How to Turn a So-So Snapshot into a Stunning Photograph

It is said that a good photograph is made not taken. But sometimes due to time or other constraints, we just need to take the picture. And often times those hastily made snapshots just don’t have the pizazz we want. Luckily we are all shooting digital these days and have post-processing software to save the day regardless of the type or size of camera we are using.

Try these simple hacks on that so-so image to turn it instead into an oh-yah photo you want to keep and share.

Cropping picture of positive young family for share in social ne


Sometimes the problem is as simple as not having a fixed focal point in your shot due to hasty framing. Use a Rule of 3rds grid in your cropping frame to help place the most important elements on the intersecting lines to make your subject pop.

Cropping can also be helpful to remove unwanted distractions from the frame, straighten a slightly crooked horizon, or to “zoom” in on the subject matter, all of which can greatly help the average image.


The second most common error in hurried pictures is getting the exposure correct. Use your post processing software to increase, or decrease, the overall exposure levels. Have a look at the histogram if possible to help to make the correct adjustment.


Then look separately at the Highlights, Shadows and Midpoints in the image. Making minor tweaks up or down in select ranges can make dramatic improvements to the picture.

White Balance

Sometimes an image will appear with a tint - overly blue or orange - resulting from an incorrect White Balance setting. Try adjusting the White Balance using the Auto setting first. This will correct the problem 95% of the time. However, if you are not satisfied with the result, try choosing the correct light for your situation from the pull down menu – i.e. Daylight, Florescent, Shade, Clouds, etc. If you are still not happy with the results, try using the Kelvin scale slider (which controls temperature – think blue for cold and orange for hot) to achieve just the result you want.

Color pencils

Color Adjustments

If the problem is less an overall tint to the image, and more that one or two colors don’t look “right”, it’s time to look to the Hue-Saturation-Luminance color sliders in your post processing software of choice. These controls allow you to work on individual colors within the image.

Hue affects the “colorfulness” or tonal range within a color type. Think of the difference between light blue and royal blue. They fall on opposite ends of the Hue scale.

Saturation controls the intensity or saturation of a color in an image allowing you to boost or deemphasize specific colors in the picture.

Luminance controls how “bright” a color appears with high luminance having a washed out or white appearance and low luminance being dark and rich in tone.

Filter Effects

Whether you are using the photo software on your phone, or have uploaded your DSLR images onto your desktop, your post processing software comes with a variety of filter effects to choose from. Play around with the different filters to see how they can transform your image into true works of art.

So the next time you are disappointed with an image you took – try spending a few minutes using these tips to see if you can save them from going into the trash and instead make them Instagram worthy.

Photo credits: Soloway, Slavenko Vukasovic, Olga Zinatova.

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August 24, 2020


You are absolutely right! 

August 06, 2020


Good article Karen!  Thanks for sharing!

August 06, 2020


While fixing photos has never been my THING--either it works or I need to choose another--what I REALLY would like to understand is "fixing" video color balance.....  I know that this is off-topic for this post, but I was hoping to find some hints from this discussion....

August 04, 2020


Sorry Bruce, but I'm not sure I could ever go back to film! I spend a lot of time with the digital shots, not major changes, but subtle editing sometimes, like brightening the eyes. Other than nostalgia, I love being able to edit the shots in ways listed above, rather than go back to film. Great article Karen! 

August 02, 2020


These tips can all help, but I'm still mostly a slave to the old slide film habits where you only had one chance to get it right. 

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