Digital Photo Editing Tips

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Free (Yes, Free!) Photo Software

Camera makers usually offer free photo software with their cameras, but there's another good source: the Web. Believe it or not, there are some good free photo software programs out there.

One program – Vicman's Photo Editor (www.vicman.net/vcwphoto/) is very close to a full-featured editing application, and the interface will look familiar to anyone who's used Windows programs. The few missing features are available by moving up to the (not free) Pro version.

Other image editing and manipulation programs are available for free – or as low-cost shareware – at the Free Downloads Center (www.freedownloadscenter.com). Click on the “Graphics Editors” option, then select “Free” from the upper right corner of the screen. You'll have ten pages of free applications from you can download to your computer. Some of which are fairly sophisticated image editors.

   

Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop CS2 is the photo software against which all others are measured. It's available as part of Adobes Creative Suite 2, or as a stand-alone product, but the price is steep. Photoshop CS2 costs about $650.

Photoshop is also the most powerful and complete photo software available, with some incredible tools. Image Warp allows you to fit an illustration around any shape, creating 3-D mock-ups. Vanishing Point lets you create elements that match the perspective of objects in an image. And customizable menus allow you to put your favorite tools where they're easy to reach.

CS2 – the latest version of Photoshop - includes a number of new and enhanced tools, like the spot healing brush, Adobe Bridge (a powerful browser with unique features), and improved RAW file abilities – including processing of multiple RAW files at one time.

Photoshop CS2 has been honored with at least 20 different awards and citations since its introduction.

   

Three Quick Tricks to Make Your Photos Shine

Your photo editing program offers many ways to edit, adjust and retouch your photos. But the “payoff” with some of them is often much bigger than with others. Here are three quick tips for getting a bigger bang from less effort:

Saturation – Saturation refers to the purity of a color. The higher the saturation, the more intense the color. If the colors in your photos are a little dull, try increasing the saturation. With some photo editing programs, you can adjust the saturation of different “color channels” independently. This is great for making one color really jump right out.

Cropping – Cropping is one of the most basic operations in a photo editing program. But it can have a big effect. It's always best to crop “in camera” by moving in on your subject when you take the picture, but sometimes it isn't possible. As long as you have sufficient resolution, crop out all the excess detail possible from around your subject. That will focus viewers' attention on the subject and make your photo more interesting.

Fill Flash – More outdoor portraits are hurt by shadows on the subjects' faces. But you don't have to put up with this if your photo editing program has a “fill flash” function. Simply select the portion of each face that's in shadow using the magic wand tool and increase the fill flash slightly. This will get rid of the shadows on the faces… and make you the portrait photographer of choice.

   

Learn Photo Editing with Tutorials

One of the easiest ways to learn photo editing is with tutorials. And there are many tutorial products available on CD/DVD or as guides in print. You can even take photo editing “classes” online.

But for those who don't mind a slightly less formal atmosphere – and a few ads – there are quite a few free online tutorials. Lots of photo editing pros are proud of their skills, and some have put up web sites that can help you learn both basic image-editing techniques and some pretty cool “tricks.”

Most online tutorial sites are based on Adobe Photoshop, but many of the techniques and tricks transfer easily to other programs. A few tools have different names. More advanced tips may not apply to your software, though, because other programs don't share Photoshop's extensive tool set.

Here are a few tutorial sites to get you started:

http://tutorialoutpost.com
http://arstechnica.com/guides/tweaks/mystery.ars
www.gamequarium.com/photoeditor.html (tutorials for Microsoft Photo Editor)
http://www.tutorialized.com/tutorial/Essential-Tools-for-Photo-Editing/8306

   

Get Organized – and More - with Digital Photo Albums

While there is photo album software that simply organizes your photos, the top two PC performers in this category – Corel's Photo Album and Adobe's Photoshop Album – provide a dizzying array of features that not offer multiple organizing options, but also provide simple editing tools, slideshow capability, simplified sharing options and back-up assistance.

Both programs offer options like photo calendar creation, automatic re-sizing for e-mailing photos and one-click effects like black and white and sepia. Both also support easy burning of your photos to CD.

Corel even offers a feature especially for the weight-conscious. Their “Thinify” function can actually make your subjects appear slimmer without distortion! (Your mother-in-law will wonder why you always take the best family pictures.)

Neither program is available for the Mac OS, but Apple's iPhoto offers many of the same features. Both Photo Album and Photoshop Album retail for under $50.

   

Photo Editing Options

The digital revolution hasn't just changed the way we take our pictures; it's turned us all into digital darkroom technicians.

Most camera makers provide free photo editing software with their cameras. With this software, you perform a few basic editing functions, like rotating and cropping images, “erasing” redeye and adjusting brightness and contrast. This software more than meets the needs of many casual snapshooters.

For some, though, the ability to edit and enhance their images opens up new creative horizons. They want more tools than what's provided with most free photo editing software. If you're one of these photographers, there are many options at reasonable prices. Corel Paintshop Pro, Ulead PhotoImpact, Nova's Photo Explosion and Microsoft Digital Image Suite 2006 are among a number of photo software products priced under $100.

Apple Macintosh owners can use iPhoto, part of Apple's iLife 6 software suite. The latest version of iPhoto has enhanced and new tools, giving it a pretty good feature set. Considering that it comes bundled with apple's iMovie (video editing), iDVD (DVD creation), iWeb (Web authoring) and Garage Band (music creation).

   

Sharing Your Digital Pictures

One of the best things about digital photography is the ability to easily share your photos. And photo sharing software makes it even easier.

For Mac users, iPhoto comes with built-in photo sharing features, such as e-mailing directly from within iPhoto. But there are other options, as well, for both Mac and PC users.

Kodak's EasyShare software includes albums for organizing your photos, a decent image editor, and the ability to easily share your photos. There's even an integrated address book that allows you to create groups – so you can send baby pictures to the family, a shot of that game-winning catch to the members of your softball team or a picture of your vacation cabin in the woods to your friends at work… all with just a couple of clicks.

   

Online Photo Editing

There are a number of services that allow you to edit your photos online. And some will even upload images directly to your online album with services like flikr. Below are three online photo editors.

PXN8 (http://pxn8.com) offers a few basic editing tools - like rotating, cropping and red eye correction – along with a handful of “fun effects” filters. You can also upload your enhanced photos directly to your flikr albums from PXN8.

myimager.com (www.myimager.com) offers more robust online photo editing than PXN8. There are adjustments for hue, saturation and lightness, as well as more filter options. Uploaded images are limited to 500 KB.

PHIXR (www.phixr.com) is an account-based online image editor. With a free account, you can work with files up to 1.3 MB. PHIXR offers a wide array of tools – as many as some retail products.

If you work with large numbers of photos – or very large image files – these services probably aren't for you. But if you don't need to edit a lot of photos, online photo editing can be a viable alternative.

   
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