A large part of the digital photography revolution was the new availability of photo retouching programs or better known as digital photo editing software.
In the era of film, photo retouching mostly had to be left to professionals with darkrooms and artistic skills. If you "knew someone" who could crop and adjust lighting, that was about as good as it got for many people.
But with digital photography, a whole world of options opened up. Today, most digital point-and-shoot cameras come with basic digital photo editing software that allows cropping, adding fill light, and a few basic filters that enhance photos. For some people, that is all they want and it isn't necessary to add any more software to their bag of tricks.
Want to go beyond cropping and correcting red eye? If so, there are a number of digital photo editing software options that allow digital photographers to make pictures do things they never imagined before.
Add to that online forums and sites where people share software tips and techniques for creating special effects, and the average hobby photographer can make some amazing art.
This article will discuss three good digital photo editing software options based on needs and price: Google Picasa, which is free, Adobe Photoshop Elements 4, which costs less than $100, and Adobe PS Lightroom 2, which costs about $300 and is relied on by highly skilled professionals.
Google Picasa is free digital photo editing software that started out as a photo organizing and browsing tool. But the latest version, Picasa 3, includes enough editing tools to satisfy all but the most adventurous point and shoot photographers. More good news is that it is now available for the Mac as well as Windows and Linux.
What makes Picasa stand out is the ease with which you can correct color, adjust lighting, and remove red-eye with a few mouse clicks. It's the most user-friendly photo editing tool available.
One of the handiest features of Picasa 3 is its "sync to web" capability. It synchronizes the files you edit on your computer with the versions posted on the web. This is extremely efficient if you post a photo, decide to do a little work on it, and want to replace the earlier version.
If you prefer organized collections of photos and don't want to do any major photo manipulation, Picasa 3 is a digital photo editing software that is worth investigating.
Next, let's take a look at...
Adobe Photoshop Elements 4
Adobe Photoshop Elements 4 is available for around $75 and it is rare that a nonprofessional photographer needs capability beyond what Photoshop Elements includes.
Besides the basic cropping, rotating, and red-eye reduction, you have access to a large library of filters that can create special effects such as making a photo look like a watercolor painting. Other filters give photos an ethereal glow, sharpen or soften edges, create pop-art effects, and "paint" in effects with numerous different virtual paintbrushes.
There are many more features and functionalities to Adobe Photoshop Elements 4. Suffice it to say that unless you're doing professional-level newspaper photography or something more demanding than that, Photoshop Elements 4 has enough to keep you learning new techniques for as long as you want. There are also numerous online tutorials and groups that will help you maximize your use of this digital photo editing software.
Adobe PS Lightroom 2
If you are an independent professional photographer and Adobe Photoshop Elements doesn't meet your needs, then Adobe PS Lightroom 2 is the image editing software you need.
While Adobe PS Lightroom was made as an adjunct to Adobe Photoshop CS 4 to make it run more efficiently, PS Lightroom 2 has allowed many professionals to dispense with using Photoshop altogether.
If you are a professional, you already know that Photoshop is the industry standard, and that having good Photoshop skills is still necessary, particularly in commercial settings. But for the independent artist who needs more than what the $75 Photoshop Elements supplies, but isn't quite ready to spring for the full-featured Photoshop CS4 ($700 or so), Lightroom 2, at around $300 may fill the bill admirably.
Why use a digital photo editing software?
Simple. It's because this type of software allows amateur photographers to make point-and-shoot digital photographs more beautiful and well-composed.
Now, you can get rid of the red-eye vampire look, adjust the light and color contrast, and even erase unwanted objects that found their way into your photos.
For beginners, or those who know they'll be happy with a basic set of tools, Google's free Picasa is a great choice.
For those who want to take things further without crossing into professional graphic artist territory, Photoshop Elements 4 is an excellent choice in digital photo editing software.
And for the professionals who have used Photoshop and want excellent pixel-crunching capability but don't need things like layered text, Adobe PS Lightroom 2 will allow you to spread your creative wings without hurting your pocket.
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