Photo Editing is an Art

In earlier times, you took your snapshots with your trusty old Brownie, removed the film cartridge and dropped it off at the drug store for developing. After about a week, you picked up your prints. What you got was exactly what the film was exposed to. No cropping, no sharpening, brightness or contrast adjustments were available unless you had your own film processing and print studio.

With the onset of digital photography, it has become possible for everyone to learn and perform successful photo editing. There exists a plethora of digital photography software that allow differing levels of image manipulation. With a decent digital camera, a computer with a quality printer, and one of the many versions of photo editing software, you can produce stunning photographs. You can crop for closer views of your intended subject, darken or lighten the exposure, adjust the contrast, sharpen the image, change it to black and white, sepia, or grayscale.

Add a good scanner and you have the ability to edit your old standard photographs. That old faded photo of you as a child can be brought back to life with a few clicks of your mouse. With the right software, you can place objects from one photograph into another. Create a montage of any person containing their pictures from birth to present. That beautiful old Ford you took a picture of at the cruise-in brings back fond memories?

Just insert yourself into the photo standing proudly beside the car of your dreams. Photo editing not only provides you with beautiful keepsakes of the people and places in your life; it can provide you with hours of fun and entertainment. Children giggle and squeal with delight to find themselves placed into unknown and exciting places.

One of the most recognized and utilized programs for photo editing is Adobe’s Photoshop. From this software the term “shopped” was phrased. People who work with and view photography use the term to refer to photographs which appear to have been manipulated to show something that was not in the original photograph, to remove something which was, or when the appearance of a person or object in the photo seems to have been altered. For example, you find a picture of a group of famous (or infamous) people, then you replace the face of one of them with your own for laughs, you have “shopped” the photo. Other programs are Corel Paint Shop Pro, and Serif Photo Plus, to name but a few.

There are basic photo editing programs available that allow you to do basic adjustments and learn basic photo manipulation. Some of these programs can be found for free such as Gimp for Windows, Serif’s Photo Plus, Paint.NET, Image Forge, Pixia, Ultimate Paint, and several others.

Which ever direction you take in choosing a photo editing program, be prepared to become totally hooked on working with digital photography. As you discover the many tricks and tweaks possible with photo editing, don’t be surprised to find yourself immersed for hours at a time tweaking and manipulating your photographs.

Picasa Is a Great Photo Editing Program

Using Picasa Photo Viewer

One of the greatest free programs on the Internet is Google’s Picasa. Clever name, and I can imagine Picasso himself would have fun with this easy to use program. Besides those great vacation photos, it is vital for ecommerce projects. If you are taking pictures of people and products, you have to get the pictures just right before uploading them or making a slide show.

When you try out other programs to edit photos, you really find out how tough they are to use, and/or just plain annoying. Recently I was trying to find ones that did something that Picasa couldn’t, and I could barely figure them out, even the simple functions took a lot of effort. And the gold standard, Photoshop, which has wonderful features far beyond Picasa, is tricky to use for the beginner.

To get Picasa, Google “Picasa download,” and you’ll find it right away. Download the program and save it, and then open it. To start editing a picture, click on the option to import a file under “File,” and select your picture you wish to edit.

The functions are extremely clear and easy to use, including crop, retouch, and many others. One icon is “I’m Feeling Lucky,” which is a one-stop general photo enhancer that I find useful for some photographs, always worth a try.

One handy feature is the “undo” button, you can always click “undo crop” or “undo straighten,” and start again.

If you look next to the “Basic Fixes” tab, you’ll see “Tuning,” where you can lighten or darken a photograph. If you have a photo that is washed-out looking, darkening it can make a dramatic difference. Lighting can also help a murky or dark photo.

Picasa is great for preparing photographs to use in a Movie Maker slide show, as you need to get them just right before you start a project. I usually create a special folder that has the photos I plan to use, and after finishing them in Picasa, I save them in that folder ready to access when I start.

You can salvage photos that don’t look so good for one reason or another with all the various features in Picasa, and also in Windows Movie Maker. Besides obvious improvements such as lightening a photo or darkening it with the “tuning” feature, you can make it sepia tone, black and white, or saturate the colors. This is useful for pictures that look faded, and still need to be brightened. Try darkening a photo to bring out the color first, and then try saturation. Too much saturation is not good, and the nice thing about Picasa is that you can easily tell with the “what you see what you get” aspect of how it works.

One neat trick Picasa has is the ability to blur part of the photograph around a clear image, you can both increase the width and intensity of the blurring to great effect. I once made a color photograph sepia toned, and blurred half the image except for the focal point, and it came out great. You can even make part of the picture in color and part of it in black and white.

Also, since you are in the Google empire, you can easily post a photo to your blog by clicking on the blog option at the bottom and follow the prompts.

One thing to remember when you are scanning a photograph from a print or other image is that you must close in all the sides in the scanning of the image. If you put a small picture in the middle of the scanner and save it with all the white border around it remaining, it makes it very hard to enlarge in Picasa. So use the feature in your scanner to move the frame in until it leaves very little white space before saving.

Though sometimes you can crop white space out around a photo, and it will enlarge when you save it, sometimes it won’t, and ends up a tiny image that does not fill the screen.

One good thing about Picasa is that it saves the original photograph, so you don’t lose it when playing around with the editing. I’m not exactly sure how all this works, but as with all programs, explore and test every corner of the software on all types of photos, and you’ll find out plenty of new things.

You can’t beat the price, absolutely free, and combining all other factors, Picasa is one of the top products when you need those photos for family or business edited.

Layers in Photo Editing Programs or in PowerPoint

The concept of layers is basically the same among photo editing programs and even PowerPoint. Most people are more familiar with PowerPoint than a specific photo editing tool, like Photoshop, so this example is done with PowerPoint.

Play with paper

Get several different kinds of paper in front of you. Make one sheet yellow, one transparent and colorless, another white, and the last sheet black.

Draw a big, red X on your yellow paper, right in the center of the paper. Draw a green star on your white paper and a house on your black paper. Draw a cloud on your transparent paper.

Now, stack the papers. Put the transparent paper on the bottom, then the yellow, white, and the black. If the black paper is on the top of the stack, all you can see if black paper with a picture of a house on it.

Re-order your stack. This time, put the black one on the bottom, then the white, then the yellow, and then the transparent paper. Now you can see the cloud you drew on your transparent paper in addition to the big red X and the yellow paper.

From this, you should garner a few pieces of information about layers. Each layer has some properties.

Transparency

Is the layer transparent or opaque? Can you see through it? When you’re using PowerPoint, every shape, text, graph, or smart art is its own layer. Select the shape. Right click on the shape and then select “Format Shape” from the menu that comes up. Go to the “Fill” section. Click on “Solid Fill.” Then, underneath the fill color, is a slider bar with transparency. If the slider is set to 100%, then the layer is completely transparent. If the layer is set to 0, then it is completely opaque.

This is a little different from the paper example, however. In the paper example, the cloud you drew was not transparent. In PowerPoint, the entire shape is its own layer and has the same transparency level.

Order of the layers

Just like you controlled the order of the papers in your stack, you can control the order of your shapes (your layers) in PowerPoint. Right click on any object and a menu will pop up. The menu has “Bring to Front” and “Send to Back” options. If you hover on the “Send to Back” option, another option appears to “Send Backward.” “Send to Back” puts the layer on the bottom of the stack of images. “Send Backward” just sends the layer one back.

How can I make part of the shape transparent?

If you want part of the shape transparent and part opaque, you can use the “remove the background” feature to make parts of the picture transparent. This only works with photos, so if you want to do this with a normal shape, you need to save the shape out as an image and then reload it into your document.

For example, say you have a photo that has a cloud in the sky, and you want the center of the cloud to be transparent with a dog showing through.

Size the dog so it will fit in the cloud.

Click on the picture that has the cloud in it. Go to the “Format” tab. On the left hand side, click on Remove Background. PowerPoint 2007 doesn’t give you a whole lot of control here, but 2010 is much better. Use the plus sign to mark areas to keep. Use the plus sign to mark everything that is not a cloud. Use the minus sign to mark the cloud to remove. Leave some of the edges of the cloud there. If you don’t like the results, click on “Remove Background” again and modify your work.