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Amongst photo editing programs there is one that has become so well known that many people think it's the only one around and you need it to do anything with your pictures. I'm speaking, of course, about Photoshop, which is so popular amongst professionals that the word has even been used as a verb.


Photoshop is certainly one of the best photo editing programs out there but it is also one of the most expensive. It's one of the best because it's enormous. You can literally do thousands of different things with to your pictures with it. After the cost, this is the second reason why people may find the program too daunting.

The biggest problem for the beginner is knowing where to start and what to look for and this is made worse in a program like Photoshop because of the seemingly infinite range of choices available. Fortunately, there are lots of excellent photo editing programs available that are much cheaper than Photoshop and which, for the vast majority of photographers, will do anything they could ever want.


You can easily get free trial versions of programs to find out if they are suitable for your needs but, if you have never done any editing before, how can you tell what you are going to need? Actually, this is not quite as difficult as it sounds because I think the needs of most photographers will fall into one of three basic categories or levels.


All photo programs consist a collection of "tools". Some of these are very basic whilst others are more specialised. It really depends on what level of editing you want to do as to the tools you need to do it. What follows is a list of the tools required at the three levels of photo editing.


The first level

Many people will be perfectly happy with the pictures they get from their cameras and not really want to "edit" them at all. It may well be that all you want to do with your pictures is look at them, maybe print a few, email them or upload them to a photo sharing web site. At it's most basic, you don't actually need any specialised software at all to do any of these things.


However, once you have accumulated quite a few pictures on your computer, organizing them can get a bit tricky. This can make it very time consuming to find the picture you want in the first place, regardless of what you might want to do with it.


This is where photo album software comes in handy. This type of program allows you to look at all of the pictures on your computer and categorise them in any way you think will help you find any specific picture with a minimum of time wasting.


They don't actually move your pictures around but simply store information about where your pictures are and in what categories they are. That means you can have the same image in lots of different albums (or categories) without having to make lots of copies of it, which saves on hard disk space.


After selecting the picture you want with the album software, you can carry out the basic functions mentioned above (and more) usually with just one or two mouse clicks. If you think you might be interested in this type of program, you can get a free trial version of the ACDC Photo-Manager program.


Download a FREE Trial of ACDSee 10 Photo Manager today !


The second level - basic editing

This is for people who are not always happy with the pictures they get straight from the camera. If you always rely on your camera's auto exposure or auto colour balance, then there may be occasions when those systems get fooled and the picture is less than perfect. It's quite common for a picture to look fine in the camera but not so good when viewed on a computer monitor.


As well as correcting flaws, basic editing is all that is required for enhancing images in order to print good quality photographs. If all you want at the end of the day is a photograph, rather than something created on the computer, then basic editing is all you need.


The list of tools that you need for basic editing is quite small:-


Brightness - Used to compensate (to some extent) if your camera has got the exposure slightly wrong.

Contrast - Used to enhance a dull or flat looking picture.

Colour correction - If your camera got the colour balance wrong, this will correct it.

Colour saturation - This enhances pictures by brightening the colours or toning them down if they look too garish.

Rotate - For turning your pictures the right way up and for correcting an image that is slightly askew.

Crop - Selects part of your image and removes the rest. Cropping is used mostly to enhance the picture's framing and composition.

Resize - Reduce images for email and uploading to the web or enlarge them for making big prints or just blowing up a small section.

Sharpen - Most cameras sharpen images enough but some pictures can be enhanced with a little more.


The only thing possibly missing from this list is red eye removal. This is because it's actually quite an advanced function. However, because it is such a common problem, a tool to fix red eye has become quite normal now, even in basic editors.


Anything that calls itself a photo editor (including the free ones) definitely should have all of the above tools and most will have a good deal more.


The third level - advanced editing

If it's more than just straightforward pictures you want, then you are going to need more than just a basic editor. All the functions of a basic editor can be thought of as "global" in that they affect all of the picture. One essential feature of an advanced editor is that it also has "brush" tools.


Brush tools allow you alter part of your image by simply brushing an effect over a particular area, for example, lightening a dark area to bring out some detail. But that is only just the beginning.


As mentioned before, Photoshop has thousands of different ways to change your image but there are also lots of much cheaper photo editors available. Although they may only allow you to do hundreds of things, they still include much more than most photographers will ever need.


If you are not sure whether the functions of an advanced editor would be of any use to you, here is a list of fairly common things that people might want to do with pictures that would require an advanced editing program.


Perspective correction - for example to straighten converging verticals.

Distortion correction - for removal of pincushion or barrel distortion created by the lens.

Noise reduction - created by using a high ISO setting on the camera.

Remove distracting object from the background - to do this you would use a "clone" tool, sometimes called a "rubber stamp" tool.

Change something's colour - freehand selection tools allow you to select a specific object in an image and alter it to your heart's content, without having any effect on the rest of your picture.

Combine pictures - layers and masks are what you use to, for example, add someone into a picture.

Add text to a picture - by no means the only way of doing this but few basic editors have this function.


If you think you might be interested in this type of program, you can also get a free trial version of the ACDC Photo-Editor program.


Download a FREE Trial of ACDSee Photo Editor. today !


It is possible to create a digital image entirely from scratch with any of these programs, either by combining bits of different pictures or literally painting with a brush. But I think that is moving a little bit away from the realms of digital photography.

Choosing editing software