Photography can be a very daunting artistic medium. Luckily for enthusiasts there are some very simple ways to alter images with dramatic effect. For these effects we will be using Picasa, a free photo editor from Google. Our goal is to edit one photo to make three different versions for framing together.

Step 1: Choose a photo

The photo I chose was a very basic image taken of Chicago's west side from the roof of a building. No dramatic sightline or horizon, just a basic image during sunset. Nearly any sunset or sunrise photo will do. Our goal here is not to take a spectacular photo but to alter a basic image so it has more spectacular features.

Step 2: Download Picasa

This step doesn't really require any specific instructions. Simply visit the website and download the program for free.

Step 3: Editing

Image One

On the left side of the editing page there are three different tabs: Basic Fixes, Tuning and Effects. Click on 'Effects'. On the bottom right of this boox is a tool call 'Graduated Tint'. Click on this effect box. There is a 'feathering bar' at the top, do nothing with this bar, it's effects are often minimal. Click on the 'Pick Color' box and choose a color that compliments the colors in your picture. For my image I chose a red at the left of the color box so the clouds appear to take on that color from the sun. After finding the desired color to use click on 'Apply These Changes'. Now click on 'File' at the top left of the tool bar and save the image with an appropriate name: Image Version 1.

Image Version 1

Image Two

After saving hte image click "Undo Graduated Tint" in the editing box you have been working from (button is near the bottom). Now your image is back to its original state. Click on the middle tab in the editing box "Tuning". Move the "Fill Light" tuner all the way to the left. Move the "Highlights" tuner all the way to the right. Move the "Shadows" tuner almost all the way to the left but not quite, make sure it is about 1/4-1/2 inch from the far left. Finally, move the "Color Temperature" tuner all the way to the right. These edits will allow the sun in the image to appear brighter than actually possible and it will also brighten the suns rays shooting through any clouds int he image. Save the image as before, name it Image Version 2. After saving, click the "Undo Tuning" tab to return the photo to it's original state and continue editing.

Image Version 2

Image three

The last edit is the simplest. In the "Effects" tab click on "Saturation". Move the tuner all the way to the right. Save as 'Image Version 3'.

Image Version 3

Step 4: Framing

If preferred, add the original, unedited version to the collection of photos. Cutting your own mat for these pictures requires a mat cutter, mats and other specific tools. To keep it simple (and to make an affordable gift) purchase a frame with three (or 4 if you choose to use the original) picture areas. Place the pictures in any preferred order based on the images you created.


In just a short time you've used a free photo editing program to turn a simple sunset/sunrise image into something a bit more special. I encourage you to uses these editing and framing methods to give meaningful gifts or to hang on your own walls.