Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Edit those photos! Part 1

I've gotten lots of comments from people, non-photographers, mind you, and most in real life, about how amazing my pictures look. Well thanks, and yes part of it is just creative shooting, but much of the pop and pow happens in post-productions. Did you know that no picture that I have posted anywhere in the past, oh, 6 months, at least, has not had some form of editing performed on it? It's really what you should do. Yeah, it's time consuming, but it's really worth it. It can take a very blah, amateur looking photo, and make it look amazing!

So, I'm going to take you through what you need to know and do, in order to start producing some entirely fabulous photos. This series is meant for the completely amateur photographer, so no matter how much of a novice you are, you should be able to follow along. Let's get going!

In order to start editing, your going to need a program to edit with. Here are a few to get you started.

For the reluctant editor:

You are the person who is reading this and going "edit photos, what?" You personally have never edited a photo and wish to continue with that trend.
  • Many people use and upload to sites like Snapfish, Shutterfly, and Kodak Gallery. These sites have some basic editing tools build right in. So if your already uploading pictures to share and print, for heavens sake, take a moment to edit the red-eye out. The power of these tools isn't anything to write home about, but it's better than nothing. You can typically crop, edit red-eye, adjust color, and make a few other simple edits.

For the editor wanna-be:

You are the person that doesn't have much experience editing photos and you just want to get the basics, without having to spend the money and take the time to learn a more advanced program.
  • Picasa is a free program from Google, which you can download straight to your computer for free. (You can also take advantage of their web albums, which I have yet to try). The one thing I use Picasa for the most is organization. I always leave it open, and it imports everything from my computer automatically. At first I didn't like that, but I've found that I've gotten more organized because of it. Sometimes when I download pictures of my computer, I have pictures from various events. It's so easy to scroll through, put only the ones I want in a named album, then export that out, leaving me with a neat and tidy, named folder, which I can then open into PSE 7 or upload to SmugMug. It has a good array of editing tools, such as red-eye removal, cropping, straightening, adjusting lighting and contrast, and various simple creative options. I've typically found the "I'm feeling lucky" does a pretty decent job, for the lazy or in a hurry editor. I also really like their collage feature, which is a great way to take an album and make a cool looking collage, quickly and pain free!

  • There is also Picnik, which instead of being downloaded, it is used online, right in your browser. It had a been a while since I had visited the site, so I decided to check it out a couple of days ago. Maybe I just didn't stick around long enough on my first visit, but I was fairly impressed. They have about every basic editing and creative features the average person could want. And even more if you are willing to pay the modest $24.95 fee to upgrade to premium. I played around with some photos, and it's pretty easy to take a photo from "blah" to "wow!" in just a few minutes. They also have lots of great tools if you like to have fun with your photos, like collage and scrapbook layouts, stickers, lots of cool fonts for text and more.

For the serious editor:

You are ready to move up in the photography world and are willing to try your hand at learning the ways of some of the more advanced programs. You want more precise control over your photos and want to take them to the next level.

  • I adore Adobe Photoshop Elements (versions 5 and 7)! It's a great program packed with punched. You can do virtually anything with your photos, as long as your willing to take a little bit of time to learn how to use the features (There are some great tutorials out there, just look around). This is a awesome program for under $100, and I can't recommend it enough. I also love actions, which are prerecorded commands you apply to your photos, which can save you loads of time. There are lots of free action sets out there, so again, just look around.
  • Now a couple things to note regarding Adobe Photoshop
  1. Don't feel like you need to buy the $700 Adobe Photoshop CS4 in order to do great things with your photos. I've come across many run of the mill, very amateur photographers that decide to buy the pro version (instead of the consumer version, Elements) because they feel it will make them "cooler" or something, and then struggle with understanding how to use it and such. Hear me out people, until you have become an expert at Elements, and I mean an expert, don't even consider CS4. Elements is much cheaper and much more user friendly. So save your pennies for better photo equipment and take some classes, then consider a pro version. (Sorry for the rant, just kind of a pet peeve of mine, and I've seen the mistake all too often). Personally, I'm not sure I'll ever buy CS4 (or CS5, etc.), although I would love Lightroom.
  2. If you have a computer that more than 2 years old, you may want to see if you can find one of the older versions of Photoshop Elements (click here to see the list of release dates to see what version you need). If your computer is 4 years old, you may find the PSE7 runs painfully slow (like my poor father).
  3. Download the trial version, and try it out. See if it's a program you think you can master and are willing to invest time into (and some money) before you buy.

Take some time to identify which category you think you fit into, and what will work for you. Even the most amateur photographer, with a terrible camera, can make their photos look amazing, if they have some editing tricks up their sleeves.

Up next: What makes a good photo, and why edit?

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