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Perfect Your Photos

Today's digital cameras are solid performers and, generally, deliver beautiful images if you shoot right. But there will always be times when a bit of image editing is needed to make them better. Free software like Picasa, Adobe photoshop Album Starter Edition 3.0 and iPhoto (bundled with new Macintosh computers) offer image editing tools. Some simple tweaks with the easier-to-use software can also do the trick of jazzing up your images. You just have to use the mouse to pull a few sliders, or, even better, click one button to just do it. Here are some common tweaks.

Seeing Double

Always make a copy of a very important photograph before you begin editing. And then work your editing magic on the duplicate. This ensures that if you do not like the outcome, you can always fall back on the original image.

Crop, Please

Depending on how you framed your picture, cropping - snipping away the unwanted bits and leaving behind the areas you want-can improve the composition. It can remove, for instance, the distracting elements so that you focus on the best parts of the image. Or, rotate the image if your camera was offbalance in the first place. You can also crop the image to fit the proportions of a photo print, or a slideshow meant for display on a widescreen TV.

Go Bright, Give Contrast

This is probably one of the first things to do. Every editing software has a tool to adjust the brightness and contrast settings. These will help you tweak the image if it is too bright, too dark or if it simply lacks punch. Increasing the contrast, in particular, will heighten the difference between the dark and bright areas of the image for a vivid impact. But use this effect in moderation - too much tweaking may result in a loss of fine details in the image.

Sharpen Up

Many photographs could do with a bit of sharpening to enhance the details and to introduce some definition to the blurry bits. Apply the sharpening effect last, after tweaking other settings like the brightness and contrast. Apply caution, though, and do not overuse the effect - it may make your image look severely pixellated in the extreme case.

Filter The Effects.

Filters are made to transform the pixels in the images to extremes, resulting in a colorful transformation - or, even a surrealistic makeover. You can quickly turn a modern image into an aged photograph of a bygone era, by applying a "Black and White" filter, or a "Sepia" filter. What is more, you can experiment by using the different effects many times over on a single image.

Perfect Your Digital Pics

Have camera, ready to shoot? Try these pointers from Julie King, author of Digital Photography for Dummies, on how to take party pits and holiday shots that will turn out as keepsakes.

If You're The Shooter...

Get Tech-Savvy

Let the camera do some of the work. Choose "portrait mode" to automatically set the exposure and focus.

Soak Up The Sunlight

If possible, shoot outdoors in the morning or late afternoon. Indoors, pose people next to a sunny window with the light coming over one shoulder.

Banish Blurs

Use a tripod or place the camera on a stable surface and use the self-timer mode.

Be A Sharp Shot

Shoot at the camera's maximum image size (resolution) for the sharpest pictures.

If You're The Subject...

Go Easy With The Eyes

Wear natural-looking makeup; overdoing it will look harsh in your photos.

Keep Clothing Simple

Wild patterns will put the focus on your clothes rather than on you.

Do Away With Double Chins

Tilt your chin up and out and always ask the photographer to shoot you at eye level or from above.

Angle For A Better Shot

Instead of a dead-on portrait, turn your face slightly away from the camera and focus your eyes just above the lens.


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