Using Picasa to improve vacation photos is useful, but the real fun of photo editing is to see how much you can change a photo into something very different.

This is harder than it sounds. Usually you need to combine many Picasa fixes in varying strengths to make this work. It takes a lot of practice and patience.

I spent a lot of time editing the original photo below, taken at the NC Zoo. The hardest part was getting the light and dark contrast right. The look I wanted was light and airy – too dark was like being in a jungle, too light was like being in the harsh sun.

The steps I used to transform the photo below into the look of an illustration:

  • Auto-contrast
  • Sharpen
  • HDR-ish
  • Saturation
  • Tuning
  • Color boost
  • Comic book
  • Posterize
  • Tuning
  • Border
  • Final auto-contrast and tuning adjustments