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Thursday, 21 December 2017

Blogmas Day 9: How To Be A Photo-Editing Genius!



Today, we're going to step away from creating awesome Bullet Journal content, and focus a little bit on something broader (and more fun!) - showcasing your work in its BEST form!

That's right, today, I'm going to share with you the exact steps I take to edit my own pictures and optimize them for different platforms, and make them look super shiny. Not only does this give your pictures their best chance at engagement, it also gives you complete control over the aesthetic and the story you want to share through the picture.

Through this tutorial, I will be using Pixlr's free Online Photo Editor (I use the free mobile app to do most of my editing for Instagram on a daily basis!), and I will walk you through the exact process of editing a picture that is up on my Instagram feed. 

Note:  You will need Flash enabled to run the Pixlr Online Photo Editor.

So without any more fluff, here's

How To Be A Photo-Editing Genius! A step by step guide to using Pixlr's Online Photo Editor, and understanding basic terms + a FREE cheatsheet!

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Before we get started with the post-processing of a photo, make sure you've read my post on how to take much better pictures and flatlay's for your Instagram by clicking the button below!


Once you've got your picture taken, we can get started.

1. Know your numbers.

Contrary to what you may have assumed, the first step isn't actually to fire up your photo editor. Instead, you need to know the dimensions of images that your platform(s) of choice accepts. 

For instance, Instagram prefers square images (1:1 ratio), whereas Facebook has variable sizes depending on whether you're uploading a profile picture (1:1), a cover photo (820:312)

Here's a handy cheatsheet to help you figure this out. Remember to Pin it for later use! ;)

How To Be A Photo-Editing Genius! A step by step guide to using Pixlr's Online Photo Editor, and understanding basic terms + a FREE cheatsheet!


Once you've figured out your dimensions, crop your image down to this size. You can do this by entering the aspect ratio, selecting an area of that ratio with the Crop tool, then double-clicking on the selected area to give you the cropped image.

How To Be A Photo-Editing Genius! A step by step guide to using Pixlr's Online Photo Editor, and understanding basic terms + a FREE cheatsheet!


For this example, I'm cropping my original photo to a 1:1 aspect ratio to give me a square image that I can upload to Instagram.

2. Use the Sharpen tool....frequently!

As a rule of thumb, I like to sharpen my image a little between each step. As you crop your image and begin to adjust the colours, you'll notice that the clarity is lost just a little with each adjustment (especially when you play with the Brightness and Contrast). 

Use the Sharpen tool (the triangle on the side) as a Brush to sharpen specific areas. Or, if you're very new to photo editing, simply go to the Filters menu and select Sharpen. The difference may not become very obvious at first, but as you go along and the quality of your image deteriorates more noticeably, you'll see exactly how the sharpen tool helps. 

In order to best preserve the quality of your image, use the Sharpen tool to a small degree after each of the adjustments below. This works a lot better than simply sharpening the image after all adjustments have been made.

How To Be A Photo-Editing Genius! A step by step guide to using Pixlr's Online Photo Editor, and understanding basic terms + a FREE cheatsheet!

How To Be A Photo-Editing Genius! A step by step guide to using Pixlr's Online Photo Editor, and understanding basic terms + a FREE cheatsheet!


3. Exposure v/s Brightness (v/s Lightness)

A lot of times, people get confused by the difference between Exposure and Brightness. In fact, you probably think this is the same thing. It's really not.

Let me break it down.

When your editor analyzes at your image, it categorizes every colour in your image into three tones: Highlights, Midtones, and Shadows. To really understand this concept, imagine a black-and-white picture. When you upload a greyscale image into a picture editor, it categorizes your image like this:

Highlights: All the white and very, very light-grey colours.
Shadows: All the black and very, very dark-grey colours.
Midtones: All the tones that fall between the Highlights and the Shadows.

With a coloured image, it analyzes each colour in the same way, categorizing every tone (every pixel, even) into Highlights, Midtones and Shadows.

Here's how exposure and brightness change these values.

Exposure: Normally, Exposure affects Highlights and Midtones, but it has a greater effect on the Highlights. In simpler terms, Exposure will make your whites super white, and your grey slightly lighter greys.

Brightness: Brightness, on the other hand, affects Highlights and Midtones to the same extent, meaning that your whites and greys are lightened to the same degree. That is, if you increase the brightness by about 20%, each of the whites and greys is brightened by 20%.

To make this difference clearer to you, here's a side-by-side comparison of the same starting image, with either the Exposure or the Brightness increased by a value of '25' on the Pixlr Online Editor:


How To Be A Photo-Editing Genius! A step by step guide to using Pixlr's Online Photo Editor, and understanding basic terms + a FREE cheatsheet!


As you can tell, the image adjusted for Brightness looks like it has a grey film on it - this is because the colours that would normally form the midtones (i.e. the shades that add dimension to the image) have also been lightened!

If you're on the mobile app, there is an option known as 'Lightness'. In the Online Editor, this is slightly more complicated, as the Levels adjustment. Lightness acts in a similar way to Brightness, except that it also lightens the Shadows! Basically, it alters the "threshold" for Shadows or Highlights - if you set a higher Shadow threshold, the darkest point on the image will now be much lighter (i.e. black becomes grey), and all other colours are adjusted accordingly. Vice versa, if you set a more negative threshold for Highlights, your whites turn to greys, and all other tones become darker.

It can be a little tricky to wrap your head around the idea of Lightness, so don't worry about it just yet!

And remember to Sharpen your image after every Brightness adjustment.

3. Play with the Contrast

This one's easy, you know it already.

Contrast is the difference between the light and dark tones. Increasing the Contrast value makes your light tones lighter and your dark tones darker. This is a great adjustment to use alongwith Brightness, if your original image is a little dark. Because Brightness gives us a paler, grey-ish effect, Contrast can be used to bring back the darker tones without losing any of the brighter ones!

Contrast can really be hyper-exaggerated to give a more dramatic or vibrant effect, but remember, it also makes the light tones lighter. If, like me, you post pictures of your writing or journal online, increasing the Contrast too much might cause all those finer lines and alphabets to disappear completely!

And, again, Sharpen that image!

4. Adjusting the Vibrance

Your Colour Balance is one of the most crucial parts of your picture. Depending on how you adjust the colours, the mood of the image can dramatically change!

This Mood Mandala is from my Bullet Journal in November, when I was beginning to transition to more cooler toned colours, with the pinks and greys. So, for every image, I made sure to adjust the colours to fit this theme exactly.

The quickest way to adjust the colour balance is, funnily enough, not by adjusting the Colour Balance. The Pixlr Online Editor has an amazing 'Vibrance' adjuster. Reduce the vibrance a little, and boom! Your image is a lot more cool-toned (or muted). The other thing to play around with is the Saturation. Reduce the Saturation just right, and it will mute out just the more vibrant tones. 

Of course, the opposite would work too - increasing the Vibrance or Saturation might give you a more colour-popping, warm effect, which is absolutely brilliant for post-processing artwork!

Here's how I've adjusted the tones of my image using Vibrance, and then replicated the effect by altering the image Saturation.

How To Be A Photo-Editing Genius! A step by step guide to using Pixlr's Online Photo Editor, and understanding basic terms + a FREE cheatsheet!

5. Brighten and Darken Using Brushes

Alright, this is legit one of my favourite things to do in Pixlr, it's so therapeutic! 

Pixlr comes with Dodge (lighten) and Burn (darken) brushes, which allow you to selectively lighten or darken certain areas of the image. I always use this to even out any uneven lighting, or darken an over-exposed dark background, and it works so well!

To illustrate how this works, I've striped out areas of the image with the Dodge/Brighten and the Burn/Darken brushes side-by-side.

How To Be A Photo-Editing Genius! A step by step guide to using Pixlr's Online Photo Editor, and understanding basic terms + a FREE cheatsheet!

Final Touches:

  1. Use the 'Double Exposure' tool in the mobile app to add a watermark.
  2. SHARPEN.
  3. The mobile app also has stickers and frames you can download - I always use the frames!
  4. Save the image in High Quality!
And that's it!

Easy-peasy, eh? 
I hope you've found this little tutorial super helpful, and I'd love to see your Before and After shots in the comments below!

If you love this post, share it with someone who can use it!

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How To Be A Photo-Editing Genius! A step by step guide to using Pixlr's Online Photo Editor, and understanding basic terms + a FREE cheatsheet!



As always, I'm more than happy to answer any questions and comments, and am always open to requests, so please feel free to drop me a line on Instagram, Twitter or via E-Mail!

Remember, as fun as it can be to play around with photo editing, nothing can replace good lighting and great content. Read more about taking a brilliant flatlay here:



However, some tweaking here and tinkering there can take your awesome photo to a completely new level!

Thank you so very much for reading, I truly hope this tutorial helps, and I'll see you guys again tomorrow, with yet another helpful post!

All my love,

Read the rest of Blogmas:






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