Knowing how to crop, touch up and enhance your images is a well-kept secret to taking great pictures.
A good photograph can be a better photograph with photo editing tools. Even if your primary camera is your cell phone, you can use photo editing to make those pictures look like masterpieces. When you snap a picture with your cell phone, place the setting on the highest quality value to give yourself a large enough file to print and/or share.
When you compose the picture, take care to include all of the image you shooting. Unless you are a professional photographer, do not try to crop with the viewfinder. Shoot the whole picture and crop it later. Shooting the whole picture is really important because I have found that the viewfinders of some cell phones and digital cameras are not accurate. What you see in the viewfinder may not be the picture in your camera.
Better to take a little more of your subject than too little. Everyone has seen those pictures where you ask, “What happened to the top of Aunt So-in-so’s head?” The best editing software in the world will not be able to recapture what your viewfinder failed to see. On the other hand, if you have more image than you need, your photo editing software will always let you crop away too much Easter hat.
Then, using the instructions of your particular cell phone camera, download the image to your computer’s photo editing software. Once you see the image in the software, copy and save images from the phone before you erase the images from your phone. Here’s a tip: give images good memorable names. Your cellphone or digital camera will give them a meaningless digital name.
Then copy that image. and keep the copy of the original open in the software so you can compare it with what you are editing.. I always work from a copy and save changes in my computer as I go. Choose a related but slightly different name for your edited copy so you don’t lose the original. If, at some point, I don’t like any the enhancements I’ve made to the copy, I can go back to the original image that I saved in my photo editing software without having to go all the way back to my cellphone or digital camera.
Usually, you don’t have to do much to improve a picture. I play around with the contrast and color settings just a little at a time before I commit to them. When I’m satisfied, I save the changes. There are lots of other tools in photo editing software that I have never needed. With a little experimentation, you may find something useful in the tools menu.
Use photography as illustrations in online press releases and articles.
The most fun I’ve ever had with photo editing software is amazing my family with the ability to restore old neglected photographs that have been subjected to natural light, dust, human handling and insects, resulting in fading, cracking and deterioration. That’s right. No more ruining original pictures trying to save them.
Old family photographs were most likely produced from negatives. There are discs or digital files. Sorry. Believe it or not, there are people living on this earth who do not know what a photo negative is, much less what to do with it. Further, reproduction of black and white prints from negatives has become a specialty service. A few photo labs can still be found to do this work but they are becoming more and more rare in the digital age, into which all of us are being immersed. I found a scanner that will scan old photo negatives. What treasure!
Most often, however, there are no negatives to the pictures in your family’s photo collections, which are in closets, under beds and in attics. The negatives were long ago lost or were never in the hands of the family. In my family’s photo collection, there were no negatives because many of the old pictures were taken in studios, taken by traveling photographers or taken at events such as County Fairs and carnivals. Some of these pictures date back more than one hundred years. There are a lot of old pictures around and most people want to know how they can share these pictures with other members of their family.
Well, you can scan them. But look at what you have. The cracks are still there and the images are still faded. Remember, scanning exposes the photograph to intense light that can further fade the image. Many old photographs are already faded and this additional light only makes the quality of the photograph worse. So scan correctly the first time. Then put the picture in a cool dark storage place.
In addition, I recommend that you learn photographic restoration skills like I did. Knowing how to use photo editing software has been a lifesaver in my career and has created a new stream of income. I have literally turned old worn-out pictures into images that look like they belong in a gallery. Even pictures that have hardened mending tape across a person’s face can be improved considerably.
DO NOT remove or even try to remove tape from an original photograph! Removal of tape or other mending material will destroy the picture by compromising the contact between the photo paper and the photo emulsion. Photo emulsion is the substance that allowed the image to adhere to the paper in the first place.
DO NOT try to clean original photographs. Removal of any surface matter will interfere with the adherence of the emulsion to the paper. You would think this is common sense. But I have known people who washed their photos with soap and water and then wonder if I can restore an image that they have caused to disappear.
Handle all photographs, new and old, with the greatest of care, touching them only by their edges, as fingertips have oils that leave harmful chemicals and invisible residue on the photograph that can destroy the image. If you are creating digital images, be sure to organize them so they can make their way out of the camera some day. Place digital images on a CD for ease of printing and sharing or upload them to a sharing website. All those vacation or baby or wedding pictures are useless if no one ever sees them.
Using photo editing software, I scan images for my clients to create digital files. Working on the scanned copy, I am able to remove lines made by tape and pencil marks that bled through the original paper when Aunt So-and-so wrote on the back of the picture who was in the picture.
Being an independent contractor and writer makes the ability to produce high-quality images to accompany my articles a plus. In addition, being able to format and enhance my images increases my value as a writer, especially in this age of technology and on-demand high-quality imagery.