So, without further adieu, what can you do to make your photos better?
1. Crop them. You can see on both of these pictures, my composition wasn't that great. And honestly, with kids who are always moving and you're lucky just to get their faces on the file, you won't have the time to zoom in and out and make it just perfect -- so bring it into your photo editing software and crop it. Now, there are several ways to make a photo more appealing, but really, just crop it so you can see your subject a little more clearly, and taking out anything distracting. NOTE: I always save a copy of my original file, just in case I want the distracting background some day. Also, the more you save a jpeg file the smaller it becomes, so it's always nice to have the original available.
2. Contrast! Contrast is huge, and most cameras seem to level the playing field of contrast, which tends to make your photo look more flat. I use curves, which gives a girl a little more control (and if anyone wants more info on how I use curves I can post another post about that with a screen shot) but if you don't want to go to all that trouble, just try upping your contrast a bit. You are going to have to play around with it a little and that's fine. Up it, undo it, up it a little less or a little more. It won't hurt anything (because you always have your original as your back-up).
3. Saturation. Now, because I have kids and they are rockstars and all -- I up my saturation. It tends to give my pictures a little more playful-ness. I like the look, however there are probably plenty of you who don't like the look. I don't like things over-saturated, so that it looks like we all stepped out of candy land, but some people do. Again, find-out how your program adjust saturation. I usually go somewhere between 5 and 20. You have to watch-out for skin tones though. Sometimes they get ALL out of wack! So, increase it, undo, decrease it a bit. See what you like. :)
4. Vignette. I've been doing this more and more (mostly because lightroom has a handy slider that makes it hardly any work at all). It tends to make your photos a tad more finished, but sometimes it just looks scary. Neither of the photos I chose to edit here lend themselves well to a vignette look... but I thought I'd show you what it looked like. I can't give a tutorial here on how to do it, but google your software along with the word vignette and see what you come-up with.
This is what I do on all my photos. Well, first I go through them and figure out which ones I want to edit (Lightroom has a great tool to do this, but you could just re-name the ones you like). Then, I crop, up my contrast, increase my saturation (and sometimes my photos are already saturated just fine, the one by the fountain only had a saturation increase of 5, and even then, my neice's skin tones are starting to get a little red for my tastes), possible vignetting and voila. I'm done. Sometimes if we're in a weird lighting situation I do have to do more. This is most often the case if I've taken pictures in Conner's classroom since they have flourecent lighting. But, your program will most likely have a white balance to where you can bring skintones back to earth. If people are interested in this, let me know.
NOW, for the big finish I am open to any questions you guys have. I'm happy to answer one or two a day with any knowledge that I have... BUT, I have a big giveaway. My first, most likely my last. BUT, I will pick one lucky pulling curls reader who has a photo they just adore and would like me to edit it for them. So, post a comment here and Wednesday I'll pick a name and ask you to email me the photo. You're gonna have to be willing to let me post the photo on my blog if it turns-out really well. You know, shameless self-promotion and all. :)