Ask LH: How Can I Get My Photos Spruced Up On The Cheap?

Hey Lifehacker, What are the most inexpensive and fastest photo/image retouching creative services? I'm thinking of a scenario where I want to upload my photo and have somebody do some Photoshop wizardry on it. Not just retouching the photo, but also using artistic license to be creative. Thanks, Photo Perfect

Photo: GlobalDemocracy

Dear PP,

There are plenty of professional editing services online that will tailor your photos to meet any specification you can think of. Whether you want to replace your flabby gut with a six-pack or add a herd of photorealistic unicorns to the background, the job is just an explanatory email away.

The tricky part is finding a reputable outfit that will do solid work at an affordable price. While it's tempting to put freebie requests out on photography forums, this is a great way to get brutally trolled — for proof, check out these hilarious examples from We Do Phoshop. As with anything in life, you tend to get what you pay for.

One service that we've used in the past is Swiftly. This is a design site that draws on a pool of graphic designers who will retouch, enhance or edit your photos for a flat fee of $15 per job. My editor recently used Swiftly to add a pair of Steve Jobs-style glasses to his portrait — you can view the results here. Whether this is worth $15 is debatable. On the plus side, designers don't actually get paid until you approve their work.

Fiverr is another outsourcing website that could be worth a look. The Photography & Photoshopping section has a huge list of services with prices starting at $5. Creative image manipulation is a common theme. If you don't find what you're looking for, you can also post specific Photoshop requests in the hope that someone will take on the job.

If all else fails, you can usually rely on the crowdsourcing site AirTasker to find a willing contractor. The advantage of AirTasker is that prospective hirelings can attempt to outbid each other, which enables you to keep prices down by choosing the lowest bidder. (Just remember what we said about getting what you pay for though.)

Alternatively, instead of outsourcing the work to others why not learn the required skills yourself? Digital photo manipulation isn't particularly difficult if you take the time to learn the basics. There are oodles of tutorials and 'How To' videos online that will guide you through the essentials. To get you started, here are ten Photoshop tricks you can easily achieve with free editing software, ranging from adding reflections to an image to dropping yourself into a different background.

If you want to get to grips with Photoshop without actually paying for it, you'll be wanting Adobe Creative Suite 2, which you can currently download for free. While it's a bit long in the tooth now, the basic mechanics remain the same which makes it a solid learning tool.

As always, we're keen to hear recommendations from readers too. If you know of a great editing program for beginners or a cheap and reliable editing service, let PP know in the comments section below.

See also: Learn The Basics Of Photoshop: The Complete Guide | Build Your Own Adobe Creative Suite With Free And Cheap Software | How To Use Photoshop To Alter Reality As We Know It

Cheers LH

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    I am a professional retoucher based in Sydney and offer one on one tutoring alongside commercial studio services.

    You know what they say - teach a man to fish!

      And you've lost your market dominance?

      Last edited 13/02/14 1:39 am

    Upload to Google+ and use auto awesome :-) Fast and free. Expect results accordingly.

    Or you could use my site. :) Over 10 years in the biz.

    Have a great day!

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