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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!


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