It happens to all photographers. You spend a few hours in the ideal place happily snapping away trying to accurately capture everything around you and when you get home and transfer the images on to the computer they look un-interesting, boring and pretty average. All the images you thought were going to be fantastic turn out to be mediocre at best. However, all may not be lost and you may well be able to transform the photographs using some photo editing software.

Some photo editing software is very complex and takes months of experimentation and playing around with to be able to use it properly. These programs, such as Photoshop, are very powerful and have a whole range of advanced features however these are not needed for many amateur photographers and a few basic adjustments are all that is needed. Levels adjustment, the ability to sharpen and cropping are all that are needed.

Most software editing programs can adjust the levels automatically, automatically sharpen and have a cropping wizard which means they are quick to learn and very simple to do effectively. So it is a win-win situation and by using a few basic auto features you may be able to turn a dull, boring and uninteresting one in to something fantastic.

i) Levels adjustment

If the colours and tones look slightly different to what you remember this is generally fixed using auto levels. Applying auto levels requires little more than checking the “auto levels” box and waiting for the program to do its thing. More often than not this adjustment will enhance the photograph, however there are times when it will make it too dark or too light so always bear this in mind.

If you are not happy with the levels the adjustment can be reversed and you can then adjust the levels manually. Manually adjusting the levels requires understanding of levels and how they work, therefore a bit of research and experimentation is often needed.

ii) Auto sharpen

After adjusting the levels it the next thing to do is to auto sharpen to make things clearer. All digital images require sharpening to some extent, with RAW files often needing more than Jpeg files. Making the image sharper involves no more than checking the “auto-sharpen” box and letting the program do its thing.

iii) Cropping

With the levels and sharpening sorted the next thing to do is to look at cropping the image creatively. Look for areas that are interesting, in focus and are attractive. Engage the cropping tool and move it around the screen. Make the cropping box larger, make it smaller and rotate it until you have found an area that will make an interesting photograph. Once you are happy with the image inside the cropping frame press the “OK” button and there we have it.

Cropping is one of the most underrated features. It is a very powerful tool and you really can make an amazing photo out of something that is quite dull and boring by cropping in the right place. For example, I took a picture of a captive monkey sitting on a playing frame. I wanted the monkey sharp so focused on the eyes. The background was dull, boring and clearly showed the monkey in captivity. I was disappointed with the image as it stood, however I cropped the image so the monkey’s face (not its head in its entirety) took up the whole of the photograph. I was amazed at the result, the eyes were big, bright and had a catch light, you could see every wrinkle on its face and it was so detailed. The close up photo was awesome whereas the whole image was un-inspiring and almost binned.

Improving your digital images really can be this simple so, before you bin those digital images, adjust the levels, sharpen, set a cropping frame and then move it around the image and look for an interesting and inspiring photograph.