Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Photo-Editing for Absolute Beginners

I've been experimenting. Last month, when I wanted to make greetings cards based on some flower photos, Habibi directed me towards Image Adjust & Transform in Corel Photopaint, with exciting results. I wanted to go further, but Corel Photopaint is a professional tool, and I find it intimidating, so I thought I'd wait til the holidays, when things were quieter.

This week I happened upon Really, Really, Really Easy Step-by-Step Digital Photography for Absolute Beginners. If you've been here before, you'll appreciate the appeal of this title. In fact, though the book is thorough, and proceeds at a a very cautious pace, it's also out of date in places, because it's linked to Picasa, which has updated since publication. The first pages are confusing, but then it's ok. (I've only gone through Part 1, on photo management. Part 2 is on getting creative with your camera. I'm up for that!)

Picasa is free downloadable photo management software from Google. I'm not finding it as straightforward as I expected, but I think it's a case of cutting loose from the manual, and experimenting. It's certainly pretty!

The real appeal for me is the filing system, a scrolling gallery of all my photos - hundreds of them - displayed in albums (files) - in reverse date order from when they were taken - not when they were uploaded to the PC. Very useful.

Also valuable is the editing suite; my trusty little 3.2 mega-pixel Canon A510 is my favourite toy in the whole world BUT it is sooooo sloooow to flash, and soooooo slooooow to recover (plus the flash leeches colour from the subject at close range) that I often switch the flash off and hope for the best. Result: lots of dark shots.

Picasa has a comforting collection of idiotnovice-proof editing tools to brighten, enhance colour - and also soften, tint, add sepia; a red-eye corrector; plus the familiar rotation tool; a cropping tool that I find more logical than the Corel version; and a ducky little device for realigning your horizon with the original - good for party snaps! And more besides. I've followed the advice and set up an Edits file, leaving the original as is.

So, here's the outcome of a couple of days of manual-reading frustration, and a couple of hours' gleeful experimentation.

The original. In Scotland, Tarzan wears clothes, even in August.

Colour saturation and soft focus. I never thought I'd use this, because soft focus wedding photos and misty baby shots set my teeth on edge - Isn't reality gorgeous enough? I want to see detail!

But I like this! Dreams of Australia....

Maximum Shadows. (Picasa)

Negative (Corel Invert) of the Picasa Shadows edit.

Bi-colour threshold (No idea, sorry.) Also Corel.

My favourite edit: Corel Invert of the original image. Woo!


nzm said...

God forbid what you would do if let loose with Photoshop!

There's another application which has some similarities to Photoshop, works on Windows PCs and is FREE!

I haven't checked it out because I do have Photoshop, but it looks pretty good.


MamaDuck said...

Wotchameen if I were let loose with Photoshop? I'm nice, I am! Actually, although I've enjoyed playing with effects, I'm more interested in having clear, straight photos without red eye. So don't you worry! I'll have a look at Paint.net. Ta.

nzm said...

Happy New Year!

Gavin said...

Hi there. I'm pleased you 'happened upon' our book Really, Really, Really Easy Digital Photography. Your comment about its being out of date in places because of the new version of Picasa is not actualy totally correct. If the user works through the book as suggested, and downloads the tutorial photos and tutorial Picasa from our Web site, per the guidelines in the book, then they will get the version of Picasa that matches the book exactly. And in the download instructions it states that if you get a message asking you if you want to update to the newest version of Picasa, DON'T ... not until you've finished working through Part 1 of the book.

This is the problem with Internet based books ... they can become out of date before they're even printed -- the same applies to URL's that change or die on one. That is why we opted to put Picasa on our own site to avoid rendering the book out of date too quickly.

Once the "absolute beginner" user gets a feel from our book of what is possible with photo editing and management, they can then go to the Google site to download the latest version and enjoy themselve learning the new Picasa features. :-)

I'd be interested in hearing which parts of the book you found confusing though. Perhaps there's something we need to look at in order to improve on the content in a future edition.

Thanks for your interest, and for mentioning our book in your blog.

Gavin Hoole
Cape Town, South Africa

Gavin said...

My e-mail address:

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