Photo Creativity: Affinity Photo

There is something to be said about an authentic, unretouched, undoctored photo. But, as we look back at many of our photos, do they truly represent the color,s brightness, contrast, clarity and details that we saw, or at least what we remembered seeing?


Matching Memories

Whether we rely on the camera’s automatic settings or expertly fine tune them before snapping away, often the end result does not live up to our recollection of the scene. Maybe it’s washed out or so dark we cannot see many of the details. Do spots of overexposure that draw your eye away from other areas? Are the colors slightly off, especially in the skin tones, creating a slight alien aura to the shot?

Whether fixing a photo because it’s just off or because it doesn’t live up to our recalled expectations, digital photographers have so many tools available. Almost all free photo software—designed mostly for storing, tagging and logging photos—has some type of editing feature. These are generally limited to the basics of exposure, brightness, hues, contrast and maybe some red-eye corrections.

Once you make the leap to professional software, the number of tools increases exponentially. With infinite ways the tools can be applied, layered, and masked, any photo can be corrected to a more realistic representation of your subject or converted to a less realistic work of art.

So Much To Learn

I am a novice in this arena. I could never get the adjustments right in most of the basic software I have used, although Apple’s current version of their Photos app has far more editing features as well as the ability to add extensions (free or purchased) to further expand these capabilities.

Having so many tools is all well and good, but without some guidance as to what the features do and how to use them, most of us are stuck in a trial and error loop until miraculously the photo comes out as expected, or more likely we repetitively reset and fidget with the adjustments until we get something we think looks better but hasn’t necessarily reached perfection.

A Reasonably Priced Professional Option

When I first saw Affinity Photo demoed I assumed it would be out of my hobbyist budget since its features and technical abilities appeared to be on par with Adobe Photoshop. Then the demo revealed the price—$49.99 in the Mac App store and on their website and it doesn’t require a subscription.

In addition to the reasonable price, Affinity Photo offers a huge library of video tutorials covering everything from basics of using the software and simply adjustments to more complex layering and complete workflows. Most videos are less than ten minutes long but pack a ton of great instructions. What is harder to pull from these and so many tutorials is the reasoning behind applying each tool and the order in which they should be layered. The good news is this limitation does not detract from the usefulness of the tutorials because I was able to apply what I learned to my own photos, usually by following along step by step.

According to the documentation, Affinity Photo can read and export to Photoshop files, so in theory, you could use Affinity Photo and collaborate with Photoshop users or companies that require submissions in Photoshop file formats. I have not done this, so I cannot confirm how well the import or exports work, but many online forum responses indicate this feature works quite well.

The Choice Is Yours

I’ve never used Photoshop so I am not suggesting Affinity Photo is better or worse. I can propose an equitable alternative to the subscription based, top rated graphic and image editing software.

I’ve already learned so much, but have a long way to go until I feel comfortable in my editing. The image above is one of my recent attempts at improving one of my photos. Here is a side by side comparison of the before and after.

And, here is my attempt at a stylized version of the same photo.


If you are interested in image editing, I encourage you to give Affinity Photo a try. They even offer a free trial of the software on their website.

Are you into image editing? Do you have a software preference? Let me know what you think in the comments.



I have no relationship with and have not been compensated in any way from Affinity Photo or Serif for this review.

A Don’t Miss Serialized Book Preview

Wondering if you have the gumption to be an artist or if you will remain an amateur  hobbyist?  You may want to check out the books by Steven Pressfield, the author of notable non-fiction bestsellers about writing including The War of Art, Turning Pro, Do The Work and Nobody Wants To Read Your Sh*t as well as bestselling novels such as The Legend of Bagger Vance and Gates of Fire.

Hero’s Journey or Artist’s Journey?

If you are a writer, you already know about the hero’s journey, but did you realize the artist makes a similar path of discovery?

Currently, subscribers to Steven Pressfield’s blog, are being treated to an advanced, serialized version of his upcoming and currently titled book “The Artist’s Journey”.  As a person exploring your creative side for personal enjoyment or something to share with the world, you may want to signup and see how Steven’s take on becoming an artist applies to your life’s creative pursuits.

You can find the current post, episode #17, here which provides links to all the previous posts in the series.

Creative Exercise: Making Your Own Rules


Each week I will offer some ideas on how to exercise your creativity.  If you missed my first post, you can find it here.  This week I turn to the monotony in our lives.  Chores!  I have found a way to make chores more fun.  Don’t misunderstand, if your chores are a 1 on the fun scale where 1 is misery and 10 is jubilation, then these ideas may push your 1 all the way to a 2 or maybe even a 3!

For your creative development, creating games out of common tasks will help you develop a set of logical rules designed to be fair.  You don’t want to set up your game so you always win.  Although it may be great to always win for a time, soon the game won’t be much fun to play.  Rules are important in your creative projects, too.  All writers must come up with a set of rules for the worlds they build.  One such rule may be that our sun gives some aliens superpowers while normal humans have none.  In most cases these rules, especially when different from our own world, need to be much more complex.  The same need for rules applies for art and music.  The rules help your audience make sense of the piece.  Making up games requires making up rules which will help you do the same in your creative projects.

Turn Your Chores into Games

Personally, my mind thinks of things numerically so I turn many of my chores into games relating to numbers and time.  Perhaps you are more artistically or musically inclined, so your games may consist of creating patterns, images or rhythms.

Emptying the Dishwasher

I’m not a fan of this tedious chore.  Since it is such a small project it shouldn’t be an issue, yet I feel the need to make it just a bit more entertaining by turning it into a game.  If the dishwasher is clean in the morning, I start the coffee maker and challenge myself to have it emptied and any dirty dishes waiting in the sink loaded before the coffee maker drips the last drop of hot water through the filter.  If I’m not making a pot, I choose another timing method to time my emptying prowess such as the microwave countdown while my lunch warms, or guessing the number of steps I need to take to finish the job.  Sometimes I make this more challenging by requiring that I empty each cupboard or drawer’s residents in order.  Feel free to change the rules each time you play the game.  Sometimes you need to make it easier if you need a “win” that day, while other days you may revel in winning a more difficult challenge.

Mowing the lawn

For me, this chore is simply a counting game but for others creating a work of lawn art may be a more ambitious, creative option.

The simplest game I play is guessing the number of rows I need to mow before I reach an object like a tree, drain or flowerbed which requires a course change.  If I am feeling bold, I may even guess how many rows the entire backyard will take, allowing for two guess adjustments before I reach the halfway point.  (Yes, I have thought about this way too much, but the rules I come up with need to be creative and logical to make the game worth playing).  If I gave myself a single guess the game would be over immediately other than the monotony of counting rows.  By giving myself guess adjustments I keep my mind in the game as I am continuously reassessing my row overlap, pattern and remaining distance while still counting each row.

To create lawn art you will need to think of your lawn like a giant Etch-A-Sketch, planning out your image, realistic or abstract from the beginning.  If I am feeling creative I end up with a different mowing pattern than rows or diagonals, but based on my childhood experiences with the Etch-A-Sketch, I think it is best for me to stick with patterns rather than attempt an actual picture.  If you do play this version of the game, I would love to see a picture.

Using these games keeps my mind focused on the task at hand.  Without the games, my mind wanders to worries and to do items putting me in an anxious mood when the task is complete.  There is plenty of time in the day for worries and other tasks, so taking this break and playing the game relaxes me.  Sure, the pressure is on to beat that coffee maker to the finish, but we could all use a little challenge to keep ourselves sharp.  Who knows, perhaps the portrait of your dog that you have expertly mowed into the front lawn will be the hit of the neighborhood!

These are just two of the regular chores I have turned into games.  What ideas do you have for making your chores more entertaining.

This exercise helps with: Creative Thinking, Creative Solutions, Problem Solving, Logic

Creative Exercise: Building Creative Stamina


Motivating myself to pursue creative passions and projects after a long day of non-creative work can be a struggle.  The feelings go hand in hand with my desire to exercise, which is probably why so many people suggest exercising before you start your day rather than when you are mentally exhausted after work.  This led me to thinking about the number of author interviews I have read where they reveal that before doing anything, except perhaps making coffee, they start their day writing.  No e-mails. No finances. No news. Nothing!

With a number of daily responsibilities for both home and work, sometimes starting my day for myself is simply not possible.  No matter how much I try to set aside an hour first thing in the morning for writing or other creative endeavors, sometimes life gets in the way.

What I need is a way to keep that creative energy up throughout the day, or at least put it on reserve, so I can be inspired and energized once my work, chores and treasured family time has been safely tucked into bed for the night.

I amassed a list of activities that can be done throughout the day or during specific activities on weekdays and weekends.  I will present my creative exercises, and even some from my readers, in regular weekly post to build creative muscles and strengthen creative stamina.  If you have any exercises you use to build your creative muscles, please let me know if the comments below.

This week we will start off with a fairly easy one to get you going.


Reading is one of my favorite creative exercises.  Not the type of reading I do for pleasure, this is a more active form of this pastime that I use to enhance my imagination.

I set aside time each day to read.  It doesn’t need to be for long, even fifteen minutes can be effective, but ideally you should choose a highly descriptive section of a book.  If you are an author, step away from analyzing the characters, plot, structure and style, and simply absorb the words.  Let the characters and locations come alive in your mind.  Visualize the characters’ features and clothing adding what you think the author may have missed.  Explore the location described in the passage and expand to areas outside of the authors words.

If the character is in a room, explore the tables, cabinets and bookshelves for items even the author did not mention.  Feel the plush carpet or hard wood floor.  Run your hands through the soft fur of the purring cat and spilled coffee on the table that left a sticky residue on the table.  Hear the birds and wind rustling through the leaves just outside an open window.  You can do the same with any location.  Let your senses run free.

If you are so inclined, leave the characters and current location behind and head off to explore the author’s world on your own.  You are creative, you don’t need the author holding your hand.

When you return to practicing your own creative endeavors, remember this experience.  You can then reverse engineer your experience for your own work by imagining in detail before your hand begins to sketch or type the words on the screen.  Who knows maybe that slightest detail of you painting, the smallest feature in your sculpture or a passing description in your novel will make all the difference in the end.

This exercise helps with: Imagination, Visualization, Description