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Digital Photography Basics - Types of Photo Editing Software

For the digital photography enthusiast, becoming well acquainted with photo editing is one of the digital photography basics that can make a world of difference in how well a photograph turns out.

Image editing software to a digital photographer is what the dark room is to a film photographer. The big benefit of photo editing software is that it's easier to do than setting up a darkroom.

And with photo editing software, you can do standard image editing functions like cropping and adjusting color, and can also do photo manipulation.

Image editing refers to any change that is made to a picture. Photo manipulation refers to what film shutterbugs used to call "trick photography" - switching backgrounds and such. (For some fun examples of photo manipulation, look up the "National Geographic Photo Foolery" page online.)

Once you know the type of image editing you want to do, you will be better able to choose a photo editor. In this article, we'll highlight the most popular ones:

Picasa: A free photo editor from Google. If you are just getting into the very basics of digital photography, this will serve you well for a while. It is really designed to be more of an online photo album or photo manager but can also handle basic photo editing. Picasa offers basic editing tools such as retouch, which helps you remove blemishes, scratches, etc. Like many photo editors it has red eye remover. It also has some fun functionality where you can create screensavers with your photos and even integrate them with Google Earth.

If you're ready to advance from digital photography basics and do more with your images, consider one of the other photo editors.

Adobe Photoshop Elements: This is more user-friendly and less costly than it's "big brother" Photoshop CS4 and is the market leader in photo editing and manipulation. It's good for the photography enthusiast plus there is a free trial version.

Adobe Photoshop CS4: This has everything you could possibly need as a professional photographer or graphic artist. It sells for about $700 on their website, but you can find it half that price by some vendors or look for a free trial version.

Paint Shop Pro: This is a close competitor to Photoshop Elements and also runs about $90. They also offer a 30 day free trial.

The GIMP: An odd name for such a powerful program, the acronym stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program. This open source, freeware continues to improve and has a good community of users should you need help. It is available for Unix/Linux platforms, as well as Windows (NT4/2000/XP/Vista) and Mac operating systems (OS X). It doesn't quite have everything that you get with Adobe Photoshop CS4, but it has more than Elements or Paint Shop Pro and is used by some professionals.

No matter what photo editor you have, read through the guide or help sections so you understand what you can do with it.

It takes time to learn but you will be impressed with what you can do with your images.

For example, here are a just a few of the things you can accomplish (the top 5 even with just Picasa):

* Crop
* Resize
* Lighten or darken shadows, highlights, and midtones
* Correct Colors
* Remove blemishes, a stray branch, a logo, or anything else you don't want in the picture
* Blur Backgrounds (Photoshop Elements, Paintshop Pro and The GIMP all offer background-blurring applications. Picasa doesn't.)

You can also create all sorts of special effects with a photo editor. For example, you can convert your photograph into an impressionistic painting. You can turn a color photo into black and white to capture the tones, lines and highlights without the distraction of color.
Or for a more vintage or antique look, you can choose sepia.

Even if you don't want to do any cool special effects, learning the basics of any photo editor will let you fix "mistakes" in your photos. Just cropping alone can do wonders if you couldn't get a close enough shot or you've got too much clutter in the picture. That is why photo editing is an important part of learning the digital photography basics and why it's important that you learn it. Before you know it, you will be editing and producing quality images perfect for framing on your wall.


Buy Binoculars For The Ultimate Bird Watching Experience

Bird watching is becoming an increasingly popular hobby enjoyed by people of all ages, all around the world. Most bird watching enthusiasts take pleasure in spotting these beautiful creatures for the sheer enjoyment of it; not for scientific reasons. They merely enjoy the thrill of spotting a different species of bird and studying its plumage or behavior. There are now bird watching clubs all around the globe devoted to this fascinating hobby.

Get A Better View With Bird Watching Binoculars

Bird watching can be done with the naked eye but bird watching binoculars offer a much more fulfilling experience. The birds will not be frightened away by bird watchers who are trying to get a closer look at them as they can be viewed clearly from afar with a decent pair of bird watching binoculars.

There is a wide variety of bird watching binoculars that are especially suitable for this wonderful hobby. These bird watching binoculars are lightweight so that they will not weigh down the people in pursuit of beautiful birds. Good bird watching binoculars are designed to illuminate and enlarge the view of the birds for a richer bird watching experience. The binoculars that are the best for bird watching also provide a wide view so that birds can be observed in flight, as well as in a static situation.

Quick And Simple Focus Is Important

If your binoculars do not focus properly you will not be able to have a clear view of the birds that you are pursuing. It's as simple as that. If you cannot see each and every intricate detail on the bird that you have spotted you will not be receiving the full satisfaction of this most enjoyable hobby. The focus mechanism on your binoculars should be easy and quick to use as birds are constantly moving. You do not want to miss out on studying a striking bird because you are struggling with your binoculars' focus.

You must ensure that your bird watching binoculars provide you with the most realistic view of the birds' coloring as possible. All bird watching enthusiasts will agree that they want to be able to view birds as they actually appear in the natural environment, without the lenses of their binoculars distorting the breathtaking color of the birds' plumage.

Popular Bird Watching Binocular Brands

Bird watching binoculars can range quite drastically in price, but you shouldn't fret - you will be able to find a decent pair of binoculars no matter your price range. Popular brands include Nikon and Swarovski. Nikon produce many fine optic products and their bird watching binoculars are particularly good. Nikon binoculars are excellent for the early morning or dusk - times that most species of birds will be quite active. They have fantastic lenses that provide excellent magnification as well as illumination, and the focus is really easy to use.

Swarovski also make superb bird watching binoculars. They are slightly pricey but will be worth it in the long run. Like Nikon binoculars, they are also perfect for viewing birds during times of the day when the light is quite low. Swarovski binoculars have lenses that provide you with clarity of color and they are great for focusing very quickly in situations when you do not have much time to get a good look at the birds. Another advantage of Swarovski binoculars is that they are extremely lightweight so they will be a comfortable piece of bird watching equipment that can be taken on any bird watching excursion.

Whatever type of binoculars you choose to buy, whether they are the most expensive pair or the cheapest, ensure that you get a pair that is comfortable that suits your needs. Shop around before settling on the perfect pair for you. With the right equipment, such as a decent pair of binoculars, bird watching can be a very enjoyable and satisfying experience.


Dark Room Photography - How to Get Started

In this day and age, the darkroom almost seems like an outdated inconvenience. Why spend time in a dark, smelly room working to get the perfect print when you can upload them and photoshop them to perfection? There is no doubt that digital is more convenient and flexible than film, but sometimes it's fun to spend a little time working in the dark. If you have never been in a photo darkroom before, this is your dark room guide to getting started.
We'll skip developing your film and getting supplies for now and just talk about the actual process.

Making Prints with an Enlarger

An enlarger is a machine that turns your film into large printed photos. It does this by projecting light through your film and onto the surface of your photo paper, exposing the light sensitive chemicals buried inside.

In order to print a photo, you'll need to line the frame up with your enlarger's light source, project it onto the blank mat, and ensure it is correctly focused (usually by adjusting a knob on the side). Make sure you can clearly see the grain of your image otherwise get a magnifiying glass to check. You need to play with the exposure timing to make sure the image turns out okay, then you should be just fine.

The Chemicals

Once you've decided on the correct timing and exposed a full photograph, it's time to get your hands dirty. Darkroom chemicals have a smelly and distinct odor and will ruin any clothing they come in contact with so make sure to wear an apron or wear old ratty clothes. The chemical process can be broken down into four steps:

1. Developer - Soak your paper, which will still be completely white, in the developer. This chemical will activate the photo paper and over the course of a few minutes you'll start to see your image come through. If you're unhappy with the contrast or exposure levels, head back to the enlarger and adjust your timing. Once you have an image you like and it has fully developed, it's time to move over to the stop bath.

2. Stop Bath - The stop bath will prevent your image from developing any further by neutralizing the chemicals found in the developer. If you've ever been in a darkroom, the smell you remember is the stop bath. Feel your image to see if you can move on; paper that has been properly stopped will squeak when you rub your fingers on it. This should only take a few short minutes.

3. Fixer - While the stop bath will stop the effects of the developer chemicals, your paper will still be sensitive to light exposure. Fixer is the last chemical in the process so once your print has soaked in this, it can be exposed to light without ruining the image. You don't need to soak your images in fixer for too long, but 5-10 minutes depending on the chemicals and paper is usually a safe bet.

4. Rinse - Naturally you'll want to rinse your photos of all the harsh chemicals you've soaked in them. Most dark rooms have a sink and a rinsing tub with a continuous flow of water so you can leave your print there as long as it takes to remove all of the chemicals. This is a good time to print some other shots from your roll!

Once you have enlarged, developed, stopped, fixed and rinsed your prints, place them out to dry in a safe place or use a photo dryer. Don't forget to rinse your prints well because if you don't, your photographs will turn brown over time from the chemical residue left on the print. Pick up your dry images and put them in a heavy book to straighten them out (a little curling isn't unusual), then frame and hang them.

The darkroom can seem intimidating, but once you have a bearing on the process you will enjoy printing your own images. It's a great way to get away from the world for a little while and focus on your art (bring a radio if you can) and provides you infinitely more control over your final images than having someone else print them. Just remember to check before turning on the lights or you may just ruin someone's photograph!


Best Compact Digital Cameras

Cameras today are a streamlined version of their forerunners. Cameras of yesterday were large and clunky. Cameras now can be so small you can fit them on your keychain. Many wonder if you can get good quality in such a small camera, and the answer is yes. Here are a few of the best compact digital camera choices.

Canon Powershot A720

This is one of the best compact digital cameras and scores a five out of five stars in user ratings. Loaded with features it has 6x optical zoom and 4x digital zoom. It has 8 megapixels that allow you to print great pictures as large as 11 x 14. It has a 2.5 color LCD so that you can view your photos right away. The optical image stabilizer reduces hand shake and the face detection feature helps you get the perfect shot each time. It has several focus modes that lets you focus on objects as close as .39 of an inch! It is PictBridge compatible so that you can print your pictures without using your computer. It has 8 white balance modes and 19 shooting modes, as well as 4 different movie modes. You have the option of using SD or MMC cards to store your images. Overall, this is a great compact camera with tons of great features. It is a great deal for only around $230.

HP Photosmart R847V

Another one of the best compact digital cameras out there is the HP Photosmart R847V. It also gets five out of five stars. It boasts 8 megapixels for great resolution and has an anti shake feature so your pictures are not blurry. It has a Fujinon lens that gives you 3x optical zoom and 8x digital zoom. For a compact digital camera it gives you a huge 3 color LCD screen. It is also PictBridge compatible and allows you to focus as close as .10 of an inch. It has 13 different picture modes as well as a movie mode. You have the option of using SD or SDHC memory cards. It has a great in-camera editing program so that you can enhance your pictures right on the camera. What makes this one of the best compact digital cameras is not only the amazing features, but also the amazing price. This great camera costs only around $150.

Xias DCS760

This camera is made by Norcent and is rated very highly as one of the best compact digital cameras. Users give this camera five out of five stars. It has a beautiful sleek design and offers 7 megapixels for high resolution. There is 3x optical zoom and 4x digital zoom. The 2.5 color LCD lets you see all those great pictures immediately. It has 15 picture taking modes as well as a movie mode for greater versatility. It also has sound and a built in flash. An added bonus is that it comes with a case, a hand strap, and USB cables. This great compact digital camera is listed at $200.


Where to go to Find Digital Camera Ratings

Finding good digital camera ratings can be hard because the camera companies and stores want the ratings to be good and they want the cameras to sell. It is hard to know what information to trust, and what information may have been paid for by the companies that make or sell the cameras that you want to know about.

One way to help you get the most out of your research is to stick to the facts rather than relying on ratings anyway. If you know what kind of camera you are looking for and what features you really want or need, you can use your knowledge to narrow down the range of cameras and select by a preferred brand or a good price. Sometimes, though, the price is right because the quality is not the best. So how do you know if the camera is a good one or if it is worth much less than you are paying for it?

A favorite method of determining the real value of the camera is to ask the consumers instead of the professional reviewers. Stay away from the digital camera ratings sites and instead focus on sites like Amazon that allow their customers to comment on the books and other products that they sell on their web site.

To be sure you are getting an unbiased review, make sure that the reviewer has other posts elsewhere if it is possible to check, and make sure that they don't read like an advertisement for the camera. You should be able to get relatively good information by listening to what other people who have bought the same camera thought of it, making it easy to choose your new camera from among those that ranked highly among other consumers.

Sometimes popular opinion is flawed, of course, and the bad review about a particular feature might have come from someone who simply didn't understand how that feature was supposed to work. You can get your best reviews from popular opinion as long as you take that opinion with a grain of salt and don't let them convince you if your experience is different. You can even "give back" by adding your own reviews of products that you own and use.

There are lots of places to look for digital camera ratings, but if you are looking for an accurate picture of the camera that you want, check out the opinions of clients like you, satisfied or not.


Snap It. Or How to Turn Your Hobby Into A Cash Maker

You've just got your new digital camera and you literally cannot get your hands off it? Well that's a brilliant start of a new hobby and yet another way to earn some cash while having fun.

Digital photography became quite popular recently mainly because of the affordability of the digital cameras and photography equipment. While several years ago having a digital camera was a luxury, nowadays it is quite common. Yet another good news is that almost any digital camera is making decent if not perfect pictures so you really do not need to go for expensive professional equipment.

The first thing to do if you are after digital photography is to learn how to use your camera. Read the guide that came along it carefully and test all the functions. Make as many pictures as possible just to become familiar with the way the camera works. The next step is to gain some knowledge about photography. After all photography isn't all about being tech-savvy and knowing how to use a camera. It is about capturing a moment, conveying a message, sharing a feeling. A good place to start is the National Geographic site that will give you 90% of the information on the subject.

All set? Well, now it is time to think about how to earn some cash out of your hobby. In fact the ways to help your budget while enjoying digital photography are more than you have imagined. Here are some fresh ideas.

Go online.
Making pictures of anything you came across can earn you some money, especially if their quality is high. Simply look for image databases or poster websites. Many will accept your photos and will pay you if someone is interested in using your images.

People Photography.
Family, friends, co-workers - everybody has special moments they want captured. Graduations, birthdays, wedding, baby showers are just a few of the events you can go to and make fabulous pictures. Not only this - you can get paid for your service. Of course you can keep the best ones and still publish them online (see idea #1).

Freelance Photo Journalist.
Why don't you contact a local magazine or a newspaper and become a freelance photo journalist. All you will need to do is to go to various public events such as parades, pet contests, sport, fashion, celebrity events and take photos. You will be paid per image. While this might be more time consuming and exhausting job it has good prospects also. If you are doing well you might be offered a permanent photographer's position. In essence it is good example how your hobby can turn into a long-term job.

Become an Artist.
A bit more complicated and only for those who have artistic nature. Digital photography is not only making pictures of people and still life. It is about showing your point of view. For this reason there are many artists who do not paint or make sculptures but make photos. You can try the same. All you will need to do is to gather a sufficient amount of images and contact a local gallery to display them.


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