A Guide to Touching Up Your Digital Photos

Discussion in 'Graphics Programs and Photo Gallery' started by gary_hendricks, Dec 13, 2004.

  1. gary_hendricks

    gary_hendricks TPF Noob!

    Dec 4, 2004
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    One problem I faced when starting out with digital photography was how to touch up my raw digital images. Perhaps an image was slightly dark, perhaps it had to be rotated or cropped. Digital photos usually require some form of manipulation before final output. So here's a 10 step guide which I've compiled to help you touch up your photos. Try to perform them in the order presented for best results.

    Step 1: Save a Backup Copy
    This is so important that I need to stress it again. Save a copy of your raw digital image. You never know what kind of silly mistake you might make while performing image editing. Preferably, save the image in your editing software's native file format. For example, Paint Shop Pro users should save the image in the .psp format. This ensures that you have the most flexibility in the editing process since it retains special features such as layers and masks. Oh, and don't throw out your original file, either - its still good to keep an extra copy there.

    Step 2: Rotate the Image
    This is a very common image editing step. If you happened to use your digital camera in portrait orientation, or if the camera was tilted, then you might want to rotate the image. Image rotation is a standard tool available in almost all image editing software packages.

    Step 3: Crop the Image
    I've surprised that many people do not crop their digital photos. Cropping is one of the simplest things you can do to enhance a photo, yet one of the most effective. Imagine you have a large, high resolution photo with the subject right in the middle of the picture. Cropping that photo to leave only the subject will remove unnecessary and distracting elements, resulting in a much nicer picture.

    Another advantage of cropping is that it reduces file size a lot. This makes it easier to post the picture on the Web or send via email. You can also edit the image more easily from then on since a smaller image requires less of your system's resources.

    Step 4: Correct Color and Tone
    A great digital photo is well balanced in terms of overall color and tone. A good thing to do when editing digital photos is adjust for color casts, underexposure, overexposure, and so on. I recommend that you this through your photo software's histogram or color level adjustment commands.

    Step 5: Repair Defects in the Image
    Some digital photos may have black spots, dust, tears, or other types of noise present. Now is the time to correct those flaws. I typically zoom in on the image and edit the image at the pixel level. This step is hard work, but it's so important to achieving a nice picture that you shouldn't skip it.

    Step 6: Other Cosmetic Improvements
    OK, time to detect other cosmetic flaws that may be present in the image. Typically, in this step, I focus on removing distracting elements such as red eye, wrinkles and blemishes. Sometimes I smoothen people's skin tone or even replace entire objects. Again, work carefully and make full use of your software zoom while editing the picture.

    Step 7: Save Your Working File
    In this step, backup up your working copy of the image under another temporary file name. This is a cautionary step in case you mess up in the subsequent steps.

    Step 8: Resize and Resample the Image
    Resizing and resampling are amongst the most utilized functions in my image editing software applications. Whether you intend to print, email or post the picture to the web, chances are your image is still not the ideal size for your final output. For normal printing, try to set the resolution at 150-300 ppi. For posting on the web, I'd use a resolution of 72 ppi.

    Step 9: Apply an Unsharp Mask
    Many people are confused by this image editing command. What does an Unsharp Mask do? Well, many image processing tasks such as rotating and retouching can soften a digital image. An Unsharp Mask should therefore always be done to remove that 'softness'. I always do this as a standard procedure just before saving the final copy of my image file.

    Step 10: Save a Copy for Final Output
    Well, ok - you're now ready to save a copy of your file in the format required for final output. If you intend to print the photo for a professional quality project, I'd recommend using the TIFF image format (but watch out for the huge file size). For photos you'll be posting on the Web or sending by email, you will probably want to use the JPEG image format. These tend to be of a much smaller file size compared to TIFF, but still retain pretty good image quality.

    Alrighty then! Now you know the secret to touching up and preparing your raw digital photos for output. It should be mentioned that not all the above 10 steps are necessary in a given situation. Use your discretion to see which is necessary and don't be afraid to experiment and learn.

    For more information, visit my website at:

    Best Regards
    Gary Hendricks

  2. probe1957

    probe1957 TPF Noob!

    Dec 1, 2004
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    Very useful to this rookie. Thank you very much.

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