This is Part 2 of our stock photography series. If you haven’t seen Part 1: Photo Selection and Creative Cropping, read it here.
Once you select your stock photos, it’s time to consider a few edits. You don’t have to just drop your stock photo onto your design or website as-is. How about learning some simple edits that can help you use photos in multiple situations?
Photo Editing Software
We are excited to share several of our favorite image editing techniques with you, but first a quick note about photo editing software.
Photoshop, Photoshop Elements and Lightroom are the industry standard programs for professionally editing photos. Photoshop Elements is a one time purchase while Photoshop and Lightroom both have free trials or can be purchased to use on a monthly basis.
There are also free online editing programs, as well as other programs that can be purchased.
Each program has a slightly different way of creating the effects we will discuss, so for that reason we will not be going into a how-to for each technique, rather just an overview of the effects each technique can achieve. So, let’s dive in!
If you are like me, when you hear blurred image, you have horrible flashbacks to the perfect picture you tried to take, but it came out all blurry.
However, there are some instances when a stock image works better with a slight blur. It helps to take the focus off of the details of the image and simply makes a suggestion of what is going on in the scene.
We recently used this technique for boost – small business marketing community. We wanted a community feel, but didn’t want viewers to get caught up in questions such as, “is that a photo from our meeting?” or “do I know anyone in that picture?”. Instead, it creates a suggestion of community without being distracting to the text and the logo.
Best time to use a blur:
- As a background behind text or a graphic
- Busy images with lots of activity
- Images that are not close ups of people, but show a scene
- Instances when you want to show people but don’t want them recognizable
It also helps to blur the photos enough to make it look intentional, not just the result of a shaky hand!
Color plays another key role in the successful use of stock photography. If you are using a variety of images, and each has different colors, you may find your final design clashes or looks too busy. There are a few ways to combat this problem.
- Turn the images to black and white.
This unifies the overall look of the page and ensures your brand colors are dominant. One example of this is seen in Rose Jewelers. The client wanted their website visuals to be classy and reflect the high quality of their products.
- Turn the images to black and white and add a color overlay.
This technique is often used for background images. It provides an interesting background without competing with the key information.Below are 2 examples of how full color images can be changed into black and white with a color overlay for very different looks.
- Alter the color of color photosIf having full color images is important, look for pictures that match in color and tone. If they are close, but not exact, you may be able to alter the color (hue + saturation) in a photo editing program such as Photoshop to make the tones match better.There are plenty of videos and how-tos available online for the various design programs. Here is a video how-to for Photoshop. And here is one for Elements.Below are 2 examples how the same photo can feel different based on color tone.
Texture is another way to make a stock photo your own or add interest to an otherwise bland or typical background.
Atlas Sales uses texture to personalize the beer bottle background and to tie in to the other background colors on their site.
Best time to use a texture:
- To unify multiple photos or backgrounds in a design
- If photo is low resolution or not very crisp looking (adding noise or a half-tone pattern works wonders!) The below photo on the left is a little blurry due to being low resolution. By adding subtle noise, it adds a bit of crispness to the photo and makes the effects look intentional rather than a mistake.
- To match design theme (for example if your design is rustic on a wood background, a wood grain or distressed texture will help you pictures feel better integrated into the design). We used chalkboard texture in our holiday card to create more of a theme rather than just plain colors.
A final note:
Less is usually more when it comes to editing photos. Applying all the techniques listed here to a single photo (or to multiple photos in a single design) will feel overdone and will leave your design looking amateurish instead of professional. Instead, pick the technique that best matches your project look and goal and be consistent throughout the piece. Happy designing!