Beginner’s tips to improve your photos

Do you want to improve your photos by quite a bit, without getting a degree in art or photography?  Make them stand out, and really shine?  Improve the contrast and crop it properly!  It’s simple to do, and I’ll show you how.

(My instructions are for the free art program GIMP, but the process is the same for any photo editing program.)

It’s pretty simple.  First, open your photo in GIMP or your favorite photo editing software.  For folks who are new to this, that usually means right clicking on the picture file and selecting “open with” then picking what you want to open in.

So, now you have your photo open.  Maybe it looks like this.example 1

Not a bad picture, really, but maybe you want to see the lioness better.  So draw a box around the area you want to keep with your selection tool (usually looks like a rectangle in the toolbar) and then use “Crop to Selection.”  In GIMP, that can be found under “Image,” up in the menu.  You’ll get something like this:

example 2

Better, but it could look even better than that!  So try this:  in GIMP, in the menu at the top, go to “Colors” then “auto” then “white balance.”  You’ll get something like this:

example 3

If you don’t like how that turned out, you can go to “Colors” then “Brightness and Contrast” and move the sliders around till you get something you like, like this:

example 4

Sometimes you can preserve the colors better by using the “Brightness and Contrast” tool rather than the automatic white balance, it depends on the photo.  If you are not using GIMP, but instead another program, there will be similar options but they may be called something different.

In any case, there’s a lot you can do to improve an image with very little effort!




The suspense is over

In case anyone was on tenterhooks about this, I actually decided to celebrate the winter holiday this year.  We made a pretty neat tree with more lights than I thought possible to put on one, topped off with a stuffed penguin.  There are gloomy days right now, even here in sunny Arizona and the lights are a welcome touch of brightness.  Though it’s difficult to see, I have small folded paper cranes among the branches as ornaments.  It’s a great reminder of light, life, and good cheer!

Along with the annual holiday story that I do with my family, I’ve also updated the anthology that we published last year.  Yuletide Lights now has sixteen stories and a fresh new look.  It’s available in eBook and paperback formats.  Personally, I recommend the paperback format, as it’s a nice weighty little volume, but the eBook version still has all the pen and ink illustrations so you won’t be missing out on anything.

The stories, as the subtitle suggests, are all heartwarming tales of home and family, both in farm and city, and sometimes with a dash of humor sprinkled in.   These aren’t stories of big, extravagant Christmasses – but rather ones where a few boughs of freshly picked holly and maybe a store-bought box of cordial cherries make or break the day.  There are little girls who dream of ponies and find out what having a real one is like, hard working moms, old houses, shabby towns and always plenty of love.  I hope you’ll decide to check it out, even if it’s just to read the sample excerpt on Amazon.



Yuletide Lights Cover 2nd edition ebook 800.png

It’s pushing me into premature old age…

This is a cautionary tale for my fellow bloggers.

I had thought my art site,, was fairly safe.  I had set up a couple of passwords that did the whole numbers, letters and symbols thing.  I guess my FTP password, which I didn’t think of much because I don’t really use FTP, was too easy to guess.

This opened the site up to scammers!

It started with the multiple spam comments a day.  After I locked that down by requiring sign up for commenters, I still got a few.  Then the spam through my contact form started.  Then I found a couple of blog posts that I hadn’t written.  I changed my passwords and deleted the content, figuring that would be the end of it.  It wasn’t.  Then a couple of users I hadn’t added showed up.  I deleted them, changed the password again…

Then someone built a phishing page that was harassing hotels in Germany, using the hosting I was paying for.  Then they took over my email and started using that to spam people, and locked me out…

So I contacted my hosting company to see what I could do.

It turns out that FTP password, which I rarely even thought of, was the weak link.  It had been too easy to guess and had given scammers access.

So my entire site had to be deleted and now I have to start from scratch.  I’m waiting a bit to see if anyone is putting any other files on my site or database, before rebuilding the site.  As many gray hairs as this has given me, I’ve learned a lot.  So here are some things you can do to prevent the same thing from happening.

Keep an inventory of all your passwords and make sure they are ALL hard to guess.  You may want to keep a little book, hidden or locked up somewhere, as a master list that is not accessible online.  That way you can change things on a regular basis and not forget anything.  I have done this.  I know people say never write down your password, but honestly that’s probably the safest way to keep it – just don’t leave it where people can find it.

Watch for spam comments, new files you didn’t upload, and new users on your site.

If you pay for hosting outside WordPress, know how to get into your database and your files list so you can check for new things you didn’t add.

Watch for blog posts you didn’t write.  They may be hidden in the middle of the list.

Get two factor authentication if you can.

Keep your blog updated with any security updates or patches.

Run an antivirus (I recommend Spybot S&D) or use a Linux machine.  That way, you aren’t as likely to be hit by keyloggers that will save your password.

If you have a security issue, go to your hosting service – a lot of times they can be helpful.

Back up your site in some way.  That way you don’t have to start from scratch in case you have to redo it – like I did.  I have my blog entries for my art site saved on Goodreads so I know basically what I had.

Stay vigilant!  If something looks odd, investigate.

Keep blogging!  Sites with few or infrequent updates are prime targets for scammers and hackers because they know they aren’t watched as well.

May the Source be with you.


via Daily Prompt: Age