Lightroom, Photoshop Elements 8, and Picasa
Before I proceed, there is something that you have to know about me. Editing is not one of my strengths. I know what I do, which is not very much.
But today I'm going to show you what I do know and hope it helps you get started.
My new favorite way to edit pictures is through Lightroom. I just got it for Christmas and have been slowly learning new things about it everyday. There are all sorts of benefits I've heard of for professional photographers: batch editing, picture organization and back up....etc.
For me I simply use it for bumping up the quality of my pictures.
You have to import the pictures (which you can see in the bottom left hand corner).
This will pull pictures into Lightroom so you can edit them. Select the "Develop" tab located at the top right. Then use the sliders on the right to get the look you want.
I love love that exposure slider. Sometimes I get so focused on getting that shot of my baby smiling that I forget to adjust my settings and I get a way overexposed image. I know I did a whole post on the benefits of over-exposure, but this time I'm talking about the bad kind of over-exposure.
Which is exactly what happened with this picture:
Lightroom helped me salvage it beautifully.
You can also increase the exposure to help reduce flaws and blemishes...I explain more in this post.
Another great thing about Lightroom is that you can minimize any picture noise with the Luminance slider. I don't use it a lot, because if overused it can make the picture look like plastic and kind of fake. But if used right, it can help some dark indoor pictures look less grainy.
When you want to save your edits. Simply switch to the Library tab. Select all the pictures you want to save and "export" them.
It will prompt you to save the image in a sub-folder and leave the original alone. That way if you want to change how it's edited later, you have always the original on hand. I love this feature.
2. Photoshop Elements.
The version I have is 8, although there are newer versions now.
PSE is a great program that can do almost anything any amateur photographer could want to do.
Use the sliders to brighten it, lighten or darken shadows... It's a great tool for making your pictures pop just a little more than the original. Which is what I do most of the time.
For indoor pictures that are too warm (orange), you can add a layer of color to cool it down. I now prefer to use the color tone sliders in Lightroom, but for the longest time I used this feature in PSE.
PSE is still my favorite way to turn images black and white.
This allows me to layer several different gradient maps over each other with different color casts and levels of opacity to get a nice rich black and white photo.
Also, be mindful that it will save the image permanently. Once you save it, you cannot undo the save and the edits. So it's very final.
Lastly, what I use in PSE most often is to size my images for the web. I am pretty sure I can do it in Lightroom, but I like to do it here. It's habit now and I'm an old dog. :) Which is probably why I also don't tweet or ever checkor update my facebook page...I'm learning, very slowly.
This is what I used until I got PSE. It's free to download and it works pretty well.
They have light sliders that work almost as well as Photoshop. They also have a picture temperature slider to help adjust color tones. It's not as good as other editing programs but not it's not bad.
I like how easy this program is to use. Their straighten and crop features are a cinch. The fill light slider is handy.
They also have hands down the easiest text feature. You can enlarge your text, spin it around, change the color, and the font all with the click and swish of your mouse. I use this 99% of the time to add text to my pictures.
Another great feature that I use all the time in Picasa is the collage feature. Just like with the text feature, collages in Picasa are SO easy to make. Picasa has by far the easiest program for collages that I have used thus far...not that I've used a ton, but I really like it.
For the text and collage features alone, it is worth it to keep it on your desktop even if you have other more powerful editing programs.
I hardly ever use Picasa's other editing features, but with the recent closure of Picnik they have added some more new fun ones that are worth a look.
So, those are the post production programs that I use.
If you have any question or notice that I've forgotten to cover something you were wondering about, please ask.
If you want to learn more about Photoshop Elements and all that it can do, See Kate Sew is doing a great series on that. Go here to check out her first post about it. I look forward to learning more from her.