First picture, not bad, but it could be lots better:
Second picture, edited with Photoshop Elements 7.
Using the Burn tool, color/ lighting correction using levels, the Blur tool, the Healing Brush tool, the Details setting on the Smart Brush Tool, I was able to create a nicely polished picture with a professional look (I think those are all my steps :). The only problem is that on our family's computer (which I am using now) it looks a bit too yellow-green. On my laptop it looks a bit different. But otherwise, I am pleased with the overall effect. What do you think?
If you love photography and want to make your photos look better, or want to start designing, get Photoshop Elements (version 7 or 8 will do just fine). It's typically around (if I remember correctly) $80, and worth the money if you know how to use it. Photoshop is definately for the serious user, as there is SO much on the program and it takes SO long to find out what it all is. Of course, this program is quite a bit more money, but I know I surely want to get it! Elements is simpler to use and easier to edit photos with, as Adobe provides some quick tools for fast editing. I have LOVED it and it has helped me grow my talents in this area.
By the way, how do you like my new blog design? The buttons, banners, and photos were all created and edited in Elements this past Wednesday. This is what I originally envisioned for my blog (I designed this on Elements Wednesday night too):
I like how my blog is now different, and not a generic looking spot in the blogging world. I like the elegance of the colors and fonts. GRAPHIC DESIGNING IS AWESOME! :)