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The Basics of Digital Photo Editing

Photo editing has changed a lot since the days of printing photos in the darkroom. Actions that used to take hours of painstaking work can now be done or, more importantly, undone at the click of a mouse. So, if you're just getting started you first want to learn about the basic terminology of digital photography editing software. We've created this quick guide to help you start in the right direction.

Photo Editing Software

There are many, many pieces of software dedicated to photo editing on the market. There is a huge range in price and quality when it comes to digital photo editing software. In the end, you will need to decide what you are willing to spend and what you want to do with it. For this article, we won't talk too much about different bits of software's pluses and minuses, but know that there are options. If you're looking for free editors, you should look at The Gimp or Paint.net or if you want to buy a professional program definitely check out Adobe Photoshop.

Functions of Photo Editing Software

Though editing software can be incredibly complex and allow near-infinite options, there are a few things that you'll want to get a grasp on that will take care of most of the things you're looking for when editing basic photos.

* Cropping: When you crop an image it involves creating a new frame so you can remove the parts of the image you don't want. Anything inside the frame will be kept, anything outside will be trashed. One important thing to remember about cropping is that it changes the final dimensions of your photographs, so if you're planning on printing them make sure you crop with the same aspect ratio (width to height).

* Contrast: Contrast impacts how much the colors or tones stand out from one another. By adding contrast, the darks will get darker and the lights will get lighter, but if you remove contrast your image will turn into a gray mess. Higher contrasts can make for interesting imagery, but will also make the grain of your photos stand out more.

* Brightness: Brightness refers to the level of lighting of the entire picture. If you've taken a picture that turned out too dark, turning up the brightness may help some of the details stand out. If you raise the brightness and the contrast together, little by little, you may be able to salvage an image that previously seemed ruined.

* Photo Saturation: Saturation refers to the intensity and depth of the colors in your picture. In a color image, if you completely remove the saturation the image will turn to black and white. If you amp it up, your colors will quickly begin to look unnatural and super-bright.

* The Hue: Hue impacts the tone of an image. If you change the hue, your picture will change from a green or blue tint to purple, red or any other possible color. Although it takes a little time to get used to, changing the hue can make a big improvement to images taken under fluorescent light.

* Transforming Your Photo: Though presented differently in each software suite, they all have some way for you to flip, rotate, or resize your images. Hopefully you won't have to make too many adjustments of this nature, but should an image turn out slightly crooked it's good to know you have alternatives.

Regardless of which photo editing software you use, you should be able to adjust all of the elements mentioned above so you can get your photos exactly how you want them. One way to add depth and bring out the picture's color is to decrease the saturation amount while increasing the contrast. Otherwise, do your best not to rely on editing and try to get all of the work done in the camera. Editing is a tool, but it's always better if you start with the best possible image and make it better, as opposed to trying to salvage an awful shot.


Camera Zoom - How to Get the Most From Your Lens

Nearly every camera on the market comes equipped with some sort of zoom function. What's funny about zooms is that they are almost always used incorrectly or never used at all. Many photographers starting out consider the zoom to be for "far away things" and never understand the impact using a zoom correctly can have on their images. Keeping that in mind, here are some ways to use your zoom the next time you're out taking pictures.

And before you start using your zoom find out if it's an optical zoom or a digital zoom. This will make a big difference when it comes to the quality of your images. The best type of zoom is clearly an optical zoom and will be the focus of this article. The other type of zoom is a digital zoom where it blows up the image to make it seem larger but actually doesn't "zoom" in on the image as one would expect. To get the best results, always use an optical zoom. So here are some techniques you can use for getting great zoom results.

Crop, Crop, Crop

In a perfect world, no piece of photography software would have to come with a "crop" feature. If you don't know the term "cropping" it refers to removing all of the extra stuff in the image that the photographer should have avoided when shooting the picture. Rather than cropping the junk out of the background afterwards, make use of your camera's zoom and fill the frame with only the important parts of the image. Pictures of family get togethers are infamous for this as most photographers don't fill the frame with the subject and instead take a picture consisting mostly of the background.

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No type of camera lens will reflect the subject with 100% accuracy. In every kind of lens there is a tiny bit of distortion, and this can and should inform your decisions with your camera zoom. For example, taking portraits with a zoom lens from a little farther away will give you much better results than putting the camera right in someone's face. Give it a try the next time you take a portrait style picture. Take a few pictures up close then a few with your zoom and see which your subject likes better.

Spy On Your Loved Ones

If you happen to have a powerful camera zoom or great lens, it may be time to try your hand at being sneaky. Obviously, it's not a good idea to invade the privacy of your friends and family, but candid pictures are a great way to capture people you care about as their natural selves. When you're far from the action, people act more natural and you'll find that you capture amazing moments that might have been missed if everyone was paying attention to the camera.

Zoom isn't a tool to only be used when you're far away. You should use it to improve your composition, make your subject comfortable and capture unplanned moments otherwise difficult to capture. A lens that is capable of zooming is a powerful and flexible ally in your quest to become a great photographer, so try and find new and creative ways to use it. You'll love the results.


How to Get Started With Digital Photography

Digital photography, though pretty much the industry standard at this point, is still a young technology. Many of the greatest advances in digital happened within the last ten years, and if you're a later adopter it's nothing to be ashamed of - there are millions of people out there that have never touched a digital camera.

And the best part? Learning to take digital pictures is a lot easier than you may think!

The Main Tool- A Digital Camera

When digital cameras first came out they were far outside most people's price range, but now they are affordable for almost everyone. Now you can get a good point and shoot camera for less than $200 or for more features you can get a nice digital SLR for under $1000.

Try to keep in mind what you want to use the camera for so you can be sure to get a camera that's best suited for your needs. If your primary picture taking is to capture memories of your friends and family, then the high image quality of an SLR doesn't do much for you. Give some thought to what you want to use your camera for so you'll choose a camera that is suitable for your needs.

The Software

Many digital cameras include some type of software for uploading images and managing your files. Some of these tools are better than others but if you have a Mac you can use iPhoto. And in terms of uploading, as long as your computer can see your camera or the card reader, you can upload the files however you choose.

As for editing software, there is a wide variety of options out there for every price range imaginable. Paint.net is a great free image editing software that offers features like layer editing and other advanced features that other higher end software offers. Another good free photo editor is The Gimp or you can go the professional route and buy Adobe Photoshop. But remember with Photoshop you're buying a professional tool with a lot of features you are probably not going to need right away.

The Final Product

Finally, once you've uploaded and edited your images, you'll probably want to share them with your friends and family. There are many different ways to share photos, but the most popular are using sites like Facebook or Flickr. Sharing your photos online allows your friends and family to see how you're doing without you taking the time and effort to print out and mail them pictures.

You can print them to real photo paper at home, through online services like Snapfish, or share them to a site - it all depends on what you want to do with them. Or, you can write a blog and share your photos on your website for everyone to see.

Digital photography is one of those things that is easy to learn, but tough to master. The best thing about digital is that anyone can pick up a digital camera, upload their photos, and share them with friends with very little knowledge in the field. Once you've got the basics under control it can get as complicated as you want it to. If you're new to digital photography, then you may be better off getting an inexpensive point and shoot camera and seeing how it works for you. This way, you'll get comfortable taking digital pictures and may even find yourself spending more time sending pictures to the people you care about!


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