How to make your shoddy vacation photos look great

How to make your shoddy vacation photos look great

Can't shoot for cheese? No matter -- here's how to turn overexposed pics into crowd-pleasing masterpieces
How to edit vacation photos
These photos say: "My vacation underwhelmed."

There's plenty of advice going around on how to take stunning photos. And yet you still can't get it right.

Check out these tips on how to salvage those less-than-perfect shots to turn them into the outtakes that could.

Also on CNNGo: How to take stunning landscape photographs

Food: Forget the taste, it's about the light

You can rave and rave about that unexpectedly perfect meal at the little Italian place you just happened to stumble upon and which isn't in any guidebook. But the photos probably won't do it justice.

The main problem with food photos, especially for dinners, is the lighting inside restaurants. During the day, you can use the natural light coming in from a window to illuminate your image, but at night you won't have that advantage.

Restaurant lighting affects the color of the food photo. The pinkish-purple pastry below on the left doesn't quite convey the spectacular party-in-the-mouth experience that it was.

How to edit vacation photosBefore (left) and after editing. Colors look more natural now.

To get rid of the purplish hue, adjust the colors by opening Levels in Photoshop from the drop-down menu. 

You’ll need a good grasp of how the colors correspond to one another in the Levels tool. You'll be using it a lot.

The terms RGB and CMYK refer to complimentary colors that are adjusted using the Levels function.

Think of it as colors having opposites of each other:

Red = Cyan 
Green = Magenta
Blue = Yellow

K (Black) does not have a corresponding color 

If you wanted to add cyan, drag the red midtone slider to the right in the red channel, which would also remove red. 

In the same way, if you wanted to add red, you would move the slider to the left which would also remove cyan. 

You can also adjust the brightness and contrast of the image. But if the restaurant is too dim and you didn't have a good additional light source, there's not too much you can do in editing to increase the definition of the image. 

Also on CNNGo: How to take stunning city photographs


Night scenes: Contrast and compare

It was probably the most romantic evening of your year, strolling down a riverside boulevard at night in an exotic city.

The iconic monuments are lit-up for no reason other than to visually stimulate visitors such as yourself. It all looks so dramatic. 

Why doesn't it look quite as exciting in your photos? 

How to edit vacation photosTurn up the drama with a little adjustment of the contrast.

Here's when adjusting the contrast of the image can do wonders.

There are many ways to do the trick. You can use the Brightness/Contrast tab in the Photoshop tool bar or use Levels.

In the Levels tool, increase the contrast by dragging the shadow and highlight toward one another.

Contrast adjusts the darkness of shadows and the brightness of the highlights in the image. The parts of the image that are far away from the light source can become darker and the lit parts stand out more.

This brings out the beautifully lit-up buildings against a night sky.

Finally, turn up the overall color saturation of the image to make it really pop. 

Also on CNNGo: How to take an iconic Hong Kong photo

Collaging: Presentation is everything

You either love them or hate them -- collages. 

When they're done right, a collage is like a pizza, with delicious things to look at, spread out evenly around the place.

When they're done wrong, it's like when you were in college and took out whatever you could find in the fridge, chopped them up and stir-fried them together with leftover rice for your "Dormitory Special Fried Rice." 

The sum is not always greater than the parts.

How to edit vacation photosA day in your vacation at a glance.For a successful collage, keep it simple and stick to five or six photographs with varying compositions.

Juxtaposing a landscape image against a close-up image will give variety and different focal points. Think of it as the plain cheese parts of the pizza versus the salami slices dotted around it.

When cropping images, look for details that can be focused upon so the best parts of the image remain. 

Create a collage by opening the photos that you want to include in Photoshop.

Then create a new file in Photoshop and adjust the size of the canvas to 2000 x 2000 pixels. That's a nice size for sharing on the Internet.

Then it's a simple matter of dividing the 4 million pixels into equal parts and cropping your images to fit accordingly.

For example, if you want to fit five images in, then crop two images to 1,000 x 1,000 pixels and three images to 1,000 x 667. 

Underexposed: Get out of the gray

The weather might not cooperate, or the people in the photo might be back-lit. Either way, people's faces in your photos become underexposed and unclear.

How to edit vacation photosAfter editing, we can finally see the expression on the face of this classy Viennese coachman.Go into the Levels tool again. It is your best friend in this situation.

First, move the midtone tab towards the left to lighten up colors. Then click Save.

Now pull the shadow and the highlight tabs towards the center. This will increase the contrast, that is, make the darks darker and the lights lighter. Click Save again.

Saving in between each step will make it easier when you want to undo your changes.

Photo bombers: Delete that man

It's so easy to add and delete people and other stray objects from your photos that it's enough for anyone to believe in conspiracy theories about altered historical documents.

Here, we use the clone stamp tool that can be found in the tool bar. It's the icon that looks like a rubber stamp. 

The stamp tool basically copies one part of the image and pastes it over the area you want to mask.

After selecting the tool, hover the cursor over the area that you want to copy. In the image below, we want to use the sea to cover up the stray woman who wandered into our otherwise awesome group shot.

Press Option and then click on the sea next to the woman. Now hover over the woman and watch her magically disappear with every click.

How to edit vacation photosA lady wanders into our shot, but not to worry ...How to edit vacation photos... we know magic.

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