Basic Photo Editing Tips

Although most cameras produce good quality pictures usually the ones you want to keep can do with a bit of photo editing. Even if you are going to print all your pictures and throw the image files away there are always a couple of photos that could benefit from a bit of touch up before printing.

The basics most people want to do on a regular basis are, removing red eye, sharpening, brightening the picture, turning up the contrast levels or adjusting the color tones. Others will want to do more advanced editing such as altering the sky, increasing the tonal range, correcting blown highlights and noise reduction.

If you can't afford to purchase software, and you are new to photo editing you can always try the proprietary software that comes with your camera or try downloading some of the free editors available on the web. If you are a beginner I would recommend Googles Picasa as a good starting point. If you are into photography in a big way you may want to consider Adobe Photoshop. Photoshop is one of the most popular editing suites and if you cannot afford to purchase the full blown version of Photoshop you can always purchase Photoshop Elements (PSE). Photoshop Elements is a reduced version of Photoshop and it offers the vast majority of the full edition of Photoshop's capability except for some the most advanced features required for desk top publishing.

If you don't want to purchase Photoshop Elements you can always download GIMP. This is a very popular open-source image editor which was originally developed for Unix/Linux. It is often referred to as the "free Photoshop," because it has a similar interface and feature set to Photoshop. As with a lot of open source software it is volunteer developed and stability and frequency of updates may not be as good as Photoshop or Photoshop Elements. It has to be said however, there are many happy users of GIMP who use it daily without significant problems.

Removing Red Eye with Photoshop Elements

Example image - aligned to the right Red Eye is probably the most common fix all people photos require. Even when you have red eye set to on, on your camera, you still get one or two flash pictures that need the red eye treatment. Red eye removal various from photo editor to photo editor but photoshop is probably the easiest. It is a three step process - open your photo in Photoshop elements, press Ctrl + several times and centre the photo around the eyes, select the Red Eye from the palate.

As an example of what can be easily accomplished using Photoshop Elements the second picture of the owl was edited using the blur tool and saved at a lower quality setting. The resulting picture is the same physical size but in terms of pixels it is half the size and the mans leg is blurred. Photoshop Elements is one of the most popular photo editors. It allows you to carry out photo editing at various levels from quite simple expert making it an ideal editor to learn.

Sharpening Photos Using Photoshop Elements

Example image - aligned to the right

Some cameras sharpen pictures more than others and it's often a good idea to apply a small amount of sharpening, if need be, using Photoshop Elements unsharp mask. The unsharp mask allows you to apply just the right amount of sharpening - too much and you picture appears unnatural and can sometimes have jaggies due to over sharpening.

To use the unsharp mask click Enhance and then select unsharp mask.

The picture on the right shows an area around a horses eye with all the sliders on the unsharp mask set to the left. The capture is at 100% so the viewing area is magnified. Usually it is sufficient to set the Threshold to somewhere between 3 and 6, the Radius somewhere between 2 and 4 and the Amount to between 40% and 60%.

The settings of the unsharp mask will vary of course depending on the camera you use and to the level of sharpening you set in the camera.

Example image - aligned to the right

Adjusting the unsharp mask

This second screen capture shows the unsharp mask sliders set to what I would consider as a usable position except for the Amount slider which is deliberately set high to exaggerate the effect of sharpening

Notice the effect of over sharpening by the heavy dark speckled areas below the eye.

This is easily corrected simply by reducing the setting of the amount slider.

No matter how much sharpening you use it is impossible to correct an out of focus picture.

The use of the unsharp mask is an ideal way to apply a small measured amount of sharpening where needed to those pictures you want to keep or print.

If you use Photoshop elements Auto Smart Fix (click Enhance followed by Auto Smart Fix), it automatically applies sharpening as well as color correction to your image.

Brightening and Adjusting Photos Using Photoshop Elements

The easiest way to do a quick adjustment of your image in Photoshop Elements is to click Enhance then select Auto Smart Fix and see how the image turns out. If you don't like it you can always go to edit and select Undo or click Ctrl Z. If your image does not turn out how you like it there are lots of other options under Enhance to fine tune image. One of the most versatile ways is by using the adjustment curves as shown below.

Example image - aligned to the right

The Adjustment Curves are selected by clicking on Enhance, followed by Adjust color and then selecting Adjust color curves. The example here shows what happens if you click on solarize. This versatile way to adjust your picture allows you to select a Style then adjust the sliders giving you optimum control.