Today's  cameras have come a long way since the early consumer models that first became affordable at the turn of the century (2000). Today, even an entry level camera takes great photo's. But, as digicams rely on us humans to set the camera and also focus correctly, a lot can go wrong. Conditions must be right, otherwise the photo looks odd,  It may be too light or dark, unevenly exposed, soflly focused, have pale colour and show other problems. Professionals have long used expensive tools that are both time consuming and difficult for beginners to get to grips with. However, even the basic editors now do a great job of correcting most problems in just a few mouse clicks. All cameras come with basic image editing software but users of Windows Vista and Windows 7 have Windows Live Photo Gallery at their fingertps. It's an easy to use editor that does a great job of enhancing photographs.Look at this screen shot of an image of a star open in that programme. We've already opened the image in the gallery and clicked on the Edit tab. 

The image above looks a little dark, so let's brighten it up.  Click the orange fine tune button half way along  the menu bar at the top. In the right hand colum four adjust options apear, Exposure, Colour, Straighten Photo and Detail. Click on ADJUST EXPOSURE. Four sliders appear. We want to brighten the image. Click and hold the brightness slider and move it from half way along to the right to about 85% of the way  along. The picture to the left now looks much brighter, but is lacking in contrast. Move the contrast slider along to match the position of the brightness slider, or to match your personal liking.


The picture to the right has had it's contrast improved and looks better. There's not really any shadows hiding detail or bright areas blowing out detail in our image, so we don;t need to adjust anymore exposure sliders. However, we'll return to the exosure menu later for a cool edit. The image looks pale so we need to beef up the colour somewhat. Click on Adjust exposure to hide it, and then click on Adjust colour to reveal three sliders for Temperature, Tint and Saturation. Move the Saturation slider fully to the left and the image has zero colour. Click on the undo button in the top left of the screen by the save icon. This undoes the last change made. Move the slider fully right.

The image on the left now looks much better than the original. Colour and exposure are greatly impoved, We can now minimize Ajust colour. and start thinking about making the image sharper and less noisy. Click Adjust colour to minimize it. Now click on ADJUST DETAIL to open the available sliders.The image blows up to reveal digital noise in the picture as grains or blotches of colour. The image below hasn't had any further processing added to it. Notice the grey areas have coiloured patches and the star has red spots.

The image has now magnified. There are two sliders and an ANALYSE button in between them. Drag the SHARPEN slider to halfway and the image sharpens, but noise also increases and looks like bacteria under a microscope. Our picture doesn't need sharpening so drag the slider back fully to the left. Click on the button and the noise is digitally removed from the image.The programme automatically reduces the noise by 50% (halfway) and you can increase or decrease this to your liking. The noise is still visible, but looks smoother and more blended in. In the bottom right of the screen you will see four triangles surrounding a rectangle. Move your mouse over it and it says FIT TO WINDOW. Click this and the whole image is visible again.

If you look at the above photo you'll notice a white blotch on the bottom right point of the star about halfway up. Let's get rid of this blemish. Click on the RETOUCH button at the top and  the pointer becomes a crosshair. Drag and drop a small rectangle around the blotch. Keep within the outline of the star. You'll probably have to do it two or 3 times, but the end result will be like the photo on the right. The retouch tool is usued for removing imperfections, like a spot on someones chin, or a scratch on a scanned photo. Care must always be taken to do it in small moves - never draw a rectangle over an edge where colour changes or where colour fades out due to light or shadow as this will be replicated in the image. 

Photo Gallery can straighten your images. If you click the straighten button at the top it will automatically do its best to create a straight image. This is good for photo's of buildings or portraits. It's reasonably accurate, but for our star we're taking the manual option. Click on STRAIGHTEN PHOTO at the right side of the screen.A large grid covers the image. Move the slider left or right to manually adjust. We've tilted it to the left to make a horizontal line across the image.

The area of  grey ceiling around the star is too large. It detracts from the overall image. We can crop this (remove unwanted areas around the edges) to give a better looking image,  Simply click on crop in the top menu. A grid appears. Hold the mouse over one of the tiny squares on the edge of the grid and drag it to the edge of where you want to crop. Do this on all four sides to frame the portion you want to retain and then press enter on the keyboard to carry out the crop.This makes the image more striking, as you're focusing on the star and not the image around it. Cropping works best on images over 5 Megapixels in size. If you crop to an area too small in size you risk ending up with a blocky image. We have now finished editing our photograph. If you want to, you can edit in various effects. We'll try one now.

We're going to simulate a luminous effect as our star is a glow in the dark star that glows brightly when the light is turned out. However, this photo was taken in daylight and it wasn't glowing. If you click on ADJUST EXPOSURE and move the HIGHLIGHT slider to the far left the star starts to 'Glow in the dark. Now move the SHADOW slider to the right and you can adjust how much it glows. Try it for yourself and see. Or try reversing the two sliders and see the effect Download the unrdited picture STAR1 from our downloads page, and try this easy to learn editing workshop on your own computer or laptop.

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