Edit Your Own Photos and Save $$

For this Tuesday’s everyday idea, I’d like to encourage you to save money and explore home photography. With today’s cameras and the free editing programs available on the internet and via free software, almost anyone can be a better-than-average photographer. I recently read a statistic from a photographer that said the average senior high student spends between $700 and $1200 on senior pictures. I almost choked on the number.

For many students, that’s how much they’d spend on their first car, and I know my sons would rather have wheels that an airbrushed photo on the wall. So, with my small $160 Kodak and a good editing program, I’ve set out to save money as my first son enters his senior year in a few weeks.

This past weekend, we had some time to kill, so I brought the camera with and we spent a little time at a nearby park snapping shots. I know we will do some more in a few weeks, but this gave us a good start. And a few weeks ago, I shot senior photos for another friend of his. Let me show you what I was able to do with a mediocre camera.

The first picture is the unedited shot, taken in a dark woods on a rainy day using a low light setting on my Kodak and no flash.

 With a little editing using Picnik, an online program, the picture has drama. I darkened the edges, corrected the color, and added text. Then I brought the picture into a free program that I downloaded called GIMP and added the light you see coming from the side.

You can even clone areas if you don’t like something about the picture. Notice the picture below where I have added the corner on the bottom of the dress. Very easy to do!
The secret to taking your own pictures is editing them. You don’t have to have the world’s best camera if you have the right editing software. Just be sure when you edit that you save them in high quality and you’ll be happy with your prints.

Here is another example of what editing can do. I took this picture of my son this past weekend.

I like the pose, but it’s a little washed out because we took it during the brightest time of the day. With a few tweaks, this is how it turned out.

I used Picnik.
Step 1: Auto color correct
Step 2: Darken the exposure slightly and increase the contrast a little
Step 3:Touch up blemishes with blemish feature
Step 4: Use the airbrush and wrinkle remover to fix lint on shirt and airbrush harsh lines.
Step 5: Darken exposure slightly more.
Step 6: Add a “fancy focus” where the subject is in focus but background is not.

Of course,  you can do whatever you wish to suit your own taste and it’s easy to undo any move you make so it’s fun to play. I’ve probably added a little too much color, but that’s easy to fix!

You can upload your photos to one of several companies or department stores for developing and either pick them up in the store or have them arrive by mail.

I’ll leave you with one last little secret for getting a bargain price on your own photos. If you’re looking for wallets, the cheapest is to design a 4×6 picture “canvas” in your photo editing program such as Photoshop with two large wallets (4×3) or 4 small wallets (2×3) pasted onto the page. Then develop that as a 4×6 and cut it apart. With a corner rounder punch (purchased from a scrapbook or craft store for a dollar or two) you can round the corners.

Need me to back up a little? Okay. Open your photo program (you probably got one with your camera on a CD). Open a new document. Set the canvas size to 4×6 inches. Then add one photo and then the other resizing them to fit side by side within that canvas size. Don’t worry is some hangs off the edge. Just be aware that it will not appear in your printed photo if it hangs over. Save it. Then upload it or take it on a disk to get it developed as a 4×6.

Here’s an example of the 4×6 I had printed of my boys a few years ago:

I added the year on the corner with my photo program.

I hope this inspires you to play around a little bit with your own pictures and do some editing. Who knows, maybe you can save $700 too.

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