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The Poor Man’s Guide to Editing Photos

In the last millennium, when stills and photos were taken with hand SLRs on film rolls, the art of photographic editing was largely the domain of professional photo editors. These people would devote their skills, time and patience to the pursuance of visual betterment and technical improvements in this field. Alas, in this millennium, with the birth and development of the internet age, computers, digitals cameras and free editing software, pretty much anybody can manipulate digital photographs to an exact, or more or less, desired standard or result.  And while commercial, wedding, filmographic and other specialized areas ought to be left to full time professionals, if you just want to improve on your photos, just keep on reading.  1. The photo editing programme.  For very basic photo editing you could conceivably use Windows’ native photo editing ...   programme such as Windows Media Center (WMC). It is available in all Windows Vista and Window 7 Home Premium, Professional, and Ultimate editions.  The usual location is  All Programs > Window Media Centre > Continue > Express Set up.  With WMC you can make some basic edits to your photos such as crop, edit, rotate, re-eye, darken, lighten, save and print photos.  If these capabilities are insufficient for your needs or requirements, then a more professional programme will be needed. Adobe Photoshop is pretty much the gold standard, but but this programme is relatively expensive, especially if what you want to do is casual, DYO, home editing and not as a business or on a commercial basis. Despair not however, as there are quite viable, free alternatives. Some of the best known are Gimp, Photo Pos Pro, Paint.NET, Seashore 4,  Pixlr; either as downloadable, stand alone applications, or hosted online. All are easily searchable and may be used pretty much for free.  More to the point, and especially with Gimp, these are quite powerful and comprehensive programmes capable of working with all common file formats including . psd, .tiff , .dng, etc. But in the end, for good or for bad Photoshop is the photo editing bible, and that is the programme we will tutor by.  Fortunately there a huge amount of help resources online for the novices and beginners.  In the paragraphs below we will provide the navigation and the techniques required to achieve basic photo editing steps with Photoshop.  2. The cropping tool. This is normally found and done via  Menu > Image > Rectangular Marquee Tool > Image > Crop.  It goes for whether  you need to crop ( cut ) most or some or the image or even a fraction of a corner.  Cropping is invaluable for altering and improving the composition and overall aesthetics of a photograph. The aim is not dramatically re-size image but to ameliorate its composition , therefore, crop slowly and only little by little.  A good practice to adopt in Photoshop editing is  to save the first, unedited image as the native Photoshop file . psd progressively. So save as  ‘myphoto1.psd’, ‘myphoto2.psd’ and so on. Should you do something drastically wrong you can always re-open the previously saved file. 3. Brightness and Contrast. These are normally found and done via  Menu > Image > Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast. There are two sliding buttons you can experiment with. Both are very easy to use If you check the dialog’s box labelled ‘Preview’. Basically brightness refers to the overall lightness or darkness of the image. Increasing the brightness every pixel in the frame gets lighter. Contrast is the difference in brightness between objects in the image. Pedants argue that brightness and contrast are misleading when compared to what these actually do.  The former control mostly controls the reproduced contrast, while the former really only controls latter. Be that as it may, don’t forget to save your file after applying these, or any changes, or that matter. 4. Hue and Saturation. These are  normally found and done via  Menu > Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation.  The multi-slider control allows you to increase or decrease the colour, saturation, and the light intensity of a specific range of colours in an image, or alternatively, to simultaneously adjust all in your photo.  With these modes of manual colour correction you can manipulate the vibrancy of the colours in your photograph to your heart’s content, so to speak.  The Hue control lets you change the colour of the image while  Saturation allows you to intensify or lessen the original colours. Take care not to over-compensate the depths or intensities of these in your image. While both are very useful, extreme adjustments will result in unnatural colours or presentations. A quite interesting and versatile control built in with the slider control is the Colorize checkbox.  Use it to saturate the Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black of your image to entire canvas, or a selected areas,  with often surprising results. The Colorize option does not have a slider because the slider alters only the individual pixels of present colour values.  For instant image editing previews make sure the Preview checkbox is checked.  Again, save your file, and save it often. 5. Levels and Curves. These are normally found and done via  Menu > Image > Adjustments > Levels .. and  Curves ..  Both are advanced digital photography settings needed for one of the most crucial editing tasks, that of tone control. In a nutshell,  levels allow you to adjust the depth of the red, green and blue primary colours one at a time, while with curves, you can adjust your image’s highlights and lowlights. If your image has unsatisfactory colours or contrast levels and curves these are the tone controls needed to achieve tonal satisfaction.  Both permit you to manipulate the white and-or black  ends, or end points, of the image’s tonal range.  The adjustment of these end points permit the overall change in the contrast of an image. With both levels and curves you can alter the visual appeal of the gray tones between the white and black and ranges.  An important difference is  that levels allow you to proportionally change all of the tones in the tonal range. Curves, instead, permit you to select which areas of the tone scale you want to change. Note that levels is a linear adjustment, whereas curves are a geometric adjustment. This difference is reflected in the nomenclature:  levels for curves, linear for geometric. Some professionals prefer to use the curves adjustments, over levels,  as this tend to better results and to make them more proficient. 6. When should you use these adjustments?  This is relatively simple, actually.  You should use Levels when a) You only need to lighten or darken the black or white end points for overall contrast.  b) You wish to make entire tonal  range lighter or darker, as when rectifying over or under-exposure. c) You prefer to keep the appearance of the intermediate tones. You should instead use Curves when d)  You only wish to delicately alter the appearance of the tone values, as in dimming or darkening shadows.  e) You prefer tonal change to a small portion or section of the global tones. f)  You want full and complete control over every and all tonal aspects of your image. Last, but not least, once you have finished editing your photos, please print them. And once printed, get them into photo frames, or picture frames.

Comments

Both Photoshop and Gimp are too tecchy for me. I use Windows 7's native application Microsoft Paint. I use it to draw, sketch, colour and edit my images. MS Paint lets you import and export many graphic files to various devices like USB, cameras, etc. I do my basic editing then print in colour and later print the photos for framing in photo frames which I buy from here.


Josephine O. - 6 Jan 2018 06:06 pm
Adobe Photoshop is a good program, but it's so expensive! I suggest Gimp as a free and worthy alternative. I stopped using Photoshop when it jumped 30% in price some years back and have never looked back. It is very suitable for both amateur and professional work and it works with Photoshop's native files.
Werner H. - 9 May 2017 09:17 pm

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