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How To Turn Amateur Photos Into Stunning Wallpapers

Tina Sieber 17-09-2013

Don’t you just love to take photos of picturesque scenery when you travel? I do. In the past, I have shared my favorite shots via Flickr and Facebook, used them as screensavers, and turned them into magnets. Although I have been playing around quite a bit with wallpapers 8 Tumblr Blogs To Download Stunning Wallpaper Images Are you big fans of Tumblr? Here at MakeUseOf, we certainly are. The blogging platform brings together the idea of blogging together with social networking and has become home to some of the most creative,... Read More , for some reason I have never used my own photos as desktop backgrounds.


Not only can it provide immense satisfaction to enjoy your own work, beautiful individual wallpapers also make for a great gift. So let those creative juices flow and craft your first batch of stunning home-made wallpapers. The process I propose here is straightforward and easy!

1: Taking Photos With The End In Mind

The Motif – Before you venture out to shoot that perfect photo, look at your past wallpapers and find out what you like most about them. Is it the motif, do you like scenic shots, are there people in them, do you have a preference for particular colors, are the images sharp or tastefully blurred, what else stands out for you? When I looked at my old wallpaper collection, the theme was obvious: nature and colors Get Inspired: 10 Amazing Nature Photographers To Follow On Instagram With 130 million users and counting, the world has never seen such a tsunami of photography aficionados. Is it possible to draw out ten amazing nature photographers who are snapping the beautiful world around us... Read More ! Apparently, I’m not a big fan of black & white images.

Wallpaper Collection

Turns out that theme is already reflected in my photography and you’ll probably discover the same. Nevertheless, it’s good to be mindful about those things before you continue shooting photos.

Photo Selection


The Format – Next, you should gain clarity about how you are going to use those photos and what will make editing easier for you. Do you want to fill a dual or triple monitor setup 3 Free & Awesome Tools To Optimize Your Dual Monitor Setup [Windows] As some of my more loyal readers may know, I’ve been using a dual-monitor setup for years. Over time, I tried dozens of different tools, both free and commercial, for making the best use of... Read More with a seamless wallpaper or do you just have a low resolution laptop that needs some sprucing up? For full flexibility, you should set the highest resolution possible on your camera. Going with just the right resolution (e.g. 800 x 600 pixels), however, will save space on your memory card and you won’t have to crop the image. But keep in mind that you might regret choosing a low resolution later! If you’re new to photography, Tim Brookes explained why you should shoot raw Budding Photographer? Here's Why You Should Be Shooting Raw Every dSLR, prosumer and even some high-end compact cameras have the ability to save raw image files. This isn't just a higher quality of image, it's a gift from the photography gods. Read More .

The Shooting – When you start taking pictures, keep your goals and limitations in mind. If you went with the maximum resolution, remember that you will have to crop the image. If you set your camera to take photos at a perfectly matching resolution, note that you will need to use the entire image, so shoot the perfect frame. For a dual monitor wallpaper 15 Awesome Dual-Monitor Wallpapers You Should See Read More , use your camera’s panorama feature or manually prepare a panorama image that you can stitch together 5 Dead-Easy Ways to Create Your Own Panoramic Photos Read More and crop to the perfect size later.

Last but not least, it might be a good idea to review general photography tips 7 Key Photography Tips for Absolute Beginners These photography tips will help you take better photos, whether you're a beginner or have some practice already. Read More , read our beginner’s guide to digital photography A Beginner's Guide To Digital Photography Digital photography is a great hobby, but it can be intimidating, too. This beginner's guide will tell you everything you need to know to get started! Read More , and learn about HDRI photography HDRI Photography: An Essential Skills And Workflow Primer This guide outlines concepts involved in HDR photography followed by a logical progression of steps in the production of high dynamic range images. Read More . Some basic knowledge about technique and technology will greatly improve your shots and end result.

2: Cropping To The Perfect Size

Once you’re back home, browse your photos and pick your favorites. As I mentioned in a previous article on wallpapers, the perfect wallpaper The 5 Best Tips to Improve Your Desktop Wallpaper Read More has to meet two criteria:

  1. its resolution must be equal or greater than your screen’s resolution, and;
  2. it must match your screen’s aspect ratio.

Ideally, you should crop your photo to the exact resolution of your screen. If your screen has a higher resolution than what is supported by your camera, for example when using a smartphone camera, you can mend several photos to build the right size.

For basic editing, stitching, and cropping, I use IrfanView, one of our Best Windows Apps The Best PC Software for Your Windows Computer Want the best PC software for your Windows computer? Our massive list collects the best and safest programs for all needs. Read More . I have a FullHD display (1920 x 1080 pixels) and take photos with a maximum resolution of 4320 x 3240 pixels, so after resizing the photo to fit the width of my screen, I still have to lose at least 360 pixels from the top and/or bottom. If you have room to spare and only like a specific frame in your photo, you can also start by roughly cropping that frame, and then start re-sizing and cropping again according to your screen’s aspect ratio. For example in the image below, I just wanted the sailboat and the three people.

Cropping A Photo

3: Editing To Perfection

Cropping is straightforward. The tricky part is optimizing the photo and adding effects. The good news is, you don’t need Photoshop Who Needs Photoshop? Amazing Image Editing Feats You Can Do With MS Word If you don't want to face the steep learning curve of Adobe Photoshop but you still want to conjure up some imaging magic, you need to look elsewhere. Have you considered using Microsoft Word? Read More to edit your photos Photoshop Is Overkill: Edit Your Images With These Free Chrome Apps And Extensions Although Photoshop is a great program, it has its drawbacks. Photoshop is not only very expensive, it also has too many controls for what you probably need. There are a lot of editors you could... Read More to perfection! We have covered many great tools to edit images and add effects 10 Sites To Add Amazing Effects To Your Photos In years gone by, you had to be a skilled Photoshop user if you wanted to add amazing effects to your photographs. Not anymore, just check out these 10 great web apps. Read More which of course Photoshop Adobe Photoshop Keyboard Shortcuts 101 Whether you're a beginner or a pro, these Adobe Photoshop keyboard shortcuts will save you hours of time. Read More is top among them. On the other hand, you will probably spend a lot of time tweaking settings and deciding which effects you like best.


A great tool – if you don’t want to download anything – is Pixlr. The web app offers three different modes: advanced, efficient, and playful. I didn’t want to be bothered with too many options, so I used the playful Pixlr-o-matic mode to turn the somewhat dull picture of a Squirrel into an interesting shot.

Squirrel Before After

To start, upload your photo. Pixlr-o-matic has only three automatic editing steps: (1) choose an effect, (2) add an overlay, (3) frame it. You can add even more effects, overlays, and frames via the film icon. Moreover, you can auto-crop to a 1:1 ratio or randomize effects by clicking the crossed arrows button. When you’re done, click the save button.

Pixlr Controls


Pixlr-o-matic is also available for iOS [No Longer Available] and Android. Nancy previously reviewed Pixlr Express of iOS and MOin profiled the Pixlr mobile app Pixlr Express: A Versatile Image Editing Application For Your Smartphone Read More .

What Is Going To Be Your Wallpaper?

Can’t decide which wallpaper to choose? You don’t have to! Use the default Windows desktop background switcher or a third party wallpaper changer Spice Up Your Desktop With These 3 Excellent Wallpaper Changers [Windows] A beautiful desktop is a matter of aesthetics. Some people care, others don't. If you are the kind who appreciates clean and organized spaces, then I'm sure your desktop isn't cluttered with icons. While a... Read More to rotate between multiple images.

What tips do you have for taking photos that make great desktop backgrounds? How do you turn your photos into wallpapers? I would love to hear your ideas!

Related topics: Photography, Wallpaper.

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