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Manipulating Your Images

Aug 18, 2007
Browsing through envelopes of prints fresh from the drug store and then tossing them into a picture drawing is not going to work anymore, thank heavens.

As you begin to develop a strategy for culling, editing, storing, organizing and most importantly enjoying the mountain of images you will soon face, keep in mind that the goal is to end up with an effective retrieval system, not just a storage system.

Never, ever edit your original images. Always work on copies. Archive the originals for safe keeping in their original format. Absolutely nothings gained by converting camera-fresh JPEGs to a lossless format until you begin editing them.

Most digital photographs deserve at least a trial pass through your photo editors auto-balance, instant fix or general enhancement feature.

If you are new to post-processing, you can begin to get a feel for what works and what does not by noting what adjustments your auto-balance made to the good, the bad and the ugly results. Even a suboptimal auto-balance result can be a good starting point for your manual adjustments.

Most digital cameras come with computer software to edit and to organize your images. These programs will assist you in correcting and manipulating the brightness, sharpness and color of your photos. The possibilities for image editing and manipulation are limitless once you become acquainted with the program.

With your software, you can crop the photos to remove unnecessary background images and focus on the subject of the picture itself. You can also adjust the contrast, brightness, and colors to make the photo more eye-catching and appealing. Removing red eye is also possible with these programs. Plus, you can enlarge or reduce your photos at the touch of a button.

If your camera did not come with a program, you will have to go buy one. We recommend Photoshop. Its the most widely used program out there and provides you with lots of options when working with your pictures.

Many experts say that you really should not stick to only the software that came with your camera. When there are so many different software programs out there, you owe it to yourself to play around with them and find one that will give you the effects you are looking for.

What specifically are we talking about? Well, the photo imaging software can help you make your pictures look wonderful and you will be proud to share them with friends and family! Consider the following:

First, cameras do not take square pictures, they take rectangular pictures. If you forgot to rotate the camera before snapping, its alright. Rotate the picture to the left or right by a 90 degree angle.

In the rush to take a picture, getting the camera perfectly level is not always possible. That adds up to a photo where the horizon is slightly askew. What you need in this case is to rotate the picture a degree at a time. This feature is probably somewhere in the Edit or Image menus. Look for an option to rotate the picture and enter a small value like 1 degree to the left or the right depending on which way you need to adjust.

We did say that cropping is a huge benefit with image software. When you took the picture of your daughter on the swing, once you view it on your computer, you realize that you did not zoom enough and theres more trees in the picture than your daughter.
Use the image editors cropping tool to cut away the unwanted part of the picture and isolate the subject.

In most programs, this tool is in the Tool menu and it might look like a picture frame. You will click on the image (after clicking on the Crop icon) and hold your cursor down as you draw inside the picture to get rid of the background and leave the subject intact.

If your photo is too dark, you can adjust the brightness to give it some life. Try using your image editors gamma control. This is a tool that is designed to brighten the darkest parts of the picture without over-exposing the parts that are already bright. You can usually find the gamma control in menus like Color or Image.

Using your cameras flash can sometimes cause dreaded red eye in your pictures. Many programs today have a one click correct of red eye. Look for red eye removal somewhere in the Effects menu.

If your program does not have this feature, try zooming in on the subjects face and using a coloring feature to match the color of their eyes. When you zoom back out, you probably will not be able to tell the difference - unless you painted brown eyed Suzy,s eyes blue!

You can also use image editing programs to add a caption to your photos. This is helpful if you want to identify the people in the picture, the location, or the date. Look for a text tool, which is often the letter A. When choosing a font, choose a fat one because skinny ones are often hard to read in a digital picture.

If you want to e-mail photos to someone, be considerate to the recipient by resizing it. If you attach a bunch of huge 3mp images to an e-mail message, you can bog down their inbox with a huge file. The message will take forever to send and receive.

The image editor will allow you to resize the picture - usually under the Image menu. 640 x 480 pixels is good for e-mailing. If your digital camera takes pictures at this size, you will not have to resize. Keep in mind too that some programs will automatically resize pictures that are being e-mailed - like Windows XP.

Most of your picture files are given a default name containing strange numbers and symbols. Rename your files when you go to save them so that they are easily identifiable. Renaming will also help you avoid over-writing any files when you download more pictures.

There are also some fun effects that can be found in software programs to make your photos more interesting. To add some spark to your digital photos, you may want to consider adding a stylistic border or edge around the photo. Instead of the traditional rectangular photo, artistic edges can make your pictures stand out from the rest. While many effects can be done with a lot of work with your digital photo editing software, some software packages can automate this process.

Play around with blurring and layering. The best part about working with imaging software is that theres always an Undo button if you do not like what you see. Clicking on Undo will take your picture back to where you were before you started editing.
Remember, though, we very strongly suggest that you manipulate only copies of your pictures instead of the originals. You do not want to take the chance of ruining the one copy you have of a cherished moment.

You can also use this software to make a picture look old. How do you do that? Here is a step by step process:

1. Find a photo that works. Do not take a photo of your family next to a modern skyscraper. Great effects can be created with photos of country landscapes or of historical structures, such as cannons or log cabins.

2. Give your colors a brownish tint. If you have a color balance tool, you can do this by turning your reds and yellows up at the expense of blues. Or, if your image software supports duotone, give your image a brownish tone.

3. Reduce your images brightness and/or intensity. You want your photograph old and weathered and such images should not look bright and sunny.

4. Choose an Add Noise filter, if you have one, to your image. Most software programs should have this option.

5. Use your photo softwares Dust and Scratch tool, if applicable.

6. For a truly weathered look, see if your photo software has a rain, snow, or fog filter. Apply a few touches to the photograph to make it seem like it has seen better days.

In fact, digital photography opens up a whole new world for your memory preservation. Consider scrapbooking to save your photos.
About the Author
For several years now, Jason has been reviewing hundreds of online products and services. Many consider his reviews to be very insightful and reliable. Visit his website bestcamerabargains.com
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