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Editing digital images

You need a computer loaded with image-editing software


This picture was cropped, brightened, intensified, resized, sharpened and even had a full moon added - all in a few minutes using an image-editing program.
This picture was cropped, brightened, intensified, resized, sharpened and even had a full moon added - all in a few minutes using an image-editing program.

Whether you scan an image into your computer, download it from your digital camera or from an internet website, or receive it by email, you can change it using image manipulation (picture-editing) software.

There are several different editing programs in every price range. The acknowledged "champion" that is used by professional photographers and graphic artists worldwide is Adobe PhotoShop. Other popular programs include CorelDraw, iPhoto, Corel PaintShop Pro, Adobe PhotoShop Elements, Adobe Lightroom, Picasa, FxFoto, Microsoft Digital Image Pro, Microsoft Digital Image Starter Edition 2006 and Ulead PhotoImpact. That is not the end of the list, by any means. There are many others, including freeware editing programs that can be downloaded at no charge and even websites you can visit to edit your images. GIMP - "General Image Manipulation Program" - is a very good image editing application that supports RAW image files, and is free.

IF YOU HAVE A DIGITAL CAMERA, YOU PROBABLY HAVE A PICTURE-EDITOR

Odds are you were provided with an image-editing program on CD with your digital camera when you purchased it. If not, or if you tried it and found it difficult to use or limited in its features, you will want to acquire good image-editing software.

What is "good" image-editing software? It is easy-to-learn, user-friendly and comprehensive in its capabilities for most common picture-editing functions. Just about all good image-editing programs are capable of:

  • resizing
  • cropping
  • adjusting color in a number of ways (e.g. saturation, tonal change, etc.)
  • "painting" - adding color with a digital "brush"
  • adjusting brightness and contrast
  • increasing sharpness, and
  • moving elements from one image to another.

You don't need to spend an arm and a leg to buy a good-quality image-editing application. They start at under $100, but can go as high as several hundreds of dollars for the most-comprehensive and technically-advanced.


Some programs are noted for their absolute simplicity of use. They permit "one-touch" editing for such functions as removal of red-eye, and allow you to tackle complicated tasks without having to learn a good deal beforehand. They may be fully-automatic or might employ a step-by-step "wizard" that guides you along the way. While they can sometimes achieve the results you want, they can also produce a second-rate job that is not quite up to your expectations. Programs that require manual editing skills will generally provide superior results.

Adobe PhotoShop - the undisputed leader in image-editing software

Sitting at the top of the list of image-editing software is Adobe PhotoShop, an expensive, features-loaded program that can produce seeming miracles of picture manipulation in the hands of an expert. A good deal of expertise is required to fully utilize and benefit from PhotoShop's capabilities. While it does not take long to learn some of the program's tools for basic editing, it takes a great deal of training and experience to master all that PhotoShop can do.

Adobe PhotoShop, the acknowledged king of image-editing programs, is expensive and requires specialized training to master all of its functions.
Adobe PhotoShop, the acknowledged king of image-editing programs, is expensive and requires specialized training to master all of its functions.

Adobe PhotoShop ELEMENTS is loaded with powerful image-editing tools, quick-fix solutions and plenty of easy-to-follow advice.
Adobe PhotoShop ELEMENTS is loaded with powerful image-editing tools, quick-fix solutions and plenty of easy-to-follow advice.

Fortunately, Adobe came up with a solution for those who would like to benefit from PhotoShop's capabilities, but who don't wish to spend so much money and don't have the time to learn PhotoShop's intricacies. It's called PhotoShop Elements, a superb image-organizer and image-editing program introduced in 2001.

PhotoShop Elements combines many of the practical tools and functions of PhotoShop along with quick-fix features and help wizards that provide greater simplicity of use. Just about anyone can be up and running in no time, using PhotoShop Elements to easily and quickly edit digital pictures with pleasing results. There are Windows and Macintosh versions available.

We don't want you to think that Adobe is the only source. Many of Adobe's rivals are hot on the heels of PhotoShop, with programs that are very good image-editors. Shopping around and looking for features that you consider desirable could net you just the program you need for the results you are after.


TRY BEFORE YOU BUY

If you have a particular program in mind that you would like to test out, bear in mind that a number of manufacturers (including Adobe for PhotoShop and Photo Shop Elements, Microsoft for Microsoft Digital Image Starter Edition 2006 and Corel for PaintShop Pro) allow you to download a free tryout or beta version of their software.

Once you have an image-editing program installed on your computer, you are equipped to turn your ho-hum pictures into great-looking photographs.

In the pages found in this section of PhotographyTips.com, we are going to walk you through the basic steps of image-editing. We'll also show you some neat image-manipulation tricks and techniques you can use to create awesome effects and have a lot of fun with your pictures. We employ Adobe PhotoShop, PhotoShop Elements and other image-editing applications to create easy-to-understand examples and step-by-step procedures.

BEGIN BY LEARNING THE FUNDAMENTALS

As with anything worthwhile, learning how to edit digital images takes time and effort. You won't master your image-editing program overnight and shouldn't expect to create professional-looking images right away.

We will advance one step at a time, learning the basics first. Later on, we will explore more advanced techniques, including some that can transform the plainest digital pictures into incredible fantasy images that will wow you and anyone who views them.

An important note at the outset: Be sure to always save your original pictures in case you don't like the changes you end up making to them. If you edit an image and then save it without having its original image file backed up, you can never get the original back again. The original has more data than any edited version of it that you may make. As you learn more about image manipulation, you might wish you had those old originals back again to really do a bang-up editing job on them.


Make a copy to edit;
you won't ever regret it.

Let's start with the most basic of all of the editing functions - rotating a picture that was photographed in "portrait" or vertical orientation, but stored by your camera in horizontal orientation. Click here or you can click on the "The first steps in editing pictures" link at the bottom of the page.

It is very gratifying to make a few editing changes to your pictures that result in such a great improvement.
It is very gratifying to make a few editing changes to your pictures that result in such a great improvement.

Transforming the digital photograph on the left into the edited picture on the right was accomplished in a matter of minutes using Adobe PhotoShop ELEMENTS.
Transforming the digital photograph on the left into the edited picture on the right was accomplished in a matter of minutes using Adobe PhotoShop ELEMENTS.

Further information...

The first steps in editing pictures

Toolbox for image editing