How to have fun with your camera
What’s common to Faith Hill, Kim Kardashian, Beyoncé, Jamie Lee Curtis...? Photoshop. Prasanto Roy gives ideas for having fun with photos – and saving some money.tech reviews Updated: May 25, 2009 17:05 IST
What’s common to Faith Hill, Kim Kardashian, Beyoncé, Jamie Lee Curtis...? Photoshop controversy. One lost 10 years on the cover of Redbook; the second, her cellulite; the third, her dark skin, courtesy L’Oréal’s agency (and not their product); the fourth, her straps... (see tinyurl.com/faith666 and tinyurl.com/kim666).
As you’ve figured out, Adobe’s Photoshop is a favourite among us in the media. We use it all the time. We knock kilos off a model, remove underarm stubble, shift from studio to Swiss Alps or Mauritius in minutes, dress up or undress...Photoshop is powerful and versatile and costs Rs 80k. Even if you copy it (piracy is bad!), it’s complex and takes much learning.
So if you just want to touch up some photos, what do you do? Well, you use any free photo-editor software.
This is a nifty and free photo-editor, and perfect for non-techie users. You can download it at tinyurl.com/photo63 and install it in two minutes, and you’re up and running.
PhotoFiltre is really easy to use. Most things are automated or one-touch. Simple menu options like ‘More shadows’ or ‘More highlights’ improve a photo in a way that contrast controls cannot.
Why do companies ship out free software? Mostly, to let you try before you buy. You get a free version, but there’s a paid version with extra features. Such as PhotoFiltre Studio, which adds support for layers, like in Photoshop (just like with multiple tracks in a music project, you can work on image layers separately – one for the model, one for the background). But the free version is just fine for most users.
I asked five friends to name the best free photo editor, and got five different responses. So I expect much reader mail here! There’s Paint.NET, Google’s Picasa (great for managing your photo albums, though not the best of photo editors), The GIMP, ImageForge, Pixia... all very capable, and free.
And there are websites where you can touch up your photos free... photoshop.com, Fotoflexer, FlauntR, Splashup and many more. Try one!
You need a passport photo in a hurry. What do you do? Go to the nearby studio and get a mug-shot straight out of the ‘wanted’ photos? (For Rs 50 to 100, you get six or eight photos rapidly replicated in pirated Photoshop.)
Here’s what I do: keep 4” x 6” images on my phone’s memory card, each image with eight carefully-selected passport photos of my family members. At any time, I can print out the sheet at any photo studio or kiosk – at between Rs 10 and Rs 20 for the 4” x 6” sheet of of eight photos.
How do I make the 4”x6” file? With PassportPhoto, downloadable at tinyurl.com/photo211. You can try it free, but to really use it you need to pay $10. I recovered that money in two months.
Using it is easy. Pick a nice photo. Any size is okay, but usually the subject should have a white (or light) background and be facing the camera.
In the PassportPhoto software, click ‘Add a passport photo’, and select your photo, and the size needed (usually 3.5 x 3.5 cm). Move and resize the cropping window to get the face just inside the oval marker. Click OK. Choose the number of photos you need (eight is good), or add more photos, and then save it all to a 4” x 6” JPG file. That’s it.
Now, if you don’t want to spend $10, there are free alternatives, mostly not as capable. You even have free websites like epassportphoto.com, where you can upload a photo and then download a 4” x 6” sheet with seven passport photos (plus one advert). The paid software is faster – and invaluable for the party idea below. But for one-off use, the website works just fine.
Here’s a useful ‘return gift’ idea for a party. Take a photo of each guest. Run them through PassportPhoto. E-mail guests the 4”x6” JPG (each with eight passport photos) and the suggestion that they store it in their phones for when they next need passport photos in a hurry. Or give the whole lot to your local studio, and send everyone a thank-you note along with eight passport photos that are better than those ‘wanted mug-shots’ – and they’ll remember you. Everyone needs passport photos!
Prasanto K Roy (firstname.lastname@example.org) is chief editor at CyberMedia, publisher of 15 specialty titles such as Dataquest and Living Digital