Page 4 Soul August 19, 2007 info-tech Soul Page 5 It has never been easier to take a quality picture with a digital camera, edit it on a PC and share it Not only have cameras improved, but the ways in which pictures can be edited and shared have also evolved, extending to online photo-processing sites and photo-sharing communities. So, with that in mind, the purpose of this feature is to provide a few inspirational pointers on how to make the most of digital photography. Anyone can take a photograph, but not everyone understands that by following a few simple rules, a photograph can be transformed into something more impressive than the basic snap. And even if the result from your camera doesn’t satisfy, there are a few simple tips that will improve your shot in the imageediting software package of your choice. from a standing position, spend a few seconds exploring all the different angles available to you. Crouch or lie down, stand on a bench or wall, move closer or further away and see how the changing perspectives affect and add impact to your shot. Take note, too, of colours that attract your eye and might make a striking contrast with your subject, or enhance its own colour. Photography is all about light, so that shouldn’t be ignored. If the sky is bright, check that your subject is not being thrown into shadow – if so, activate your flash to balance the exposure. The key is to experiment; rules are meant to be broken and the huge advantage of digital photography is that not only are you immediately getting feedback on whether the idea is working via the LCD screen, but also, and unlike film, you’re not paying for any mistakes. overdoing it. In Photoshop Elements, select the enhancing properties of Auto Levels by going to Enhance in the program’s toolbar, then Auto Levels from the top toolbar to correct any colour casts or lighten underexposed or dark images. Also use the Unsharp Mask filter to boost the overall sharpness and clarity of your pictures. You can find the Unsharp mask tool by going to the Filter menu, then selecting Sharpen, then Unsharp Mask. Some of the most useful Photoshop tools are those for retouching an image – removing distracting elements like litter or overhead cables from a background, for instance, but, perhaps more commonly, removing facial and skin blemishes in portrait shots. The latter can be achieved with the aid of the Spot Healing Brush tool, selected from the side menu bar. Take care not to select too large a brush size as the results will lack subtlety, nor too small, or you’ll be at it for ages. To blend the results, also select a source point of similar colour shade and pattern to the targeted area – defined by holding down the alt key. To remove minor blemishes, match the brush size to the flaw, and click once – Elements uses surrounding colours and tones to paste over the blemish. You can try the same process for any creases and wrinkles, but again be careful not to clean up your image too much or you could be left with a very airbrushed, ‘plastic’ look. Textures and colours can also be pinpointed, pasted and similar effects achieved using Photoshop’s Clone Stamp and Eyedropper Tools. Cropping is another effective way to add impact to your shot and lets you lose any unwanted items surrounding your subject without additional retouching. Select the box-like Rectangular Marquee Tool from the side menu bar, and, when you move the cursor across the image, it will change into a cross. Get perfect pictures Go to the top left-hand corner of where you want your cropped image to begin, and click and hold down the mouse button while dragging the cross down to the bottom right of the picture. An area-defining box will appear and grow larger as you drag. Once you have the portion of the image required within your box, let go of the mouse and you’ll be left with edges defined by an animated dotted line. Now go to Image in the top toolbar, choose Crop and the picture will contract to your chosen dimensions. All you have to do now is save the changes. Sandrina Abeywardene BYte Compiled by Displaying and sharing pictures Many of us, however, don’t have the time or inclination to produce prints of our image files, but would still like a means by which to share them with friends and family – or increasingly the world at large. The internet has introduced many such possibilities – including attaching your shots to emails, at its most basic level. Unfortunately, with camera resolutions increasing, and image file sizes with them, attaching shots to messages can be slow and laborious – even with broadband – and certain providers limit the amount of information that can be both sent and received. You can get around this by altering the file size of your photos to make them more practical for email attachments. Select Image, then Image Size from the Basic ingredients for perfect pictures When it comes to capturing an image with a digital camera, most of us snap away without taking note of whatever surrounds the subject. But it’s worth paying attention to composition, which is how we set up and frame a photograph. Because of the way the human eye interprets images, certain compositions are inherently more pleasing than others. One of the simplest rules to follow is called the ‘rule of thirds’, by which the image through your viewfinder can be mentally divided by three evenly spaced horizontal lines and another three vertical ones; so, in effect, you have nine little squares. Some cameras even enable you to use the LCD screen to overlay a shot with such a compositional grid. Place your subject along these lines near a point at which they intersect, and preferably somewhere in the middle third, whether you’re shooting ‘landscape’ fashion (holding or orientating the camera horizontally) or ‘portrait’ fashion (doing so vertically). And don’t just take an image straight ahead Better photo techniques As any professional will advise, it’s best to get it right in camera – or as near as – than correct any defects afterwards. But, even after following the advice above, many of us will end up with shots that we realise will benefit from a little photo editing. For the purposes of the advice given here we’ve selected Adobe’s popular Photoshop Elements program, available as part of the Creative Suite Package. As a starting point, pick a handful of recent digital photos that you think hold visual appeal. Most digital images – particularly those produced by point-and-shoot compacts – can be made brighter and sharper in a few simple steps, and this should be the first image editing undertaken before anything more complex is attempted. After all, correcting exposure and sharpening focus may be all that’s needed, and it’s easy to ruin a promising shot by The term has been over used but the computer is in effect your digital darkroom, with which you can do all the processing tricks of the traditional darkroom, but without the need for trays of smelly chemicals dropdown toolbar in Elements and type a resolution of 72ppi in the Document Size box, then click ‘OK’. Remember, 300ppi is what would normally be chosen for prints and should otherwise be the default setting. Next, when choosing File, then Save As, remember to give your JPEG file a different name – if only adding the word ‘copy’ after the numbers prescribed by the camera – and choose a small/medium (rather than maximum) quality on the JPEG Options dialogue box that appears. Streamlining the process greatly, Photoshop Elements also includes a Save for Web Function, found under the File menu, and for which you can specify JPEG, GIF or PNG file formats. You’ll now have a much smaller image file for emailing, and one that can still be viewed and enjoyed by your recipient on screen without any immediate loss in quality, unless they attempt to enlarge or print it. An alternative to making your files smaller is to temporarily compress them when sending them over the internet – for example saving a group of folder of images as a .Zip file. You may have heard of the terms zipping and unzipping files, and it’s best imagined as sending a bunch of goods in one easy-tomanage package rather than several unwieldy ones. There are several data compression utilities for Windows users that enable you to do this, the most popular being Winzip, which offers a free time-limited trial version, plus WinRAR which is completely free. A popular alternative to this is to post your images in an online photo album. You can provide links to this online repository for friends and family, or invite the public at large to come and view. Think of it as your personal exhibition space or gallery. One of the most popular sharing sites is Flickr, an online photo community that’s part of the Yahoo portal. It’s easy to set up, the basic package is free, and it’s very user friendly – Flickr takes you through uploading and arranging images into different themed albums with easy-to-follow onscreen prompts. You can also add words that add a tag to your pictures, so that anyone searching Flickr for, say, ‘images shot on the Nikon D40x in Cuba’ will find yours at the click of a mouse. You can also search for similar themed pictures, join specialised user groups that share your photographic interests and invite others’ comments – which also provides a great incentive to improve your own photography. Alternative photo-sharing sites include Picasa, which requires you to create a Google account before you start uploading but, in addition, offers free downloadable image management and basic editing software. Another alternative is Ringo, which enables you to share both still and video imagery, and acts on a similar account and passwordcreation basis. Photobox goes even further, and gives you and your friends the option of ordering prints of an image in the online photo albums despatched the same working day direct to your door. Digital darkroom So, as we have seen, digital photography is not just about buying the coolest, most specification-packed digital camera. Regardless of the type of photos you want to capture, your PC will prove itself an essential aid if you want to do anything more than take your full memory card to a photo processor, get hard copies of selected files and stick them in a traditional photo album. The term has been over used but the computer is in effect your digital darkroom, with which you can do all the processing tricks of the traditional darkroom, but without the need for trays of smelly chemicals. It also acts as a means of printing those shots, storing them and sharing them – processes that would have been impossible to carry out collectively, and via one source, until relatively recently. Digital photography has very much brought an ageold process out of the dark and into the light.