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):
* 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.
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