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Updated by Donald McLeman on Jan 14, 2017
Headline for The 'Before images' on NatureHoldsTheKey.com
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The 'Before images' on NatureHoldsTheKey.com

These are 100% free stock images shared across the internet. I made subtle changes in Photoshop to enhance them – cropping, tweaking contrast and adding colour filters, nothing too fancy. Sometimes a few tricks that must remain secret… except where I reveal all in the description.

If you click through you'll see the finished image with added text. Most of the time you'll be able to spot the difference, but sometimes all the image needed was a tweak and you'll wonder why did I bother?

Many thanks to the photographers behind the lens and the photo libraries that share these resources. It takes more than one eye to make a good picture – so thank you all.

Vote up whichever you think best :)

20 tips to achieve zero food waste - Nature Holds the Key

We need to aim for zero food waste to reduce the tons that are sent to landfill. Tips to tackle the snacks as well as healthy home-cooking.

The result is one of my favourite images. The background of the original was a functional white. I changed the background colour to make a great combination with the orange, and it's one of the shades of green on NatureHoldsTheKey.com .

12 ways to reduce toxins at home - Nature Holds the Key

It’s not easy to reduce toxins at home but we spend most of our time there so attack the problem on all fronts and the little changes add up.

The original image is dark and menacing but I wanted something brighter. The changes in PhotoShop were actually fairly simple, though quite bold: I added a gradient map and changed the hue to give it a surreal feel. The result looks fluorescent and unnatural, just right for toxins, minus the evil undertones.

16 tips to upcycle furniture for a new lease of life - Nature Holds the Key

Upcycle furniture and reduce waste going to landfill. Upcycling not only extends the life of a product but makes it unique.

The free image lacked the impact I wanted. The original image was more detailed and realistic, as in a product catalogue. I added a colour map to add an unnatural feel to the colours and boost the contrast. I have to say what I like best about this one is the colour choice for the text I used on social media versions.

6 recipes for natural cleaners that work - Nature Holds the Key

Natural cleaners get the job done without harming you or the environment. They’re just as strong as brands that end with the letter ‘X.

I cropped the original drastically to focus on only one part of a slice; the original featured three slices on a green background. I wanted a sharp zesty colour for the background, something that works well with the zesty yellow.

8 important secrets for growing herbs - Nature Holds the Key

Growing herbs connects you with nature, they transform your cooking and you can use them in so many ways all round the home.

My biggest problem with the original image was the burnt-out white sky. I brightened up the greenery in the foreground but overall it seemed to fit just right :)

9 ideas for beautiful natural wallart - Nature Holds the Key

Good natural wallart is made from nature and represents it too. Use it to reflect your style, make a room inviting and open up conversation.

I loved the original image. No big changes were needed, all it took was a little extra contrast. The crops for social media were radically different; I cropped in close-ish to the in-focus central globe and cloned out the distracting vase.

15 ways to keep warm this winter - Nature Holds the Key

It's vital to keep warm in winter. Here are 15 easy tips to keep warm without wasting fuel. Some for now and some to help you prepare.

I liked the original image but I wanted to increase the feeling of warm-cold. I added colour filters to accentuate the depth of the blue while maintaining the warmth of the coffee.

Knobs galore for your furniture upcycling projects - Nature Holds the Key

Knobs are the finishing touch for your upcycled furniture, with the power to transform into something totally different.

The original free image was just too 'realistic'. If you look closely at the retouched image you'll see that I've overlayed the image with a circular 'bubble-wrap' pattern that reduces the opacity. I also reduced the saturation and added a warming filter.

15 tips for a zero-waste kitchen - Nature Holds the Key

A zero-waste kitchen is at the heart of minimising your impact on the planet. You have to tackle everything from appliances to cling film.

This took a bit of effort and thought. The subject of the image is ugly plastic waste and it was too realistic to look good. As the subject of the article is waste so I thought an unnatural feel would be appropriate (which is a rare thing on a blog that praisees nature). However most of the effects within PhotoShop can result in ugly garish colours. I used a combination of gradient maps and reduced the saturation to achieve a more retro feel.

9 natural ways to get rid of wasps - Nature Holds the Key

There are natural and simple steps to get rid of wasps without harming the environment. Try these now and prepare yourself for next year too.

I liked the original but it wasn't quite right when I posted it on the website. The blue background clashed with the colours of my website – it was just too 'almost-similar' to an existing blue used in the web design. I went back to PhotoShop to change the background colour of the original to the exact shade of blue used on the site. In line with this change I also reduced the saturation of the yellow foreground.

9 ways to kill or care for your houseplants - Nature Holds the Key

Do you want to care for your houseplants or kill them? Look at what you could do to finish them off and you’ll see how to keep them alive.

This was an unusual image for me. The background was plain white, though when I superimposed it on other backgrounds I found that it was actually off-white; so in social media versions I added a drop-shadow border. The original image had a central stalk which I cloned out as it detracted from the impact of the shape.

12 convincing benefits of a vertical garden - Nature Holds the Key

Maximising space is only one of the benefits of a vertical garden. Planting upwards opens up design possibilities and it's ecofriendly too.

This took a lot of work. The original stock image was much larger and the building was at a more acute angle. I changed the perspective, added a heavy warm filter and cloned out lots of extraneous details.

23 ways to save the world with beeswax - Nature Holds the Key

Beeswax is a natural wax produced by honey bees. It has a multitude of surprising uses making it indispensable for every home.

The original image featured a much larger chunk of beeswax with a metal wire in the middle which had to be cloned out. I cropped in as close as I could to focus only on the honeycomb shapes to avoid the burntout area but without losing any more sharpness. Most of the enhancement came in the form of 'traditional' retouching techniques such as burning and shading.

9 ways to prepare your garden for climate change - Nature Holds the Key

Prepare your garden for climate change to withstand more extreme weather, shifting weather patterns and unpredictable seasons.

This image didn't take a lot of work, the photographer did it all! I changed the colour and tweaked the contrast.

5 places to use natural fibres in your home - Nature Holds the Key

Natural fibres bring nature into your home. They can work as a statement in so many places and can blend into the background.

I wanted an image that said 'fibres' without singling out one particular type. As this was such a close-up the important part was to enhance the sharpness – this took a variety of sharpening tweaks to make it perfect but it worked out great for most situations,.

8 perfect examples of a wooden mousepad - Nature Holds the Key

A wooden mousepad adds nature where you least expect it – the sterile world of the computer. Real examples, the opposite of 'faux' :)

I came back to re-do this image. The first version was just the woodland that you see above, it didn't include the overlaid mousepads.. I felt it wasn't clear enough that the article was about mousepads so I overlaid a selection of the actual mousepads from the article and placed an opaque layer above the woodland photograph to reduce its opacity.

Upcycled apple crates

Upcycled apple crates provide vintage magic. They add simple charm to their new role, plus you're keeping waste out of landfill too.

The original image was realistic and 'ordinary' dented only by an orange filter. I thought a retro feel would be more appropriate. I stripped the colours back to two then dodged and burned to make it feel more olde-worlde.

Christmas gifts for gardeners - Nature Holds the Key

Christmas gifts for gardeners range from practical stocking fillers to extra special luxuries. These ideas are as good as Spring!

The original image was beautiful but it was a problem. It was small in terms of byte size and small in dimensions. It just wasn't wide enough to be a feature image. I stretched the perspective just beyond the limits of realism – the figure is still recognisable and my tweaking looks intentional, I think? I certainly couldn't stretch any more so in some social media versions I filled the frame by adding vertical bars composed off enlarged segments of the original. In the main version on the website I opted to refrain from stretching and just used the dark teal background found on NatureHoldsTheKey.com .

Last minute autumn garden jobs (infographic) - Nature Holds the Key

It's easy to leave Autumn garden jobs to the last minute. Focus on the essentials to clear away the summer and get ready for the Spring.

I wanted something that people could identify with for this article and you can't beat a friendly face on an animal :) It was only after I positioned this image that I noticed thar the hedgehog looked like it was racing so I incorporated that into the text. Most of the work here went into changing the colours to make the leaves warmer (and less soggy) and the hedgehog more 'touchy-feely'.

Door mats: say Welcome to a natural coir doormat - Nature Holds the Key

A coir doormat lets your guests know they’re stepping into a natural home. Ecofriendly designs created by The Rug House and 15% discount code.

This was a difficult image. The original image was very plain and realistic with a pink caste. I began first by modifying the colour, changing the colour map to remove the existing tone of the sky. Originally everything was in focus so I added very heavy blurring to focus only on the coconuts to highlight that these were the raw material that the doormats were made of.

Maximise yields in an edible balcony garden - Nature Holds the Key

How to get more space and grow more plants on a balcony garden. Plan to maximise yields with more food in less space and still have flowers.

This took a lot of work, with several components combined to get across a simple instruction. And of course I also wanted it to look good. I played around a lot with re-sizing the various components to arrive at something colourful and easy to understand.

Garden Tags – a new free gardening app - Nature Holds the Key

Garden Tags is a new social-networking app for gardeners. It's a community for expert advice and inspiration and sharing your own garden.

The original image was less dreamy. I added a lot of warmth to the colours and cropped in close. I super-imposed the logo of the app onto the dreamy background and decided it looked best to leave the phone at an angle (rather than twist the image slightly to line up with the right angles of the logo – that would have made it look fake whereas I wasn't aiming for any pretence that this is what the logo would look like on the screen).

26 ways to attract birds to your garden - Nature Holds the Key

Attract birds to your garden with food, water and shelter for the life they add, and don't forget how good they are at controlling pests.

The original image here was a problem Very small size and not very sharp. It was also so saturated it detracted from the subject. I had wanted to crop in more closely for social media but that wasn't possible. I added a little more blur to the background and a little more sharpening to the bird.

10 reasons you should switch to LED lights - Nature Holds the Key

LED lights are more energy-efficient and eco-friendly. Prices are down more than 80% in the last 5 years. You can even get a 5-year warranty.

This image just took some traditional burning and dodging. I cropped in slightly to avoid the attention given to the coloured wall whereas I wanted to highlight the lights.

Top 11 houseplants for clean air - Nature Holds the Key

We can use houseplants for clean air not just decoration. NASA has studied the best plants for filtering toxic chemicals from our air.

The original image required only minimal changes. I cloned out the drooping petal. I used several filters to slightly warm the background grey without losing too much of the green colour in the stem.