Wrap-up for June’s Photography Focus

We hope that this month’s blog focus has given you some ideas on how to improve those less-than-perfect photos you have.

Remember, while not every photo can be made “perfect,” there might exist some tricks to make the photos a bit better – from correcting the exposure to correcting colour issues.

But even if a photo is less than perfect, remember to preserve those memories!

See you next month!


Embrace the Flaws

Along with yesterday’s suggestion of focusing on the story, if the photos cannot be made “perfect” enough, embrace the flaws and use what you have. Here are some examples:

Background: Vintage planes in flight. The day I took these photos it was bright but hazy and my camera had issues focusing. Additionally my lens had some dirt on it and there were some hot spots in the photos.

To fix the photos: I first tried to color correct the photos. Then I used Unsharpen Mask. I then cropped the photos to focus on the planes. I then reduced the size of the photos to try to reduce the fuzziness.

End result:

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Background: Trip to the local racetrack. The day was overcast. My child doesn’t have a steady hand using the camera, so a number of the photos were both dark and slightly blurred from shake.

To fix the photo: First I color corrected it using Auto Tone and Auto Color. Then I used Unsharpen Mask and a High Pass filter to sharpen it. Then I noticed the colors clashed (bright reds and bright blues next to light greens), so I converted the photo to Black and White. Then I adjusted the Brightness/Contrast. Finally, I cropped the photo to draw more attention to the main subject.

End result:

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While every photo may not “perfectly” capture a memory, preserving the memory is the important thing when scrapping. Preserve the story and embrace the photo you have.

Kits used:
Planes: Month in Review: February by Wisteria Moments
Horse: Month in Review: March by Wisteria Moments; horse: modified from Ann Ominous Designs

Focus on the Story

An acquaintance of mine had the opportunity to attend a fundraising event with a number of people she greatly admired. As she was going solo, she asked strangers to take photos of her with some of the other attendees. After getting the film developed (this was back before digital photography), she discovered that a number of the photos were too dark, blurry, crooked, or cut off the top of their heads. After being disappointed for a few moments, she found the humor in the situation and put the photos into an album. She labeled the photos with captions like “If you squint, you can see that I’m standing next to TOM SMITH!” and “You cannot tell from this photo, but JACK DOBBS has his arm around my shoulder. Heaven!” In other words, she knew the photos weren’t the greatest, but decided to both find humor in the situation and also focus on the story behind the photos.

With digital tools available to fix photos, sometimes a too dark photos can be fixed. But sometimes giving it the old college try isn’t enough to “fix” it enough. In those cases, do what my acquaintance did – focus on the story instead of the photos.

Taking the example from yesterday of the actors, this page focuses on the story behind the picture:

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In this example, the page focuses on the story that should’ve been there:

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In this example, the page focuses on photos found in a photo box, but the reason for having the photos is unknown:

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While it may be disappointing that your photos don’t take centre stage on your page when they’re not the greatest, make the story the star instead!

Kits used:
Actors: Month in Review: April by Wisteria Moments
Whale: Month in Review: January by Wisteria Moments (some modifications)
Treasured Memories: Starter Kit by Wisteria Moments

Actors: 499585 from pixabay
Ocean: Sharepatagonia from pixabay
Buildings: New York Public Library Digital Collections

Draw Attention with Elements

Sometimes the photos you have aren’t the best, especially when the subject is far away or the photo is too busy to figure out the main focus. In these cases, why not draw attention to the main focus by using a frame or elements to draw the viewer’s eyes?

In this example, it’s a lovely photo of a ballgame, but those stadium lights are very bright.


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In the after photo, a frame and elements were used to draw attention to the main action – the ball game. The frame also serves as a title holder.


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In this example, if asked “What is the girl feeding the pigeons wearing,” you might answer “pink.” There’s another girl feeding the pigeons, blending well among them wearing grey. If you want attention focused on her, you could play with brightness and levels or effects, but a frame with some decorative bits to hide the girl in pink (and the woman on the bench looking into the camera) also works.


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In this final example, the original photo:

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It’s a great photo, but taken from a great distance. It’s easy to tell it’s of some actors performing an outdoor play. However, as this is the only photo from the production, there were specific actors needing pointing out – so the photo below literally does that – with arrows.

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There are many ways to make certain parts of your photos stand out using frames and/or elements. Be creative and have fun!

Kits: baseball – Month in Review: February by Wisteria Moments
Pigeons & Actors – Month in Review: April by Wisteria Moments
Photos: actors and pigeons: 499585 from pixabay; baseball: tpsdave from pixabay

Removing Distractions

Below is a photo of two children playing in a sandbox. It’s a cute photo, but I find the pole in the background rather distracting.

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There are a number of ways to remove or minimize a background distraction and refocus the attention to the main subject of a photo. These techniques include cropping, digital removal, and creative hiding.

Cropping the photo

A simple fix would be to crop the photo to remove the distraction. In this case, it was the simplest option. However, cropping isn’t always possible.

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Digital Removal

The healing brush, clone stamp, and patch tools are ways to digitally remove distractions in photos. Use these tools solo or in a combination to get the final result you wish. In January, we did an overview of these tools here: https://pixelsandartdesign.wordpress…ng-brush-tool/. For this photo, the Healing Brush & Clone Stamp tools were used to remove the pole.

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Creative Hiding

If the two above ideas don’t work, then you need to get creative. Some suggestions:
– Put a gradient or faded light grey box over the area
– Put paper strips over the item
– Put your title over the area
– Put your journaling over the area
– Put a decorative element atop the item (cluster, flag, border, brad)
– Combine any of the above

Below are some examples of these ideas in use:

Using paper and elements from a kit:

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Using a title and gradient

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Hopefully this provides some examples of ways to hide those distracting things in your photos. Have fun exploring different ways to remove them!

Additional tutorials:

PHLEARN: How to Master the Clone Stamp Tool in Photoshop (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BChwzIslDJg)

Kristen Schueler: How to Eliminate Background Distractions in Photoshop (https://mcpactions.com/2010/09/16/ho…-in-photoshop/)

Photo: kimono from pixabay
Kit: Art of Healing by Wisteria Moments

Reducing Blur

Blurry photos. We all have them. But some of the photos are too precious to delete. What to do about blurry photos? In some cases you can actually reduce the blur a little bit, so try these suggestions.

Note: These tips won’t work on extremely blurry photos and not even all lightly blurred photos, so be aware that not all blurred photos can be completely cleared of blur.

Reduce Camera Shake Blurring
Note: This is a Photoshop feature that reduces blurring caused by a slight shaking camera.

1) Open the image.
2) From the top menu, select Filter -> Shapes -> Shake Reduction.
3) Photoshop selects a region it believes needs to be de-blurred and sharpens it appropriately.
4) Click OK when done.

High Pass

1) Open the image.
2) Create a duplicate of the image.
3) From the top menu, select Filter -> Other -> High Pass.
4) The High Pass dialog box appears.
5) Move the Radius slider until you barely see any lines in the grey image in the dialog box.
6) Click OK.
7) Change the layer setting to one of these three options: Overlay, Soft Light, or Hard Light.
Overlay: bit of dramatic application of the filter
Soft Light: softly applies the filter
Hard Light: sometimes over sharpens the image

Unsharp Mask

1) Open the image.
2) Make a duplicate copy of the image.
3) Right-click on the duplicate and in the pop-up menu select Make Smart Object.
4) From the top menu, select Filter -> Sharpen -> Unsharp Mask
Amount: move to between 100 & 150
Radius: move to between 0.1 and 0.8 (this gives you the sharpness amount which is most obvious around the edges of items in your photo)
Note: Don’t overdo the sharpening because you want it to look realistic.

Sharpen Tool

1) Open the image.
2) Make a duplicate copy to work on.
3) Select the Sharpen Tool (triangle) which is found in the Tool Bar. It is grouped with the Blur (drop of water) and Smudge (hand) tools.
4) Ensure that “Sample All Layers” and “Protect Detail” are checked.
5) Make a new layer above the duplicated photo layer.
6) Pick a small rounded brush with a strength of about 30%.
7) Paint over the areas to sharpen.

Camera Raw
Note: available only with Photoshop CC

1) Open the image.
2) Duplicate the image into a new layer.
3) Right-click on the duplicate and in the pop-up menu select Make Smart Object.
4) From the top menu, select Filter -> Camera Raw Filter
5) Select the Sharpening Tool (looks like a triangle; third in the selection bar)
6) Keep the Amount between 60 & 90.
7) Keep the Radius low.
Note: Masking hides areas of the sharpening

Can You Fix a Blurry Photo by Jeffrey Kontur (https://photography.tutsplus.com/tut…e–photo-12913) gives step-by-step directions for two additional blur reduction techniques not covered in this overview. One technique is sharpening part of an image, while the other explains layer masking.

Reduce the Image Size

This is usually what one is forced to do when a blurred photo is just too good to delete. Reduce the width and height of the image to a size that is usable but also viewable. This is often the only way to make a blurry photo look decent. Another suggestion is to also convert the photo to black and white after reducing the size.

While it’s not possible to completely remove all blur from blurred photos, it is still possible to use the photos as-is off the camera. Sometimes one just has to “embrace the blur” and use it as-is off the camera.


Reduce Camera Shake Blurring (Adobe): https://helpx.adobe.com/photoshop/us…-blurring.html

Various Sharpening Techniques: How to Sharpen Images in Photoshop (Kelvin Designs) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_tQu4OMlYso

How to Fix Blurry Photos (Big Idea Editing) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rk7WE16vEtE

Correcting Underexposed Photos

Underexposed is the opposite of overexposed. In other words, the photo is too dark.

Like fixing overexposed photos, there are many ways to fix underexposed photos.

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In this photo, the picture is adorable and wonderfully framed, but it’s just a bit too dark, especially after an aged filter was added.

Shadow/Highlights Adjustment Layer

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Duplicate the photo layer
From the top menu, select Image -> Adjustments -> Shadows Highlights
Click “Show More Options”
In the Shadows section:
Amount – increases details in the shadows
Tonal Width – how much detail is going to go into the shadows
Radius – increase to make a more natural looking shadow
In the Adjustments section:
Color Correction – shadows are less saturated, so an increase in color to makes them more bright (to make them not look like shadows)
Midtone Contrast – adds contract to the midtown ranges
Hit OK when done

Curves and Screen

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Image -> Adjustments -> Curves
Put a point in the middle and move the point up (the photo should lighten)
Add an additional point below the first point to adjust the contrast
Click OK when done.
Duplicate the photo layer.
Adjust the mode to screen and reduce the opacity to about 30%
The photo is brighter.

Screen Adjustment (version 1)

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Duplicate the image
Change the Blending Mode to Screen

Screen Adjustment (version 2)

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Click the New Fill or Adjustment Layer icon in the Layers panel
Choose Levels
Click OK
Change the Blend Mode of the Levels layer to Screen
If the photo is still too dark, duplicate the Levels layer again. Lower the opacity if necessary.

Too dark photos can be saved with a bit of work, so have fun exploring these techniques!

Online Tutorials:

Bring Back Lost Details from Shadows (PHLEARN): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lq3Z4DaxHOc

How to Fix a Dark Photo in Photoshop (trick351): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OWrjVcK6IUg

Brighten Underexposed Photos with the Screen Blend Mode in Photoshop (photoshopessentials.com): http://www.photoshopessentials.com/p…reen-exposure/

Photo: Ken Gent from Unsplash