Edit Pictures Online For Free

If you are keen amateur photographer you probably like to edit your photographs using one of the many photo editing software offerings that are on the market. The top end photo editing software choices such as Photoshop demand a not insubstantial financial investment. Whilst Adobe Photoshop is expensive, it is aimed at image professionals – either photographers or graphic designers. There is no knocking Photoshop, it is a powerful and comprehensive editing tool that in my opinion trounces the competition and is probably therefore worth the money.

However, many of the top end features in Photoshop are just not necessary unless you are working in the professional arena. The next raft of software options include the cut down version of Photoshop – Photoshop Elements, Serif’s Photoplus and Corel’s Paintshop Pro to name a few. These offer many of the features found in Photoshop at a fraction of the price and are ideal for those on a budget who just don’t need the professional high end tools that Photoshop offers. These tools are however squeezed by the ever growing number of photo editing tools that are plain and simply free. There are two types of software, both available on-line, which quite simply will not cost you a penny. The first type is a downloadable program such as GIMP. GIMP is an open source program and is continually under development – it offers almost all of the core features that you are likely to find in the cheaper paid for products.

The second type of free software, is one that you don’t even need to download. A very good example of the this is Pixlr. You use this tool though your browser and don’t need to download a thing. Again, many of the useful core tools that you are likely to want to use such as colour adjustments, contrast adjustments, levels and curves are there. Pixlr also supports layers and layer masks which is a must for landscape photographers – allowing them to blend different exposures of the same image. Pixlr is by no means the only free on-line editing software available – others include Picnik which is the integrated software editing tool in Flickr, Lunapic and Fotoflexer.

These tools really do beg the question whether you need to spend money on photo editing software at all. With cloud technology increasingly coming to the fore in the business world with online business tools from the likes of Google, it is no surprise the amateur/hobby market is mirroring this pattern.

Better Fall Photos in a Few Easy Steps

Fall is upon us and that means it’s time to take some memorable foliage photos. The turning leaves create vibrant multicolor scenes that almost photograph themselves. The vivid gold, orange, green and red colors provide many photographic possibilities, but it’s up to the photographer to capture and frame these elements into a pleasing pieces of art.

Professional photographers, using high-end equipment have produced breathtaking views of fall, but if you do your homework and follow a few simple steps you can do the same even with a modest camera.

Location, Location, Location

The first and most important step is to carefully choose your locations. Ideally this should be done before the leaves start to turn to give you more prep time, but as with most things, it’s better late than never.

It’s best to find 3 to 5 locations close to, or on the way to where you live or work. This approach gives you options and also allows you to quickly take advantage of ever-changing light and weather conditions.

Choose locations that have a variety of tree species. The contrasting colors combined with the proper light can provide a gorgeous setting. The times just after sunrise and early evening generally work best.

Look for Big and Small

While you are scouting for, or shooting at you locations don’t forget to look for small objects. A collection of leaves on the ground can sometimes be more artistic than an array of multicolor trees in the distance.

Try to look at your location from every possible angle in order to take advantage of less than obvious shots. Also look for opportunities to capture reflections. Many times a scene’s beauty can double if it is also seen from a reflective lake, pond or river.

Steady Does It

Another easy way to improve your Fall photos is to use a tripod. If your shots are taken at a distance or in low light the tripod will help to keep you camera steady and your pictures sharp. The tripod will also help if you want to take the same shot several times using different camera settings. I have found that when you find the perfect composition, but the light is not quite right or something unwanted is in the frame, the tripod is indispensable.

Color is Key

Color is what needs to stand out in your fall photos, so you should consider using the vibrant mode setting on your camera if it’s available. If your camera is not equipped with this setting you can increase saturation to achieve the same effect.

You can also tweak your photos after the fact with a photo editing program. Programs such as Adobe Photoshop Elements and Corel PaintShop Photo Pro allow you to adjust exposure, saturation, and contrast to improve the overall look of your photos. If your photos were captured using the RAW setting on your camera you will have the maximum flexibility during the editing process.

These steps should help your turn beautiful Fall scenes and objects into photos that can be enjoyed forever.

3 Tools For Sharpening Your Photos

One thing to note about digital photos before we go on… the picture format which you use. If you’ve set you digital camera to capture in JPEG format, it is likely you’ve encounter some loss of quality in the picture due to image compression. In this case, it does make sense to apply sharpening on the photo. If, however, you’ve selected to shoot in RAW mode, then you’ll unlikely face any image degradation – sharpening a RAW image is usually not necessary.

1. The Unsharp Mask
The Unsharp Mask tool is common in many photo editing software programs, including Adobe Photoshop Elements and Corel Paintshop Pro. Typically, when you apply the Unsharp Mask, you can control 3 factors – the Amount, Radius and Threshold:

  • Amount – this refers to the intensity of the sharpening
  • Radius – this refers to the distance sharpening occurs around a pixel)
  • Threshold – defines when sharpening starts to occur when two points are different in brightness

Learn to play with these three factors to obtain the optimal amount of sharpening in a photo. Apply just enough sharpening but don’t over do it. Sharpening a photo too much will usually make the edges in the photo too “harsh” or visible.

2. Smart Sharpen
Another tool at your disposal when sharpening photos is the Smart Sharpen tool. In Adobe Photoshop Elements, this tool is available as the Adjust Sharpness option within the Enhance Menu. Other photo editing programs (e.g. Corel Paintshop Pro) have similar tools but under different names.

Typically, I’d make sure that I perform the sharpening step as the last step in the photo workflow. That means that I’ll clean up the image, adjust its color, tone, brightness, etc. and flatten the image before perform a sharpen. I find that ultimately yields a better looking image in the end. The nice thing about invoking smart sharpening tools is that all the settings have been built into the sharpening algorithm already – the program will select the most appropriate sharpening options for you.

3. Advanced Sharpening Tools
If you’ve used Photoshop Lightroom or the Adobe Camera Raw plug-in for Photoshop, you’ll realize that these programs give you much more powerful photo sharpening toolkits. The algorithms for sharpening in Photoshop Lightroom and Photoshop far surpass what you see in simpler packages like Photoshop Elements and Corel Paintshop Pro. In fact, the tools in Photoshop Lightroom are so good that I’d highly recommend that you buy a copy if you’re a serious digital photographer.

Also, here’s a little known secret about working in Photoshop Lightroom. Press down the Alt (PC) or Option (Mac) key as you adjust any of the sliders and the sharpening appears in black-and-white, which is much easier to see. If you’ve used Lightroom to some extent before, you’ll know this tip is a great help.

There are dedicated photo sharpening tools out there. One of the programs I like a lot is the Nik Software Sharpener Pro. The sharpening algorithms in this package match those in Photoshop Lightroom and you can tell the difference in the sharpened image’s quality, as compared to those sharpened by more inferior programs.

Conclusion
In summary, sharpening is a common procedure in photo workflows. However, to ensure that your sharpened image looks good – you should be sure what kind of sharpening settings you should apply – set these either manually or through a smart sharpening tool. If you’re a more advanced user, you should try using tools like Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, the Adobe Camera Raw plug-in for Photoshop, as well as the Nik Software Sharpener Pro – all of which have very good sharpening algorithms.

So until next time, here’s wishing you luck in editing your photos!