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Full Light Photos

One thing (among many) that I struggle in photography and learning to use my camera to the best of my ability, is shooting in full-light situations.

I try my best not to take pictures in full sun, however, sometimes there isn't a choice.  But then, I really don't know what to do with them to lessen the "blaringly harsh light" effect.  Not having photoshop/lightroom to edit doesn't help this cause.

The editing tools I do use (iPhoto and Pixlr), however, make some difference....but I'm not sure how much....and I'm not completely satisfied.  Here's a few I played around with:

Antiqued-type effect with a few other modifications

Black and White (clearly)

Color and contrast boost

These three edits alleviated some of the brightness, but not so much that I would call it a "good" picture.  In my opinion, the first one turned out the best considering what I had to work with.

It's frustrating for me because I just can't seem to "get there"....whether it's my camera, my lack of knowledge, etc.  And I'm referring to my skills in general, not relating to full-sun lighting...sorry for the sudden gear shift.

So I'd like to know....
You peeps with photog skillz:
1.  How do you prefer to edit full-sun pics?
2.  What's the best route to go for photography improvement?  Is it Classes?  Experimentation?  My gear?

I would really love to improve, learn, and hone what skills I do have (not many) someday.  But I've noticed that there's a paradigm with photos, in that they are somewhat similar to what a recipe is to a cook....or a painting is to an artist....

There's ALWAYS room for improvement.

I styled the dress I'm wearing similar to how I invisioned all the "short dressed" I spotlighted yesterday.  Layers, layers, layers.  Oh and if you're wondering, here's how to shop my outfit:

The Mrs. & The Momma

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