Basic Photo Editing With PicMonkey

by Destri on March 19, 2012

I am on my way to Utah, so I have a fun guest to fill in for me today.  Kim from Mom Tried It has been a friend from day one that I started this blog.  It has been so fun to watch her (award winning) photography skills develop over the years, so when she offered to do a tutorial on editing photos with the new PicMonkey (made by the folks who started Picnik) I jumped on it!  You really do need to pop over and say hello, I just love Kim and her writing voice – she’s always keepin it real.  Be sure to check out her weekly link-up Photo Feedback for fun photo sharing and friendly critique.  I’ve left you in good hands!

Basic Photo Editing With PicMonkey

How many of you take pictures on your camera, load them on the computer, then upload them to print without editing? I am guessing quite a few. Don’t feel bad about it because I did it too before I got into photography. Let’s face it you have work, housework, kids, husband, pets, family, friends, “me time” (yeah right). You are lucky you get the photos off of your camera half the time, right?

Well you can give your photos that little umph without taking a chunk of time. Oh and you don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars buying Photoshop, either. There are plenty of free photo editing websites. Destri shared her experience with iPiccy, but let me introduce you to PicMonkey. Some members of Picnik decided to start this new site after it was announced that Picnik would be closing.  Catch me after the jump for all the details!

I want to take you through a VERY easy, simple, and fast way to edit your everyday photos using PicMonkey. This edit tutorial is going to be a very subtle way to edit that you could do to any photo. PicMonkey (and others) offer lots of neat effects that can turn your photos into fun pieces, but I am just doing this one for the photo album.

Here is my original photo of my daughter. Just an every day event playing with sidewalk chalk.

Now you go to and upload your photo. They do have Flash on their site and you cannot work it from your iPad, I checked. :( Once you see your photo you will see a menu on the left side of your screen.

As the photo shows, just work your way down from top to bottom. That is my writing, by the way. You won’t see that on their site. If you cannot see the options they read: Crop, Rotate, Exposure, Colors, Sharpen, and Resize.

I didn’t need to crop or rotate my photo, so I skipped those. But I did need to adjust my exposure. My daughter’s skin looks a tad flat and dreary.

It may be difficult to tell on these small screen shots, but her skin has a little extra glow. Not much because my photo was exposed pretty close in camera. This step, like all of the others with Picmonkey it is very easy to go through and extremely intuitive. They use slider bars to allow you to slide left and right to make the image brighter or darker. You stop where you like the results.

You can make the highlights brighter in your photo or turn down if it is too bright. You can also do this with the shadows, too. This entire step does need to be done carefully, though. If you make your highlights too bright they are considered “blown” and will not print well. If you are uncomfortable adjusting these levels by yourself, just use the Auto adjust button.

The next step is Colors. During this step you can adjust the saturation of color (increase or decrease), temperature (I’ll tell you about that in a second), and what they call the neutral picker.

  • Neutral picker is where you can select and area that is supposed to be white or gray that isn’t and make it white or gray. Great tool for removing color casts on shirts from being next to a red wall or under a blue umbrella.
  • Color Saturation lets you punch up the color (even to an extreme) or tone down a color. Perfect for photos of flowers, like tulips, when they are blinding bright with color. Pretty in real life, but doesn’t make for the best photos. You can slightly decrease the saturation to show the beautiful detail of the flower.
  • Color temperature allows you to make a photo warmer (more yellow-orangish tones) or cooler (more blue tones). Many indoor light bulbs give off a very warm tone so your photos will look different than outside photos. Fluorescent lights give off very cool tones, so your photos are different yet again. This allows you to compensate for these lighting situations.

I made my photo a teeny bit warmer (+6) and increased the saturation by +5. Once again, if you do not feel comfortable or cannot find the look you want, just use the Auto adjust button.

Sharpen is up next. This is honestly one of the biggest differences between a ho-hum shot and a wow shot (as far as editing goes). A nice sharp image jumps out at you. Too sharp and it looks funky. Once you go sliding that bar around it all starts to blend together, I swear. So I am going to give you a easy way to make every image sharp, use the “Unsharp mask” button. A window will pop up and just try these amounts to see how you like it:

  • Radius: around 4
  • Strength: 50%
  • Clarity: 5-7%

It isn’t perfect for every shot, but these are the equivalent of what I use for 90% of my portrait shots (my own and clients).

You have finished the Basic edit steps. Now for the more artistic and fun processes. Since this is just a regular shot I didn’t do any special effects on it such as black and white, sepia, HDR, infrared, and many other really cool ones. I just did the Dark edges process.

How to do this step is really a matter of taste. I like a very thin area that is done lightly, because I like the dark edges to push your eye into the photo, not focus on the dark edges. This specific photo has and edge size of 27, intensity of 17%, and a fade of 30% all on the color black. The color bar in the middle lets you make the dark edge any color you choose. That can be a lot of fun with the right photo.

The last step I did was under the Touch Up menu. I used their Blemish Fix to remove dirt and food specks on my daughter’s face. I also touched up her arm where a big blue vein is surfacing. Not a big deal, but while I was touching up the gunk on her face I thought I would do it.

Now that is the end of how I edited this photo, but PicMonkey will let you keep going. You can add text, shapes, word bubbles, emoticons, and frames to your photos.












Here is a direct comparison of my before and after images. Not a big difference, but enough to give it something without being too much.

Like I said, every photo and situation is different. You could take one and be so silly and go wild with fun editing. I think that is great. But I wanted to share with you the difference in “regular” photos that normally go unedited.

All of this is done with a FREE program, so have at it! Dive in and have fun and learn.

Do you edit your photos?

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