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5 Edits for Beginners to Make Your Photos Pop

Ask any professional photographer and they will tell you that it is rare a picture comes out perfect. Even with extreme high-end cameras, which few of us actually have, most photographs need a little “help”.

Pictures taken outdoors are subject to cloudy days, variable light and other things that make it difficult to determine how the actual picture will look. It is rarely exactly as we see it with our eyes. With a few simple tweaks, however, your photos can turn from dull to fabulous.

Is Photo Editing Necessary?

Let’s compare photo editing to the process of applying make-up. Although its not essential, make-up gives you that slightly better definition; it hides some blemishes and accentuates the better features. Editing your photos adds that little something as well.

When Does a Photo “Pop”?

A photo catches your eye when everything about it is just right – The cropping is perfect, the clarity and contrast is just right, the lighting is perfect. Don’t understand what we’re talking about? Read on, it will become clear in a moment.

Have a look at the two images below. Just by adjusting the 5 easy settings we talk about below, you can turn image 1 into image 2.

5 Edits for Beginners to Make Your Photos Pop Example 1
Example 1
5 Edits for Beginners to Make Your Photos Pop Example 2
Example 2

The first step is finding an easy photo manipulation program in which to work your magic.


Photoshop is a program used most often by professionals. It’s a great program, but you will need to spend a few hundred dollars. Thanks to Open Source, you have the option of several free alternatives. GIMP is the original free version of Photoshop, but the learning curve is a bit steep. Thankfully, someone took advantage of the ability to take an excellent program and make it easier for people who don’t have a great deal of photo manipulation experience to use. This program is Gimphoto.

Besides the price, which is free, what is really great about this program is that it does everything the more expensive programs do but the interface is easy to learn. For beginners, it is possible to do what you need to do in a matter of minutes. Yet, the program is advanced enough that you can increase your learning if you feel the urge. It is a small program that won’t take up much space on your computer. In addition, you won’t have to install anything on your system; you simply download the program and open the folder. Click on the Exe file and you are ready to go.

Getting Started

For the following tutorials, you won’t need to worry about the one minor menu window on the right so simply click the “X” in the corner and close it, leaving your main window and a long menu on the left. At this point, cropping is the only fix you will need this menu for. For the following examples, you will want to start each by opening a picture. To do this, look at the top of your screen and click on “File” and then “Open”. Find the photo you want to work on and click “open” and you will see it in the preview screen. Make sure to place a check mark in the square beneath the picture that says “preview”. That will allow you to see any changes you make as you make them. If you want to compare the changed picture to the original, simply click the box again to remove the check mark.

Special Note

We are only going to be doing one thing to each of these photos today. It is important to keep in mind that many photos may need a combination of two or three of these. As you follow along, know that the general process is the same for every picture, but your individual photo will require the controls be adjusted differently. It will be up to you to determine exactly how you want the finished picture to look. In the samples below, only one action has been performed, so they may not be the top quality they can be. The main idea was to illustrate what each concept does. Let’s get started.

5 Edits for Beginners to Make Your Photos Pop


This is the one thing you will want to do most often. This is great for those pictures that you take that has a strange tree branch coming in from one side or you get so excited you don’t notice a finger blocking the edge. Sometimes, you are too far from a subject and there is an excess of other things around your main subject, taking the focus from what you most want to see. All of these and more can be fixed with cropping.

5 Edits for Beginners to Make Your Photos Pop Crop

1. Pull up the picture you want to crop.

  1. On the left-side menu, click on the crop tool. It is the little symbol that looks like an X-acto knife. You can hover your cursor over each symbol to see what it does if you prefer.
  1. Move your cursor to your photo and place it at the top left of the are a you want to begin the picture. Drag it to the right and downward. You will notice a square being formed. Inside the square, your picture will be bright, while the surrounding area is dark. Simply adjust the sides until the picture you want is in the bright area. After
  1. Press enter on your keyboard.
  1. You have finished cropping.Click on “File” on the top menu, decide what you want to name your photo and where you want to save it. Click “Save”



5 Edits for Beginners to Make Your Photos Pop Crop 2


White Balance

Sometimes you take a picture that the color seems a little “off”. It is most noticeable when there is supposed to be white in the picture and lighting makes it appear yellow, green or red. There is an easy fix for this one!

5 Edits for Beginners to Make Your Photos Pop White Balance 1

1. Open up your picture.

  1. Click on Image – Then click Colors – Then White Balance After
  1. Click “Ok”
  1. Save as you did above.
5 Edits for Beginners to Make Your Photos Pop White Balance 2


This fix is for those pictures that come out dark and make it difficult to see your subject. This often happens when you are shooting in low-light conditions and don’t have a decent night setting on your camera. It also happens when you are taking pictures that have several shades of one color in them.  Finally, if the sun is too bright, your picture may seem washed on. This is what you can do.

5 Edits for Beginners to Make Your Photos Pop Brightness 1

1. Open your picture.

  1. Click Image – Color – Brightness/Contrast
  1. You will pull up an adjustment window with two slide bars
  1. Slide the brightness level up if your original picture is too dark and down if it is too bright.After
  1. Slide contrast in the same direction.
  1. You may want to adjust both a little at a time until you get the exact look you want.
  1. Save picture.

5 Edits for Beginners to Make Your Photos Pop Brightness 2


This brings out the depth in a picture, giving it texture instead of allowing it to appear flat.

5 Edits for Beginners to Make Your Photos Pop Curves

1.  Open picture.

  1. Click Image – Color – CurvesAfter
  1. In the window that pops up, set the Channel to “Value”
  1. Adjust the line shown by slightly lowering the upper left point and raising the lower right point.
  1. Once the picture looks good to you, click Save.

5 Edits for Beginners to Make Your Photos Pop Curves 2

Color Balance

Have you ever taken a picture where the sky appears white instead of blue, the green leaves are all washed out and water appears dusty gray? Maybe you tried to capture a beautiful sunset and all the bright colors appear dull. Color Balance is a bit more complicated than the other fixes but is still rather simple once you do it a time or two.

5 Edits for Beginners to Make Your Photos Pop Color Balance

1. Open picture.

  1. Click Image – Colors – Color Balance
  1. You will see a window that has three boxes: Highlights, Midtones and Shadows. For this one, click Midtones.
  1. Now you will see three lines with a slide on them. At the end of each is either red, bluer green. Don’t worry about the other end right now.
  1. Look at your picture and decide what color you need. In the case of sky or water, slowly slide the adjustment bar toward blue.
  1. You may want to add or subtract red or green. Or add one in and lessen another. This is the one adjustment you need to experiment with until the colors look the way you want them to look. After
  1. When satisfied. Save.

5 Edits for Beginners to Make Your Photos Pop Color Balance


5 Edits for Beginners to Make Your Photos Pop Pinterest

Izak van Heerden
Izak loves photography - of any kind: Street, Fine Art, Portraiture, Nature, Underwater and Macro.

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