In this article I’m going to cover some miscellaneous tips and tricks you can use with your images to improve their impact and perhaps even their reach.
I had touched on Photo Editing tools briefly in the first article but Caveman sent me an email touching on some additional points that should also be considered. I didn’t want to go into a full Photoshop or graphics editor tutorial, there are plenty of sites and blogs that can do a much better job, but I did want to cover a few techniques that you can use with most of these editor that can improve your images.
Photo Editing Tools
First, let’s take a quick look at a few of the popular photo editors…
Adobe Photoshop is the premier professional graphics and photo editor. There is little it can’t do when manipulating graphics, particularly when paired with plugins. It can be a bit complex for the novice user though. It is also rather expensive so it may be a difficult purchase to justify unless you’re a full time web designer or photographer.
They do have a home version, Photoshop Elements, that’s geared more toward digital photo management than graphics manipulation. You can usually find this version for under $100.
Corel Paint Shop Pro is another popular editor and, at about $100, it’s affordable. It supports most of the same features as Photoshop although I find the interface to be more clumsy to use.
GIMP is an open source solution if you want something for free. It works but I’ve found its interface to be less than intuitive. Someone has done an interface for it that’s supposed to be closer to Photoshop but I haven’t tried it yet.
There are other products around that do photo and graphics editing. If you’re using one that you like that I didn’t mention, please leave a comment about it.
The most common operations you’ll do with a photo editor are to resize an image or to crop it.
Images that you get often won’t be the right size so you’ll need to size them up or down. While you can do this by setting the height and width dimensions of a photo the WordPress visual editor or in the HTML directly, the results aren’t typically as good as what you get when you use a photo editor to resize.
Cropping a picture, where you select a small portion of the picture, is also a common need and this requires a photo editor. This is a good way to reduce the size of a photo or to only show the important part of one.
One other thing I’ll mention in this section comes from Caveman. He suggests using “Save for Web” to reduce the memory footprint of an image. Most photo editors have this feature either in the form of a menu option or in a properties section where you can set the compression amount. While this can reduce the quality of your image to some degree it can help your pages load faster.
Enhancing the Picture
Caveman had mentioned in his email that images can be improved by adjusting the brightness and contrast and by sharpening an image after it was resized. Here’s an example he provided using the road worker image I posted in the previous part. The first is the original and the second is Caveman’s version.
Images often need some work to get the best results. However, if you’re not careful, you can find yourself futzing around for hours trying to make a picture ‘perfect’. Don’t fall into that trap. However, you should try to take the time to fix up obvious problems.
You can also typically get better results by using the original image than a copy that’s been manipulated already. My road worker guy is a 3rd generation copy away from the original. Here’s the original, only resized to be the same as the other two. Can you see the difference between the three?
Adding a Watermark
Sometimes a particularly good photo of yours might find its way onto someone’s MySpace page or on a forum. If you don’t mind them borrowing your bandwidth you can add a watermark to your pictures to point back to your site. You can also use it to protect your images to some degree if you don’t want them shared. Here’s an example of a subtle watermark on a picture.
Adding Special Effects
Another thing you can do with a photo editor is to add various special effects. I do this a lot with edge effects to improve how the image blends with the content.
Here’s an example, first, the original photo
and now the same photo with a ragged edge effect applied.
You can even make a photo look like a painting or a drawing. Here’s an example of the photo with both the edge and a monochrome pencil sketch effect applied.
If you really want to get carried away with effects, Brian over at Elite By Design has this article today, Photoshop Freebies, that will point you to several interesting and free Photoshop plugins.
There’s a lot you can do with images in your posts. They can catch the eye of drive-thru browsers like those from Digg, StumbleUpon or EntreCard. They can increase the visual impact and memorability of your posts, particularly when the content and the images are well matched.
That should be all for this series. Let me know if you have any thoughts, observations or questions about using images in your posts.