Posts tagged ‘photo tips’

January 17, 2012

Cropping Photos to Improve the Visual Effect

Cropping is a useful tool for photo improvement. Though it sounds like an easy trick, cropping is more art than science and you need an eye for it. Still there are some general guidelines that can help you improve the visual effect of your photos.

Focus in!

Crop to bring the attention to the main object or person. In a portrait, the person’s eyes are the focal point. If the person is looking sideways, make sure to allow ‘space’ for her to look into or include enough of the object so the viewer knows what the the person is looking at. Otherwise the viewer will wonder what is missing.

Cropping also lets you remove the parts of the picture that didn’t turn well, let’s say because of awkward posing like in the example below.

Don’t amputate!

Cropping off people’s limbs at joints makes them look like amputees. Despite a very popular concern, it’s okay to crop part of the head if it’s a close portrait, as it will bring more attention to the eyes.  Cutting between the joints is alright as long as it’s still possible for the mind’s eye to fill in the blanks to complete a person’s torso or limb.

An example of bad cropping where the hand cut off at the wrist appears detached. The only way to fix this effect is to re-crop the photo to a close portrait.

Combine tilting with cropping!

In some situations tilting can save the day when you realize the only photo that you like is still bad.

Remove distractions!

Remove the view-spoilers, parts of unidentifiable objects and things that distracts from the story the image is telling.

Someone's back was a view-spoiler in otherwise a nice portrait. The photo allowed for easy cropping that brought the new balance to the composition by seemingly adding to the empty space in the direction of the person' glance.

Watch the ‘negative space’!

This is the space around the central object. Cropping too tightly will make the photo look awkward.

Cropping Contextual Images

The images surrounding the person or the object in the center of attention serve as the context and create the picture story and establish the mood. It becomes a critical compositional component that need to be cropped to have a balanced visual effect. To reach the optimal result, it is recommended to follow the Rule of Thirds.

The Rule of Thirds: Divide the frame into thirds horizontally and vertically. The points where those lines intersect are good starting points to place the main subject. Essentially the primary subject is slightly off center.

In the original photo the person is put squarely in the middle and the background is cropped too tight leaving no breathing space above and below the figure. By cropping right below the hand (not to lose the gesture) and reducing the space on the left we re-balance the composition to bring it it in line with the Rule-of-Thirds.

You might find it impossible to follow all these rules as they start to clash when your photo has more than one problem. You would need to compromise or send it to us at PhotoHand and we’ll apply more advanced techniques to perfect your mementos.

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You might also want to read:
Cropping Photos to Match Printing Standards
Other Point-and-Click Tips

July 8, 2011

Point-and-Click Tips: Taking the Red Eye Glow Out Of the Picture

Red eyes (red glow in pupils) in photos is a common phenomenon when taking pictures of people or animals using a flash.


Some cameras support a “red eye reduction” mode.  In that mode the camera fires the flash a few times before taking the photo. Although this helps reducing the red-eye effect, it can also result in photos of people with their eyes closed (as they blink when blinded by the pre-flash).

There are a few things that you can do to prevent red-eyes.

1. Take the pictures with sufficient light in the environment so that your subjects’ pupils decrease in size.
2. Tell them to look to the side of your camera – not straight at the camera.
3. Have someone divert babies or pets’ attention so that they look away from the camera.

Some cameras include built-in image processing software that automatically removes red-eye from the photos, or you can use Picasa or other online photo editing software. Make sure that the software only effects the eye area and doesn’t change the color of other elements in the picture that happen to have the tint typical of the red eye effect. Software trips in such cases as it works on formulas and doesn’t exercise common sense.

Another option is having it done by professional photo retouchers for as low as $3.50, especially in case you have captured a close portrait in a dark environment and now the whole eye retina is glowing red.

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July 6, 2011

Point-and-Click Tips: Avoiding Overexposure and Underexposure When Taking Pictures Outdoors

Although digital point and shoot cameras are generally automated to measure the amount of light in an environment and apply the proper settings to take a good picture, the camera often makes an exposure decision that is incorrect due to complicated scene conditions. Most of the time, when a shot is underexposed, the details in the shadows can be recovered in Photoshop, while you can’t fix a photo if the details are not there as the result of overexposure.

Overexposure: photos that are washed out, too bright, or have blown-out areas.

Direct bright light will create overexposure. To avoid it, as the first measure, make sure the sun is not shining into the lens while you are taking a picture. Sounds like the most obvious thing but you’ll be surprised how many people don’t think of it. It is recommended to put your subject in a shady area when shooting a sunny day.

Besides washing out the image, the harsh light creates a strong contrast where the highlights are too white and the shadows too black.

Uneven contract can be an eye sore. For example if the object’s face is lit from the side the object’s nose can create a strong shadow. When lt from above, the face will feature black spots in the undereye area, under the nose and on the chin. The camera can not automatically correct such effects. Use flash on the shade side to even out the exposure to light on both sides!

Underexposure: Photos that are underexposed look dark and lack details. When printed in large sizes they show pixelation instead of solid colors.

The obvious reason for underexposure is poor lighting. But it can also occur if there is a very bright light source in the photo. It can confuse the camera to believe that there is enough light in the scene for a low exposure setting. The result will be a photo that captures the bright area but darkens all the others.

To prevent underexposure you have to move closure to your subject and make sure your subject is the most well-lit element within the frame.

General: Outdoor photos can benefit greatly by overcast skies or by taking photos early in the morning or in the evening. Taking photos when the sun is at a 45 degree angle will result in richer colors.


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January 31, 2011

How Big Can I Print My Photo?

How big can I print my photos is a very common question. Even professional photographers happen to struggle with this topic.

To avoid any further confusion that we could inflict by technical calculations we put together the following practical matrix showing how many megapixels (M) you should set your camera to if you want to have your photo printed in one of the standard sizes. If your camera settings show width-to-height dimensions in pixels, the additional table below will come handy.
Note:  The calculations are based on the printing standards requiring the resolution of 300 pixels per square inch (a.k.a. 300dpi).   (A pixel is the smallest measurement of the picture size. 1 Megapixel = 1 Million Pixels.)

Can I stretch out an image for a bigger print?
Yes, you can, but the resolution will diminish resulting in a blurrier print. Let’s say you want your photo twice bigger. Then by stretching it out you impair the resolution to 150 pixels per square inch. You can still print your photo but you might not be happy with the result, especially if the image was not high quality to atrt with.

Can an image be enlarged for a bigger print?
Yes, PhotoHand provides this service – it is included in the price of Photo Retouching. The end result may be not as sharp as you want it to be, depending on the quality of the original shot.

Any defect in the original picture resulting from a bad focus, low quality lense, dim lighting, too much flash, camera shaking will only be magnified and might not be subject to effective correction.  Keep in mind that even with the ideal shot, it’s not recommended to lower the resolution to less than 200 dpi.

How Do I Know How Many Megapixels There Are in My Images Once It Is Saved on My Computer?
The number of Kilobytes (KB) or Megabytes (MB) in your computer file roughly corresponds to the number of pixels and megapixels. For example, 2MB photo file will have about 2M (Megapixels) and is good to be printed as 6″x4″.

You don’t need Photoshop or any other editing software to check. Just find the icon for the file on your computer and do the following:

For Mac:
1. CTRL + click on the file (right click)
2. Select “Get Info” from the menu
3. Under “General” check the size of the file

For PC:
1. Point the cursor to the icon of the file and do the right click
2. Select “Properties” in the opened window
3. The “General” tab in the opened window shows the “Size” of the file in Kilobytes (KB) or Megabytes (MB).

If you click on the “Details” tab you’ll see the file dimensions in pixels and the resolution it is formatted in.

In the illustration below:
Sample 1 – The file is formatted in the resolution 72dpi (72 pixels per square inch) that is the standard resolution for the web but too small for print. If we change the resolution to 300, we will need to make the size smaller for density of pixels to be correct, otherwise the stretched out pixels will make the picture fuzzy and pixelated.

Sample 2 – The photo is perfectly formatted to be printed as 5″x7″. The resolution is sharp – 300dpi and the height and width of pixels is enough (see the matrix above).

Sample 3 – The file is setup in the low resolution of 72dpi but the the height and width of pixels are sufficient to re-format the file in 300 dpi and print it 8″x10″ without losing in quality.

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December 12, 2010

Photo Retouching: Feel Beautiful Because You Are

Looking good is not important, it’s everything! At least it must be to two thirds of women, as the Hewlett Packard survey showed, who are “deeply embarrassed” by many of their photos. The same research shows that if you are a man under 35, you are probably happy with every photo of yourself, including the ones that should appear embarrassing.

Why women hate their photos? Because we want our photos to present us the way we’d like to be and they usually don’t. We want our true self to be captured in a flattering light, from a favorable angle and preferably by a genius from Photography. This doesn’t happen often and this is why we delete our photos before anyone had a chance to see them and plead with our friends to remove our photos from their Facebook galleries. Even those women who are majorly satisfied with their reflection in the mirror can and do develop photophobia.

Professional models are never happy with their photos till they have been edited. PhotoHand artists know this because we work with models.

Your photo might be far from perfect, but with the help of the photoshop retouching service, you can make any picture perfect and outstanding.

Suppose someone snapped a decent photo of you that you decided to use a your professional photo (a.k.a. “executive portrait”) on your marketing materials. With a little help from Photoshop, your casual amateur photo will be turned into a “studio portrait”.

Another lucky shot doctored with the glamorizing effects will give your image a touch of Hollywood turning it into a photo gift to your loved ones.

Boudoir photography is a growing trend. Brides are looking for something unique and sexy to give their husbands as a wedding gift. But ladies in their 30’s, 40’s and even 50’s are wanting boudoir photo shoots even more. When asked about their motivations, the general response is that they are still feeling young at heart and want to capture themselves in some beautiful sensual images.
Needless to say, boudoir photography always needs a hand from photo retouchers. We also recommend applying various art effect like soft focus, Rembrandt-like light and shade contrast, Hollywood affects, etc. Then your photo will be poetry. Plus, that the experience of having a make-over and photo session can give women a feeling of liberation and empowerment. Now beauty salons started hosting boudoir photo sessions for groups of women.


From 1991, when pregnant Demi Moore appeared nude on the cover of Vanity Fair, pregnancy stopped being something to be hidden, but something to be celebrated in all its glory. Maternity photos are always a challenge but with skillful retouching they become a celebrated memento in moving forward. We at PhotoHand are noticing a growing trend of sending our pregnancy announcement photo cards just like it is with baby arrival cards.

Wedding photos have been family treasures since the beginning of photography. They must be perfect, especially the bride’s gala portrait shot before the wedding. All the tiny photo flaws must be fixed. But what if you don’t even have that portrait. Well, it can be created in all its splendor.

A less than perfect photos shouldn’t bring you down. First, not everybody is a model – it’s natural to get uncomfortable in front of the camera. And that hair gets out of control because there is no stylist around to assist you. And the makeup artist is not on hand to fix the smudges. Remember, all these annoying flaws can be easily fixed after the image capture.

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August 11, 2010

Point-and-Click Tips: How To Avoid Blurry Pictures

Modern digital cameras equipped with automatic settings make it easy to take beautiful pictures of your family.  Still there are some tips to remember to avoid pretty common photo defects that can not be fixed with photo retouching. We’ll cover them one by one and give you very simple practical tips to avoid these mishaps.

Our first topic is picture blurriness. We, at PhotoHand, quite often get request to sharpen blurry photos. This can be done only to some extent before the image turns pixelated. So how to avoid blurriness?

First of all, use a real camera, not a phone camera. Even if your phone camera takes multi-megapixel shots, there are a lot of other technical parameters that are missing from it to deliver a quality image.

The second common problem is “shaky shots”. A digital camera is very light and there is a big probability that it could be easily shaken or swayed when you take a shot.

We suggest you always hold the camera with both hands.

When taking a shot, assume a steady and stable position to avoid any shaking or wobbling of your camera that will result in blurring in your pictures. If you are standing, make sure that you are on level ground and that your feet are shoulder width apart. If possible, lean against a wall or a tree.

If possible, do not hold your camera at arm’s length as this could cause swaying of your camera. Keep your elbows close to your sides.

When kneeling, rest your elbow(s) on your knee for support.

If you have a DSLR camera, your left hand must be placed around the lens and the bottom edge to support the edge of the camera.

If you are still getting shaky pictures, it is normally recommended to use a tripod or a monopod (a one-legged tripod). We don’t see these as a practical solution for a mom. But there is an easy-to-carry lightweight (4.8 oz) alternative to tripods and monopods – SteadePod. It resembles a stainless-steel tape measure – you attach one end to your camera, pull the retractable 6′ steel cable down to the ground, hold it with your foot, and the slight tension on the cable gives you a steady camera position. This device costs $24.99 at B&H and can be ordered online.

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May 18, 2009

Shooting for the Book

The wedding season hits in June and we at PhotoHand expect a rise in custom photo books design orders. Most of our clients have been in the wedding photography business for a while but there are a lot of talented young beginners who have been asking us to give them some tips on how to be prepared so that they are in the right place at the right moment and shoot enough material for a lively photo story.

We looked at the weddings albums that we have created so far and came up with this cheat sheet. A bride can also use this list when giving directions to her photographer.

A spread from a wedding book designed and photo retouched by PhotoHand prosfessionals.

A spread from a wedding book designed and photo retouched by PhotoHand prosfessionals.

A wedding is a celebration of a tradition and traditions by their nature adhere to certain scripts. Below are the points general to any wedding but if the wedding is to include some ethnic traditions or special family customs, that photographer must be notified of all such details beforehand so that he or she is able to capture every key moment.

Behind the Scene
The dress on a hanger
close-ups of any remarkable details on the dress
Accessories: flowers, shoes, jewelry, the rings
The bride getting ready (makeup, hair, jewelry, dress,shoes)
Family and bridesmaids assisting the bride
Others getting ready
Portrait of the bride
The groom getting ready (adjusting the ties tie or cuff links)
Portrait of the groom
Waiting for the Ceremony
The wide-angle view of the location
The groom waiting for the bride
The groom, the best man and the officiator
The ring bearer and flower girl
General view of the seated guests
Arrival of the bride

The Ceremony
The best man and maid of honor coming down the aisle
Each groomsman and bridesmaid coming down the aisle
The bride coming down the aisle
Wide-angle view of the ceremony
The vow and ring exchange
Signing of the marriage license
The kiss
The bride and groom coming down the aisle
Any special musician, singer, speaker, etc.

Formal Photos
Hands with the wedding bands
Formal group photos
Romantic bride and groom photos

The Reception
Details: centerpieces, the cake, decor
The wedding party entering the reception
Toasts
Cutting of the cake
The first dance
Dances with parents
Bouquet toss
Garter removal
Guests at each table
Dancing guests

Final Scene
The newlyweds waiving or walking away
Departing Limo

That’s it! Have a great shoot!
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May 13, 2009

Primp Up Your Indie Image On a Budget

Indie is trendy. If you hear this for the first time, you’ve been out of touch for quite a while and should hurry to Etsy.com to catch up. Whether it’s shoes, clothes, cosmetics, jewelry, bags, gift items, perfume… indie companies are guaranteed to provide innovative offbeat products that will spice up your image.

Innovation is the key to indie success as small companies are faster on their feet than large brands. They also tend to be greener, organic and more conscious of waste.

PhotoHand is a strong supporter of indies and we have a lot of them among our clients. Indies do not have the promotion budgets of big brands but they must have the big brand image quality to sell.

Indie companies on a budget (and most of them are) do not have the resources to hire professional photographers at $100-150/hr to shoot their new products, especially as they introduce one-two new products at a time. Instead they buy professional or semi-professional photo cameras that are becoming cheaper and more powerful and take promotional photos at their make-shift corner studios.

This is a prudent approaching taking into account that even professionally shot photos still need to be photoshopped to bring out the best in the image.

A perfume bottle shot in a make-shift setup with a non-professional camera was color-corrected and photo-retouched by PhotoHand professionals. Complex level - $11.95/photo

A perfume bottle shot in a make-shift setup with a non-professional camera was color-corrected and photo-retouched by PhotoHand professionals. Complex level - $11.95/photo

PhotoHand has been assisting indie companies with this task for quite a while and we keep getting the same question from our clients: How to set up the photo shoot for the best results.

We did some research, consulted several photographers and came up with the basic set of rules that will set you on the right track.

How to set up lighting for a home photo shoot?

Lighting is of paramount importance in photography. Photographing with natural light will deliver natural colors but only if you shoot on an overcast day that is still bright. You can wait for such a day or imitate these conditions by using easily available elements:

1) A spotlight lamp with a white light bulb. A yellow light bulb will tint the original color of the product;
2) Frosted paper that will be used as a screen to diffuse the light shining on the product and this way prevent the “hot spots” in the photo;
3) A flowing background, preferably stiff paper that won’t crinkle;
4) A sheet of white paper to reflect the diffused light from the spotlight lamp and partially illuminate the other side or the front of the product. This is necessary to avoid sharp light/shade contrast (unless you want it for some artistic effect).

The following diagram shows how to arrange these items for the photoshoot setup at home.

This diagram shows how to arrange these items for the photoshoot setup at home.

How to set your camera for the product photo shoot?

No-Flash-No-GlareTurn off the Flash. Flash glare on objects is very hard to photo retouch because it means loss of digital information. A photo retoucher would have to fill up the blanks by using his/her imagination.

Macro-for-close-up

Set your camera to MACRO for the close-up view.

That’s it.  Happy shooting!  And remember, PhotoHand is always there for you to glam up your image.
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