Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Corel Paint Shop Pro – Photo X2 | Adobe Photoshop CS3 | Image Editing Software

In my last post I wrote exclusively about tripods, tripod heads, focussing rails (micro positioning plates and quick release plates. I gave you my honest opinion when I recommended a tripod and head combo for macro photography. Just to clarify, I recommended the Manfrotto 460mg and Benbo Trekker as a versatile macro tripod and head combination. You wont find many tips on macro photography in this post because I am going to write it exclusively on the subject of image editing software. Unless you have been living under a rock for several years you will have realised that software is an important tool in digital macro photography. It is important as a photographer to understand the benefits that imaging editing software has to offer. Failure to enhance your digital macro photography with software will leave you with frustratingly dull images. It is all part and parcel of the post processing procedure for digital photography. The ability to sharpen an image, adjust the levels for more accurate exposure and alter the saturation for more vibrant colour is why you need to invest in the best image editing software that you can afford. Some photographers have no idea how to manipulation or enhance their photographs with software and are immediately at a disadvantage. Make sure that you do not fall into this category because no matter how hard you try to get the perfect image it will always look less vibrant, sharp or incorrectly exposed. The better you are as a photographer the less time you will have to spend on post processing with software. If the image is excellent to begin with you can make a few adjustments to give it masterpiece status. This is one of the benefits of digital photography. It is surprising how far you can go to restore a very bad exposure, particularly from a RAW file.

There is always a lot of talk about pixels yet few people understand what a pixel actually is, or their importance in digital photography. The word pixel is derived from Picture Element. A pixel is a point in a graphic image. Pixels are arranged in rows and columns. So now we know that a digital image is made of pixels and want to find the image editing software to gain control of these pixels. This way we can get much more from our digital images. If you are not post editing your digital images with software you a not utilizing the full potential of your digital camera. Post-editing is an essential way to make your digital image really stand out.

One of the greatest advantages of digital photography is the ability to crop the images. This means that you cut out the part you want to keep and remove the rest. If you read my post about composition I briefly mentioned this technique. It is quite obvious that by cropping the image you are making it smaller and it will therefore contain less pixels after the crop. Most image editing software will have a crop tool but when it comes to post image processing you need a powerful piece of image editing software.

Adobe Photoshop is the best Image Editing Software
If you take the time and learn to use Adobe Photoshop properly there is no chance that you would ever want to use any other software program. The incredible range of filters, tools, utilities and plug-ins make it a very versatile piece of software. If you are prepared to learn how to use this software it is definitely worth paying the extra money for it. The software is quite obviously complex and you would probably benefit from a photoshop tutorial or training course. The program has many tools and filters that are especially useful for fixing photographs.

There are several image adjustments in Adobe Photoshop that I find extremely useful for post processing macro photography. Replace Color is useful for making adjustments to backgrounds especially for product shots that require a clean background. This is one of the image adjustments that I use a lot and might post a tutorial on how to clean up backgrounds in the near future. Replace color can be used for a whole host of other scenarios. Shadow and Highlight is a brilliant adjustment tool and can be used to bring some lost-by-shadow detail back to your images. Many of my macro photography disasters have been rescued by this image editing tool. Over use of this filter can cause the image to have an unnatural appearance. It is worth getting the image right with the camera first time, this will save you time with post processing your images. Saturation can be used to increase or decrease the color in an image. This has to be done with some degree of caution if you want the image to look realistic. The list of features within this software is endless and I have no intention of writing them all down. I think that most of us understand about adjusting the levels in a digital image. This is just a quick and simple way of altering the overall contrast (lightness and darkness) of an image which is depicted by a curved graph. There are numerous ways of doing the same task including entering the new values manually, dragging the curve to new position or using the sliding control bars. Although this is one of the most simple image adjustments that you can make it is also one of the most effective.

There is no doubt that Adobe Photoshop is the crème de la crème of image editing software. It is the software preferred by professionals. However, this website is for beginners to macro photography and I want to bring to your attention another powerful image editing software program that cost a fraction of the price of Adobe Photoshop. The first one of course is Adobe Photoshop Elements which is a cut down version of Photoshop. Elements has enough features to keep most photographers happy but like the full programme you need enough computer memory to run it. Both programmes use a file organiser (Adobe Bridge for Photoshop), although a very useful program in it's own right it means that both have to run at the same time. This can be the cause of a slow down on some older or less powerful computers. There is good news for Mac users (I may be joining you soon!) because Photoshop Elements is available for Mac computers as well as PC.

I would recommend buying the most up to date version which is currently (at the time of writing this article) Photoshop Elements 6. This will ensure that the software is compatible with your operating system, this is important if you are running Microsoft Vista. Adobe Photoshop Elements has a user-friendly interface with a distinctive slate gray background. The tool palates can float or be docked and are very colorful in appearance. The software program has three main modes that are EDIT, CREATE and SHARE. In edit mode you are able to make changes to your images such as sharpening, exposure, scratch removal etc. In create mode you can make a photo book, collage, on-line gallery or flash slide shows. I have to admit that the online gallery and slide show features that use templates are not really my cup of tea. Some people might enjoy using these over simplified features but they really are nothing to write home about. In my opinion if you are interested in making online galleries or slide shows there are much better software programs available to do this than Photoshop Elements. It is far too basic to be considered a serious application feature in this software but it may come in handy for wasting a rainy afternoon or entertaining the children for an hour or so. Share mode makes it easier to send your images by email etc. The file organizer (based on Adobe Bridge) runs very slowly and can be difficult to navigate. To make searches easier you can add keywords and tags to your images. This is a very useful way of locating a batch of images taken with a particular macro lens (for example) or with a very specific photographic set-up.

Overall Adobe Photoshop Elements is a good value for money piece of software that has gradually improved with each new version. It certainly has enough filters, tools and features to keep most beginners to digital photography busy. I have used Adobe Photoshop elements quite a lot in the past and found it very easy and intuitive to use. Adobe must have thought it was easy to use as well because there is very little help available for the computer illiterate amongst us. If you find yourself within this category you may be more interested in Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2. Originally this software was developed by JASC. I have used Paint Shop Pro on my PC for several years and only recently bought a copy of Adobe Photoshop. Paint Shop Pro is a brilliant application and in my opinion much better to use as a beginner than all the others. It is an intuitive program and also has some very useful features for image editing and image manipulation. I really like this software for its simplicity and ease of use but if given the choice between the two I would buy Coral Paint Shop Pro – Photo X2. The main reason for this decision is that Paint Shop Pro runs quicker and smoother in my experience. They are pretty much even in most respects but I have occasionally experienced glitches with Elements. Although they were not too serious it is frustrating when the software hangs or has to be restarted.

Adobe has a new image editing option for us all to consider. Photoshop Express is still in the pipeline at the moment but is due to be unleashed very soon. It is a new innovation by Adobe that incorporates online photo editing and an online image gallery. The software allows very basic image editing options that might keep some snappers happy. This will include crop, rotate, red eye removal, black and white, saturation and white balance. It is definitely not aimed at serious photographers who will find this software option far too limiting. However, this may well be the way that we are destined to edit our images in future so it's worth keeping an eye on developments. The release of Adobe Lightroom 2 is also imminent. Lightroom was developed with the help of professional photographers. It is described by Adobe as the professional photographers toolbox. Essentially Lightroom is designed to work with Photoshop. Adjustments to images in Lightroom will not alter the original data. Adobe has also added Photoshop CS3 Extended to this growing family of programs. This software allows you to edit 3D and motion based content.

As this website is called “Macro Photography for Beginners” I want to offer some advice regarding photo editing software. If you are happy to learn how to use Adobe Photoshop CS3 and can afford to buy a legitimate copy then this is all you will ever need to edit your images. If you are working on a lower budget buy a copy of Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 or Adobe Photoshop Elements. Avoid all other imaging editing software like the plague. Ensure that your computer has a specification capable of running the software that you have chosen. Photo editing software uses a lot of computer memory especially when working with large file sizes.

Thank you for visiting my website, I hope that you found this information helpful.

Marvin Africa


Anonymous said...

Great information, thanks for sharing :-)

Marvin Africa said...

Hello Mchilly,
Thanks for the comment!

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