How to Make the Best of Less-Than-Perfect Blog Photos

It can be time consuming and costly to create blog images and use stock libraries. Wouldn't it be great if you could use more of your own photos?

Photos don't always need to be technically 'perfect' in order to be useful as a blog image. You'll be surprised what you can improve, disguise, or even just hide, using these quick and easy Photoshop techniques.


Photos don't always need to be technically 'perfect' in order to be useful as a blog image. You'll be surprised what you can improve, disguise, or even just hide, using these quick and easy Photoshop techniques.


Using Your Own Photos for Blog Images

It's not easy to get your work to stand out online. There's already so much out there and chances are, someone is using the same style or stock photo as you.

There is one way you can stand apart, however, and that's to use your own photos.

You may not consider yourself a budding photographer, but the following tutorial will show you how you can enhance, repurpose or resize quite ordinary photos with a little help from Photoshop.


Video Tutorial

This video covers:

  • How to instantly brighten a photo using the screen blending mode.
  • How to spot sharpen an image, leaving the lovely blurry background in tact.
  • How to use white balance to cool down your image and get rid of that indoor-lighting orange glow.
  • How desaturating an image can give you a great themed background for your text.
  • How to use overlays to basically cover up a poor image.
  • How to make small images larger by adding to them.
  • How Photoshop templates make repurposing old photos easy.
  • And, how cropping an image can make it more useful and shareable.



The How To: Improving Photos for Blog Images

1.  Brighten

There are many ways to brighten an image in Photoshop, and this applies to most of the fixes we are talking about today. This technique looks specifically as using the screen blending mode.

This is so quick to do and instantly brightens up an image, without losing contrast. It is also non-desctructive, so causes no change to your original photo. And, it can be easily adjusted using the opacity slider.

The step-by-step:

  • With your image layer selected, click Ctrl/Cmd J to create a duplicate layer.
  • With the duplicate layer selected, change its Blending Mode from Normal to Screen.
  • Adjust the impact of the Screen Layer using the Opacity Slider.
  • File-Save As a jpeg.


2.  Sharpen

Again, there are many ways to do this. For this tutorial, I'll show you the Sharpen tool.

What this allows you to do is sharpen specific areas of your photo. This is great if you have an image with an intentionally blurred background you would like to keep (like the shallow depth of field photo in the video), or if your photo isn't as sharp as you would like at the focal point.

This is a destructive method, i.e. it permanently changes the original photo. If you want to retain the original click Ctrl/Cmd J to create a duplicate layer and do your sharpening on that.

The step-by-step:

  • Select the Sharpen tool on the left-hand toolbar. (It hides under the Blur tool. Click the Blur tool and hold for a second to get the fly-out menu).
  • Set the Strength on the top menu to around 50%.
  • Change the Brush Size on the top menu or by using your left and right square bracket keys.
  • Paint over the area that needs sharpening.
  • File-Save As a jpeg.


3.  White Balance

If you take a lot of your photographs indoors, you will be familiar with the warm, orange glow you get from artificial lighting.

Natural daylight, without a doubt, is the best lighting you can use for your blog photography. But, this may not always be possible, particularly if you are restricted to taking photos in the evening after work or when your children are fast asleep.

'Cooling down' your images with Photoshop is so simple. Don't be put off by the term 'raw' — the filter will work on raw and jpeg files.

When using the Temperature slider, be careful not to overdo it and end up with a blue glow rather than an orange glow!

The step-by-step:

  • With your image layer selected, choose Camera Raw Filter from the Filter menu at the top of the screen.
  • Select Auto under White Balance on the right-hand side (under the histogram).
  • If you need to, 'cool down' the image further by moving the Temperature slider to the left.
  • Click Okay.


4.  Desaturate

Desaturating an image is a great way to take the focus away from the detail in the photograph, while retaining its theme. It works particularly well when you have a lot of contrast in your photo.

It is also great for making your colour-branded text really pop on the image — useful when you are trying to stand out in a sea of thumbnails on Pinterest.

In this example, I've used a Black & White Adjustment Layer. Again, a really quick method. This is a non-destructive way to desaturate the image. If needed, you can enhance the image by moving the colour sliders. For example, in the video, I adjust the blue to show more detail in the sky.

The step-by-step:

  • With your image layer selected, choose Black & White from the Adjustment Layers Panel.
  • If needed, adjust the Colour Sliders to add contrast and depth.
  • Return to your Layers panel and add your Text.


5.  Overlay

So, the picture is really bad, is it? Of course, I'm not suggesting that you shouldn't try to improve your photography or use the best images available to you. But sometimes, you just have to make the best of what you have.

Enter the Colour Overlay. A fabulous invention and a great way to literally cover up a bad photo.

This is also useful if the black-and-white approach above doesn't suit your blog's aesthetic.

Leave the image as colour or desaturate. Add your brand colours over the image. Add your text. And, voila! You've transformed a poor photo into a brightly-coloured, branded, Pinterest-friendly, themed backdrop for your text. Not bad at all for an less-than-perfect photograph.

The step-by-step:

  • Use the Shape Tool to add a rectangle on a new layer above your photo.
  • Double-click the Shape icon to set the colour.
  • Use the Opacity Slider to reveal or hide the image.
  • Add your Text.


6.  Add To

This is a simple way to 'enlarge' small images. Great if you have older photos that aren't high-resolution and can't be enlarged. Or, images where you've cropped out the best bits, leaving you with an improved but smaller photo.

The video shows an example of a portrait image, with a text area added to the right. If you have landscape images, you could just as easily add a text area above or below, to create a more useful portrait image.

The step-by-step:

  • Create your New Document (the size you want your final image), or use a ready-made template.
  • Use a Clipping Mask to position the small photo where you want it.
  • Add a matching or branded colour Background.
  • Add your Text.


7.  Collage

Photoshop templates are a dream tool for bloggers. They come in all shapes and sizes, and offer bloggers a way to quickly create eye-catching blog images.

Again, a great way to use smaller or cropped images. It is also a perfect way to design a storyboard or mood board, which can make a set of ordinary or small photos look far more appealing.

If you have older blog posts and are looking to repurpose landscape images, this technique is the one to use. You can stack as many images as you need on top of each other. It is a great way to illustrate a craft or recipe tutorial, show a series of events or a travel log.

It can make otherwise missable images big, eye-catching and shareable.

The step-by-step:

  • Place your photo on the layer above the clipping mask layer.
  • Hover between the photo and mask layers. Hold down Alt/Option key. When you see the clipping symbol (a down arrow next to a box), Click to Clip.
  • Alternatively, you can hit Cmd or Ctrl + Alt or Option + G.


8.  Crop

Just because a photograph isn't what you are looking for, it doesn't mean that a small part of the photo wouldn't fit the bill perfectly.

Cropping can add impact, improve the focal point, or get rid of distractions. Occasionally, you will be able to crop out more than once from a single photo.

In the video example, it not only improves the impact, it also turns a landscape shot into a portrait one.

This can be a destructive or non-destructive method. If you want to keep your original, or have the ability to change your mind and re-crop, make sure you have the delete cropped pixels unchecked. I find it helpful as it allows you to reframe the image if you need to.

The step-by-step:

  • Select your Crop Tool on the left-hand toolbar.
  • Ensure the Delete Cropped Pixels on the top menu is Unchecked.
  • Use the Crop Handles to select the area you want to keep.
  • Hit the Checkmark at the top to confirm changes.


I hope this has tempted you to go back into your stash of photos and see if you can make use of some of them for your blog images. I've no doubt there will be some perfectly salvageable photos tucked away on your hard drive. And, you'll know that nobody is using that image but you.