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7 Clever Tricks to Fix Ugly Photos

His Surprised FaceDon’t be embarrassed. It’s happened to all of us at one time or another. To both amateurs and professionals alike.

You’re at a friend’s wedding or kids’ birthday party and have your trusted camera in hand. You channel your inner paparazzi and slide in to capture the perfect moment. You snap the picture, instantly get caught up in the excitement of nabbing THE shot and happily drift away in your mind as you bask in the sunshine your new found photography prowess. You even pause a moment to soak up the accolades of your new virtual fan club.

Then ‘Wham!’ It hits you like five tons of bricks and knocks you back to reality. You stop and begin to tremble. Your thoughts retreat to the deep dark place nobody speaks of. No, not the Twilight Zone. The Ugly Photo Zone.

You know what I’m talking about. It’s the place where the majority of your photos end up. The shots that are out of focus, over-exposed, dimly lit, too close or too far away. And then there’s my personal favorite (of which I’m guilty of), the partial thumb covering the lens photo.

What is a loving photo taker to do?

Here’s some quick and simple tricks that can take your ugly photos and turn them into masterpieces. And you don’t have to be an expert Photoshop guru to do it.

1. Go Old School

Wedding Rings on Baby's ToesConverting a color photo into black and white is a quick and super easy fix.

Believe it or not, the mere removal of color from a photo can hide a myriad of imperfections.

The overall effect softens hard edges, evens out the light and dark areas and, to even my surprise, sometimes gives a photo an almost ethereal glow.

2. Filter In All The Goodness

Unhappy CatIn the land of “there’s an app for that”, photo filter apps are available on most (if not all) smartphone platforms.

The Instagram app has close to two dozen fantabulous color effects that can transform even the ugliest photos into beautiful works of art.

3. The Texturizing Two-Step

Adding another photo on top of your original one can give it a vintage look or even turn it a bit grungy. Either way, you’ve just turned drab into fab.

4. Get Your Crop On

Regular Looking GuyRegular Guy Cropped to SideDid you know that cutting off the top of someone’s head can help fix a photo? It’s done every single day in print ads, billboards, commercials and even motion pictures.

For an extra bonus effect, position (move) the subject to the extreme left or right. It’s called the rule of thirds.

5. Color Tint Your World

Use color to single out a particular element of a photo so your eyes are immediately drawn to that particular spot.

6. Let’s Play Sketch Up

Girl in Curlers SketchedSome photos just look better with a hand drawn effect. Some call it cartooning, others call it illustrating. In either case, it’s fun to see the results.

7. It’s All A Blur

A blurry photo is definitely a bummer, but in the case of an ugly photo, it can be used your advantage. If the focus area of your photo is slightly blurry, draw attention away from it by blurring the area around it. You’ll be surprised how your eyes automagically refocuses to the less-blurry sweet spot.

If you’re wondering how much it costs to buy the software to do all these fancy-smancy effects, I’ve got great news for you. It’s absolutely free! Head over to and start monkeying around with your own photos.

Now I’m sure there’s even more ways to de-uglify a photo and maybe you’ve stumbled across a gem or created one yourself. Share your tips and tricks in the comments so we can band together to rid the world of ugly photos.

Colleen Conger

Colleen Conger is owner and lead pixel alchemist (graphic designer & photo specialist) at Digital Photo and Design, LLC and web designer/developer at Think.Web.Go. She's a font freak and geeky tech girl. Connect with her personally on Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+. You can also follow Digital Photo and Design on Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, YouTube and Dribbble.