Photo Software
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Software for photo improvement

 

Although the new digital cameras do a great job, there are difficult lightning conditions in which they fail more or less. Also you want sometimes to crop your pictures to get a better composition or remove unwanted objects, like power lines in the front of a beautiful temple. For this kind of improvement, there are many photo improvement programs which can do even much more then this.

To give you one example how much is possible, a picture which I took from a plane, before and after correction.

 

 

So don't delete your pictures to soon, thinking they are no good.

 

Digital cameras have difficulties in low contrast (as landscapes from a distance)

and high contrast situations (especially buildings against an overcast sky).

There are several (even free) programs who can easily correct these kind of problems.

Sometimes portrait pictures can also do well with some improvement.

 

See examples BEFORE and AFTER improvement 

Of course this is also a question of taste, so you can adjust it your way.

 

I have tested MANY programs, known and virtually unknown, during the last 10 years and improved hunderd of thousands of pictures. Here are my favorite programs:

 

If you want free software Irfanview is a good program, which can do a lot with pictures: improve, viewer, slideshow, photo and web albums. Irfanview is also easy to use. This is my standard software for quick picture viewing and simple picture manipulation as cropping, resizing, gamma correction and enhancing. This can be done also batch wise for a series of pictures. It is important also to download the plug-ins! You can also use photoshop plug-ins in this program.

 

 If you want the maximum in picture improvement Corel Paint Shop Photo ($ 80) is an excellent program. Paint Shop Pro has more possibilities like removing of unwanted objects (clone brush) etc. The new smart photo fix works good in most circumstances. You can get a free demo of this software, so you can try it out for yourself.

 

A general program which I really like is ACDSee Pro. This is an all-in solution with many possibilities and very easy to use. I use this for the photo collages in this web, flash slideshows, text in pictures, organizing and so on.

 

There is no program which can handle all the difficult lightning situations, so depending on the circumstances there are more options.

 

An excellent plug-in is AutoEye ($ 129). Not cheap. but it can do sometimes miracles to your pictures.

 

DxO Optics is a winner of several important awards. I tried it out on a lot of my test pictures and even in the full automatic mode the results were almost always good. In the automatic mode DxO has the best average improvement.  A disadvantage  is that only a limited amount of cameras are supported. But the basic functions are working always.

Irfanview works good and easily in low contrast situations.

If you are interested in the perfect portrait Portrait Professional ($45) is a really great program, see also Dream Girls.

 

Another series of software I use is Nik Software's award-winning products: Dfine® 2.0, Viveza™, Color Efex Pro™ 3.0. Especially Viveza works very easy to enhance parts of a picture. It gives very natural effects. Great program. Dfine is very good in removing noise by higher ISO's.

ColorWasher is a plugin for correcting the colors, contrast, exposure and saturation, which I use in low contrast pictures, e.g. landscapes from a distance. It can do miracles, but takes time to learn.

 

Note: prices are an indication. Actually prices change all the time, depending also were you live.

 

A few more good free programs are Google Picassa en The GIMP. For painting Paint.NET

 

More examples of photo enhancing

 

 

To demonstrate in more detail of what this software is capable of, I have made a slideshow with pictures of the popular DSLR Canon EOS 400D and the superzoom Panasonic FZ-8, taken by others. Why I have chosen these cameras? Because the pictures of my Olympus SP-550, taken at the same places are mostly better and I want to demonstrate what is possible with these photo enhance programs.

Especially the popular DSLR Canon EOS 400D has difficulties with the color balance, having mostly a yellow cast and also difficulties with low and high contrast situations.

You can also see that simple enhancing as cropping of uninteresting parts, getting the horizon straight and not on the half of the picture works fine.

Sometimes I wanted to ‘dramatize’ the photo to enhance the magical and mystical energy of the place.

I have used the following software for it: the free Irfanview, Colorwasher and Viveza. Most of the time with just one or a few clicks. In a few examples I used Autoeye and the gradient filter of Color Efex Pro. For more info see above.

This proves again that if you want great pictures in an easy and cheap way use one of the Olympus superzooms (the newest SP-800UZ with 30x optical zoom) and the above mentioned software.

 

In the slideshow you see first the original photo (uneven numbers) and then the enhanced picture (even numbers).

Viewing hints: Press F11 to see the full screen. In the slideshow window you can start or stop the slideshow with the space bar. You can also use the arrow keys <- -> (on your keyboard or screen) or the mouse wheel for step by step viewing.

To the photo enhance slideshow

 

Showing your pictures

 

There are many ways of presenting your digital photos. There is software to help you with that: from a kind of imitation of the old photo album to the more sophisticated way of making a slideshow on DVD. I use the excellent Photodex Proshow Gold ($ 70) or Producer for that. This is really a great piece of software with many possibilities, and it is also easy to use. It is possible to zoom and pan together, which gives a result that almost looks like a movie. It has many ways of transition of the scenes and of course titles and music are also possible.  The quality of the slideshow on the DVD is very good and stays good, also during strong zooming and panning. Seeing the results on my big flat screen Sony Wega TV, I was really stunned.

 

 If you want it really easy and almost automatic then Ulead’s DVD Movie factory ($ 50) is also a good choice, although the possibilities are rather limited compared with ProShow. This program can also handle many kinds of video: digital video, (Super)-VHS and so on.

 

Web galleries

 

If you want to make web galleries, you can use Photomeister or Arles Image Web Page Creator ($49), which has more possibilities, but takes more time to learn. I use Arles for all my web galleries.

 

My vision on camera and software

 

Don't think that the expensive Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom software, expensive DSLR cameras and more megapixels give better results. The contrary is often the case. Try for example to do the portrait improvements, which I could do (as a first time user) immediately due to the extreme user friendliness of the Portrait Professional program in Adobe Photoshop (especially when you are also a first time user). It will take your ages or you will not succeed at all in getting the same results, see also dream girls for more examples. Even the free Irfanview does it as photo enhancer mostly better then Photoshop.

As a multimedia producer I use many different kind of programs, therefore user friendliness and intuitive use are very important for me.

 

I am always surprised about what I call the Adobe pushing and the way the professionals make it themselves difficult (photo and video) with these big and expensive cameras.

I have now a 12 Megapixel Olympus SP-590 with 26x optical zoom and as I experienced it, you can do things with this camera you can’t do easily with the other equipment. I travelled through Egypt with two photographers with all this expensive and heavy equipment. They were so busy with changing their lenses, getting the fine dessert dust from their mirrors and so on. In that time I had already taken many good shots, and such a relatively small camera draws not that attention as these big ones. Especially important in Egypt and with the amazing 26x double stabilized zoom you can take pictures of people, which you can’t with the other camera’s. And the camera just fits in my money belt. Back home comparing our pictures I had many more good pictures then they had.

Of course when you have to make large prints, then a full frame camera could be necessary. But several  of mine pictures are published in magazines and books with excellent results.

Also under very low light the DSLR’s have advantages. But I have used 3200ASA, improved  with Nik Dfine2 with good results.

 

Photographybb onlinemagazine issue 29

This excellent free magazine. together with the Photography blog is an excellent source of information. Also the tests are excellent. Because the magazine has no advertisements, they are able to give unbiased information:

 

BRIDGE CAMERAS: BUSTING THE DSLR CAMERA MYTH b y Jon D. Ayres

 

Most photography magazines tend to push dSLR cameras as if they are the only game in town for taking quality photos. Yet, almost every camera manufacturer makes at least one prosumer bridge camera. From all the how-to manuals on photography and magazines about photography, it seems as if the prosumer bridge camera is the  unwanted child in photography. Yet among many photographers, prosumer bridge cameras are some of the most popular cameras in the world today.

(Quote from the intro). I highly recommend you to read this excellent article, starting on page 11.

 

I am happy to read that independent sources are on the same line. At the end of this page is in sharp contrast another article: Popular Photographer (How to make great pictures!!) of December 2009

 

Adobe pushing.

 

Now some more about the Adobe pushing. If you read most of the photo magazines, even for beginners, it looks like there is only one program you can enhance your pictures with, and that is Adobe Photoshop (sometimes also Lightroom). I have Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom 2.5 and I find them user unfriendly and complicated programs with mostly inferior results. To give on example: I wanted to make the new favorite selection with automatically adjusting pictures to the screen seize (nowadays between 800x600 till 1920x1280). Till my surprise I found in Adobe Lightroom a good possibility for it. But the way it worked was so clumsy and slow that I looked further into it. It turned out not to be of Adobe but from Simpleviewer, what of course explains why it was so good. So I went to the original small FREE program, coupled that with another free program Porta and what took me four hours to render in Lightroom, did this free combination  in 90 seconds, in a MUCH better way. Now I had exactly the results in the way I wanted, which was not possible with the expensive Lightroom. But you read (almost) NEVER about these kind of programs in photo magazines. Even for beginners they start with Adobe Photoshop, which I find a shame. My beginner friends and I use the great free Irfanview for all the basic things. In a split second it is there (1MB!) and you can start in an easy way to do the basic things like loose free cropping, rotating or resizing using the superior Lanczos5 method. Very good automatic picture adjusting (especially in low contrast) and so on. I also don't use RAW and except a few cases, I don't see any advantage in that. Only much more memory is needed and much more complicated. The Olympus SP-550/ SP-590 jpg has a very natural color balance (as the color difference charts clearly show) and under difficult lightning conditions the above mentioned programs perform miracles as my pictures clearly show.

 

State of the art photos and photo presentation (21-2-2010)

 

Have first a look at this slideshow.

 

From a technical viewpoint these are (at this moment in time) state of the art photos and this is a state of the art photo presentation. The pictures have been taken with an Olympus SP-590 with 26x optical zoom: 26-676mm, double stabilized and with a speed of 10 f/s, maximum 25 frames. (Price about $ 340). This is a great combination as for example the photos of the birds in the KL bird park clearly show. I never use a tripod.

Also the way of presenting the pictures, automatically adjusting to almost every screen seize is according to me state of the art, which FREE easy working software. This automatically adjusting is very important nowadays with the huge variety in screen resolutions. To optimize the pictures also free programs are used like Irfanview, that for example with one click transforms the foggy pictures from the KL Minera tower in great looking pictures.

 

The joke is somehow that most of the so called professionals and serious photographers don’t use these kinds of cameras and don’t use these kinds of programs. 

On the left an example how I make my slideshows with free, easy to use software and to the right how a large travel organization did it in the professional way. My picture is 1350% larger and also in every detail better (texts, navigation, slideshow speed, thumbnails etc). Indeed a joke!

And to be honest I didn't try to find the worst one on the Internet. I want to go to Morocco and went to a well known travel organization to get more information. And this is what I found!

 

Popular Photographer (How to make great pictures!!) December 2009

 

Buying a Popular Photographer (How to make great pictures!!) December 2009 on my travel, it looks there are (almost?) only DSLR cameras and Adobe Photoshop.

I must really laugh if I see a two pages test picture with the Leica M9 (which cost with 50mm noctilux f/0.9 $ 17.000). This picture is in my eyes in EVERY way bad: bad composition (hands cut off, distracting parts) low contrast, parts are too dark, color cast etc.

And if you buy such an incredible expensive camera you discover it is FULL of serious bugs (see press release below). Looking to the number 1.116 , it is one of a series of updates for the Leica M9!

With my Olympus ultrazoom cameras, I NEVER needed to update the firmware.

So probably what I wrote about the bad quality of the test picture in Popular Photography can be partially blamed on this firmware too.

Original press release March 2010:

Leica has released a firmware update for the Leica M9 interchangeable-lens digital rangefinder camera. Version 1.116 removes a magenta cast seen in the left half of the frame when certain wide-angle lenses - including the 18mm f/3.8 ASPH; the 21mm f/2.8 ASPH; the 24mm f/3.8 ASPH; the 28mm f/2 ASPH and the 28mm f/2.8 ASPH - are used, introduces an ISO-dependent vignetting correction feature, improves image quality in thumbnail display, speeds up the SD card formatting process, and fixes bugs.

 

The name of the magazine is POPULAR photography, but I can’t read ANYTHING about these great super zoom cameras. And the only photo program mentioned is the expensive and very user unfriendly Adobe Photoshop. This is not only the fault of Popular Photography. With a few exceptions this is the trend in almost every photo magazine. I read many photo magazines and some exceptions are Photographybb onlinemagazine and Shutterbug. For example in a test of ACDSee Pro 3, Shutterbug clearly mentioned how easy important and often used corrections can be done in ACDSee Pro 3, with the remark: Try this in Photoshop!

 

If anybody knows on the Internet a better presentation with better pictures (technically) then I have used, I will be happy to change my opinion. Please email Deva Deep

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