If you’re new to video editing, there is a wealth of tools to choose from to help you with your filmmaking projects. Fortunately, most of what you need to get started, including software, storage, and handy gadgets, is either free or relatively inexpensive. So, if you’re ready to become the next Scorsese, Spielberg, Soderbergh, or some other director with a last name beginning with S, check out some of the basics you’ll need to start editing your own videos.

Pre-Installed Software

Both Mac and PC come with two great pre-installed options. If you use a Mac, you should definitely check out iMovie. This is one of the best video-editing software tools to get you going quickly. Most of the features are drag and drop, and you’ll find that the options for cutting out and adding footage (or even sound) are quick and efficient.

The software comes with a nicely organized video library, and you’ll find many movie themes that give you fast access to transitions, titles, backgrounds, and more. There's even a great tool to help you make your own movie trailers.

If you’re a PC user, Movie Maker 12 is worth a look. If it’s not pre-installed on your computer, you can download it for free from the Microsoft website. Like iMovie, the editing tools are fairly simple to learn, and the software comes with a great selection of themes. Movie Maker 12 also lets you add and edit your own audio. And, it also makes it easy for you to import and edit movies from all of your devices—video recorders, smartphones, tablets, and more.

Free Downloads

Outside of pre-installed software, there are lots of great (and free) downloads for both Mac and PC.

For Mac users, the top choice is Blender. This is not your average beginner’s software, but, if you’re willing to put in some time, you will find that it is one of the best editing programs available, even when compared to high-end paid software.

Not only does Blender give you a fully-featured video-editing suite, it also gives you the ability to create your own special effects, including:

  • 3D modeling
  • Simulations of water, smoke, hair, and more
  • HDR imaging support
  • Materials and textures for animated videos

What makes Blender especially nice is that it’s backed by a huge open-source community that is constantly designing new extensions. This gives you countless ways to expand the software even further as you learn and tackle new tasks.

On the PC side, Kate’s Video Toolkit is a great choice. This software gives you several valuable assets, including:

  • Well-rounded file conversion tools
  • The ability to stitch multiple videos together
  • Audio and video mixing
  • Tools for changing frame sizes and aspect ratios

Kate’s Video Toolkit also comes with a library of more than 70 transitions, which means you’ll never be at a loss for new and interesting effects.

VSDC Free Video Editor is another solid download for PC.  The program takes some extra effort in mastering, but the learning curve is worth it. VSDC Video Editor gives you the full range of video-editing tools along with a useful selection of filters, audio effects, drawing tools, and other nifty features. It also lets you correct color and lighting problems.

Paid Software

The selection of paid software options is a little thinner than the selection of free downloads, but there are still a couple of notable programs that beginners should consider checking out. At $59, AVS Video Editor is a great value for PC users. Features include Blu-ray support, a broad range of supported file formats, the ability to make custom DVD and Blu-ray menus, and a huge library of more than 300 transitions and effects.

Adobe Premiere Elements 13 is the beginner version of the Adobe Premiere Pro suite, and at $79, it’s definitely worth your while. Available for both Mac and PC, this software gives you most of the Pro version’s functionality while being much easier to learn. There are several cool features to be found here, including:

  • An easy-to-use timeline that lets you drag and drop clips
  • A solid suite of editing and trimming tools
  • Tons of effects, transitions, and themes

Two things that are particularly useful for beginners are the modes that come with the program — InstantMovie and Expert Mode. InstantMovie gets you started quickly, while the Expert Mode lets you work on your own once you’ve become comfortable with the software.

Storage, Gadgets, & Other Must-Haves

Software isn’t the only thing you’ll need to get started. Because video files tend to be large, you’ll need storage, too — and lots of it. Invest in a good external hard drive, such as LaCie, to back up and store your files. You may also want a stack of recordable discs as a secondary means of backing up your work, and a selection of flash drives is handy if you need to transport files between computers.

USB hubs are invaluable to video editors, especially if you find yourself working on a laptop with a limited number of USB ports. Whether it’s to sync your video recorder, smartphone, and tablet, or to add space for extras like stylus pads, you can never have too many USB ports.

Farther down the road, you may want to invest in high-tech LCD video-editing monitors, but in the beginning, you can start with a simple secondary monitor to plug into your desktop or laptop. Dual monitors have a variety of uses, as they allow you to:

  • Compare the original footage with the edited version
  • Place your tools on one monitor so your project can be full-screen on the other
  • Watch a live preview on one monitor as you work on the other

Just remember, you don’t have to make a large investment to start editing videos. Most of the best software is free. And, when it comes to gadgets, all you really need in the beginning is an inexpensive storage solution, and perhaps another monitor to make editing a little easier.

Try some of the things we’ve recommended—don’t forget to make use of our library of video clips on Bigstock Video, too—and you’ll find yourself editing video like a pro in no time.

Header illustration from Bigstock contributor Awindle.

Posted
AuthorBrian Masefield
CategoriesTutorials

That old cliché “never judge a book by its cover” may be true, but it doesn't mean we can't judge the actual book covers. And, because eBooks follow different guidelines than print books, there are some key points you need to know to ensure that your digital book looks both appropriate and professional. Here are six essential tips to finding eBook images:

Tip 1: Make An Image Shopping List

eBooks come in many shapes, sizes, and formats, which means there are no rules that apply across the board when it comes to the number of images you’ll need. If you’re publishing a novel, you’ll only need a picture for the cover—and maybe small graphics for the chapter headings—so the image you choose should immediately evoke the feel of the content. When your book comes up in Amazon’s or Google’s search results, for example, the thumbnail of your cover should be simple enough so that it’s easily visible.  

Marketing materials and instructional eBooks, however, may feature one or more images on every page. In this context, the images are meant to illustrate, emphasize, or clarify the words. You can also use images to create headers, footers, sidebars and attractive calls to action.

If you’re creating this kind of eBook, follow these guidelines to make sure you have a good balance of text and images:

  • Use graphics to highlight the most interesting or important points.
  • Add diagrams or other visuals to explain difficult concepts.
  • Create graphs and charts to help your readers visualize and compare data.


Tip 2: Know Your Sizes

When it comes to image quality and resolution, bigger is always better. For eBook covers, it’s important to remember that every publisher has its own requirements. For instance, Amazon recently updated their minimum cover width to 2,820 pixels, but other eBook publishers have much smaller minimum widths.

In general, choose images that are at least 3,000 pixels wide. While e-readers come in several shapes and sizes, a 6 x 9 aspect ratio will ensure that your cover can be modified to fit a variety of formats. Images within your eBook can be any size or resolution, but you’ll want to make sure that the image file size is 5 megabytes or less so they load easily on slower Internet connections.

Pixels per inch (PPI) is another important consideration. Make sure that all your images have at least 300 PPI. Higher PPI is even better because it means that your images will scale to larger screens without losing clarity or detail.

Your images should be PNGs or JPEGs. Some digital publishers prefer JPEGs, but many accept PNGs as well. Amazon, for example, requires a 1,400-pixel-wide JPEG of your eBook cover. Always check the guidelines of individual eBook publishers.

Tip 3: Be Consistent

Real estate isn't the only industry where location, location, location is paramount. Image placement is key to creating an attractive eBook, so choose images that can easily fit within the margins of your text. Graphics such as bullets, icons, arrows, headers, and footers should all be the same size throughout the entire eBook. Graphs, charts, diagrams, and sidebars may vary in length, but you can keep your pages looking uniform by making sure that they’re all the same width.

When it comes to layout, consistency is the most important factor. For example, if you’re presenting a series of charts on one page, centering one visual but right-aligning another will lead to a disorganized look.


Tip 4: Stick with a Theme

eBook images need to match your overall theme in two ways. First, your images should all fit within a visual motif. Basically, don’t mix quirky cartoons with sophisticated photos (unless there’s a specific reason for doing so ... but it better be a real good reason). If you’re creating an eBook for your business, be sure that the images, colors, and fonts match your brand's style guide.

Secondly, your images should also match the subject and voice of your writing. If your work has a humorous tone, feel free to use fun, flat icon style graphics and other lighthearted images. For writing that is geared towards a business audience, choose images that have a straight-forward professional look to them.

Tip 5: Think Mobile

Whether your eBook is promotional, instructional, or a work of fiction, you can guarantee that at least a portion of your readers will be using mobile devices. In fact, according to Pew Research Center, over 30 percent of all smartphone owners read eBooks on their devices.

To avoid excluding the mobile audience, you’ll need to break down complex data visualizations into the simplest elements. It's always better to create two separate images than to provide an overly-complicated one. This way, your mobile readers won’t have to zoom and scroll (as much) to see the facts and statistics you’re offering, and the uncomplicated images will still look great on larger tablets and desktop displays.


Tip 6: Know Your "Rights"

A rights-managed image is one that you purchase for a specific use and a certain length of time. If you buy a rights-managed image for use on a particular blog post, for example, you can’t use it in your eBook until your license expires, at which point you may be able to buy the license again for a different project. Royalty-free image websites, like Bigstock.com (... ahem), have far fewer restrictions. Royalty-free images also tend to be much less expensive than rights-managed images. 

Also, remember to give credit where credit is due in terms of citing sources of your images. The best way to attribute an image is to add a link back to the source underneath the image. Be sure that the link’s anchor text lists the name of the image’s creator and, depending on your usage agreement, the website of origin.

When it comes to images for your eBook, deciding on the most appropriate ones for your brand is just as important as displaying them in a way that helps your reader engage with the work you've created. Once you’ve ironed out the basics, you’re then free to focus on themes, layout, and other fun design elements. Have fun, good luck, and be sure to enjoy the process!
 

Posted
AuthorBrian Masefield
CategoriesTutorials

Almost three ­quarters of all internet users aged 18 and older are using some form of social media, which means that marketers everywhere are consistently looking for creative ways to reach them. SocialMediaExaminer.com and other experts agree that, in 2015, video content will be the social media marketing tactic of choice. With those thoughts in mind, let’s look not only at the people you’ll find on each of today's biggest social media platforms, but also what kinds of video content they’re looking for.

Facebook

Facebook is by far the largest social media platform. According to the Pew Research Center, 71 percent of all adult internet users are on Facebook. By comparison, the next largest following belongs to LinkedIn, with 28 percent of all online adults registered.

Almost anything goes on Facebook, but despite the diverse nature of this platform, there are a couple of key demographics to note. Women edge out men on the platform by 11 percent. And, if you want to reach an older generation, Facebook is your best bet, as up to 56 percent of online adults are aged 65 and over.

With such a varied audience, most types of video content do well on Facebook, though, some fare better than others. Most Facebook users enjoy inspirational and family-oriented video. The shorter your videos are, the better, so boost engagement by keeping the videos you post under two minute mark.

YouTube

YouTube is the granddaddy of all video-marketing platforms, and while you will find a diverse audience here, the largest group is the younger set. In fact, if you want to reach those coveted Millennials, YouTube draws in more viewers between the ages of 18 and 34 than any single national TV network.

The YouTube platform sways more towards consumer generated content, but B2B marketing is still big here. You’ll find that shoppers are looking for product videos, reviews, demonstrations, and testimonials, while the B2B audience is looking for explainer videos, company news, and groundbreaking ideas. People also search YouTube for tutorials, entertainment, and episodic content that they can follow, so try and provide your viewers with reasons to come back. Although you’ll find videos of every shape and size on YouTube, most people prefer videos that are around three minutes in length.

Twitter

Based on recent data digging, Twitter is the most popular social media platform among college-­educated people in the 50-and-under age range. These users enjoy a blend of fun and serious content, but they also want things on the short side. So, to grab your audience’s attention in six seconds or less, get creative with quirky and humorous themes, or try something that's designed to surprise.

LinkedIn

It’s no surprise that LinkedIn is geared towards a professional audience, but what is surprising is that it's the only platform where you'll find larger numbers of people aged 30 to 64 (than those under age 30). This is also one of the most highly-educated platforms, with 50 percent of online college graduates using the platform to network.

With LinkedIn’s professional and B2B leanings, things like explainer videos of your resume, your company, or your product are big. Company values and mission statements in video format are another great choice. And, because the types of content shared on LinkedIn tend to be highly informative, length is not a big concern, but style can make or break your video marketing campaign. Choose video clips that appeal to a professional audience, and don’t hesitate to create slide-show ­style videos or infographics.

Vine

Vine’s users are on the lookout for the unique, and you’ll only have six seconds to impress them. Choose content that is funny, fascinating, relatable, cute or odd, and make sure that it evokes a strong emotional reaction. Vine doesn’t publish its user statistics, but experts believe that the largest audience on the platform is made up of people aged 13 to 25, so you’ll want to make sure your content is not only engaging, but also suitable and relevant for this younger demographic.

Pinterest

Pinterest is unique in that its users are overwhelmingly female - 42% of women use Pinterest, while only 13% of men do. In fact, it's estimated that 80% of Pinterest users are women, and mostly belong to the 18 to 49 age group, but the number of users who are over 50 is growing quickly.

Pinterest’s following is largely consumer oriented. These consumers are all seeking to learn something, like a new art, craft, recipe or decorating idea. Tips, tricks, and how­-to videos are all pretty popular, especially if you can keep them around for four minutes or so (but always aim for under that estimate).

Instagram

Instagram is growing in popularity among women and young adults between the ages of 18 and 29, and its users are in search of content than mainly falls into one of two categories: adorable or unusual. Entertainment is key, naturally. Instagram’s new video tools work similarly to Vine, but Instagram videos are 15 seconds long, which means users need to keep your cute kitten clips and other great moments short and sweet. 

Tumblr

Tumblr's followers are a young, well­-educated group in the 18 to 24 age range, and they’re an unusually close­knit community that loves a mixture of eccentric, emotional, fun, and informative content. It’s a great platform for B2C campaigns—especially if your product or service can fit into one (or more) of Tumblr’s many niche communities. 

Stylistically, desired content is broad—animated or live action both perform well—just so long as it’s interesting and shareable, of course. Keep in mind that Tumblr limits video uploads to five minutes or less, and ultimately its users tend to prefer GIFs above all. Again, find and execute the visuals that make the most sense for your brand, and your intended audience. 

Once you get to know your customer base, you’ll be able to find them across a variety of social media platforms. Finding them is only half the battle, however. The next step is to design creative video content that resonates with your audience of followers and makes them want to share what you have to say with their friends. And, should you need high-quality, royalty-free stock video clips to assist you, be sure to check out our collection at Bigstock Video.

Header image by Bigstock contributor Aerial3

Posted
AuthorBrian Masefield
CategoriesTutorials

Launching a video marketing campaign is an excellent strategy for any business. Every marketing format is valuable and has its place, but video has demonstrated a unique ability to inform, inspire, and entertain customers by telling a story.

More and more businesses are using video to market their product or service and to increase engagement, action, and sales. According to Digital Sherpa, when businesses use video in marketing campaigns, they see up to a 51 percent increase in conversion rates. Not only that, but while only 20 percent of website visitors will read a full page of text, a whopping 80 percent will watch a video.

However, just throwing together a video about your business or product is not enough. The most successful marketing videos may not all be the same format, length, or style, but if you watch the popular ones, you’ll see that they share some characteristics.

Here are five key elements of successful marketing videos:

1. Emotional Appeal

Humans have been using storytelling since the beginning of time as an important way to connect with others on an emotional level. In fact, studies have shown that when people feel an emotional connection, or empathy, their brains are stimulated in a way that impacts their decision-making.

These days, with so much of our daily interaction being digital, remote, and text-based, this human connection is more important than ever. WestJet Airlines understood this emotional element when it created its Christmas Miracle: Real-time Giving video company. With 175 WestJet employees helping out in three airports, they handed out miracles to more than 250 (very surprised) customers flying to Calgary during the holidays. Not only did this event make a big difference in the lives of these passengers, but the video now provides powerful marketing content for countless potential customers.  

Don't have an airport-sized, miracle-making budget? Fear not. Royalty-free video clips are a great way to enhance the emotional element of your marketing video. 

2. Useful Information

Once you’ve connected with viewers, you need to give them a reason to stick around. Make sure your marketing video establishes the customers’ problem, presents your product or service as the perfect solution, and then showcase the specific benefits of your product that will change their lives.

The information you share may go into some detail if it’s a complex service, such as Panorama9’s “IT-MAN” video for its cloud-based IT management service. Using eye-catching, old-school video game graphics allow the company to explain - with animation and narration - how their service will make your IT department’s job easier.

On the other hand, the useful information shown in your video can be as simple as a product demonstration, like Buff’s “How To Wear Buff Headwear” video. At first glance, their colorful headbands may seem straightforward, but Buff created a fast-paced, upbeat video to demonstrate the myriad of uses, from practical to fashionable, for its product.

3. Call To Action

Having captured the viewer’s attention and demonstrated how your product or service will solve a problem or fill a need, a third crucial element is the call to action. Rather than rely on the consumers to make that leap for themselves, it’s important to direct them what to do next. It may seem obvious, but it is critical to end your video by saying “visit us here,” "call us today," or by including a text overlay with your website’s URL to make the transition to action easier.

Effective CTAs include:

  • Specials/discount coupons
  • Newsletter signups
  • Useful/informative downloads
  • Contact information

One of the case studies done by Versio2 shows that adding a clear call to action vastly improves the odds of generating new leads; one of their clients increased their leads by twelve times per month.

4. Strategic Targeting

Who is your audience, and, what is your message? To make your marketing video even more effective, you’ll need to speak directly to a specific group of people rather than try to endear yourself to everybody. Target audiences may be teenagers, new mothers, sports enthusiasts, or those of a certain age or income bracket. Those who will and/or can most relate to your products and services comprise your target audience.

Once you’re clear on who your audience is, it will be easier to direct your message, tone, and images to them. Dollar Shave Club’s successful product video “Our Blades Are F***ing Great” was an instant, edgy hit because it appealed to a very specific audience: young men. This simple video (featuring one of the founders talking about the product) speaks to the target demographic in their language and gets right to the point.

5. Production Quality

Yes, we’ve all seen countless viral videos on YouTube that capture millions of views, regardless of how low budget they look. In general though, the best way to get noticed as a business is to ensure high-quality video production values. This doesn’t necessarily mean A-list actors and a million-dollar budget, but it should look as professional as your company is.

Let’s face it—looks do matter. Content is definitely important, but a viewer’s first impression will determine his/her continued interest. Studies have shown that 33% of viewers will click away from an online video in fewer than 30 seconds.

So, to ensure top-quality:

  • Shoot close-ups.
  • Avoid zooming.
  • Light the set well.
  • Choose a plain, pleasing (uncomplicated) background.
  • Use a tripod.
  • Ensure high-quality sound.
  • Enhance with music.
  • Don’t overdo it with the special effects, graphics, or text overlay.
  • Use high-quality stock video (like the below) where needed. 

Producing a short, emotionally-appealing, solution-oriented marketing video will increase your odds of success by way of leads, conversion, word-of-mouth advertising. And, with some marketing savvy, a lot of love, and a little luck, your product video might even go viral.

If you're looking for high-quality, royalty-free stock video clips to help create your marketing video, Bigstock now has thousands to choose from. See them at Bigstock Video.

http://www.bigstockphoto.com/video/
Posted
AuthorBrian Masefield
CategoriesTutorials

It might seem like a strange idea to include video on your photography website, but there are many great reasons to do just that. According to Digital Sherpa, 100 million people watch videos online each day, and a whopping 75 percent of them go on to visit the corresponding website afterwards. In fact, watching video makes up one-third of all online activity, which means that any photographer who is serious about marketing their website needs to get in on the action.

Before you run out and randomly film something just to embed it on your site, you’ll need to decide what kind of video content you’d like to produce, and what style you’ll use. Here are four great ways to use videos on a photography website—and some creative tips on how to make them compliment your brand.

Introductory Videos

Statistics from Invodo reveal that visitors who watch a video will stay on your website for an average of two minutes longer than non-viewers, and they're 64 percent more likely to take advantage of your services. So, an introductory video is a great way to catch your audience’s attention and to keep them on your website. Here are some things to consider for your introductory video:

  • Tell the story of your brand in a personal, relatable way, versus simply selling your service. Share what you love about photography, how you got started, or a funny story about a past experience.
  • Shed some light on what inspires you to create your images, and how you put that inspiration into action.
  • Discuss the equipment, effects, or special techniques that you prefer using and why. Stick with your favorites. The more interested you are, the more interested your audience will be.

There are many ways to showcase your business in an introductory video, but the most important thing to remember is that photography is a very personalized service. Your goal should be to create something that helps you emotionally connect with your audience. Create something genuine so that your viewers trust and identify with you.

Product Videos

Product videos are one of the most popular types of online video, and with good reason: they increase the chance of viewers purchasing your product or service by an average of 74% percent. This kind of video enables you to go into much more detail (than text and image) about what you offer. As a photographer, your product videos should include some of your best images.

Show samples of your favorite projects. Detail the types of prints, gallery wraps, books, and other products you offer. Talk about what the customer will get from a photo session or wedding shoot.

Here are a few tips for making the most of your product videos:

  • Make sure you have the model and property releases for any images you’d like to use within the video.
  • Keep videos short and sweet to maximize shareability on social media platforms.
  • Include a narration to provide details about the work the viewer is seeing, just as you would if you were showing your work in person.
  • Use a discreet watermark on each image you display. This is not only to prevent theft, but to help potential customers associate your name with beautiful photography.


If done right, your videos will act like mini portfolios, except with more information about what you have to offer. Your video will also have much greater reach on social media than slideshows and online galleries.

Event Videos

In the corporate world, event videos are normally recordings of presentations, board meetings, and other important events. You can put a creative twist on this theme by filming a behind-the-scenes look at your creative process. Filming a portrait session or product shoot comes with a number of benefits, including showing people and potential customers:

  • Your personality and creative process.
  • How you work (which can help make them feel more comfortable with you).
  • What they can expect during a photo shoot.

When creating portraits of people, get their permission first and ensure that your subjects are comfortable with being filmed as well as photographed. You don’t want to inadvertently alienate a customer.
 

Video Testimonials

Few things build brand confidence like the assurances of delighted customers. Video can take testimonials to a whole new level of credibility. Think about it this way: 88 percent of consumers are influenced by reviews when making a purchasing decision. So, a video testimonial of a positive review has the potential to be sales-driving powerhouse.

The best part is that video testimonials don’t need to be too complicated. As long as you can ensure clear audio and good picture quality, you can create these reviews with your phone when you deliver prints, or ask your customers to shoot one themselves and email it to you at their convenience.

What Video Style Should You Choose?

So, now that we’ve discussed the types of videos photographers can create, let's discuss different video styles. For photographers, there are a few styles that really stand out:

  • 2D and 3D animation videos are a great way to tell your story and/or show your creative process. They work very well with both humorous or emotional themes.
  • Live action videos show just that—you and your subjects in the studio, in action. This is also the preferred style for testimonials.
  • Whiteboard videos work well for imparting facts, statistics, and clever graphics to show how your photography benefits your clients.
  • Screencasts are a great way to showcase your photography. Use them to create miniature portfolios or event slideshows.
  • Stop motion videos are similar to animated ones in that it’s a creative way to tell a story with some fun.

Just because your photography business is about the still frame doesn’t mean you can’t market yourself with video. In fact, many photographers have added video to their repertoire of services, which makes this a fantastic opportunity to show off your skills. And, since 81 percent of marketers are already using online videos to increase brand awareness and sales, it's a great time to get on board.

Posted
AuthorBrian Masefield
CategoriesTutorials

When it comes to editing photos, some post-processing mistakes are inevitable. Even seasoned pros misstep from time to time. You most likely have the basics down: you can sharpen images without over-pixelating them, remove noise without making your subject look unnaturally smooth, and straighten tilted horizon lines. However, you could be making some rookie mistakes without even realizing it.

From filter flubs to color corrections, here are three of the most common mistakes photographers make when editing photos.

Embracing Every Fad

People seem to go crazy for the next new filter or effect ... until the next new one comes along. Keep in mind that when you hop on the trend train, all the nifty tools you slaved over will look dated in a couple of years. Proper exposure, natural colors, and interesting – but not overdone – compositions are key principles that lend a timelessness to great photography, but there are many popular processing gimmicks you consider avoiding, such as:

Selective Coloring: In the late 1990s and early 2000s, photographers were delighted that editing software allowed them to add a pop of color to black and white photos. This trend led to so many selectively-colored images that the fad rapidly became one of the most widely known photographic clichés of its time.

Lens Flares: Natural, on-camera lens flares can be beautiful if done well. However, if you use a Photoshop filter to paste one in randomly, it will almost always look fake.

Sepia: Sepia tones were never intended as an aesthetic effect. Rather, film processors in the late 1800s used sepia pigments from cuttlefish to make images more durable. Modern photographers don’t need to make digital images durable.

High Dynamic Range (HDR) Photography: HDR is a processing technique that lets you use several exposures to create an image with a luminosity range that is impossible to obtain in a single exposure. This technique often results in surreal, and obviously unnatural, images.

Of course, just because a particular technique is a fad doesn’t mean you can’t use it to create art – just keep in mind that these filters and effects are tools and don’t overuse them. Learn when certain post-processing techniques are appropriate to avoid looking like a newbie.

 

Overdoing Colors

It’s easy to tweak brightness, contrast, and saturation in digital photos. It’s also easy to blow your colors way out of proportion. Here are some specific dangers to dodge when editing color.

Whitening: Many beginners push things too far when whitening the eyes and teeth of their subjects. A bit of whitening is perfectly fine, but too-bright teeth make your model look like he left the white strips on too long.

Contrast: As you adjust the contrast slider on your images, keep an eye on the dark and light areas of the picture. Too much luminosity, and you’ll lose the detail in the bright spots. Too much contrast, and the shadows will turn into stark black voids.

Colors: Every lens and camera renders color a bit differently, which means it’s often necessary to bump up the overall saturation, or the saturation of a particular color. However, if you take it too far, your images will go from colorful to cartoony. Similarly, avoid excessive de-saturation unless you’re intentionally trying to create a pastel look.

 

Abusing Curves

Curves are something of a mystery to many photographers, even to some with years of processing experience. To put it simply, curves manipulate tone and contrast, and give you a way to expand or compress the tonal range of your image. If you don’t understand exactly how to adjust the curves, you can end up with clipped shadows, blown highlights, and an array of odd colors.

Curve adjustments work on a give-and-take system. So if you use luminosity curves to increase the contrast in your shadows and highlights, you’ll lose detail in the midtones. Use the RGB curves to remove a greenish cast and you may find that certain parts of your image turn red.

In order to use curves without abusing them, learn how to read an image’s histogram, get a firm understanding of tonal ranges, and master your image-editing software. This will help you avoid odd color casts, or darks that are too dark and lights that are too light.

Because photo-editing effects or corrections are the most basic post-processing tools, it can be easy to go a little too far, which can lead to an amateur or over-processed look. Remember that it’s okay to push boundaries on occasion, but doing it too often will only lead to a catalog of clichéd content.

Posted
AuthorBrian Masefield
CategoriesTutorials

We all know that even a beautiful photo can sometimes be just a little too soft. You might be going for a richer, sharper look than what your photo is giving you. This super-quick Photoshop tutorial will help you easily sharpen up any photo. Let's take a look at this beautiful royalty-free Bigstock photo of a woman in nature with her dog. It has a nice, natural foggy look to it, but I'd like to sharpen it up. Let's go!

1. Open the photo in Photoshop

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2. Copy the background layer. You can do this quickly by hitting Command-J (control-J on a PC).

 

3. Set the blending mode to Overlay. With the new layer selected, use the layer palette's pull down menu and select Overlay (by default it will be set to Normal). 

 

4. Add a High Pass Filter. With the new layer selected, go to Filter>Other>High Pass. Use the sliding tab to adjust to your preference.

 

Ta Da! Look at that sharp photo!  

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Here are a couple of other examples of how of photos look before and after the High Pass Filter treatment:

Hope you liked this quick tip. Be sure to also check out How To Create Sparkling Eyes, and other Bigstock tutorials, right here on our blog. Have fun.

Posted
AuthorCristin Burton
CategoriesTutorials

Does your dog beg for the spotlight? Does your pussycat love to strike a pose? Well, we've provided some tips below that'll help purrfect your photo skills when framing your pretty pet. We've also compiled an inspiring assortment of royalty-free dog and cat images that are truly bow-wow-worthy. Have fun.

1. GO TOWARDS THE LIGHT

What goes for humans, goes for pets, too. Just as flash blinds our human eyes, it can frighten our little furry loved ones, causing them to lose focus. Outdoor photos change that instantly, as do photos that are naturally lit by open areas of your house.

 

2. AVOID BUSY BACKGROUNDS

The attention should be focused on your animal, not the bed, pillows, toys, clothes, and anything else that may be behind your favorite animal. If you're trying to create a nice environment, go for simple backdrops and easy locations. Certain lights and colors will compliment your little fur monster's natural colors and textures.

 

3. SURPRISE THEM

Pets don't necessarily pose for photos like humans do, so it might take a bit of work to get them to look exactly the way you want them to in a photograph. First, try playing with them, and making them feel more comfortable in their natural element. Then, surprise them. Have someone call out their name, or make a sound that will attract their attention in the direction of your camera.

 

4. MIX IT UP

If you're into taking "cute photos" of your pet all the time, that's ... fiiiiiiiiiiine, but it can look repetitive as a collection. Think of each photo as an attempt to broadcast your pet's whole personality. A combination of portraits, cute things, odd actions, happy accidents, and all the things that encompass the daily life the two of you inhabit.

 

5. FOOD ALWAYS HELPS

There's a photographer by the name of Theron Humphrey who has a precious coonhound named Maddie. Humphrey takes photos of Maddie on things. The secret to getting her to stay? Food. At least in the beginning, that's how it went. We can't say for sure that she still needs the food - she's probably used to being a starlet now. Still, if you want your pet to "stay," try training them with food or treats as a reward, so that they know there's something to look forward to afterwards.

 

6. FOCUS ON THE EYES

If the rest of the photo is blurry and the eyes are in tact, then you probably have a decent photo. So much of your animal's expression is in its eyes. Particularly if you own a non-vocal animal, their eyes can tell you everything, and that's definitely something worth capturing.

 

7. GET UP CLOSE & PERSONAL 

Zoom in to capture less, and you'll end up saying more. Try filling the entire frame with their eyes and nose, or just focus on the wagging tale with a simple background to compliment the movement.

Begging for more? Check out our Dress Your Pet lightbox, below, filled with even more royalty-free, downloadable cuteness.

Posted
AuthorAshley Hefnawy
CategoriesTutorials

One of the most common photography techniques is to shoot against a seamless white background to keep all the focus on the subject. This may be cool for a product catalogue, but when designing a website or brochure, a white background might not work. The good news is that it's easy to remove white backgrounds with Photoshop or similar editing software. With these four steps below, you’ll be able to make overlays, and use graphics in a way that looks clean, finished, and professional. (Note: If you're using a Pen Tool, scroll down to the bottom of the post for an advanced tip!)

For this tutorial, I'm going to use this very pretty royalty-free Bigstock photo of a pink flower.

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Step 1: Unlocking the Background Layer

The first thing you’ll need to do is unlock the image layer. When you attempt to remove the white background on a locked layer, it will either stay white or change to whatever color you have selected for the background. Unlocking the image layer lets you erase parts of the image so that the background becomes transparent.

Go to the Layers panel along the right side of the window and double-click the lock symbol on the Background Layer. This will bring up a “New Layer” window. Click OK to replace the Background Layer with a new, unlocked layer. Alternatively, you can right-click to create a duplicate – but unlocked – copy of the background layer that supports transparency.

Step 2: Deleting the Background

With the image layer unlocked, select the magic wand tool and click on the white background. Press the Delete key, and a gray checkerboard pattern should appear in the areas you’ve just deleted. The checkered pattern lets you know that the bits of the background you’ve deleted are transparent.

Keep in mind that the magic wand tool isn’t always perfect. Before you press the Delete key, make sure that the tool didn’t inadvertently select something you wanted to keep, such as white clothing items or lettering. You’ll also want to make sure that it deletes everything that you don’t want, such as shadows on the backdrop. You can adjust the amount of color that the magic wand selects by changing the tolerance in the Options bar. You can select “Add To Selection” or “Subtract From Selection” settings from the Options bar as well. Use the “Add To Selection” setting to select everything you want to delete, and the “Subtract From Selection” to de-select everything you want to stay.

Step 3: Cleaning Up the Edges

Unless you’re working on a line drawing or an image with similarly hard edges, it’s likely that you’ll need to go back and clean up the edges of your subject once you’ve deleted the majority of the white background. To do this, zoom in on your image and use a small eraser to remove any lingering bits of the background or any other elements you don’t like.

The key to cleaning up the edges is in knowing when to use a hard-edged eraser and when to use a soft-edged eraser. You can adjust eraser brush hardness in the Options bar. A hard-edged brush will give you a clean, sharp line. Soft-edged ones, on the other hand, let you adjust the radius and opacity of the eraser, which makes them ideal for edging around elements that aren’t well defined, such as frizzy or wind-blown hair.

Step 4: Saving Your File in the Right Format

Once you’ve removed the background and you’re satisfied with the cleanup job, you’ll need to save the image. This is the most important part of the process to remember, not only because you’ll lose the work if you don’t save it, but rather, the image will revert to a white background if you don’t save it correctly. You also need to know which file formats support transparency and which don’t.

Avoid saving your file as a JPG or BMP, since they don't support transparency. Instead, go to the File menu and click “Save As.” Then select PNG, TIF, SNAG or GIF as your file format. PNG is the most widely-supported format, which makes it the best choice. However, any of these formats will save your file with a transparent background. Keep in mind that if you used a soft-edged eraser for translucent edging, the GIF format won’t support partial transparency, so you’ll need to choose one of the other formats.

Once you’ve mastered these steps, removing a white background is an easy process that can be accomplished in a matter of minutes. Cleaning up the edges with an eraser is the most time-consuming part of the process, while remembering to save your file in the proper format ensures that you won’t have to go back later and do it all over again.

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 11.27.35 AM.png

The best part is that these steps work for any background that you want to remove – not just plain white ones. Even though it will take a little more time to separate your subject from a busy background, these steps will help you get started and ensure your work looks professional. Have fun!

*Advanced Bonus Tip: Use the Pen Tool Instead*  

Compared to using the magic wand (mentioned in Step 2), the pen tool is an advanced, potentially faster, and more accurate way to remove the background from your photo. If you have mastered the pen tool, outline the subject of your photo and make a closed shape. Then go to your paths window and with that path selected, go to the window’s drop down menu and select “Make Selection”. You’ll be prompted to select "New Selection" and you can even soften the edges of the selection by adding a feather. Now, with your selection made, you can hit Command + Shift + I to invert your selection, or make the exact opposite selection. Now, hit Delete. Your background will disappear. Ta dah! 


Posted
AuthorCristin Burton
CategoriesTutorials

This method to punch up the vibrancy and saturation of a photo is mega fast and easy. For this example, I'm using this fun Bigstock photo.

1. Open the File in Photoshop.

1.jpg

2. Duplicate the Background Layer. A quick way to do this is to select the Layer, and then hit Command- J (Control-J in Windows). Otherwise, in the Layers palette, you can drag the Background Layer to the New Layer icon at the bottom of the palette.

2.jpg

3. Change the blending mode to Hard Light. With the new top Layer selected, use the pull down menu in the Layers palette and select a Hard Light blending mode.

Blending mode pulldown menu

Blending mode pulldown menu

Select hard light blending mode

Select hard light blending mode

4. Adjust the Opacity (optional). If you feel the vibrancy is too much, you can pull it back by lowering the opacity of the top layer. 

 
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Ta dah. Here's our final beautiful vibrant product! 

But why stop there? You can go on to give the model in your photo sparkling eyes with this quick Photoshop Tutorial. Happy creating.

Posted
AuthorCristin Burton
CategoriesTutorials