Use overlays to transform your photography

Simone Ferretti
(Image credit: Simone Ferretti)

Have you ever wondered why some photos just look better than others? Why one photo can capture your attention and make you feel like you're right there in the moment, while another can leave you feeling underwhelmed? 

I believe that, among other aspects, depth in photography is key to creating interesting and engaging clicks. 

Not many people know that using Overlays can be a great way to add some extra depth to your photos. They can also be used to totally transform a photo from average to amazing. 

But what are overlays? They are external elements (in the form of normal JPG/PNG images) that can be easily added to your photos to make them stand out by increasing contrast and adding depth in a matter of seconds. Overlays can be anything including clouds, flares, reflections, dust, scratches, rain, snow, shadows, leaks and more.

Simone Ferretti
Simone Ferretti

Simone Ferretti is an Italian living in London. He started as a commercial videographer in 2017, and during the first Lockdown started teaching what he knows about videography and photography through short videos on social media. Today Simone is a Joby ambassador and counts over 1M followers between Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube (opens in new tab). He's "fully committed to helping as many people as possible start making money through their photos and videos."

Why should you use overlays?

Let’s be honest: It’s almost impossible to find the perfect conditions for a photo. Overlays solve that problem: if there’s a flat sky that makes the photo boring you can add some clouds, reflections and other elements to make it more interesting and eye-catching. It's the same approach that some photographers might take when using photo editing software (opens in new tab) to replace a sky (opens in new tab) in Photoshop.

Here’s how you can make sure to add more depth to your shots using overlays. 

Think of your photo as a 3D space. How many layers can you identify?

OR

If you apply overlays to your photo, you’re basically creating extra layers; hence you’re adding depth to make the photo more interesting. 

You can add one or more overlays to the same photo, but it’s important to keep it natural and don’t make it look fake.

This photo was shot in Wales on a very nice day. I like the overall shot but I felt I could add something extra to make it look even better. I tried adding a few clouds and the sun coming from the right.

Simone Ferretti

(Image credit: Simone Ferretti)

In this way I added a lot of depth with three or four extra layers: it’s just so much more interesting. The same thing can be done with products, portraits and any other type of photography. Here are a few more before/after images:

Simone Ferretti

(Image credit: Simone Ferretti)

Simone Ferretti

(Image credit: Simone Ferretti)

Simone Ferretti

(Image credit: Simone Ferretti)

Through my Instagram (opens in new tab) and TikTok (opens in new tab) I saw a lot of interest in these overlays so I created a pack containing 480 overlays for desktop and mobile (they can be used on Mobile too with the free app PicsArt), and they're available on my website. 

Top-quality overlays are an essential part of any beginner, amateur, or professional photographer's toolkit. They’re super easy to use, highly detailed, and make improving your photography effortless.

Using overlays is not difficult but it does require some practice at first. Do not give up and practice, practice, practice!

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Lauren Scott
Managing Editor

Lauren is the Managing Editor of Digital Camera World, having previously served as Editor of Digital Photographer (opens in new tab) magazine, a practical-focused publication that inspires hobbyists and seasoned pros alike to take truly phenomenal shots and get the best results from their kit. 


An experienced photography journalist who has been covering the industry for over eight years, she has also served as technique editor for both PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine (opens in new tab)PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine and DCW's sister publication, Digital Camera Magazine (opens in new tab)


In addition to techniques and tutorials that enable you to achieve great results from your cameras, lenses, tripods and other photography equipment, Lauren can regularly be found interviewing some of the biggest names in the industry, sharing tips and guides on subjects like landscape and wildlife photography, and raising awareness for subjects such as mental health and women in photography.