Sunday, October 23, 2005

Using the Effects in Your Photo Editing Software

By Christina VanGinkel

I have been combining both my new digitally made photographs and older photographs with scrapbooking and wall art for some time. Thanks to my computer and photo printer, I am constantly amazed at the new things I discover that can be done with both my new photographs, and the older ones once I scan them back into my computer, to increase their aesthetic value. One of the most inventive techniques that I absolutely love to do is to print a photograph in black and white that has a distinct focal point. I then go back with my colored photo safe markers and color in just the object that is the focal point. For example, I snapped a photograph a few years back of my youngest son as he was releasing a monarch butterfly that he had watched progress from a caterpillar, into its cocoon, and then to its final stage as the monarch. I printed the photograph in black and white, and just colored in the butterfly. What I ended up with, is a photograph that is the central part of a layout for my sons scrapbook. At thirteen, he already looks back at that layout and has a comment every time about how cool it was to watch the monarch stretch his wings and dry them as he emerged from his cocoon. It is cool for me to know that a simple thing like coloring in the butterfly can help him recall the memory so vividly.

Another technique, Focal B & W, that I have been enjoying trying out, is one I actually discovered in the freeware program Picasa 2. I am sure it is included in many photo-editing programs, but I just never understood it. A color photograph has the effect applied to it, which results in the picture being converted to black and white, with a focal point left in color. The focal point can be adjusted in both dimension and original location. My first attempt with using this technique was done to a picture of a rising sun. I placed the focal marking on the sun itself, keeping the area in focus (in color) just the dimension of the sun itself. The remaining part of the picture was converted to black and white. This worked extremely well because the majority of the picture was foggy and surrealistic looking to begin with. By making it black and white, it allowed the surreal part to play fully, with the grandeur of the rising sun in full color.

While professional photographers may understand a photo editing program right out of the box, for many of us, the best way for us to gain an understanding of a programs capability is to poke around in the different controls, to try out different effects on a variety of pictures. Be sure to take some time and read any tutorials that many programs offer, as you will never be able to enjoy the capabilities included, unless you first understand the basic meanings behind them. Now, if I could just figure out what sort of photograph would be improved by a 'hot wax coating' effect, I could start my next scrapbook layout!

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