Digital Photography Basics – Types of Photo Editors

For anyone who loves taking pictures, it’s worth while getting acquainted with photo editing software as they can make a big difference with how your pictures turn out. Image editing software to a digital photographer is what the dark room is to a film photographer. The big benefit of photo editing software is that it’s easier to do than setting up a darkroom.

Plus, with photo editing software you can do both standard image editing, such as cropping and adjusting color, and with the right software, you can also try your hand at photo manipulation.

Image editing refers to all changes that are made to a photograph. Photo manipulation refers to what film shutterbugs used to call “trick photography” – switching backgrounds and such. (For some fun examples of photo manipulation, look up the “National Geographic Photo Foolery” page online.)

Before you choose a photo editor, you first want to understand the type of image editing you want to do. In this article, we will highlight the most popular types of photo editing software so you can understand the differences between each of them.

Picasa:

Google’s free photo editor. If you are just starting to learn the digital photography basics, then this will serve you well for a while. It is really designed to be more of an online photo album or photo manager but can also handle basic photo editing. Picasa offers basic editing tools such as retouch, which helps you remove blemishes, scratches, etc. Like most editors it has red eye removal. It also has fun applications like creating screensavers with your photos and integration with Google Earth.

If you’re ready to advance from digital photography basics and do more with your images, consider one of the other photo editors.

Adobe Photoshop Elements:

The market leader in photo editing and manipulation, it’s more user-friendly and less costly (approximately $90) than its big brother, Photoshop CS4. It’s good for the photography enthusiast plus there is a free trial version.

Adobe Photoshop CS4:

This has everything you could possibly need as a professional photographer or graphic artist. It sells for about $700 on their website, but you can find it half that price by some vendors or look for a free trial version.

Paint Shop Pro:

This is a close competitor to Photoshop Elements and also runs about $90. They also offer a 30 day free trial.

The GIMP:

An odd name for such a powerful program, the acronym stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program. This photo editor is open source (aka freeware) and continues to improve and has a good community of users if you need help. It is available for Windows (NT4, 2000/XP/Vista), Mac Operating Systems (OS X) and even Unix/Linux platforms. It doesn’t quite have everything that you get with Adobe Photoshop CS4, but it has more than Elements or Paint Shop Pro and is used by some professionals.

No matter what photo editor you have, read through the guide or help sections so you understand what you can do with it. It takes time to learn but you will be impressed with what you can do with your images. For example, here are a just a few of the things you can accomplish (the top 5 even with just Picasa):

  • Crop
  • Resize
  • Lighten or darken shadows, highlights, and midtones
  • Correct Colors
  • Remove blemishes, a stray branch, a logo, or anything else you don’t want in the picture
  • Blur Backgrounds (Photoshop Elements, Paintshop Pro and The GIMP all offer background-blurring applications. Picasa can’t do this.)

You can also create all sorts of special effects with a photo editor. For example you can turn your photo into an impressionistic painting. You can also convert a color picture into a black and white image to better capture the tones and highlights. Or for a more vintage or antique look, you can choose sepia.

Even if you don’t care about special effects, learning the basics of even the most basic photo editor will allow you to fix mistakes made in photographing. Just cropping alone can do wonders if you couldn’t get a close enough shot or you’ve got too much clutter in the picture. That is why photo editing is an important part of learning the digital photography basics and why it’s important that you learn it. Before long, you will be editing and producing quality photographs that you will be proud to hang on your wall.