Thursday, July 11, 2013

{How to Use PicMonkey to Improve Your Photos}

Hey, y'all!  Today I want to talk about a subject that's a key to having a successful blog: photography.  (This post can be useful to non-bloggers as well, though.)  If you take a minute to browse some of the most successful blogs on the web, you will notice something they all have in common: excellent photos.  When I first started my blog two years ago, I was just writing posts to try my hand at blogging, but as I've gotten more serious about my blog, I've been trying to steadily improve my photography skills.  I have a Canon Rebel DSLR that my husband bought me, and I've learned how to use the manual mode, which has made a huge difference in my photography.  But since I'm nowhere near a perfect photographer even with all my improvements, sometimes I need a little help to make my final shots more blogworthy.  And that's when I turn to PicMonkey, an online photo editing program.  You can use many of the program's tools for free or you can get full use of all the goodies by paying a small fee.  Before I begin, let me make it clear that PicMonkey is not paying me to say any of this.  I honestly just really love the program, and I use it ALL THE TIME.  So let's talk about the tools the program has that I turn to often.
PicMonkey is very easy to use, so I'm assuming that you already know (or at least can figure out) how to open a photo to begin editing and even how to crop the photo.  I want to focus on those "hidden gems" that you might not realize can help you out a lot.  (Please note that you can click on any of the images in the post to enlarge them if needed.)
Sometimes I try to get overly artistic with a shot by taking the photo a little askew.  When I begin combing through the many photos I took to use in a post, I sometimes realize that the image I want to use is a little too askew and isn't visually pleasing.  Something as simple as straightening the photo a little will improve that.  To straighten a pic, open it in PicMonkey.  Under Basic Edits on the left, click on the little icon that looks like a molecule.  Then click the Rotate rectangle.
As in the image above, you will see the straighten bar.  You can slide that circle left or right to straighten an image.  

Something important to note is that, as in the example above, the tool zooms in on a photo to do the straightening magic, so you may lose some of your subject matter.  Because of that, straighten a photo before cropping.
A huge key to taking great photos is natural light.  Photos taken with natural light versus artificial light look soooo much better.  Sadly, I can't always craft at a sunny window.  Often, I'm crafting at night by candlelight.  Just kidding.  It's by lamplight, but I wanted to see if I'd lost you in this somewhat wordy post.  ;)  Anyway, lamplight can cause photos to have a very ugly tint.  You can fix or at least improve that with the temperature bar.  We're still under Basic Edits, but this time we want to click on the Colors rectangle.
You can see where the temperature bar is located in the photo above.  If you slide the circle to the right, you can warm your photo up if it's too blue looking from a fluorescent light.  (I've exaggerated this in the photos below so that you can understand what I mean.)
If you slide the circle to the left, you can cool down those orange tints that come from conventional lightbulbs.  
If you have white in your photo and just can't seem to get the white just right, you can try to use the neutral picker, which will pick the temperature your photo should be to get a pure white.  If you have a lot of different shades of white, though, sometimes this doesn't work, and you'll still need to tweak the image with the temperature bar, but at least you have a starting point.  If I do all this and still can't get the white right, sometimes I just put a filter on the image (Found under the beaker icon.) and go on with life.
When I'm being all artsy with manual mode and trying to blur the background or if I have my shutter speed too low, I sometimes get a little blur on the subject matter of my image.  I have taken all the photos for a post before only to find that this was the case.  Sometimes the pictures are unsalvageable, and I have to start from the beginning, but sometimes if I sharpen the image a little, I can make it presentable enough to at least use as a process photo.  (I try to make sure my final photos are as perfect as I can get them, so I would retake any blurry final pics.)  We're still under Basic Edits, and this time we're clicking on the Sharpen rectangle.
You can only slide the circle to the right on this bar.  The farther right you slide the circle, the sharper your image will get.  But don't sharpen the image too much or you will end up with a really weird looking photo.
I already talked about how important it is to use natural light in photography, and since I don't have the best lighting in my house, I often take photos on a stool in front of a window or outside.  I love to use scrapbook paper and a white foam board as a little backdrop for my crafts.  Sometimes when I'm in the moment taking photos, I might not realize that some grass was showing in the pic or my scrapbook paper ended and you can see the white foam board.  Instead of having to take the pictures all over again, often I can use the Clone tool to remedy the problem.  You can find it two different places: under the beaker icon or the lipstick icon.  In the photo below, I'm using the one under the beaker icon.
In the photo above, there is grass showing in the corner.  To fix it, I clicked on the Clone rectangle.  The cursor will become a circle like it is in the photo above.  You need to click the part of the photo you want to copy and duplicate.  I just clicked on the white part of the picture.
Then another circle pops up.  That circle is the one you use to fill in the grass with the white.  You are cloning the dotted circle and placing it where the complete circle is when you click your mouse.  It's easy to do with a big white area, but you can use it for other colors and patterns.  You just have to get used to the tool.  I have used this tool before to remove a goose lawn ornament that was in a portrait I took.  Yeah, I'm not kidding.  An entire goose.
When I'm working in manual mode, sometimes the final pic looks a little different on my camera than it does on the computer screen.  I might think my exposure is perfect on my camera, but on my computer, it just looks a little too dark.  So we're going back to the Basic Edits molecule icon, and we're clicking on Exposure.
Above is my original image.  It's a little too dark for my taste, so to fix it, I'm going to slide the circle on the Highlight bar to the right.
I have made the highlights brighter than I normally would in the image above to show you what I mean.  You can adjust the Brightness a little, but I've found that if you do that too much, it's like having to squint to look at the sun.  (Jack up the brightness in a picture with a lot of white, and you'll see what I mean.)  There are other bars to work with under the Exposure section, and you really just have to play around with them to get used to what each does to your photo.
If you have always just uploaded pictures to your blog without editing them, I encourage you to give PicMonkey a try.  Once you get used to the program, you will be amazed what you can do with it!


  1. Great tips! Picmonkey has saved many a blog photo for me :)

  2. Thanks for sharing the photography tips. I, too, am trying to improve my photo skills. I cringe when I look back at my first attempts (a few short months ago) and they have a yellow tinge to them. I'm trying to soak up all the help I can get. Great post!

    PS - You should have seen me a few days ago trying to take pics of my pimento cheese recipe outside - dodging the rain - can't beat that natural light!

  3. I am a big fan of PicMonkey too! But, I didn't know that you could use the clone function in that way. I so have needed that before and will definitely be using it in the future. Thanks for that Awesome tip!

  4. Thanks for sharing. I'm just getting started and my pictures could use a little help. Pinning.

  5. Great ideas, Bethany! I love the way you showed each step - super easy to follow! Love this!

  6. Here from the Open House Link Party - thanks for the great tips! A couple of these I knew of, but now understand and can use. I can't wait to try them on some photos. Thank you!
    ~Mary Frances (

  7. Thank you Bethany! I love PicMonkey but sometimes I stumble around there. This is very helpful and I'm featuring it when my party opens up tonight!

  8. Love PicMonkey, but I've never used the clone tool...I need to start!

  9. Thanks for this wonderful tutorial!


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