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how I develop my photos


 I thought I would take a break from the projects and share a bit of behind the scenes stuff.  For the first several months of my blog, I didn’t edit my photos.  Not at all.  I finally picked up on the fact that photos were important for the growth of a blog, so started adjusting the brightness and contrast and basic stuff in Windows Live Photo Gallery.  I still didn’t do it on most of my photos.  It was so tedious and time consuming.  Well, welcome to blogging, Marian.  Anyway, my father-in-law sent me an extra disk he had hanging around – Abode Photoshop Elements.  So, my mom bought me a PSE for Dummies book and I started to muddle my way through the digital darkroom.  I never got very far with PSE.  I liked it, but when I upgraded to a more recent version, I felt lost again.  I then started using actions, which can develop photos with one click.  That worked really well for me, but I found I was always tweaking the photos after I used the actions and felt like my pictures could be better.

When I upgraded my camera a couple of years ago, I received a free copy of Adobe LightRoom with it.  I was intimidated by it, so I ignored it for a long time.  Probably almost a year.  I finally sat down one day and decided to work with it.  This decision was also paired with the move to shoot entirely in RAW format.

Here’s how it works (don’t let your eyes glaze over too much.)  When I shoot in RAW format, the picture is a higher quality and it allows me to digitally develop the photo without deteriorating it.  So, I shoot in RAW, import it into LightRoom, develop it and then export it as a JPG “print”.  I have the original RAW version, which is like my negative.  Make sense?  Maybe?  Crickets?

This is what the development process looks like.

Here is the original photo straight of the camera…

original (424x640)

It’s not bad, but it’s a little crooked and not popping as much as I want.

I first straighten it out…

2straight (424x640)

…then I take the yellow saturation down a few notches.  I struggled with yellow photos for a long time, so I want bright, white photos.

Then I lighten and brighten…

3loweryellow (424x640)

…and ad some contrast and clarity…

5clarity&contrast (424x640)

It’s not this huge, WOW transformation, but I love how I can easily adjust the lighting and white balance of the photo.  I can also ad my watermark in batches, so I don’t have to add it to each one, which I used to do.

Here’s another before and after that was a little tricky because I was shooting towards the only window in the room…

DSC_7299 (424x640)

…and after…

DSC_7299-2 (480x640)

I feel like I still have soooo much to learn when it comes to photography, but I know I’m getting better and better as I learn more and I thought I would share some of what I’ve learned with you.


School has already been canceled for tomorrow, since we’re right in the bulls eye of the winter storm.  Instead of finishing my counters, I’m looking at a day of Lego’s, Play-doh and lots of boy humor and wrestling.  Fun stuff!


Disclosure: The link for Adobe LightRoom is an Amazon Affiliate link, but this is not a sponsored post.  

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  1. I am still struggling with photography too. I signed up for Kevin’s Shoot Fly Shoot class – before CHRISTMAS – but still have yet to sit down and take the class. (its on my massive to-do list) Love your new wallpaper by the way. You’re bringing sexy (wallpaper) back. :)

  2. Thanks for the photo challenge…
    Enjoy your snow day with your boys!

  3. Toni @ The Vintage Garden says:

    Thanks for the great advice! I’m in the market for a new camera to upgrade as well… what brand/type of camera do you use and would you recommend it?? Thanks again!

  4. Thank you very much for this bit of insight! I have to admit I am struggling with my photography right now… especially trying to figure out how to shoot in the raw since I don’t have any photo editing programs. I will be going as a “chaperone” with our middle son’s French class to France over spring break so I really want to be able to take the best photos possible. Once again thank you!

  5. I am totally in agreement. When you shoot outside you have a good chance at a great photo with no editing. Inside, not so much, especially if you have few windows in an old house like I do. I use lightroom for everything! I have seen the best improvement in my food photos by adjusting the white balance (I put a white piece of paper in the 1st shot so I can get it right) and clarity. I have never had photoshop so I can’t compare. One of the other features I like is the split screen where you can see just how improved your shot is.
    [email protected]’s Musings

  6. Susan @ Retro Restyling says:

    I graduated in 2007 with a Mulit-media degree and was pretty proficient in photoshop by the time I graduated. It led me to a career designing small- business websites for a local company. I would definitely agree with you that editing pictures is a must do for a blog or biz website, so I would recommend that if anyone has one they should definitely sit down and learn photo editing skills. Plus always having a really good camera is a good idea as well. You’re doing a fabulous job Marian, keep up the good work!!

  7. I have been staring at cs5 photoshop for the last year trying to get the courage to switch to it from the oh so simple picassa.
    Y ou have given me the push I need to give it a try.

    • Susan @ Retro Restyling says:

      Photoshop CS5 could be very confusing for a brand new photoshop user. You’ll probably open it up and right off the bat be overwhelmed with how to use it properly. Google simple tutorials for that version and you’ll catch on quick.

  8. Thanks Susan!
    I have to admit the first time I opened it up I couldn’t even figure out how to import the picture!

  9. But you have to admit that little boy humor is Very Funny. Let them cook something tomorrow. Ann

  10. Great blog, Marian. I love the way you acquire skills and knowledge to better yourself at whatever you do.
    What type of camera do you have? We have a Canon 7D and I’m still learning things about its functions as it is primarily used for my husbands work, but I’ve been taking stills for my blog with it. I’ve also just been introduced to Lightroom and still finding my way around it, but more in the storage sense, as I mainly use photoshop for editing and balance.
    I’ve also used Aperture at home for photo editing, which is a simpler program I suppose.
    Thanks for the inspirational instruction!

  11. Thanks for sharing this! One thing I struggle with on my Etsy shop and my new blog is taking pictures. I have a great camera, but I haven’t really sat down to experiment with the ISO, white balance, etc. I’ll have to try this! Thanks again!

  12. Gloria says:

    Have a wonderful day with the boys!

  13. I bought a DSL camera a year ago and my pictures are just OK. I have been using Ribbet to tweak them but my goal (one of these days) is to learn how to use the darn thing! Thanks for the insight. It is nice to know I’m not the only one :)

  14. I don’t know if you do this already or not, but you can adjust the white balance on the camera by taking a picture of a white sheet of paper in the lighting that you are shooting in, and then go to “custom white balance” and it will ask you which image you want to use. Press “ok” on the image of the white paper and your camera will read everything that matches that color as pure white.There are other ways to do this, I think, if you don’t have DSLR. I am trying to learn how to lean more on the camera and less on photoshop. It saves so much time! I have a friend who is a professional photographer and rarely uses photoshop by doing tricks like this on her camera.

    • I agree that setting the white balance to a custom setting by taking a photo of a white paper (or even index card) is easier than editing each photo later. I take photos of events at church inside and the lighting is horrible. I’ve learned to use the custom white balance to produce much better photos. It’s easy to learn and do (keep an index card in your camera bag for the purpose) and gets great results for little effort.

      • Yeah, and if you really want to get exact, get a grey card at a photography shop! They say that even a white piece of paper can be a little off due to the bleach used. I don’t think grey cards are all that expensive. Or, if you’re in a pinch, I had a photography teacher tell us to use the back of our hands. Grey cards, white paper, the back of your hand… those are supposed to be spectrally neutral.

    • I’ve never heard of this trick. I’m definitely going to try it! Thanks!!

  15. Kristen says:

    Isn’t photo editing amazing? I’m constantly trying to learn new things, but like you said, overwhelming when I first sit down to use a new program. I struggle so much with the yellow factor…. Also, I’ve known forever that I should be shooting in RAW, but here’s a dumb question…how? I have no idea what to do with the camera to get RAW photos… Need a photo class one of these days:)

  16. I use the MAC version of Lightroom… seems to have the same options- except the watermarking (which I would love to have!) Thanks for sharing :)

  17. Lost me…those “little” extras we have to learn for our business. I just do the basic fixes that pop up on the computer after importing–whatever that is called!!! I couldn’t even get going on my Facebook Biz page! I got FB for Dummies, started reading and then found I didn’t have time to figure it out! I hope you are able to enjoy your time with your boys and that those counters aren’t calling your name all day! Remember the breaks we need, I do the same (thinking what I have to do, that I want to do it, but tell myself to enjoy the moment). Someone is telling you you need this time with your boys–take it and enjoy!

  18. LightRoom is awesome. You mentioned it on facebook last year and so I downloaded a free trial. (Thanks!) Holy easy. It takes me twice as long to adjust a photo in Adobe Photoshop Elements, which I love for other reasons. If I shoot in RAW, Adobe PE will pull up a similar set up to LightRoom when I open the photo, so for now, I’m doing that. I will be purchasing the full version of LightRoom at some point. As always, thanks for sharing your tips. Enjoy the snow day & legos. The storm has stayed just to the south of us.

    • Geez. Well you can tell I’m just getting used to having my computer back…I commented with my first and last name instead of freckled laundry or Jami. Ha!(Shaking my head)

  19. Denise T says:

    I missed this post. Glad I saw i when I checked in your blog l enjoy photography but I do ned to refresh my skills.

  20. I got Lightroom for Christmas and my oldest son showed me some basics. I’m still learning my way around but I don’t get to work with it as much as I’d like. I do love that it doesn’t change the original photo as you edit, so I don’t have to worry about making a mistake and ruining a photo, I can always get back to the original and do it again.

    My biggest problem these days is how to organize the photos I upload onto the computer and then within the Lightroom catalog. I need to read a few more articles to get the differences straight in my head.

  21. LOVING this post- I am trying to build up my blog readership again. I used to blog all the time and had a great fan base, but in the past year I have let it dwindle awya sadly. SO, I am back in the blogging world and this is what I needed for a little boost! :)

    By the way, my mom bought me your book for Christmas and I just adore it!!!! :)
    xoxox Holly

  22. I’m glad to hear that you like Lightroom, too. I’ve had it for years and used to use it all the time. I should pull it out and (digitally) dust it off. Thanks for the reminder!

  23. Rose Kepler says:

    How do you do the watermark in batches? I want to do this on my Etsy shop but it’s too tedious on each photo at a time.
    The bedroom is GORGEOUS! Cant wait to see the counters now.

    • If you use Photoshop you can do a thing called an “action” where it records what you do with one photo and as long as you want each additional photo to be a carbon copy it will repeat the process for you when you hit “play”. That mostly works if you are editing a large batch of pictures that you want to downsize or crop in the same manner. As for watermarks, dependent on what is in the picture is really where you would put a watermark so you don’t cover up your product/idea/main area of focus. That might not necessarily be a repeated action you can pull off in Photoshop. I know that editing pix takes time but I think when time is applied you can tell in the end product that someone cared about what they were putting up. It looks professional and is worth the tedious effort. Take it from someone who went to school and built professional websites for businesses. Your customers will appreciate it in the end!! :)

  24. Marian, I purchased Light Room (and a book about it) but have yet to sit down and learn it. You’ve inspired me to attempt shooting in Raw and to use it. The good thing about the D7000 is we can shoot both in JPeg and Raw at the same time…love the two image cards. So instead of using one of my image cards as backup, maybe I’ll change it to raw and try it out. Thanks so much for being so willing to share what you have learned. You have such a giving spirit and you are much appreciated!

  25. Teresa Nelson says:

    Ok — I commented, but didn’t see it post, so I apologize if you get this twice! It might have been flagged for approval since it contained a link — not sure.

    But — here it is again! If you light Lightroom and want to speed up your process and get clear, crisp, light-filled photos, you might want to look into Erin Cobb’s Clean Color for Lightroom.

    Her web link is:

    I think it would suit your style. It’s the process that Karen Russell uses at Snapshots of A Good Life.

    Happy Editing!

    • Teresa Nelson says:

      I meant LIKE Lightroom, not “light” Lightroom! Apparently I need some editing myself. 😉

  26. Whenever I read your posts I feel like you have jumped right inside my head. I love your honesty, humbleness and humor. Thanks so much for always sharing the real you! On to learn the raw format now, thanks!

  27. it is time consuming to blog with quality photographs. i have a mac and open every photo in I-Photo. it is similar to photoshop. there i always adjust color qualities, contrast, and add sharpness. but of equal importance is to reduce the size and file size of every photo. otherwise you will max out your free allotment of storage and have to pay for more blog storage. forever! i make my photos around 55KB, and have plenty of room for years more of them.

  28. Okay, I’ve tried searching your blog and can’t come up with the name of that gorgeous wallpaper. Or is it fabric since your curtains match? Please, let me know, it’s BEAUTIFUL!!

  29. MMS, Wow, it seems sooo time consuming, although the end result looks great! I purchased a canon rebel T3 over a month ago, it just sits in the corner waiting to be used, but I have no clue on how to use it, ya think maybe I should take a photoshop course!? Ha! :-)

    • I have a T3 too! It’s an amazing camera and when you get use to working with it you’ll LOOOOOVE it. See if there are any local professional camera stores in your area that offer free classes, they will hands on teach you the basics of how to use your camera.

  30. No eyes glazing over here I’m so into how to make my photography better! I’m using PSE 9 and I love it over any of the free stuff I’d been using. I google if I want to do something new and have learned a lot that way. Haven’t ever tried actions – can I do that with PSE 9? I am thinking I will buy Lightroom – you recommended it and so have a couple other friends of mine. Just saving up the $$ right now!

  31. Oh my….photos…the bane of my existence! Mine have improved but I still have many areas of my house that I simply cannot get good pictures. It limits my blogging because some projects aren’t even able to be posted about and I HATE that! I gave up on Photoshop a long time ago and now have a Mac which required several months of a learning curve . I’m going to remember all these things you said though and KEEP working on it!

  32. Great post, Marian. I’m also trying to make my photos better. I’m doing the online shoot fly shoot class and had never heard of RAW photos before that. Hope you enjoyed your snow day. My two guys are home today due to the storm.

  33. Pictures you share are very good and i hope you will enhance your photography skills.

  34. I am so new to photography. I am just now editing my photos. The lighting in my dining room is so difficult, because of bay windows. It makes it so difficult to take a photo toward that big window. I am going to have to look into the RAW bit?! Enjoy that snow! We have only had 1 snow day all year. My girls would LOVE a good snow! Thanks for sharing! Life to the full, Melissa

  35. Hi Marian, I love your blog and your posts. I have been using Lightroom for 3 years now and love it. I used it mostly for food photography and it works really well. I tried taking photos in RAW for a while but it was just becoming too much. RAW photos is so huge and it was just too much to maintain. I keep running out of space on the laptop and on the backup drives. The only time RAW would really shine vs. JPEG is when taking picture at night/when it’s dark. If there’s still sunlight, JPEG works just as well. That’s just been my experience so far. You can come check out my blog and see all the food photos there for yourself :)).

  36. kathy says:

    Hello Marion, Today I received an order of 12 pack sample milk paints from a site on etsy. I am a little concerned about the presentation, I am very much hoping you can help me to confirm or not. I received items in individual snack size zip- lock baggies. Each have a white round label similar to the ones I have seen on your labels except the dresser on the labels don’t have legs like the other sample labels I’ve seen. So if these are not your brands then my concern turns to maybe this is not your product. I will be awaiting your email. I am very excited about trying your new line of milk paint.Thank you so much, Kathy

  37. Dianne says:

    Your bedroom turned out so fabulous. You have great vision. I ordered new bedding and since I have almost white walls, I put the color into the duvet. It is very light and fresh, but not sure if I’m entirely in love with it. Oh well, I’ll keep trying . . . .

  38. Marion, I have used Lightroom 3 for about a year and love it. I am still not taking as many photos in manuel mode but I am trying. I think L3 makes the manuel photos look better afterwards than auto. Is manual mode different then RAW? I am assuming it is but not sure if I have that capability on my $400 basic Canon.

  39. Hi Marion…first time leaving a comment on your fabulous blog! I LOVE photography and have taken local courses and also the NYIP online course. I agree that Ps or other image editors are extremely important when showcasing your images. You’ve clearly demonstrated this on your post. I’ve recently started my own blog and am having so much fun editing my images… now I just need some practice/advice on writing content a little quicker…lol.

  40. Hey Marion! I started my own blog a few weeks ago, just for fun really, and I’ve already considered throwing in the towel because my photography skills stink! I look at other blogs and feel so bad! You have inspired me to really work harder and give it another shot… I think blogging will be fun, even if I dont get any visitors! LOL Wish me luck and thank you for sharing your photography wisdom :)

  41. Both colorings are pretty, but which is the correct portrayal of the room? I thought maybe they had the bright white photo lights on when pictures are taken that make the rooms look so light bright and airy.

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