, but overall it's really not too bad of a picture.

The first thing I did was adjust the contrast & levels to brighten up the picture a bit...
It's clearer, brighter, and shows a few more details of the picture.

The next step for me was to fix her right hand. See how it's almost totally in the shadows? It almost doesn't look like a hand at all...

This step took quite a bit of time and work, but I was able to use her other hand, duplicate parts of it, transform & move it, and adjust the sizes of the duplicated pieces onto a new layer. I then used a combo of the band aid tool, cloning tool, and eraser to make the entire 'hand' come together and blend it onto the original layer. Which took me to...
This - much better.

But then there were several other little splotches & minor fixes to be made... Like on her boot, her face, dress, and even the back wall - just a few little distractions that I thought the picture could do without.

And finally, here are the two images side-by-side:
Before <------ ------> After

A wonderful thing about photo restoration is that you not only have pictures scanned in to keep forever, but the finished product is often something you'll want to have re-printed & placed somewhere special in your home.

Pictures like this can cost tons of money... But for right now, I'm still offering to do them for free! Anyone who has pictures that they would like work done on, I would love to do it for you for free - just as long as I can use the images for my portfolio & show off what I can do. Just e-mail me the image(s) to

Thanks so much in advance - much love to all & God Bless!


Wonderful Photography Websites

There are SO many wonderful websites out there for photographers. Whether you're interested in learning about your camera, photo editing techniques, or maybe you're even wanting sell your work - there's something photography-wise out there for just about everyone! - Many things under her products section cost, but there are also FREE photoshop actions and other advice. Really, really useful information & teachings, but unfortunately time consuming... She also has a blog: ( and I would definitely sign up for her monthly newsletter - SO much useful info packed into it. - Absolutely WONDERFUL website dedicated to paying it forward to other. Lots of actions, templates, and the like on a regular basis, but also great interviews, articles, & advice. This website is what prompted me to create this one. I wanted a way to pay it forward as much as I could as well.
OK, so it's technically aimed at us camera-wielding, picture-obsessed Moms... But there's a lot of great info there for any photographer. Plus, sign up for the newsletter - more monthly tips!
- My absolute favorite learning blog. It's also the blog that prompted me to offer the Wedding Checklist & Questionnaire in the previous post.

And of course, there are several community-type websites out there that can really be great tools in learning and sharing information. - Absolutely free website to host your pics, and a place to buy & sell work. More importantly, there's a lot of GREAT advice and many groups on there that may give you great ideas for what you want to focus on. Plus, when you put your own work up, you'll be amazed at the comradery and support you'll get there. - Another website much like RedBubble. It's "a photography community that includes forums, reviews, and galleries for members and casual viewers."
- At, "you can share photos, read articles, participate in forums, browse product reviews, and buy digital cameras, photographic equipment, or stock photography."

There are so many other wonderful communities of the like out and about on the World Wide Web, but you'll want to limit yourself to just a couple, since there are only a certain number of hours in each day!

If I may also make another suggestion, sign up for a service like Bloglines to keep up with all the various blogs you're inevitably accumulating. That's how I keep up on all the blogs I love so much! Many times, I'll just read the most recent post within the Bloglines website itself. I'll still click over to comment and read entire articles if they're not shown in their entirety under Bloglines.

Bloglines is super great, because it tells you when someone has posted something under their blog. It saves countless hours and frustrations on checking for new blogs that aren't even a sure thing. Unfortunately, Bloglines won't really help you keep up with the community-type websites I mentioned.

Finally, as I mentioned in the previous post, PLEASE let me know if I've left something out here. I'll be adding all these links to my sidebar, plus a few more for inspiration & information. Like I said, tell me if there's something you think should be included on the sidebar. Be sure to check out the ones listed! Much love and God Bless

Online Printing

For all you photographers out there - professional and amateur - I have one question for you: what do you currently use to print your photos? It's all too convenient to just send off your pictures to the nearest drug store or superstore. And some of us even have at-home printers (both for smaller and larger prints) but what about price and quality? With the often high costs of paper & ink, and especially since gas is so outrageously priced right now, it's worth thinking about alternatives.

Have you thought about using an online lab? If not I TOTALLY recommend doing so - very cost effective & great products. I'll link below some of my favorites for pro & SRL use.

One of my absolute favs - Color Inc. (4th one down on this list) has a sign up for a monthly newsletter. I totally recommend signing up, because you will get an 'in' for sales and specials that they run. plus at the bottom of the newsletter there's a coupon for 50% off your first order! I've personally talked to one of the team members of Color Inc. and they're so very helpful. This translates to, "don't afraid of the online printing thing because of the technology aspect." One of the Color Inc representatives can walk you through anything.

Another website that does a very decent job of printing pictures is Shutterfly. I don't think the quality is quite up to the others listed above, but they do have a bunch of really neat novelty items. It's a great website for those wanting a bit above average, and some really fun stuff to choose from.

Ultimately, the choice is up to you on how you would like to print your photos. Just remember that typically the 2 out of 3 rule will apply: You can usually get two of the following three qualities for printing your pictures, but it's really hard to get all three.
Good quality
Quick service
A decent price

Let me know what you all think - what's important, have I left out your favorite website(s) or ways of printing, and how your or others personal experiences affect your decisions.

Much love to all and God Bless!


Wedding Photography Information

Though I am definitely not the first & foremost when it comes to wedding photography, I would love to share the information I do have and know...

I recently put up a response in a forum over at Digital Photography School saying that I would love to share a wedding checklist and a short wedding questionnaire. A kind gentlemen actually offered to copy them over to Google Docs for me - I had no idea such a thing was even out there, so I shall be forever grateful to him. For those of you out there who could like to have them as well, feel free! (Just click on each one for the Google Docs link)

Wedding Checklist

Wedding Questionnaire

And here is other wedding photography advice I have that might be of use...

First off, it's great idea is to have an extra [fully charged] battery with you at all times - especially for the wedding, of course. Do you have another digital camera by any chance? Even if it's not a DSLR,it's good have a 'back up' for the big day. Imperfect pictures are still better than no pictures at all! And I'm sure many of you already know this, but 'grainy' pics make a world of difference in black & white or sepia. Plus brides love to have at least a few pictures in this style - I know of those who (by choice!) don't have one color pic from their wedding. If you don't have another digital camera, chances are that a fairly close relative does. Better yet, recruit a slightly-younger family member of yours to help! That awkward-stage niece, nephew, cousin, etc. would be PUMPED that you want his/her help & expertise! Plus you will hopefully have 2 chances for a lot of shots.

It's very important to maintain your own style (even if you're still developing it), while also 'bending a bit' - so to say -for their style. And let's be serious, here - by 'their' style, I mean HER style! As we all know, the wedding is all about the bride! You may already know her 'style' without even realizing it. Is she shy & reserved? Outgoing & talkative? The photographs from her wedding day should reflect pieces of that, as well as the absolute beauty of the day.

Something I really wish my wedding photographer would have focused more on was ME that day. I know that sounds absolutely ridiculous, because I was the center of attention for the whole day! But there weren't any 'little details' from the wedding that I SO dearly wish I had... Pics of the rice packets, each individually hand-wrapped; pics of my bridesmaids doing my hair, makeup, and dressing; a close up of The Kiss & placing the rings on each others hands - Sadly, I didn't get any of those shots. In fact, I didn't even get very many pictures of 'just me'. Never underestimate how important the bride is in her own eyes - even if she'd never admit it to anyone!Be sure to focus on something you know she loves about herself (eyes,lips, hair, back, or legs) in at least a few pics. She'll be very grateful for them in the future.

Be sure in at least several photos that you get FULL frame pics - don't cut off anyone's feet. In fact, take a few random shots OF feet! Whether it's during the vows, or during the dance - get a few tootsies & toes shots.

Another thing I can think to tell you is DO NOT BE AFRAID. Tell everyone where you want them exactly. Tell Bob to point his toes in (Ack! Quit standing like a duck! I hated those shots in my wedding pics!) If your voice doesn't carry, recruit help here! We were lucky to have microphones at my wedding... but if you don't have access to one, get someone [mature - so people will listen] who has a voice that carries well. Anyway, make sure you're very clear on where everyone needs to be, and how posed. Make sure 'little bitties' are all in check too (background stuff/people out of the way, hairs in place - not in face, etc.)

Also consider 'staking out' or doing research on the ceremony & reception locations before the wedding if possible. You'll be able to get a better idea of what will & won't be possible in terms of poses,backgrounds, etc. Plus it's a great way to get yourself familiar & comfortable with where you'll be shooting...

That's all for now, but as I learn more I will in turn share with you all as well - happy shooting! Much love and God Bless!


To help build up my portfolio on edited pictures, I'm now accepting requests for FREE photo help.

Whether that be a digital photograph you would like enhanced, a scanned-in photo that you would like to have restored, or any other adjustments on a picture.

Simply e-mail the picture or pictures to me at
photoeditmagic[at]gmail[dot]com. Tell me what you would like to have done to it, and I'll do my best to fulfill your request. All I ask for in editing your picture(s) is that I be allowed to use it/them in my portfolio.

Thanks so much for helping me out. Much love and God Bless!

Wedding Photo Adjustments

In this post I'll be showing & discussing some editing techniques I used for some amatuer wedding photography.

The pictures are from my husband's beautiful cousin, Blair's wedding just over 2 years ago. Blair & her high school sweetheart, Adam, were married down in Mississippi - it was totally worth the drive! They're a God-loving couple, joined in His Love and Grace. A beautiful ceremony, followed by an equally gorgeous reception with hor d'oeuvres galore, southern sweet tea, cake, and much more. Enough about how much I enjoyed myself though, how about some photos from the big day, huh?

One of the sweetest shots of the day, but it's a little busy...
So, let's just do a simple cropping & just a little color enhancement.
Much better!

There's so much that can be done with even the simplest picture though - not just cropping. Lets take this next picture a step further:
Crop it...
Blur the background on it...
And turn it into back & white with the bouquet in color...
I faded the color out just a bit more on this next one (fade desaturate) and liked it even more...
Almost looks professional, doesn't it.

Here's another photo that's pretty good, but again can totally be made better.
Replacing the background or even a simple cropping would make a world of difference.
Why not do both?
Cropped with an elegant black vignette.

Little changes can definitely make big differences.

Something else I like to do for wedding shots is to take a photo of the bride's bouquet, blur it, fade the edge...
And it can be used as a background for almost any picture.

Finally, my absolute favorite picture - after editing of course.
Started off with (out of all honesty) a mediocre shot at best. There are too many distractions in the background, and look at the hideous shadow around the groom! But I loved the moment that it captured of the couple.

So I started out by duplicating the layer. On the original layer I used a heavy gaussian blur filter, and on the copied layer I used the magic wand tool to trace around the couple (with a very light feathering... I think 5 - 10?). I then inversed the selection & just deleted the area around them. Which made the picture look like...
A much classier image - but still not the perfection I was seeking. The distracting background is gone, but so is their floor & wall... it looks like they're floating, doesn't it? Not to worry! I still had a trick or two up my sleeve to polish it up some more.

Like this! Not your typical black & white, huh? That's right, it's not. I went to image -> adjustments -> gradient map, and selected the metals option. It should be pretty obvious which one of the metals I used.

I was pretty happy with it at this point, but I decided to add one last little touch...

Now, this type of editing can't be used with just any picture. But with the right ones, the results are just spectacular. Note: the 'metals - black & white' should NEVER be used on big, huge, happy, toothy smiles. The results are often horrific instead of terrific!

Hope this gives you all some ideas of what I can do, and also some things to try for yourselves! Feel free to hit me up with questions, and of coarse pictures of your own that you'd like for me to edit. Much love to all and God Bless!