Choosing Photo Editing Software

Producing an effective and memorable image takes time, patience and even a little bit of luck. There is also a skill set that must be developed before one can take a freshly captured image and develop it into something much more powerful than it was in its original form. The tips contained in the following article are meant to provide a basic template for the novice photographer to use when editing their images. As with most things in life, it’s important that one understands the fundamentals before diving into the details.

Nearly all of the point-and-shoot style cameras available today have some level of built-in image processing, particularly when using the “automatic” camera settings. These image settings are meant to provide the proper balance of exposure, sharpness and color saturation to each and every image without the need for sophisticated post-processing. By and large, most cameras do a very good job at this, though it certainly takes some of the control away from the user.

There are many instances were users may want to boost the saturation of their images or even change them from color to black and white. Users may also want to increase or decrease the file size or may simply want to crop out certain portions of an image. Fortunately, performing such tasks is made simple using a basic photo editing program and can have a significant influence on the final image.

I will not go into recommending any particular photo editing software in this article, but will say that there are a wide range of possibilities ranging from powerful and expensive applications to low-cost or freeware programs. The decision regarding which program to use depends on the degree of editing required and how much money the user has to budget toward software.

If the user will be dealing with RAW image files or using actions, layers or filters then perhaps a more robust software package should be used. On the other hand, simple editing such as cropping and contrast/color corrections can be done using a bundled photo editing program or standalone freeware program.

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.