30 June 2011

Fun with Photo Editing

"Art doesn't just happen by accident. It is about pulling out new tricks and trying new things."

~ Nicholas Meyer

I don't do a lot with photo editing, mainly because I just don't have time. (You, too?)

Instead, I use the free program called Picasa on my computer to do minor editing like cropping and light correction, and that takes care of most of my photo issues (I usually get away with the "I'm feeling lucky" button, plus I just like to click that button, now if it only came with a winning lottery ticket ;-), but sometimes it is just fun to see what is possible. I do have Photoshop Elements, but I am not so enamored with that. For what I paid for it, there should be a glittery fairy floating around making things happen, and Elements is just enough different from the full version of Photoshop that I use occasionally at work making me just a tad bit crazy when I use it. Cursing may or may not be involved. Plus it is a resource hog. And like I said, I just don't have time for that. 

Since I just don't have time to futz with the program, I like my Picasa the best. I discovered that downloading the newest version of Picasa allows you to click a button and be taken to the Picnik.com site which opens up tons more options. I had used Picnik before, but now that I can be transported there at the click of a button, I liked it even more. That is the sort of glittery fairy service that I am talking about. (Photoshop Elements should take note.)

I decided I liked what I was doing at Picnik so much, that I bought the Premium package.

I have to say that there is a lot to choose from, even with the free service. And you will have to play around to find the combination of tricks that will work for you. You can layer effects. You can add text (with fun fonts! I love fonts!). You can make collages (but you can do that in Picasa, too and I like that program more for the collages I make.) There are some things that I wish I could do with Picnik... like after I save it, I can't seem to go back and edit it again to tweak it. I have to start all over. That is a bit frustrating (or maybe I am just missing something?). And there are things that I wish they had, like a deckle edge would be a nice treatment other than just rounded corners, because I am a bit more rough around the edges. But all in all, both Picasa and Picnik are very robust programs that are worth a look, especially since you can use most of the services for free.

On my recent photo safari walk I took some cool shots and played around with the effects that are available on Picnik.com. There are the standard Sepia, and Black and White, as well as funky things like Pixelate and Film Grain. I personally love the Lomo-ish, Cross Process and the way the edges get all dark and mysterious on the Vignette. So I thought that it might be fun to see what just one effect does to the same photo, so I chose this vibrant center of a hibiscus bloom.

First up, I use a Gritty filter on the flower. Oh, and the rounded corners (wouldn't this be cool with a deckle, torn edge look? Come on, Picnik...let's make it happen!). The muted tones are beautiful in this example and give it an old-world quality that I love.

Whoa! For a completely opposite effect, I used the Heat Map setting. Look at that blue! This pumps up the volume quite a bit! Totally psychadelic, don't you think? (I'm trippin' man...)

For the minimalist, the Neon filter pairs down the outlines the focal point for a very cool bouquet effect. You can even change the color of the neon to acheive the look you want.

And then there is the Posterize setting. This makes me feel all Warhol-ish! Imagine what he would do today with the computer programs out there. I like this one a lot since it makes it more abstract and the colors work like a palette that would be fun to design around.

I think that all these options are very fun. And they might make a nice set of notecards...hey! That's a great idea! I might have to see about doing just that!

I obviously wouldn't use these funky techniques for product photography, but it is fun to play. The thing I have learned about taking pictures is that you do need good lighting (outdoor light is best, and I stay away from flash, or have a really great light source in my basement late at night for all my jewelry shots ;-), and composition (I think this shot works better because it is not centered), and while having a quality camera and lens certainly help, there is a lot that you can do to make your pictures even with your point and shoot just a bit better. I challenge you to have fun with your camera this holiday weekend and take some shots to play around with in a photo editing program. I would love to see what you do!

Your turn...
What photo software do you use?
Any tricks you care to share?
Which of these is your favorite technique?
Do tell!


maneki said...

Nice photos -- I especially like the neon filtre version. Very cool!

I love playing with photo editing software too. Not just enhancing and improving jewellery photos, but also like this, just playing around with different effects and filters. Many times creating abstract images using flower or landscape photos. Sometimes I play with my camera as well, changing shutter times, white balance settings etc to create abstract, fuzzy or extremely overexposed pics.

One thing I'd like to work more with is textures, adding a transparent textured or abstract image on top of the original. I have dabbled a little with it, e.g. adding a photo of a window pane with raindrops on top of a rose image. Can create lovely moods and effects that way.

When I bought my computer about 7,5 years ago it came with Photoshop Elements and that's still my favourite, but when the laptop gave up for a couple of years (it's resurrected now)I had to use something else and not wanting to spend money, nor finding the PSE installer cd-rom, I downloaded Picasa. That worked nice too, though I couldn't do some of the things I could with PSE. I had issues with Picasa and when Heather Powers blogged about Picnik, I had to give it a go. Now it's the photo editor I mostly use. Have the free basic account, but that covers a lot.

I also use a free version of NeatImage to reduce noise in my indoor pics -- a big problem ever since my camera was dropped in the floor a few times too many... Another free software I used between Picasa and Picnik was Photo Filtre. And for simple things like resizing and highlighting I often use another free software: IrfanView. Simple, no-fuss photo editing -- including batch editing. For panoramas I used to use a demo version of PanoramaMaker 3.

What am I getting at here, other than just listing my plethora of free software I have amassed? There's a lot you can do with free software, no need to spend a small fortune on Photoshop right away. Not everyone is aware for all the good free photo editing softwares available and think great edited photos are just for pros or gifted somewhat affluent amateurs. Anyone can do it -- and, even more importantly, do it for free! Sometimes I hear people saying they can't do this and can't do that with their photos, but really, editing photos and making collages isn't hard nor does it have to cost money. Of cause one has to learn how to work with the software, but then again that's the way it is with everything. And anyone who can learn how to use a camera can learn how to use photo editing software. Read the manual, buy digital photo mags with photo editing tutorials, check online tuts and play around, exploring. That's what I did.

maneki said...

I just can't write short and consice comments, can I... :p

somethingunique said...

Hi Erin, first off i love your new signature, very cool. I am just learning to use my camera, it's nothing fancy for sure but i have some really cool shots of the sunset i am going to post soon.I really appreciate your tips i am sure they will be very helpful as i am a beginner so thank-you Miss Erin.
I have been away at the docs in London with Jack and missed 3 days of posts i am catching up on & "Yoo Hoo!!!" no more crutches, still a walking boot cast for another month but he can finally start physio :)
take care ttfn Lana >^.^<

sandi m said...

Great post Erin. I always hear the geeks say that picasa is a great program. Now to figure out how to unload the pics from my camera (perhaps, sit down and read the directions?!)and play. Must do so I can enter a couple of Fall shows.
And, my fav is the minimalist ~ something about that black background and flower smiling at you.

Anna Lear said...

I love playing with images -- like you, I usually try to make them as realistic as possible, but playing is fun! I use Photoshop CS5 (I got it with a great student discount since I'm still working my way through an MS program in counseling) with two awesome Topaz filters: Detail and DeNoise. Detail lets me go super-fine with a Lithograph setting, or smooth with Abstract; it has lots in between, too. These filters might be available for Elements; I *highly* recommend them! Please feel free to email me if you want more info on them.

Softflexgirl said...

I love this! I especially like the last 2 filters. Beautiful, Erin!

Jackie said...

I really like all of them! I discovered FotoFlexer from a blog but haven't used it yet. It sounds like it would be a great photo editor. I hope to try it soon...when I get time!

SummersStudio said...

I do love this last photo and the idea of using the effect for a colour palette, especially since it gives you a rough idea of proportions of colour that work well together. I don't have a lot of time to work with photo editing. OK, make that I don't have a lot of patience working with photo editing. I use photoscape which is free and works well for me to edit product shots. But I do wish I knew more about photo editing. My son in law, a graphic designer, does amazing things in Photoshop.

I really enjoyed your trip through the different effects that you can get with these programs. It's good to play once in while!

Judy said...

I use Picasa too but I LOVE what you are able to do with Picnik..I have got to check it out. I have Instagram on my I-phone which is also a fun thing to have.

Anonymous said...

Love it Erin! I use both of those also, and like you said there is plenty to offer in options even without the premium package. They are both great and free, free, FREE!

Cheeseboy said...

All that with free software? Incredible. I actually like the original the most though.

My wife does all the editing, but I believe she uses the same programs.

Anonymous said...

I have never tried Picasa but I think I will give a try sooner or later, I read everywhere enthusiastic review.
At the moment I am using Gimp, it's a free software and maybe it could be a little tricky at the very beginning (well, all the photo editing programs seem tricky to me) but it has many functions and filters you can enjoy. I am quite happy with it even if I still don't master it.


JeannieK said...

I love Picnik too! I don't have the premium package however. How do you like? Should I get it? How different is it from the standard Picnik?
Have a safe and happy holiday Erin.

Holly said...

Oh, wow, I love the way that Gritty filter looks on that flower...totally my style :) I use a combination of editing software on my pictures, partially depending on what I want to do with the photos. If I'm taking product pictures, I start with Picasa for a quick colors adjustment and cropping for shape. Then I take it to PS CS to edit down the size a bit further. If I'm working on personal pictures, and going for cool effects, layers, the whole works, I'm PS CS girl all the way ;) I love me my actions and layers, although I am still learning!

Anonymous said...

Hi Erin! I'm loving the cool effects! My favorite is the Gritty Filter I love the muted colors. The photo editor I use most is Photoshop Elements, though I have used Picnic and it gives you alot to work with and is very user friendly. As for tips for PSE, http://shadowhousecreations.blogspot.com/ has a lot of great free textures.

Pretty Things said...

That neon one is really cool!

I have had PhotoShop Elements for a long time. I also use Picnik, but for really fine-tuning things, such as erasing shadows really well, I go to PSE and then back to Picnik. Good way to crash my system, I tell you!

Shannon of ** Happiness Is...** said...

Picnik is definitely my editor of choice too! :) xo

Belinda Saville said...

Lovely photo, Erin! And I really like all of the different effects...the Posterize version is my favourite, I think it would make an amazing colour palette for your jewellery!!

I use the Adobe suite for photo-editing on my iMac...I start with Adobe Bridge to increase exposure, fill light, colour balance, etc, and then I switch to Photoshop for cropping and final editing. But really, all of that takes TIME...it is far less time consuming to set your photos up well before taking them. Less editing time = more time making jewellery :-)


Tracy Statler said...

Hi Erin. Cool lineup showing all the possibilities together. I use iPhoto the most, then Picnik Premium 'cuz it'x easy and does really cool things as you have shown and then sometimes I go into Photoshop Elements. I have owned PSE for over 6 months and still need to take a class. Time, Time, Time. I need to learn how to pull all nighters like you do sometimes. : )


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