Common Digital Photo Fixes

Are you ever disappointed with the quality of the pictures coming out of your digital camera? Maybe they're a little too dark or have a strange color tinge to them. Maybe your camera's flash left demonic-looking red-eyes on your loved ones. The reality is that most photos can use a little help to reach their full potential. Using any of the better photo editing software available, these changes can be quick and easy. This article explains some of the most common fixes you'll want for your digital photos.

Photo Editing Software

We live in a glorious age for photography. In the past, when photography was limited to film, there was very little you could do with a picture once your camera exposed the shot. Yes, there were some neat tricks that could be done in a darkroom, but most casual shooters didn't have the time or the inclination to mess with developing their own pictures. The majority of us just lived with whatever came out of our cameras.

Today, that model has completely changed thanks to digital cameras and a plethora of high quality, easy-to-use photo editing software programs. These tools give you tremendous creative control and are an essential part of the photographic process. If you want the highest-quality pictures, you should think of photography as a two part process. Taking the picture is step one. Post-processing the picture in a photo editor is step two.

So what are the best photo editing programs available today? At the high end, Adobe's Photoshop software is the gold standard, used by professional photographers and advanced amateurs alike. It is extremely powerful, but it's also hugely expensive, quite complicated to learn, and is probably overkill for many common photo enhancements. As an alternative for casual photographers, Adobe does make a stripped down version, called Photoshop Elements. Elements is less expensive, easier for casual users to learn, and can handle most basic photo fixes.

Another option for photo editors may be on the software that came with your camera. The majority of digital cameras ship with some kind of basic photo editing software. These programs are often a little clunkier than the commercial editing programs like Photoshop, but most of them get the job done. Your computer may also have come with basic photo editors installed, like Windows Vista Photo Gallery.

These are all perfectly viable options for photo editors. I would, however, like to draw your attention to one particular editor: Google's "Picasa" software. Picasa is a very well-built photo editor that Google offers free to anyone who wants it. If you're interested, here's the link to download Picasa. The tips I'm offering in this article will be applicable regardless of which editing software you choose to use. I will, however, be offering some Picasa-specific instructions with each tip, because I personally like Picasa. And did I mention that it's FREE?

Getting Started

So once you've selected some photo editing software, you're ready to start fixing those pictures. Before we get into specific fixes, I'd like to toss out a couple quick tips to save you from disaster and heartache. First, DO copy your picture files to your hard drive. DO NOT edit files directly on a memory card or, heaven forbid, directly on your camera. Second, DO keep copies of your original files before you edit them. You can do this by making a copy before you begin editing or by using your editor's "Save As" function to save your changed picture as a new file. Having these originals stored safely will give you the freedom to experiment and play in the editor, knowing you can always just start over with the original picture if you don't like the changes.

Also, one note of clarification before we get to it. When I offer Picasa-specific how-to advice in this article, I'll often refer to the "Picasa Editing Window". Picasa has two primary windows. The first window is the browser window that contains thumbnail-size images of all the pictures in your library. The browser window opens by default when you start Picasa. To actually edit a picture, you need to double-click on one of the pictures in the browser window to open up the editing window. All the fixes I'll be discussing take place in that second window, the editor.

With those tips in mind, let's cover the 6 most common photo fixes you'll need.

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Orientation simply refers to how the picture is rotated. If you turned your camera on its side to take a picture vertically, your photo may show up sideways on your PC. If you plan to use the photo in its digital form (i.e. on your PC, on the internet, emailed to friends, etc), you'll probably want to rotate it to fix the orientation. Please note that if you're only interested in making prints from your digital pictures, then there's no need to correct orientation: there's no such thing as a sideways or upside-down print.

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If you're using Picasa, select a photo that needs to be rotated in the main browser window. Double-click on the photo to open it up in Picasa's editing window. Click the buttons to rotate the picture correctly.


Cropping cuts away parts of the picture you don't want. There are two reasons you'd want to do this. First, you can cut away portions of the picture that are boring or distracting. This puts focus on the parts of the picture you do care about, making it look like you zoomed in on them. For example, you can crop away a funny looking stranger who was on the edge of your family shot. In the pictures below, I've cropped away an ugly rail in the foreground, giving me a better skyline shot.

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The other important reason for cropping relates to printing. Most camera sensors capture images in a 4x6 aspect ratio. Aspect ratio is simply a measure of how wide an image is vs. how high it is. The pictures coming right out of your camera will make perfect 4x6 inch prints without any of the image being cut off because the aspect ratio of the image matches the aspect ratio of the print. If you wanted to make an 8x10 inch print, however, the 4x6 image coming out of your camera wouldn't fit perfectly on that print because 8x10 is a different aspect ratio. If you submitted a 4x6 picture to a lab to make an 8x10 inch print, most labs will take the liberty of cropping away a portion of your picture for you to make it fit. But what if they cut away a portion of the picture that you care about? Best to crop the picture yourself to get a print that's exactly the way you want it.

Most photo editors allow you to do a crop to fit a particular aspect ratio. Just specify an aspect ratio that matches your print size, 8x10 in this case, and the editor will make sure that your crop maintains that ratio.

Picasa makes cropping for common print sizes easy. Open the picture in Picasa's editor and select "Crop". For an 8x10 print, just click the 8x10 button. Drag a rectangle across the part of the picture you want to keep. You can make the rectangle larger or smaller, but Picasa will make sure the rectangle maintains that 8x10 ratio. When you're satisfied with the crop area, just click "Apply".

<< Page 1: Software and Getting Started | Page 3: Lighting and Color >> [[page]]


Lighting is a general term that refers to the overall brightness or dimness of a picture. Another way to think about lighting is in terms of how well-exposed your picture is. This is one of the easiest fixes to make with a digital picture and it can really make a dramatic difference.

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In Photoshop, lighting can be adjusted using the "Levels" or "Curves" controls. In Picasa, you have a couple options as well, both of which are incredibly easy. With your picture loaded into the Picasa editing window, you can let Picasa adjust lighting/exposure with a single-click by hitting the "Auto Contrast" button. Alternately, if you want to fine tune the lighting somewhat, click on the "Tuning" tab in the Picasa editor and try adjusting the "Highlights" and "Shadows" sliders manually until you're satisfied. As with any change in the Picasa editor, you can always click "Undo" if you aren't happy with the change.


Correcting color essentially boils down to correcting the tint of your picture. These problems usually are the result of how your digital camera perceives the color white. Although digital camera's "Auto White Balance" functionality is getting better, it's still fairly common to see pictures that have a noticeable color tint to them. Indoor shots under standard incandescent lighting, are especially susceptible to these color problems. Notice the orange tint in the picture below?

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Most photo editing programs offer a number of color correction tools. Some offer a one-click "auto color" correction. Others allow you to adjust color with a slider or a dropper tool. In Picasa, correcting a color tint in most photos is as simple as clicking the "Auto Color" button in the editor.

<< Page 2: Orientation and Crop | Page 4: Red Eye, Sharpening, and Saving >> [[page]]

Red Eye

We've all taken those pictures of the people with the glowing red eyes. Red eye is the result of a camera's flash reflecting light off the blood vessels in the back of a person's eyes. Since the phenomenon is associated with flash photography, this is obviously not a fix you'll have to make to all your pictures. When it does show up in your pictures, however, the fix is quick and easy.

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Most photo editing software comes with some sort of red eye removal tool. The ones I've tried work pretty well, but they differ considerably in terms of ease of use. The Picasa red eye tool is very easy to use, but you do have to be a little careful about your area of selection. To use it, open a photo in the Picasa editing window. On the Basic Fixes tab, click the "Redeye" button. To remove red eye, just draw a box around the affected eye in your picture. Before you draw your box, I suggest using the zoom slider in the lower right of the editor to zoom in on your subject's eyes. When you draw the box, make sure you're getting all of the pupil, but be careful not to get any of the skin surrounding the eye. Once you've drawn the box, Picasa will attempt to remove the red. If you're happy with the fix, click "Apply" and move on to the next eye. If you're not happy, click "Reset" and try drawing the box again.


Once you've made all other changes to an image, the final enhancement should almost always be sharpening. Sharpening enhances the edges around your subjects. It makes the focus look even sharper and can help your subject really "pop". It's not a miracle fix: if a picture was shot out of focus, it will still be out of focus. It can, however, make a good picture even better if used wisely. Consider the two pictures below. See how much crisper the picture on the right is after it has been sharpened?

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Any decent photo editing software offers the ability to sharpen pictures. Those options vary considerably from one-click fixes to ultra-precision manual sharpening processes. In keeping with its simple nature, the sharpening tool in Picasa is an easy one-click. In the Picasa editing window, click the "Effects" tab and then click the "Sharpen" button to sharpen your image.

Saving Your Fixes

Once you're happy with the enhancements and fixes to your photos, remember to save your changes as a copy. Don't overwrite your original file. If you made a copy before you started editing, then you can just do a simple "Save" now. If you didn't make a copy beforehand, click "Save As" in your photo editor and give the edited picture a new name.

That's it for the basics. I've only covered a fraction of what photo editors can do, so I'd encourage you to spend some time playing with your editor to see what's possible. Get creative. Try some of the interesting filters. Maybe some of your pictures might look more dramatic in black and white. Maybe you can brush out part of a distracting background. With the powerful photo editors available today, if you can imagine it, you can do it.


I found a program called Picasa2 online and for free.   It will find all of the pictures you have scattered around your computer and put them all together.  I like the way you can do a few special effects, not hard to use, and also you can add titles or name the pictures and put them in separate groups.  I simply searced the word Picasa and I found it.  I think it is worth checking out for the amature photo taker.  I did learn several things from this article also.  Thanks

Larry Dillon     Cool

I am an amature digital photographer and have tried using a number of photo managing and manipulating programs.  I like Picasa.  It is simple, it is user friendly, and for the home photo printing person, I think it is an absolute must have program.  Thanks for the program.  Gary Hutchison

I am glad you like it, as I do!  Maybe you want to do a review on it?  Please do!   Cool

HI I to found the prog very quickly and was pleased at how easy it was to operate but I did

manage to remove some files by mistake as I was uncertain if they were being dup., on Picasa2,

it was only the fact that I had renamed my files that I managed to sort things out. It is not clear

were the Picasa2 files are stored. I found them in my pictures but not under Picasa2 heading.

is there any way I can be sure this will not happen again.

A verv good article

Thanks stew


         I stumbled across picasa the other night just by accident and I downloaded it for free. Part of my job involves taking many digital pictures, e.g. 3-400 for one project. Before I can submit them I have to reduce ALL the jpegs from say 2.8 Mbits down to between 100 and 200 Kbits. I normally use the Windows editing but that means editing one photo at a time which is painful to say the least.

Is there any way I can use Picasa to say edit batches of photos simultaneously?

Thank you for assistance in advance

Best wishes



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