One of the main reasons people buy digital cameras is so they can share their photos with others. Even if you are just going to print your photos for yourself, you will want them to look their best. Here are some tips on getting your images ready for sharing or printing.
1. ORGANIZE YOUR PHOTOS
Delete the ones you don't like or those that are near duplicates of others. No sense in clogging up your hard drive or CDs with junk. Use a good photo management software program like ACDSEE 7, Adobe Photoshop Album 2.0 or Jasc Paint Shop Photo Album 5 to view, organize and name your images. These programs also let you batch rename so you can give more descriptive file names to a group of photos at the same time. You can add key words and tags to make finding your photos easier. Be detailed in your photo descriptions, not just "John and Laurie." You'll probably have hundreds of photos of your kids and it will be harder to find the one you're looking for. Better to say "John and Laurie waterskiing on Lake Powell, May 2004."
2. BACK UP YOUR ORIGINALS
Mistakes can happen. It is a good idea to back up all your images to a CD before you start editing or changing them. That way you always have the original to go back to if you accidentally save over an image or made changes to a photo that you later decide you don't like. CDs hold lots of photos, making it cheap insurance.
3. ROTATE IMAGES
Trying to look at a sideways photo is annoying. Use your photo management or editing software to rotate photos as needed. And if you have any images that are a little crooked, you can fix that using your editing software. Most photo editors have an automatic "straighten" function, or you can manually rotate the image a few degrees to straighten the horizon line.
4. REMOVE RED-EYE
Even with your digital camera's auto red-eye reduction function, your subject's eyes may still have red-eye. Use your photo editing software to remove it. Zoom in on the eyes and it will be easier for you to correct the red-eye. I've tried a number of red-eye correction tools and find that the one that comes with ACDSEE 7's photo editor is among the best. It zeros in just on the red eye and doesn't darken the surrounding eye area like some other software does.
5. CROP YOUR PHOTOS
Crop out unnecessary or distracting backgrounds and focus in on your subject. Most photo editing programs will keep the aspect ratio, so when you draw a box around the area you want to focus on it will crop it as 4x6 or whatever you have specified. That way you won't end up with an odd size photo. Kodak EasyShare Gallery also has a very good cropping tool for maintaining the proper print size. It comes with its free photo editor.
6. ADJUST LIGHTING AND CONTRAST
Some of your photos may have come out washed out or too dark. You can automatically adjust the color, brightness and contrast of your photos. The better programs like Photoshop Album 2.0, Jasc and ACDSEE also have tools for making manual adjustments for fine-tuning. Be careful not to overdo it, though, or your picture could come out grainy.
7. PREPARE TO SHARE
There are a number of ways to share your images. Several programs, like Roxio Photo Suite 7, ACDSEE7, Photoshop Album and Paint Shop Photo Album allow you to create digital photo albums or slide shows, complete with music, transitions and captions. You can burn them to CD or resize and optimize for emailing directly from the program.
Online photo services such as PhotoWorks, Shutterfly, Snapfish and Kodak EasyShare Gallery also let you share your photos on line, for free. You simply upload your images to their server into your own photo albums and add captions if you wish. Then email your friends with a link to your albums. With most of the online services your photos stay on their servers as long as you have an account with them, for free. Signing up for an account is free, you only pay for photos you choose to purchase.
For hardcore photo sharers, there are also dedicated photo sharing applications such as PiXPO v1.5.0, which lets you share photos right off your hard drive. This is a peer to peer software application that allows you to connect directly with your friends and family to share and view pictures online with no uploads. Unlike traditional photo sharing services, you have unlimited storage and you don't have to upload your photos to a distant server or wait for friends to log onto some photo sharing site. The application is easy to install and use and it's inexpensive, around $30. PC Magazine rated it an Editor's Choice in their January 3, 2005 issue.
Valerie Goettsch publishes the digital photography website http://www.digitalphotos101.com featuring reviews of photo editing and album software and digital photo printing services.