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6 Quick Ways To Salvage A Bad Photo

June 23, 2016 Stephanie Fisher

You've got a photo you want to use for your website, but there's something missing—it's close, but it's not quite perfect. How can you make a bad photo better? Is it possible?

Don't fret! We've come to the rescue with some helpful hints that can turn your meh photo into magic

1. Content-Aware Patch and Move 

This is a very helpful tool found in Photoshop. It's used for the removal of unwanted image elements. But, rather than leaving a gaping hole in the image, the program easily recreates the appearance of nearby content to make sure that you're able to blend it seamlessly, making it look like nothing was ever there. It's a simple tool, and there are tutorials available that can walk you step-by-step through the process. 

In this before and after below, you can see how this tool gives us the ability to move and patch. Now, this adorable photo of owls is not bad to begin with, but it shows how you can take something out of an image and move it around, patching the hole left behind.



2. Crop It

Sometimes a bad photo just needs to be cropped. If you remove distracting element in the background or edges of the image, you can give a photo a whole new look.

There are tons of software options available for cropping.

  • Photoshop - Is considered an excellent option and is probably the most recognizable. Thinking it might cost you an arm and a leg? Wrong. They have pricing plans for as low as $9.99/month.
  • Pixlr - This free service gives you a tool kit similar to Photoshop.
  • PicMonkey - This is another free service that will give the toolkit you need to effectively crop images.
  • Preview - If you're using a Mac, just pop open Preview and you can make minor photo adjustments.
  • HubSpot - It even has a photo editor built in, so when I upload a photo for my blog or webpage I can crop it right then. Your CMS might have something similar.
For an in depth tutorial, check this post to get helpful tips for resizing and cropping photos.

The example photo below is, let's say, the only photo I can find of our team. It's OK, but it's not great. There are a few distracting elements (besides my face on a big TV screen). You have the lights and ceiling tiles, the open office door with windows and a yoga ball in the background, the Star Wars poster (arguably a good distraction) along with people's feet and the carpet. I want the focus to be on the people at the table, so I can simply crop the photo. I use Preview on my Mac, but you can use any of the tools listed above.

After cropping, the focus is now on faces and expressions. This photo says, "Hey, this team is collaborating." And there isn't anything distracting you from that. Easy fix. 

Thanks, crop tool!

3. Black and White

If your photo has clashing colors and patterns, and feels really busy, converting it to black and white (or grayscale) works. It makes the subject stand out in stark contrast when you eliminate the distracting colors. Simply use your favorite editing software to convert your photo, and enjoy the results. We've got a quick tutorial for Mac users here. This photo illustrates how b&w can make a set of casual photos taken with an iPhone a bit more interesting (and it also uses tip #5, photo collage!).

4. Filter

Yes, filters are overdone and a little cliche, but hear me out. A subtle, tasteful filter can help boost a dull photo. I like the Facebook photo editing tools (especially the Summer filter) to help adjust contrast levels and enhance the color. And, of course, Instagram has really obvious, harsh filters to avoid, so go for the subtle filters that don't bump up the contrast to insane levels.

5. Photo Collage

What do you get when you take 4 average, just OK photos and put them together? A photo collage! These four photos might not be the most amazing images on their own, but putting them together helps make the whole piece more interesting. I used Canva to make this one below, but you can use a number of photo apps on your phone just as easily.

6. Sharpen the Photo

This is particularly helpful when your photo is a very detailed image. If there's any level of blurriness, it can diminish the quality of the photo. However, sharpening must be done judiciously; while you want your photo to look crisper, you don't want it to look unnatural. It's better to remember that less is more.

In this example, I thought Allison's face looked a little blurry, so I used the Sharpen tool in Photoshop. Just the basic, Filter>Sharpen>Sharpen did the trick.


Okay, you've applied all of our tips, and the image STILL doesn't look the way you want it to look. If all else fails, you might have to simply go back to the drawing board and take a new photo. Don't be intimidated. You don't need an expensive camera to take a good photo that is suitable for your website, blog or social media. You can do it!

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Stephanie Fisher

Stephanie Fisher

Steph leads our client delivery team and is obsessed with delivering quality work, creating an efficiency machine, and mastering the tools and disciplines to achieve success for our heroes. At home, she loves listening to true crime podcasts, playing with her daughters and two pugs, and singing in a local rock band with her husband.

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