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Photography - Image Processing - Software

The equipment is only 1/2 the story. What is really new and exciting is digital image manipulation software for PCs!

And what's really neat is that you don't even need a digital camera or an underwater camera to learn to use this software. Any camera will do. Just have your local film processor put your pictures on a CD ROM and you are ready to move into the world of digital image processing --- your digital darkroom awaits.

Bottom Line - Software -  Photoshop Elements 3.0 is the best choice for first time users of photo editing programs. It's relatively easy to learn to use, feature rich, and fast. And if all you intend to do is edit photos, it's probably all you need. However, if you also do graphics design, you will probably be better served by Photoshop CS.

Read the Manual - The boxed versions of these programs come with detailed users manuals. And they all have good help menus. That said;

  • The Photoshop Elements manual is easier to read since almost everything in it relates to photo image processing.
  • As for Photoshop CS, it too comes with a detailed user manual. But the program is so powerful that the it's hard for a manual to get it's arms around it. In fact there is a 24 hour long, 7 DVD training program for $299.00 that teaches how to use this program.
  • If you use either Adobe Photoshop or Elements, it's probably easier to learn to photo edit RAW than JPEG because the RAW tools available are limited but powerful. Thus there aren't many choices about what to do or even what order to do them in. In Adobe Photoshop RAW, just start at the top with White balance, then Exposure, Shadows, Brightness, Contrast, and Saturation. Normally that just leaves me with Crop, Resize, Clone, and Sharpen to complete the editing. Point is, it's pretty much photo editing by the numbers ... at least it is for me.

RAW Support - Both of these programs support RAW files for most popular cameras.

The new 3.0 version of Photoshop Elements for Windows and Mac has almost the same functionality as that of Photoshop CS. In fact, it has everything in it that I have used to date with the exception of control over color space which may not be a problem for me or most folks as I can convert to sRGB latter if needed.

Plugins - In addition, I recommend the use of two add in filters. These filters significantly enhance all three programs listed above

  • http://www.alienskin.com - Image Doctor 1.0 - This filter (Smart Fill) replaces large objects and defects, intelligently combining the repair with the background. Remove unwanted fish and distracting foreground objects  -- without leaving seams. At $99, this add-in costs more than the software it enhances. But what it does is simply incredible! Not convinced? Visit the Alien Skin site and see some of the before and after pictures. Better yet, download a free, fully functional, 30 day demo.
  • Helmut Dersch's website - PanoTools - Wide angle pictures suffer from distortion. With a flat port you get pincushion distortion and with a dome port you get barrel distortion. And the wider the angle of coverage the more distortion you get. This free plugin removes the distortion. Click here for details.

Monitor Calibration - If you plan to do a lot of editing and/or you are particular about how your pictures will look when printed or displayed on other monitors, you should calibrate your monitor. My favorite hardware/software combo for calibrating both CRT and LCD displays is the  ColorPlus version of the Spyder by ColorVision.

When using ColorVision there are two options you need to select. Per the manual and on screen prompts;

  • "Choose the Gamma to which you would like to calibrate. 1.8 is the standard for Mac and 2.2 is the standard for a PC. If you are not sure which to choose, select 2.2."
  • "Select the Color Temperature to which you would like to calibrate. 5000 is the traditional standard for print. 6500 is the preferred standard for PCs and digital imaging. If you are not sure which to choose, select 6500."

I use 2.2 and 6500 since most of what I publish is on the Internet and most of my audience is using PCs.

Bottom Line - Software -  Photoshop Elements 3.0 is the best choice for first time users of photo editing programs. It's relatively easy to learn to use, feature rich, and fast.

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