Nov 232010
For as long as I remember I have loved taking photographs, and when digital photography arrived I was excited, because it meant I could do so much more with my love for photography. Not only does digital photography decrease waste, it also increases the chances for getting the right shot, and it creates endless opportunities for being creative with your love for photography. 
1.Organization is key! I have four years of photographs stored on my external hard drive, and I take thousands of photos each month. It would be absolutely impossible to find a photo I needed, if i did not have a system. Fortunately I set up a system four years ago, when I got my first high-quality point-and-shoot camera. My system is simple, but it works, and I can easily go back and find a photo I need. 
I divide my photos into year, month and then Folder 1, 2, 3 within each month with a description of specific events. I never let a folder include too many events, as I need to be able to find the photos I need easily and fast. This system has worked perfectly for the past four years, and I am so happy that I started out with this system to begin with. I also have a separate folder for videos.
2. Get the shot right – The significance of composition! Photo editing has come a long way, and it is amazing how much you can do with a photo. However, getting the photo right to begin with makes everything a lot easier, and it creates a much more powerful end result even with photo editing. The most simple way to get a great shot, is by getting the composition right, playing around with it, and changing the composition up a bit. Have you ever heard of the Rule of Thirds? If not, please read on. 
Rule of Thirds –
The Rule of Thirds, is one of the most basic rules of Photography. If you are lucky, your camera will help you out, by having the Rule of Thirds points line up for you in your viewfinder. The Rule of Thirds divides an image up into nine squares, and the four points where the lines intersect are the strongest focal points. The lines by themselves are the second strongest focal points.
Use the Rule of Thirds to create symmetry in your photos, to create excitement and give focus to certain parts of the scene that you want highlighted. Next time you take photos, try to play with the focus points a bit using the Rule of Thirds and you will notice the difference.

3. When it comes to editing, a little editing usually goes a long way. It is amazing how much difference it can mean to a photograph, if you adjust the lighting just a little bit with a photo editing software. Editing programs create endless possibilities, but they can often be overwhelming. Start with a few basics, such as sepia, changing the lighting or go black and white. If you want to go a little further, play around with the saturation and temperature in the color setting.
Old Windmill in Sepia

The photo to above (to the left) is taken at our downtown (South Florida), and it was a very uninspiring sight. My oldest son looked down the alley way, and said that it looked just like India. I was not convinced, but once I went home and changed the photo into sepia it all made sense to me.

The photo to your right is a photo in a different sepia nuance, which called for the sepia effect. It is a photo of a windmill that I took, while visiting family in Europe.

Iguana in the Florida Keys
4. Use the auto settings in your photo program. I recently switched from a digital point-and-shoot camera to a used digital SLR camera, and it feels as if I am learning photography all over again. I have taken my knowledge of composition and lighting with me, and it is a big help, but I am still far from getting the results that I want with my original images. Because of this, I have been using photo editing a lot more to lighten my photos a bit, and it really makes a huge difference. I have also been playing around with the auto settings in my photo programs, and it really makes a big difference. See the image of the Iguana above. I used a boost program, that made the colors come alive, and what a change it made.
5. Add a frame! One of the most basic things that you can do by using a a photo editing program, is adding a frame. However, while it might be simple, the impact is enormous. This photo of the iguana in the Florida Keys (above) was a bit flat, but the end result turned out to be an eye catcher, and the added frame really made it stand out. 
The photo to the right is of an alligator in the Florida Keys, It was hard to see it between the swamp grass, but I changed the saturation and the temperature, and all of a sudden the alligator was visible and powerful. 
I added the frame, and all of a sudden the photo was perfect and ready to be hung on the wall.

Bonus Tip: Storage is essential. My computer used to be very slow and crash on me, because of all the photos I had stored. Then I got an external hard drive for my birthday three years ago, and while I did not think so at the time, it was the absolute perfect gift for me. My digital hard drive has been used almost every day for three years, and it currently includes 141 GB of photos and four novels. If the computer crashes, or if I get a virus on the computer, which has happened a few times in the past three years, my photos are safe. I also love that I can easily switch computers, when working with my photos, as I have different computer programs on the desktop than on my laptop.

Learning how to take great photographs can be as simple as learning the Rule of Thirds, but if you have a great photo editing program behind you the possibilities are endless, and you can create art pieces out of your photography. I can spend hours playing around with my photographs, and they make perfect frugal art for my home. Start thinking about your composition, and soon you will stop in your tracks, when you see a great scenery that you could play around with. I carry a camera with me almost anywhere, and my kids have their own, so that they too can play around with their images and help me be inspired.
About Adobe Photoshop Elements:
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Disclaimer: I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and Adobe blogging program, making me eligible to receive a $50 gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here
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