The 3 Rs of Photo Editing
Ten megapixel cameras don't necessarily result in million-dollar photos. In fact, the likelihood is that the quality of your camera will only capture the blemishes and unwanted objects in your snaps more accurately and vividly.
But fret not, with the right tools this can be sorted. These 'tools' are, of course, photo editing tools which enable you to enhance and transform your images. To use them effectively you need to understand first what you're editing and then not to get carried away with your new-found skill.
Repair exposure problems
Exposure is an imperfection which is hard to spot when taking photos, but it hits you like a bad smell when you see your shots up close. It occurs because of the amount of light which is captured when a photograph is taken.
Aperture and shutter speed are the two main settings that determine exposure. Aperture determines how much of the lens you expose to light, and the shutter speed dictates how long the lens stays open.
Images that are too dark are the result of under-exposed photos. Details in dark areas, such as shadows, will be lost and thus appear black. Values and details within the photo have been compressed and produce the opposite effect to the one you want.
If there is too much light, images become over-exposed and lost detail becomes almost pure white. This is much more difficult to rectify, but there are plenty of tools to help. Levels and curves adjustments are two easy and efficient ways to adjust exposure.
The difference between levels and curves needs to be understood so that they can be used effectively. Level adjustments change all the tones proportionately in a photograph's tonal range, whereas curves allow you to select which section of the scale you wish to adjust.
In other words, use levels to lighten or darken the whole image and use curves if you need to adjust only the light, or just the dark tones. You can also use curves on an adjustment layer to avoid damaging your original image.
One of the most obvious of faults found in photos is actually one of the easiest to rectify: red-eye. The appearance of red pupils in photos occurs in ambient low-light when a photographic flash is close to the camera lens.
The flash's light hits the eye before the pupil can close, so light passes the pupil and reflects at the back of the eye. This reflection is what causes red-eye and gives what was an otherwise heavenly portrait, a slightly demonic edge.
Eyedropper tools can mask red eye, and blur and saturation techniques can add detail. If the result looks too dull, you might adjust the hue to inject colour and fix the problem. Some tools even fix red-eye automatically in one click.
It's also easy to remove spots and blemishes, but don't get carried away because it's just as easy to remove all the character and personality from your photos.
Restore old photos
Many of us have photos that were taken long ago, often by unknown photographers. But damaged and ageing photos can now be restored brilliantly using photo editing techniques. However, there's a fine line between restoring your vintage, slightly damaged photos and making them look as though they were taken yesterday.
Image noise, which is the random appearance of speckles in photos, is one of the biggest problems facing anyone restoring old photos. The three main types of noise are random, fixed pattern and banding, and of the three, random noise is the most difficult to fix because it is tricky to remove without losing textures in the photo.
Removing noise can be done by making adjustments to levels, curves and colour balance, as well as using filters. The names of your filters will differ from programme to programme but look for something such as 'dust' or 'scratch'.