We may not all be born photographers, but digital cameras certainly make life easier. Even if you haven’t captured quite the shot you envisaged, photo-editing software can almost always come to the rescue.
Here, I run through a few of the photographs I’ve digitally enhanced for GiteWise clients. In all cases, the originals are on the left.
Remember, images look different on different screens and devices
The way these images look on your screen will be different from how they look on mine and just about everybody else’s. The differences may be slight, but they can be quite pronounced.
When I’m creating or editing a website, I generally work on two screens at a time. One is an Apple Mac screen, the other a Samsung. I’ll often check photographs on both screens, because there’s a noticeable change in colour cast, density, contrast and brightness.
It’s easy to forget this and think that everyone sees the photographs on your website the same way you do. But you only have to stroll through the TV section of your local Currys or Carrefour to see this point brought home.
That said, if a photograph looks flat or dark on your screen, it probably looks that way on mine too. Both of them.
Intensifying colour saturation and brightness
One of the most common adjustments I make is to bump up the colour saturation and brightness. Most photo-editing apps make this relatively easy to do with an auto-enhance setting. But this doesn’t always give us the result we want, so it’s best to check. You may need to do it manually.
This kind of adjustment isn’t essential but it can add life to your photos. Take the example of the beach huts at the top of the page. Although the original photograph looked ok as it was, overall it seemed a bit flat. But wave the digital magic wand and the colours are richer and more vibrant.
The same applies in the shot below. If you’re thinking that’s an unusual-looking gite, you’re right! It’s a villa in Florida from another of my client sites, but it’s an excellent example of the added zing of digital tweaking.
Bringing up the brightness and exposure can really lift a dull image. You’ll lose some detail, but as long as you’re careful not to go too far, it’s a fair pay-off. Likewise be careful not to overdo the colour saturation. You don’t want your pictures to look garish and unnatural.
Sometimes the difference is more subtle. With interior shots taken on a bright sunny day, you’ll often have a strong external light source, which can lead to high contrast. Turning on the room lights can create a nice effect, but this may exacerbate the contrast challenges. Again, a bit of gentle digital adjustment can compensate for this and give natural wood a warmer hue.
Making the best of what you’ve got
How often have you taken a picture and then wished afterwards you’d framed it differently or moved something out of sight? Well, with sophisticated photo-retouching now accessible to us all, such faux pas are no longer a big deal.
Your first option is to simply crop your picture differently. It’s surprising how effective this can be. Usually, it’s best to preserve the original picture ratio so it matches the others you’ve taken. Some photo-editing apps make this extra-easy with a keep-original-aspect setting.
The unusual-looking exterior wall in the picture below is in fact a bread oven, the inside of which can be seen from the property’s living room. As a distinctive feature of this converted boulangerie, my client wanted to highlight this visually on the home page.
The shot I had to work with was taken in brilliant sunshine and this had washed out a lot of the colour. On top of this, the stack of patio chairs in the foreground detracted from the focal point of the brickwork and the attractive flower border.
Some judicial cropping and tweaking of colour, brightness, contrast and exposure and we have a much more coverworthy shot.
Straightening up wonky images
Another common problem is a picture that isn’t straight. Sometimes you can get away with it, but room interiors tend to make this quite obvious, especially wide-angle shots that distort the verticals anyway.
Here, it’s important to tread carefully, as straightening an image will cause a loss of clarity, and the more you rotate the image, the more pronounced this becomes. So you really need to weigh up the improvement against the reduction in sharpness.
Ocean horizons will highlight any instance you failed to keep the camera on the level. But again, bit of digital wizardry can put things straight.
Of course, the best solution is to take your pictures straight in the first place. If you find you have a tendency to take skew-wiff photographs, you’ll need get in the habit of checking your horizontals before you click the shutter.
Turning a portrait photograph into a landscape photograph
Occasionally you may decide to take a photograph in portrait format only to realise later that what you really need for your website is one in landscape format. For this reason, even if you instinctively opt for taking a portrait shot, it’s worth having a landscape version in the bag too.
If all you have is the landscape shot, you may be surprised at how little you actually lose by cropping the photo to portrait dimensions. You’ll invariably tighten the composition and create a greater sense of connection with the subject. Try it and see.
Don’t rule out portrait format photos altogether
I’m not suggesting you never take portrait room shots, but it’s important to think of your photos in the context of your website. One notable exception is when you have a high-quality image you want to show as large as possible for effect. Another is when you want convey a sense of height or show off a feature of décor.
Other times, you may have space restrictions and have no choice but to shoot from the doorway or just outside the room, looking in. A shower room or ensuite bathroom may have to be photographed this way.
If so, rather than display these pics at the same width as your landscape photos, it’s usually better to use the height dimension instead. Then you can either centre the image or pair it with another.
Don’t pair photos for the sake of it or show two almost identical images. Make sure when you take your photos you try a variety of viewpoints and include the odd close-up or detail shot. It might just come in handy.