Digital Photography Basics - Selecting the Right Photo Editing Software
If you want to learn the digital photography basics then you need to get comfortable with photo editing software. This article gives you an overview of what photo editing software can do and the differences between the most popular products.
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.
Plus, with photo editing software you can do both standard image editing, such as cropping and adjusting color, and with the right software, you can also try your hand at photo manipulation.
Image editing refers to all changes that are made to a photograph. 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.)
Before you choose a photo editor, you first want to understand the type of image editing you want to do. 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 functions like retouching where you can remove scratches or blemishes. 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: The market leader in photo editing and manipulation, it's more user-friendly and less costly (approximately $90) than its big brother, Photoshop CS4. It's great for the photography enthusiast and there is even a free trial version.
Adobe Photoshop CS4: This has everything a professional photographer or graphic artist needs. 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 free 30-day trial.
The GIMP: An odd name for such a powerful program, the acronym stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program. This photo editor is open source (aka freeware) and continues to improve and has a good community of users if 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.
To get the best use out of your photo editor, look at its guide or help sections for an overview of what you can do with it, and then read the help sections on any new applications you want to try that aren't 100 percent intuitive.
It takes time but you will be amazed at the magic you can do with your photos if you spend a little effort.
For example, here are a just a few of the things you can accomplish (the top 5 even with just Picasa):
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 you can choose sepia for a vintage look.
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 by cropping your picture can make a big difference in how your photograph turns out. For these reasons image editing is part of just about any digital photography basics course or book you might find. Before long, you will be editing and producing quality photographs that you will be proud to hang on your wall.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Autumn Lockwood is a writer for Your Picture Frames. Shop online and see our selection of photo frame sizes in a wide variety of finishes like our wood 4x6 picture frames and metal 5x7 picture frames.