The Most Useful Purchase I've Made for Blogging

We all make tons of purchases each year (myself especially!), but how many of those purchases actually turn out to be really useful? I got to thinking about this when The Well wrote a post posing this question: “What did you purchase in the past year that became invaluable to you?” It was interesting to ponder. Everything I buy serves one purpose or another – a book for entertainment, a kitchen gadget that makes things a little easier, some new decor item for my apartment that just makes me happy to look at…but none of those things quite fulfilled this specification put forth by The Well: something that you buy and then think, “how did I live without that item?” Using that criterion, (especially as it pertains to blogging) the first thing that popped into my head was….

Adobe Photoshop!

I hesitated to buy Photoshop for a long time. I knew it could be useful for blogging, and I vaguely wanted it (especially once I took up photography), but I waffled due to the price and fears that it would be extremely complicated to learn and use. For the first years of blogging I got by using free services like Picasa, Picmonkey, and Polyvore for collages and photo editing, and that was perfectly fine for a time. When I decided I wanted to try some graphic design elements on the blog, including new layouts, more complex collages, and different fonts, I did a bit of research online and decided to go with Photoshop Elements. It worked well for me for a while, but eventually I wanted to do even more, and so I tried a free 30-day trial of Photoshop. By the time my trial was up, I’d become so used to using Photoshop and basically so dependent on it that I could hardly remember how I’d gotten by without it! So, I’m now a Photoshop devotee.

Everyone is different, but I definitely think Photoshop is incredibly useful and worth it for a blogger or amateur photographer. I used to post my photos without editing them, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, I discovered that when I started making small tweaks in Photoshop, the difference was pretty amazing. You think your straight-out-of-the-camera photo looks fine, and it does…but when you see the difference that some very light editing can make in Photoshop, you kind of go, wow….now it really looks good! Here’s an example of the subtle changes and improvements that you can make just by pressing a few buttons in Photoshop (I adjusted the levels, color, and brightness a bit):

Pretty cool, right? The first photo is okay (and the best I could get with the sometimes not-ideal lighting in my apartment), but see how much sunnier and brighter the second image feels? And with more expertise in Photoshop, which I hope to gain, I’m sure it could be improved further. Now I look back on some photos I’ve posted pre-Photoshop and cringe a bit!

I also think having Photoshop has really encouraged my creativity when it comes to blog posts. When I’m writing a post about products that I like or a cute thing I’ve found, I now try to create a fun or interesting layout in Photoshop rather than just posting a picture of the item with text underneath. I think this helps to make an entry more interesting, dynamic, and fun to read, and it helps me to put my own unique spin and stamp on the post. It’s not like I’ll never do a simple post again with just a picture of something I like and text underneath, but it’s fun to mix it up and try something different! One of my favorite layouts I’ve created so far is in this post – it’s simple, but fun. Having Photoshop encourages me to experiment with graphic design, fonts, and other things that I previously had no experience with. I still have a long, long, way to go in these arenas, and graphic design is not a skill that comes naturally to me, but it’s an area in which I would love to improve.

Another thing that’s good about Photoshop is the simple fact that having even a working knowledge of the program is a great line to have on your “resume.” It’s become a skill that employers and other organizations look for, so this is definitely a case where no knowledge is ever wasted. You never know when Photoshop skills might come in handy in the future!

Photoshop is a program capable of allowing you to do incredibly complex things, but you can also opt to keep things pretty simple. Don’t be discouraged by how complex Photoshop can be! When I first got it I had no idea how to do ANYTHING, even open a document – the program was completely foreign to me. I taught myself everything I know by watching Youtube videos and hitting up my friend Alexis for help, as well as taking a half hour long Skillshare class online, which was helpful. Anytime I wanted to do something and didn’t know how to (like draw an arrow or some other seemingly simple task that proved impossible to figure out), I would simply Google around and experiment (sometimes for ridiculously long amounts of time), until I managed to figure it out and execute. I cannot tell you 1. how much of a time suck that was, but also 2. how insanely satisfying it is to have no idea how to do something, to search for the answer, and finally pull it off after MUCH trial and error. Such a sense of accomplishment. It sounds ridiculous, but that’s how it feels. Believe me, if I can manage to learn the basics, you can too!

My next goal is to learn more about actions in Photoshop or possibly branch out into using some VSCO presets once I save up some money. There’s still SO much I want to learn – in fact, if anyone knows of any great resources for learning Photoshop and improving one’s skills, I’m all ears!

This post is a link-up, which means that a bunch of other great bloggers are answering The Well’s question too – and the answers don’t have to pertain to blogging. I’m definitely curious to see what everyone has to say about what purchase has been invaluable to them, whether for life or for blogging!
Check them out:

photos by me

19 comments

  1. Ryan| A Polished Palate says: January 21, 2015

    Great post! I find myself debating on whether or not to purchase Photoshop. I am new to the blogging world and have been getting by with some of the free services you mentioned. It sounds like you are really enjoying it and have learned a lot….maybe I will try out the 30 day trial and see what happens. 🙂

    -Ryan| A Polished Palate

    1. Jackie {York Avenue} says: January 22, 2015

      I definitely recommend it! A lot of people seem to love Lightroom as well, so that might be worth a try too.

  2. Erica says: January 21, 2015

    I loved reading your post! I purchased Photoshop Elements and it's been okay. It is probably all I need for right now, but I find it can be incredibly frustrating at times. Simple things, like adding an arrow, can seem complex. I've definitely spent hours upon hours googling and experimenting. Glad to know I'm not alone! The difference in the two photos you posted is amazing. I have to remind myself to edit my photos before I post them. It's not habit for me yet. I'm going to a blog conference at the end of February and will download a free Photoshop trial before I go. You've got me excited to see what it can do!

    1. Jackie {York Avenue} says: January 22, 2015

      Thanks Erica, I'm so happy that this post was helpful and that you can relate. Sounds like we are/were in the same boat! Have fun at your blog conference 🙂

  3. Shoestring Chick says: January 21, 2015

    Great post. Photoshop has definitely helped make me more creative and I also finally bit the bullet last year after using Paint.Net forever.

    I will say, if you're only going to be editing photos (exposure, contrast, etc) also consider Adobe Lightroom. I use it for all my pictures and use Photoshop mostly when I'm working with text or other graphics.

    I think Lightroom is easier to learn. Photoshop is a great tool but it can be overkill for the person who just wants better looking photos. There are many Lightroom tutorials online and it actually works a bit like Instagram in that you can save a "filter" and apply it to photos later. There are other benefits like being able to apply "filters" to an entire album at a time, the before and after panes, etc. Definitely something to look into.

    1. Jackie {York Avenue} says: January 22, 2015

      I have a few photographer friends who always highly recommend Lightroom, as being great for workflow when it comes to editing and for sorting pictures. I definitely need to give it a try and learn more about how to use it! I love the idea that you can save "filters" like Instagram, that would be amazing. Thanks!

  4. Victoria McGinley says: January 21, 2015

    I wish I could 'like' this post a thousand times. YES!

    1. Jackie {York Avenue} says: January 22, 2015

      I forgot to mention that most of this was inspired by you and your great advice! So thank you for that 🙂

  5. kate // always craving // says: January 21, 2015

    yay thanks for the push to try this out…i've been thinking about it for awhile — will put it on the list for this year!
    also, i would recommend http://iheartblogshop.com/ – obviously i haven't taken the class, but i absolutely love bri's work and there's a ton of reviews about the online 'at home' class, it looks so fun + useful.
    i've been loving this linkup – so many fun new people!

    1. Jackie {York Avenue} says: January 22, 2015

      Yes, I would love try Blogshop, especially now that you can do it at home anytime. Just need to save up a little cash 🙂

  6. Cassandra Monroe | a lifestyle blog says: January 22, 2015

    This is such a great investment!! I've used photoshop now for over ten years and quite honestly, I couldn't see my life without it. It's also great that photoshop has encouraged your creativity in posts- anything that affects your creativity in a positive way is a win in my book! So great linking up with you, Jackie!

    1. Jackie {York Avenue} says: January 22, 2015

      Thank you Cassandra! xoxo

  7. Jackie {York Avenue} says: January 22, 2015

    Lightroom definitely has been recommended to me several times, I need to give it a try!

  8. Ashley says: January 22, 2015

    Photoshop is definitely a great purchase! It’s amazing the light editing you can do in there!

  9. Jenn Specketer says: January 22, 2015

    Photoshop is great. I illegally (shh!) downloaded it in college to play around with and have been hooked ever since! I'm self taught though, so I'd love to take a course and actually learn how to really use it and all of the tips and tricks that could improve photos/designs/etc.
    Jenn @ Jenn Inspired

    1. Jackie {York Avenue} says: January 24, 2015

      Same here, would love to take a course. Just need to find the right one and save a little cash 🙂

  10. Ashley Minck says: January 22, 2015

    I've been using elements for the past year but I think you finally convinced me to take the plunge into photoshop. I'm going to try the trial and take a few lynda classes to get use to how it works.

    1. Jackie {York Avenue} says: January 24, 2015

      Ooh I forgot about lynda.com, thanks for the reminder! I'm going to check that out again, I've heard it's really helpful.

  11. Anna E. Lee - Interior Design says: January 27, 2015

    What a great investment 🙂 I hope to go ahead and purchase Photoshop in a year or so – it is such an incredible tool! I'd put off learning it for months and months, while in college, because it just seemed soo overwhelming (there are so many tools!)! I finally struck up the nerve though, and taught myself a few basics for my senior project because I was having a lot of trouble with the space being too dark. It was a life saver! While it was tedious to learn, I felt so empowered for pushing through. Like you, it inspired me to want to try out more tools, to see what I could do.

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