Editing Your Photos
So your photos are almost perfect...but not quite! What can you do to make them look a little better?
While Photoshop is the most popular software for editing photos, it's also expensive; fortunately, your computer likely comes with software that will do just fine for basic manipulation, and there are a number of free and inexpensive alternatives as well. For an overview of what's available, check out our articles on photo editing software and free photo editing software, which link to reviews and tutorials for each program.
Tip: always work on a copy of the file, rather than the original; that way, you can go back and start over if needed. You should never save over the original photo file!
Cropping is the easiest way to digitally improve your photos. Did you forget the rule of thirds or have some distracting elements in the background? Cropping lets you tighten your framing to improve the composition of your photograph after the fact. It can also be used to change the aspect ratio of the photo; in other words, maybe you originally took the photo horizontally, but now you're going to crop out one part of the photo to display vertically. Cropping is generally pretty simple: just select the crop tool (as pictured at right), highlight what you want to keep, and once you confirm the software will remove everything outside your crop box from the photo. You can usually tell the software what size you plan to print at (for example, 4" by 6") and it will force your crop box to assume the appropriate ratio.
While the sharpness of the photo is mostly a matter of what you do when taking it (holding the camera steady, using a good lens, etc.), you can clean it up a little bit after the fact. In Photoshop, the option to sharpen a photo is called an unsharp mark, as it masks unsharpness; you can find it under Filter > Sharpen > Unsharp Mask. You might think that the sharper the photo is, the better, but remember that the computer can only extrapolate from the information that's already present in your photo; if you overdo it, your picture will end up looking odd. Experiment a bit to find the best results!