As I browse through my friends' Facebook and Twitter posts these days, I see lots of photos. Being a photographer, I often want to "fix" the photos I see posted. They are often too dark or the subject is too far away to really see what is happening. I find myself with a strong desire to download the image, adjust it, and send it back to the person with a note about replacing the photo. To be honest, I have actually done that with a couple of people. I know, it's a sickness and it is probably treatable, but I haven't found the right medication yet.
Anyway, the whole thing started me thinking about what to do. Should I go around fixing the photo needs of the world, like some Photo Nerd Super Hero? I have been a photographer for about 30 years, been a digital photographer for well over 10 of those years, and have been using Photoshop for almost 20 years now, so I know a thing or two about digital image editing and manipulation. Why don't I just take up the task of correcting all of the photos I find that need some help to bring out their greatness? Probably not a good idea.
Then I had a thought. I could help SHOW people the ways to improve these photos with a little help from some free image editors. After all, there are several available for use that can be accessed online or even downloaded to you phone in the form of an app. This route seemed like a more efficient use of my time and less likely to land me in court. So, with that in mind, here we are.
To demonstrate, I needed a photo that was less than special to work with. A quick check of my phone, produced a likely candidate. In the images to the right you see that with just a couple of minutes work, I was able to improve the quality, and therefore the interest, of the photo in question.
The photo started out a little too dark (under-exposed) and could use a bit of cropping. These are very common issues with a camera that is built into a phone. The light meter, in the phone, was "fooled" by something in the frame and I was limited to how close I could get to the subject. The exposure issue was likely caused by the white banner, in this case. This caused the meter to adjust the exposure and the result was an image that was too dark in the areas that we really want to see. As for getting closer, I just did not think it was the right time to walk out into the parade to get a closer angle.
As you can see, I made two simple adjustments. First, I lightened the image a bit to bring out the detail in the people and street. Then I cropped in just a bit closer to focus on the part of the image that I wanted to emphasize. The final result is big improvement over the seemingly unusable photo I had before. Best of all, it only took me a couple of minutes to do.
In the process of writing this article, I did a little research on the various tools available for this type of adjustment to your photos. While I used my editor of choice, Photoshop, there are several other choices out there. Below is a small list of some of the ones that I know about for use either on a desktop or on your phone. Feel free to check them out and let me know what you think. I may do a future post detailing the pros and cons of the editors a bit more than I have done here.
Of course, when you talk of desktop photo editor, Photoshop is at the top of the heap. However, there are several others that are much less expensive, and even free, that do a respectable job in the basic image editing department. Adobe Photoshop Elements costs much less than the full Photoshop program and it is also very capable. It can probably do as much as you would want it to do, unless you are a professional photographer. Caution: The Photoshop family comes with a fairly steep learning curve, so it may not be the best for someone just starting out with image editing.
Another editor that I like is Google's entry into the field, called Picasa. It has basic image adjustments, photo organizing features, and is easy to use. The best thing about it is the price. Google offers it up free of charge. You can't beat that. While we are on free editors, don't forget to check out GIMP. It is also free and is quite capable.
The programs, I mentioned above are software packages that you have to install and run on a computer. However, there are a couple of good editors that I have used that allow you to edit your images online in a browser and you can generally post them to Facebook etc right from the editor. If this is something you find interesting, try Pixlr or Photoshop Express Editor.
Some apps you can try on your phone are Photoshop Express Editor, Pixlr-o-matic, and Instagram. The later two of these, allow little or no adjustments to your image. They are more for adding cool effects and borders to you photos. They are interesting and fun to use, but personally I am growing weary of the "Instagram Effect". It is just being overused on social media sites.
Hopefully, this will give you some interesting things to look at on the way to creating better images for use on your social media pages and in real life also. Feel free to leave any comments or ideas for other editors and sites that you like or dislike. I may be able to use them in a future post. Until then, keep on snapping!