If you have been reading through this series of articles you now have taken your product photos and they are in your camera ready to transfer to your computer. I am not going to go into getting them from your camera to your computer because I am sure that is something you already know how to do. But once they are in your computer - now what?
If you have followed the suggestions in this series your photo files when viewed on the screen should be ready to use with just the adjustment of size, but it is possible that for whatever reason the lighting was off, the focus was not exactly what you wanted, the colors are not exact or the image white areas have a yellow tone. These are all relatively easy to fix if you have the right photo image software on your computer. Sometimes you are going to look at a photo that is way off - the best thing to do is save yourself a lot of time and effort and just delete it. If it was crucial to what you want to present in your series of photos of one product, just set up the shot in your easy to reassemble studio and shoot it again. In fact, if at all possible leave the studio space set up until you look at the photos on your computer - then it will be very easy to go back and re-shoot.
There are many software packages. If you are going to spend money on image software, do not spend it on a very inexpensive program. You are going to be far better off with a free program that you can download from the Internet than a $29.99 bargain box image software package off the shelf. I am going to give you suggestions for both free software and software packages that are for sale.
I am going to start with the king of all image software and that is Adobe Photoshop. You have all heard the name. There are many magazines dedicated solely to its use. Photoshop is a great program - but it's price is as large as its reputation and you can spend upwards of $700 for Adobe Photoshop. The current version is CS4, but be warned there are problems with CS4 that have yet to be corrected in the several months that it is out. If you have an older graphics card - meaning even a few of years old, the software crashes. Not so good, especially when you plunk down 700 bucks and don't know this until you install it and try to run it. The older version - CS3 is much more stable and has just about every feature of CS4. If you would like to try Photoshop you can download a free 30 day trial copy. It will stop working in 3o days after you install it but you will see how it works, if it has a problem with your graphics card, and if you like it. You are getting a trial of CS4. If you want to find CS3 you are going to have to do some searching.
Photoshop is a complex and somewhat complicated program for anything but the basics. If you are not ready to commit to learning the package then this is not for you. There are many books that will step you through how to use it. There are many on-line tutorials that will do the same. But there is a learning curve involved here and there is little click and go and you have what you want.
At the completely opposite end of the price range is a free program available for download that is a Photoshop-clone. It is called Gimp and it is easy to find for download for any computer system from PC to Mac to Linux. Gimp is called open source software which means it is developed for any operating system, continually re-developed to add more function, and it is offered for free. Gimp is very similar in operation to Photoshop with a few exceptions. It also has a bit of a learning curve but there are many tutorials available on the web to give you a basic understanding of what you will need to do to correct your image photos. The one thing that I have found about Gimp that I do not like is that cropping an image to a specific size is not straight forward as it is on all other image software that I have tried. On most image programs to crop you simple put in the size of the photo that you want the image reduced to and you get a box on your screen to move around your image and crop. The part of the image is now that size . On Gimp you have to determine the proportion of the size that you want - for example, if you want an 8 x 10 final image you need to enter 4:5 into the controls - you then get your crpping area to move around. I am not sure why they did this as it is much easier just to put in the size. This is not much of an issue with product images because you are going to crop (if you want to) freehand - which means to no set size and just adust the bars on the sides of the image to crop out any area you do not want. Gimp is free. Download it and try it. You have nothing to lose but a little time and a lot to gain. The current version is Gimp 2.6
If you like the features of Adobe Photoshop but wish that they were easier to use then you want to purchase Adobe Photoshop Elements. The most recent version is Elements 7. This is has all of the most useful features of Adobe Photoshop but it can do with with a few simple clicks. It sells for less than $75 and can often be found on sale at many retailers for less. You may still want to get a book about PS Elements 7 as it will teach you all the ins and outs of its features - and with a little effort you will be a pro. With Elements you are also getting a photo organizer and tools to do craft photo projects. Don't let the projects section make you think that this is a simplistic program. Photoshop Elements 7 (or any version) is a powerful image editing software program that encorporates ease of use.
There is a free software package similar to PS Elements, but in my opinion, not as good and, again in my opinion, does not give the quality of results that you can get with Elements - at least with as little effort. This software is called Picassa and is free. Again, try it. It will do basic things. When I first tried it I though that I was getting great results and then looked later at the photos and found some of the autocorrections to be overdone.
My final photo software suggestion is Corel Paintshop Photo. The current version is X2. I like version X1 much better. I find the older version to be much more stable and the controls easier to use for fast, one click, slide a little and click corrections. This is my software of choice for fast corrections on a product image. It is quick and easy and does what I need it to do. When it comes to more professional images - those that I create to sell, I do not use this software as it makes a bigger job of real fine tuning that it needs to. But as I say, for product photos it is fine. This package sells for under $100.00.
The basics of photo correction are all basically the same on each of the packages. If you know how to use one you pretty much can find a similar tool and control on the other - and it will generally work the same way.
This article has come far and I hate to say this but we will continue with how to use this software for your product images next week.
To be continued...