Picture perfect

If you've got a shedload of digital photos from your holiday but they're far from perfect for your photo album, fear not. Using software you can touch these up so they look professional and make you look good at the same time. While Adobe Photoshop is the photo-editing package for professionals, Photoshop Elements 6 is great for novices. It's easy-to-use and packs a fantastic punch – here we show you how to get to grips with the basics.
Picture perfect
By Windows staff
Tue 16 Sep 2008 04:00 AM

If you've got a shedload of digital photos from your holiday but they're far from perfect for your photo album, fear not. Using software you can touch these up so they look professional and make you look good at the same time. While Adobe Photoshop is the photo-editing package for professionals, Photoshop Elements 6 is great for novices. It's easy-to-use and packs a fantastic punch – here we show you how to get to grips with the basics.

1. Red eye correction

Most digital cameras feature a red-eye reduction feature, including those built-in to your mobile phone. However, you're still likely to find yourself with red-eye in photos from time to time, especially when you forget to apply the setting.

Red eye can appear in flash photography and is caused by an illumination of the person's retina by the camera's flash. It's much more likely to occur when the photo is taken in dark lighting because the person's iris is open wider.

Photoshop Elements 6 has a simple and effective way of dealing with this. The Auto Red Eye can find the pupil and change it to a natural black while importing photos into the Organiser.

To do this, you'll have to open the Fix tab, select the photos you wish to edit in the Photo Browser, then click on the Auto Red Eye Fix tool. To remove the red eye more precisely, you can use the Red Eye Removal Tool icon that's easily spotted in the toolbar.

To manually fix red eyes in the Editor or in Quick Fix, select the tool, and set the Pupil Size and Darken Amount options. You'll have to manually click a red area of the eye of draw a box over the eye area. 2. Skin tone and colour

You might have the perfect photograph, except for that wretched blemish that ruins your look. If you're going to nit-pick, you might even want to consider touching up details like freckles or skin blotches.

The two ladies pictured already have near perfect blemish-free skin, but with a couple of minor steps, it's easy to change a couple of things.

The Spot Healing Brush Tool, which can be found on the left-hand toolbar in the form of a band-aid with a dotted circle, offers a quick solution to blemishes and blotches. Simply click on the tool and go to the point you wish to remove, be it a freckle or a pimple.

One simple click on the problem area and it's gone. If you have the tool selected and right-click, you can change both the type of brush you use and the size of it. Try experimenting with different types for the best results.

To modify the colour of the entire photograph, go to Enhance>Adjust Color>Adjust Color For Skin Tone. The cursor will change to a dropper icon, and using this you click on a part of the skin you wish to use as a benchmark skintone for the entire photo.

More precise colour settings can be made using the sliders for Tan, Blush and Temperature.

NB: The Guided tab under the 'Edit' section of the right-hand menu bar makes several popular features easy to perform such as Red Eye Correction, Adjusting Skin Tones and Lighting effects.

3. Sharpen, Lighting

In the Quick tab, again you'll see the most popular modifications you can make to your photo.

If you're in a rush, rattle through these options - labelled General Fixes (including Red Eye Fix), Lighting (contrast etc.), Color (saturation, hue) and Sharpen - for the best results. But in devoting more time to each, you'll have much better results.

Depending on the quality of your camera and the environment in which you took the photograph, you might want to sharpen (or un-sharpen) your image.

Go to Enhance>Adjust Sharpness, and in the resultant window, you can change the amount to sharpen (by percentage) and the radius of the sharpening effect.

In addition, if the photo has a noticeable motion blur, you can select Motion Blur from the Remove drag-down box. Other options include Remove Gaussian Blur or Remove Lens Blur.

When it comes to lighting, go to Enhance>Adjust Lighting>Levels to open a powerful tool for editing tones and colours.

You'll see a graph displaying the colour output for each channel. The three input values along the X-axis correspond to the shadow values (left), middle tones (middle) and highlight values (right).

If you adjust the middle tones, you won't affect the photo's overall shadow and highlights. This is also a great way to bring warmth to the photo, as if set in the glow of the sun. 4. Applying filters

It's fun to play around with many different filters and tweaking settings to get your favourite results. One of the most common changes is to turn your picture into black and white. Click on Enhance>Convert To Black and White, and a window will pop up, showing a before and after image.

In the bottom-left you can select one of the styles you wish to manipulate, including applying an Infrared effect, portrait or scenic landscape, depending on your photo.

Using the sliders in the bottom-right, you can adjust the intensity of the primary colours, as well as the contrast. Click 'OK' when you're happy with what you've got.

Better still, under the Full tab of the Edit section, you'll see a number of example thumbnails displaying what some of the effects filters do, categorised by effect, such as Blur, Brush Strokes, Distort, Texture and much more.

Choose the filter you wish to apply, then toggle with the settings until you're happy. 5. Changing the background & horizons

One of the most fun things to do is change the background of the photo - this isn't as difficult as it sounds. You'll need to have both the foreground and background images open in Photoshop Elements.

Using the Quick Selection Tool click on the foreground image and drag the selection area around the object or person you wish to crop.

It's likely what you'll have is a selection of everything around the person/object, as opposed to the object itself. In this case, go to Select>Inverse to inverse the selection area. Once you are happy with this, simply drag the selection area into your background image.

If you've done this right, you should now be looking at yourself with an entirely new background. But the scale probably isn't right. Go to Image>Resize>Scale, and drag the corner of the newly pasted selection area to the right size relative to the image.

When dealing with nature photos, another neat trick is the Straighten Tool, which works particularly well with horizons. Click on the tool from the left-hand bar, and drag a line that follows the horizon (or any part of the photo that you want to set as the horizontal line).

Once you release the line, the photograph will automatically be corrected. 6. Cropping

Another handy tip is to resize your image so that it's ready for printing in the correct size. The standard photo size is 3R, which is 3.5" x 5". To resize the entire image, go to Image>Resize>Image Size, where you can modify the dimensions of the image in terms of pixels, centimeters or inches.

But to crop your image so that only part of it remains for printing, select the Crop Tool and drag a selection area over the part of the photo you want to keep.

You'll notice the top horizontal bar changes to give you control over the dimensions. Set the 'Width box' to 3.5 inches and the 'Height box' to 5 inches for a 3R portrait photo and drag the box over your preferred area.

Press ‘Enter' and then check the tick icon to crop the image. If you want a landscape photo, make the Width 5 inches and the Height 3.5 inches.

Where to get it? Photoshop Elements 6 is available to download at www.adobe.com. You can download it for a free 30-day trial with no obligations, and if you're happy with what you see, it costs $99 to buy the full version (451Mbytes). Compared to Photoshop CS3 ($649), this is very inexpensive.

For all the latest tech news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Subscribe to Arabian Business' newsletter to receive the latest breaking news and business stories in Dubai,the UAE and the GCC straight to your inbox.