Last week, we discussed the basics which need to be kept in mind while setting up a digital studio: from dispelling the myths of megapixels, a term camera companies often use as a selling point, to tips on selecting a digital camera best suited for the kind of photography you want to take up (Go Digital, 25 March). This week, we look at ways to improve the pictures you have shot and tips on how to print and publish your work.
Image editing basics
Remember the number of reels you ruined with your old camera because a head popped out from a corner just before you pressed the click button? Or, remember your irritation because your film-based camera couldn’t correct the lack, or even excess, of sunlight, spoiling an otherwise perfect frame? Of course, you may want to add to this long list of irritants, the devil’s red eye.
Think digital, and say goodbye to all these handicaps. One of the biggest advantages of a digital camera is that you are always in control—from the time you are shooting to how the picture looks finally. All you need is an image editing software to work around these problems. But before you begin, keep in mind two things: These software are very complex to learn and use; and are often expensive.
Talking of image editing software, one name that normally comes to mind is Photoshop. A graphics editor developed and published by Adobe Systems Inc., it actually goes way beyond just basic editing, and can even be used to create digital art. But, that is another story altogether.
If you are serious about correcting your images, a little experience in Photoshop can go a long way in improving your pictures. You can also try similar software in the free and open source domain. For instance, take a look at the Gimp. It is as good as Photoshop, and is free, too.
However, it is advisable for beginners to learn the finer details of photo editing by using simpler software. You may try your hands at programs that are typically shipped along with the camera.
Nikon offers a package called Picture Project with most of its cameras. It is very simple to use, and is loaded with all the basic features you may need as a beginner, such as cropping, auto enhance and red-eye removal tools, colour, brightness and contrast controls. It also has a picture browser for organizing the photos. Canon, too, provides a similar software, and many other camera manufacturers offer a light edition of Photoshop.
If you don’t want to install an image editor, you can search the Web for one. A number of websites allow you to correct your images online and upload them to your gallery, blog or any other online service that you may use.
You can even edit the picture online and download the corrected image back to your own PC. Some sites that allow this include:
Image editing, though, is a debatable issue because many photographers contend that photos should not be edited. They feel that one should just get the perfect shot in-camera and not have to spend any time in post-processing. This is not always possible. Photos do get spoilt and minor correction can save them quite easily.
Before you start editing images, ask yourself one question: Is the image that you see on the computer the same as what you wanted to capture originally? Often, our monitors are not adjusted correctly and need to be calibrated. This is a very critical aspect of the digital studio.
You don’t want to spend hours correcting a photograph, only to find that it looks completely different on another monitor. If you want to check whether your monitor is showing the right colours, log on to www.epaperpress.com/monitorcal/. You can set your screen to the black and white shade cards the site offers. If you are able to view the two shades on the site correctly, go ahead and begin photo correction. However, if the shades are not correct, get a good reference point and adjust the colours on your monitor accordingly.
Printing and publishing
Now that you have that perfect shot, the next step is to print it. While a good photo-quality printer is essential, the most critical element here is the paper. Good paper can make all the difference to the final print. Printer manufacturers normally provide you with a few sheets of photo-quality paper. But, for any serious work, you will need your own stack.
However, before you invest in paper, ask yourself if you actually want to do your own printing. Many film developers offer to print your images if you provide them on a CD or any other removable media, and it is not very expensive.
In fact, you would find printing outside a little cheaper than doing it yourself. There are also options of online services that offer not just prints but can also make other “stuff” out of your images. Print them on mugs, T-shirts, calendars, or pretty much anything that catches your fancy. Log on to www.snapfish.com/ for more on this.
However, if you still wish to print at home, you may also want to consider the dye-sublimation printers, apart from the regular photo-quality printers. These actually use a heat process to layer the paper with a dye and the paper itself is like a laminated surface. Remember, the printer for this is cheap but the paper costs much more.
Printing in itself is still a little limiting. But if you are basically looking at sharing your photos with a larger community, friends, family or even colleagues, there is no better way than to publish them on the Internet. Two extremely popular sites for publishing your photos are www.flickr.com and www.picasa.google.com/. Flickr also has a paid service with which you get many more albums and space, and some free printing. Both Flickr and Picasa are extremely popular and have desktop plug-ins/add-ons that help you publish the material as soon as you shoot it. If, however, you wish to publish on your site rather than a public one, the choices for a ready-made gallery or for photo-blogging software are tremendous. You could take a gallery engine from www.gallery.menalto.com/ and integrate it with a blog engine such as wordpress (www.wordpress.org), add the appropriate themes—and you’re in business.
The entire process from capture to publishing has just gotten so much easier that we see many more people taking photos and many others publishing them as well. We hope to see your albums online soon.
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