Digital camera in hand, you mingle with friends and family on the lawn for the last big summer BBQ. As you take a few pictures, though, they all approach you, one by one--and beg for copies.
Wait a minute. That wasn't part of the plan! Now you need to turn around and e-mail shots from this photo collection. And when you sit at your PC later and examine the images, you realize that they're not your best work. Some are crooked, others have Omen-esque red-eye. Others are dark and murky--guess the flash didn't fire.
Don't worry, though. Here are ten quick and easy ways to fix your photos and make them look so good you won't have any qualms when you click Send.
1. Stop Looking Sideways: Rotate the Picture
Cameras don't take square pictures; they take rectangular ones. To frame a scene that's taller than it is wide, you probably turned the camera on its side before you snapped the shutter release. That's great, but don't send those sideways pictures to your friends. Turn them right side up first.
You can rotate your sideways pictures in almost any image-editing program. In Paint Shop Pro, open the picture and choose Image, Rotate and turn it to the left or the right by an even 90 degrees. If you have Windows Me or Windows XP, it's even easier. Just double-click a picture to open it in the Windows Picture and Fax Viewer. Then click the Rotate Clockwise or Rotate Counterclockwisebuttons at the bottom of the screen.
2. Seasick? Straighten the Picture
In the rush to take a photo, we don't always get the camera perfectly level--and that adds up to photos in which the horizon is slightly askew, as if you had shot the pictures from a sailboat. Fear not. Crooked digital photos are nearly as easy to straighten as picture frames hanging on your wall. (And they're more likely to stay straight after you fix them, too.)
All you need is an image editor that lets you rotate pictures a degree at a time, and most programs have this feature hidden somewhere in the Edit or Image menus. Look for an option to rotate the picture and enter a very small value, like one degree to the left or right (depending upon which way you need to adjust the photo).
In Paint Shop Pro, click Image, Rotate and check the radio button beside Free. Then enter your small value. If that doesn't fix the problem, undo your edit (choose Edit, Undo) and try again with a different number. You can rotate your photo by fractions of a degree, like 0.7 or 1.4 or 2.5. When you experiment, always undo your last rotation and try again from the original version; if you pile rotations on top of rotations, you can create noticeable "glitches" or blurriness in your photo.
3. Crop Away the Background
In your mind's eye, the picture may have been a shot of your nephew's birthday cake. But now that you see it on your PC, you realize that you didn't zoom in very far--so you've taken a picture of half the room as well. Use your image editor's cropping tool to cut away the unwanted part of the picture and isolate just the meat of the scene.
In most image editors, the cropping tool lives in the tool palette and looks like a picture frame. Click the cropping icon and, as you hold your cursor down at a starting point, use the tool to draw a rectangle inside the picture. Arrange the crop mark to re-compose your photo and discard the unwanted background. To do this in Paint Shop Pro, draw your rectangle, then click the Crop Imagebutton in the Tool Option box that floats around on the screen.
4. Shine Some Light in the Darkness
Is your photo too dark? A slight underexposure can ruin an otherwise great photo, so punch up the brightness a bit to give it some life. Try your image editor's gamma control--a tool that's designed to brighten the darkest parts of the picture without "overexposing" the parts that are already bright. If your image editor offers gamma control, you'll usually find the feature in menus like Colors or Image. Some programs, such as Microsoft Photo Editor, let you access the tool (Image Balance) from the toolbar.
In Paint Shop Pro, choose Colors, Adjust, Gamma Correction. You can raise the gamma as high as 1.3 or 1.4 in many pictures before the scene gets too washed out. But whatever level you choose, be sure to keep an eye on the evolving picture as you experiment with each setting.
5. Zap the Red-Eye
Using your camera's flash can sometimes cause the dreaded red-eye effect. If your photos look like they're filled with demonic partygoers, you can zap the red-eye out of your shots automatically in many image editors. In Paint Shop Pro, choose Effects, Enhance Photo, Red-Eye Removal, then zoom in on the red eyes and create a circle of color directly over the red spot.
If you have a basic image editor, like Irfan Skiljan's IrfanView or Microsoft Paint, that doesn't have an auto-correction tool, just zoom in on the eyes and paint over the red with a natural-looking shade of black or blue.
Remember that you don't have to be Picasso to eliminate red-eye convincingly. When you zoom back out, the eyes will be small enough that your brushwork should look more than adequate. The important thing is to paint over the red.