"If I knew how to take a good photograph I'd do it every time."
Robert Doisneau

This is a CLUB - not a College. Historically, photographic clubs and societies, however formal, whatever size they are, have not been the place to go to learn the basics of photography. Instead, they are a place to compare your skills with your peers, get further inspiration and several pieces of advice on all aspects of photography, by way of competition, discussion and experience.
However, it can only be done in small steps, never spending an entire meeting on one of the 'building blocks' of photography and cannot replace any formal training that is available at nearby colleges, including St Lawrence (see right).

5 Key Skills for the Photographer

All the whistles and bells of the modern camera should, at least in theory, make crafting great images an easier and more straightforward process than it used to be – with all these exposure modes, focussing tools, picture styles and the like, camera manufacturers would like you to believe that it’s just a matter of squeezing the shutter and hey presto you’re a Pro. Certainly getting the tricky business of exposure right has become more straightforward for the technologically challenged – you really don’t need to know much to get some passable snapshots but what about if you want to take your photography further?
Photography is so very different an activity from that of even ten years ago. Good modern photographers need to be able to do so much more than compose and frame a shot, and whilst the traditional skills required for messing around with chemicals in a darkroom are now disappearing, a whole set of new techniques are needed if you want to develop your photography to a really high standard. Here are five key ways to make your photography shine:

1. Know Your Software

Don't know which software is right for you? You can make a few choices from Reviews.com It's a good website that gives you the low-down on the most common programs.

Hone your ‘developing’ skills to where you can take an image and get the very best out of it in your digital darkroom. This is a vital capability whether you want to be primarily a ‘photographer’ or an ‘image-maker’ and allows you to take greater control over your work so it’s the very best that it can be. This means choosing a solid piece of editing software and learning how to use it to its full potential. It doesn’t mean buy the most expensive thing and learn that – you have to choose something that best suits your interests and needs. Be prepared to change your mind.

2. Get the Basics Right

You need to know composition, exposure and how to utilise your camera to get the most out of it. It doesn’t matter much what camera you’re using, if you don’t really know how to point it then you’re going to struggle to get anything good out of it. Know your manual and what your camera can (and can’t) do. Study and understand phenomena like depth of field, focal planes and shutter speeds. This stuff can get geeky and bit dull at times but it will help you to understand how to produce a particular effect or look when you start to frame in your mind what you want an image to look like in its final form. OK, 'Program' mode can 'deliver the goods' quite often - but are they going to be the goods you really wanted?

3. Be Flexible

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut taking the same kind of shots and processing them in the same way over and over again. Or just adopting one set of tools and failing to implement new ones as and when they become available. You even risk losing interest in photography! Evolve as a photographer that develops your own style - having a favourite subject is fine but don't let it restrict you. Try the Club Assignments and Themes and spread your wings. Innovate and change if you’re really going to produce some impressive images. Nothing will encourage a photographer more than selling a photograph and people tend to buy images that are a little different to what's been around for years.

4. Study Others’ Work

Art rarely develops in isolation - the work of other people can be key in helping you to develop your style, hone your skills and increase your knowledge. Spend time looking at the work of others, thinking about how they created a specific look or effect and work out how you could replicate it. An important tool for the modern photographer is networking with other photographers on-line or in real life. On-line communities such as Facebook and Flickr are a great way to get your work ‘out there’ but are an even better resource for inspiration and discussion. Interacting with other photographers in the flesh (club walkabouts, team photo essays etc) is a great way to learn new things and increase your skill overall and it might give you access to new shooting opportunities and equipment and will certainly challenge the way you see your own photography.

5. Practice

You can read all the books, internet sites or magazine articles you like but there’s no substitute for actually picking up your camera and using it. The great thing with digital cameras (well, one of them) is the ability to teach yourself as you go along - if you're not sure about, say, 'Fill-In flash', try lots of shots and check the LED each time for exposure (personally, I can't seem to get a decent result with fill-in flash unless my camera is on 'Program'.... but I suppose my lack of interest in flash photography in general means I don't bother to learn much about it).  Passion for photography comes from the feeling of having created something unique and interesting with your camera – be that a single image, a small portfolio or an entire body of work. Show others something you are passionate about. Having the ability to show something you love in a new and visually exciting way only comes with practice and thus practice is the thing that more that anything else will make your photographs stand out from the crowd.

NEW - A Standard Model Release Form - to be modified as you wish - this is NOT a Club Form, just guidance.
PDF or Doc

= PDF ..... requires Adobe Reader
= Powerpoint Presentation ..... requires Powerpoint Viewer, or Powerpoint or Open Office.
= Web Link

I will add links to useful tips and tutorials here but not necessarily adding them to the menu system (which can take a lot of time). Future updates of the menu system will probably not list individual links, so you need to look carefully in here regularly.




Photographic Basics and Camera Use

Absolute Beginners

Some mental hurdles you need to clear!

DSLR Basics

The ABC of your new camera

Exposure Triangle

a. Aperture, Shutter, ISO (pdf and slideshow)

b. Summary

c. More on ISO

d. Fun camera simulator

F Numbers

Depth of Field

What's an F stop?
Depth of Field

Exposure Modes

Manual, Auto, Program, Aperture & Shutter Priorities


Exposure - More Advanced

A good explanation from the "Cambridge in Colour" website.... complex but worth learning.   

Camera Sensors

Why do we want bigger sensors?    

White Balance

a. White Balance and all those options - what do they mean?
b. Creative White Balance

Metering Modes

What's the difference between all those 'metering modes' (Spot, Centre-weighted, Evaluative)?  

Filters for Digital Cameras

Still useful - perhaps even more on digital cameras.

Better Focus

1. Focus and Sharpness

2. Manual Focus




Mysteries unravelled.
a. Introduction
b. 'Exposing to the Right'
c. Blending Images

Updating your Camera

"Firmware" updating  

Raw and JPEG Formats

Confused? You needn't be!


What is that stuff? What can I do about it?


Some well-worn photographic advice from Freeman Patterson, trimmed down for Digital  

Photo Styles and Techniques


Now all moved to new Composition webpage.

Black and White

With modern technology and computer wizardry B&W gets even better. Last link is to lots of Elements (or PS) B&W editing techniques. I'm going to put together a new webpage just for B&W.

Macro Photography

Some hints for everybody  

Flash Photography

Confusing and not easy to get right. Some hints.  

Your Next Lens

You've had your DSLR for a while - what's your choice of lens?   


Top Ten tips for getting good pet photographs  


Some more tips for a range of critters.

Winter Birds

Wild Birds


Wide Aperture Pictures

Striking images with even a budget lens.    

Panoramic Photography

Guides and Hints, two videos.

Photography in the Snow

How to get Snow White(?)  

Photography in the Cold

Some tips on keeping warm enough to use your camera.


Night Photography

Long exposures in the dark, painting with light, stars and moon.   

Grey Skies

Don't let grey skies keep you inside in Winter  

Correcting for High Dynamic Range

To accompany the techniques below, how to use Graduated Filters, exposure bracketing and combining layers in editing

'High Dynamic Range' Photography

A "How to" Guide

Improving your HDR


HDR with Layers

Increasing the Dynamic Range of your camera with two or more shots, then putting them together again in your editing program - it's HDR, Jim, but not as we know it.


Photographing Landscapes

a. Top Ten Tips
b. Using ND Grad Filters
c. More Tips

Photographing Waterfalls

Basic Ideas  

Photographing Architecture

A brief guide

Photographing Wildflowers

Some basic tips for the Spring  

Photographing Garden Flowers

Similar to the item above but a few more tips.  

Photographing Food

Something useful for the cooks  


  1. Top Ten Tips for better portraits

  2. Indoor Portraits and Still Life

  3. More portrait tips

  4. Studio Lighting Introduction (video)

Photographing Children

Some articles on the Digital Photography School site - with further links  

Introducing Children to Photography

You want the kids to get interested in your hobby but don't want to alienate them?  

3 Photo Projects

Suggestions for ways to improve your photography  

Summer Vacations

Useful tips for making the best photographic effort on your family holiday in the sun.  

Steel Wool Photography

Intrigued? Here's a technique video  

Holiday Pictures

Hints for summer holidays

Travel Photography


Selling Your Pictures

Some of the basics - You could sell your work

More Creative Tips

12 Tips to help you improve your skills in any style.  


Some basic background information.     

Photography and the Law

As you'd expect of lawmakers, it's complicated. However, this website has many answers for you.  

Digital Photo Editing

Digital photography opens up a world of photo-editing that was, where not impossible, often very difficult with film. That's not to say that editing didn't happen before computers came along, and it's worth nothing that a Canadian photographer, William Notman, was one of the first to introduce montages and composite pictures 150 years ago, while Ansel Adams was a fanatical manipulator of his images.
As a digital photographer, you could just keep your images in digital form, untouched or maybe printed out - still usable for display or for making prints. As members of a Photo Club, though, you will eventually want to be able to edit your pictures for a variety of reasons.... perhaps to crop something off, straighten the horizon, remove the lamp post from Uncle Bill's hat. You've got a computer, so you'll be thinking of getting a computer program for editing your pictures, to make the best of them. There are quite a few programs available, from the simplest tools that come with your computer's operating system, a free one like Picasa, or Gimp (very powerful but not something easy to jump straight into). You may ask your friends and many would recommend Photoshop ("Well, it's what all the Pros use") and it will give you the most up-to-date techniques and features, but it's quite costly (though cheaper if bought for education, like doing a course at college). The 'little brother' of Photoshop is Photoshop Elements and it uses nearly all the same features at Photoshop and it's sufficient for just about any editing task. Other contenders are Photo Plus and PaintShopPro-Photo, which share the same methodology as PS.
A good book is essential to accompany your learning and I would recommend the Scott Kelby/Matt Kloskowski series for the Adobe programs, but you can find books for most software.
Many of the editing techniques below are based on PS Elements, but, with the same methodology (and slightly different locations of features) could be carried out on most programs, though you'll need to learn several editing terms.

Videos to assist your learning

A mixture of PS and PS Elements videos - hundreds of them!  

The Basics in Elements

Easy improvements in Elements (applicable to other programs) (Video)  

7 Essential Edits

My biggest tutorial ever.... how to make the basic edits to your images. A large PDF. Free! work file (zip)

20 Essential Photoshop Tutorials

If you are using full Photoshop but don't think you're getting the best out of it (considering the cost) try these tutorials.   

Video Tutorials for PS Elements, CS5 and Camera Raw

A structured and well made collection of videos. Most of these tutorials cover Elements, some touch on CS5 and ACR. CS5 and Elements features are very similar (showing why you don't need CS5)    

Tutorials in Lightroom

Using Lightroom? Good choice - but are you getting what you want from it? The link here is to a site that has most of the best LR tutorials around.  

Basic Editing with PaintShopPro

Some of you may use PSP - an excellent and much under-rated program. Here are some basics to get your teeth into.   

Archiving your Images

How do you save images for your grandchildren? - Here are my first thoughts...



The key to good editing  


The easiest and fastest way to improve your pictures in your graphics software. 


Powerful and flexible image transformation  

The Orton Effect

A technique for occasional use  

Photo Colour Explained

A Complex business!  

Converting to Black and White in Elements

There are at least four better ways to convert to b&w than 'Grayscale'....   

Split Toning in PS Elements

A useful technique  

Cropping your Images

An aid to composition


The myth of DPI and how print shops don't always know what they mean  

Re-Sizing in Software

Photoshop (Video)  


Photoshop Elements (Video)  


Paint Shop Pro (Video)  


Many Picasa editing hints  

Repairing Old Photos Digitally

Fix up old pictures with Photoshop (or Elements)  

Save for Web

Photoshop Elements (Video)  

Correcting Under and Over Exposure

Photoshop Elements
(2 videos)


Ansel Adams

A video showing some of Adams's techniques and his darkroom  

Autumn Colours

in Photoshop Elements
  • Part 1
  • Part 2
  • Part 3



Some ideas for watermarking your images, for copyright and style.  

Shooting RAW on a Canon?

Work on your composition with Canon's Digital Photo Pro software.  

Local Photo Courses etc.

Jonathan Sugarman

Jonathan usually runs several different courses through the year, at his home in Kingston.....
Details are available on Jonathan's website. 

Janice van Dijk

Janice has many courses and workshops running through the year - check out Janice's website for details.
Contact Janice for further information - janice.vandijk (@) bellnet.ca

Mieke van Geest

Mieke has taught many KPC members in the past, at St. Lawrence College and at her home. College courses are currently not available, but courses at home can always be arranged. One-on-one, single sessions, small groups sessions, all tailored to your needs. Contact Mieke by email or via her website.

Don't forget the KPC has a small collection of books in its lending library. You can rent a book for a 2 or 3 week period (from one meeting to the next) for a paltry $2.00.

See this PDF

Sharp Images

A Quality Image

See this PDF

Camera Care

See this PDF

Lens Cleaning

See this PDF

For Beginners

See this PDF

Some Golden Rules......

1 Read your camera manual. If you don’t have it anymore, you can probably find it online. Learn every feature of your camera - you'll be take amazing pictures if you know how to use it properly.
2 Take your camera with you everywhere you go, and take lots of photos. Take photos of everything. Find something uninteresting and find a way to make it interesting. That is the essence of art.
3 Practice in manual mode. All cameras have a manual mode take a photo and change a single setting. Then change that one setting and take another photo. It's the best way to understand the manipulation of light.
4 Make each photo count. One of the biggest downfalls of digital photography is the ability to take so many photos so easily for so little monetary investment. So we buy a camera and snap away, hardly taking a thought to what is in the view finder. STOP! Think about your next photo, then take the time to make it amazing. You’ll start thinking like a photographer and your photos will improve ten fol the other hand, don't be afraid to experiment! This is where the digital camera has a great advantage - instant feedback and the possibility of trying out many things until you are happy with the result.]
5 Keep your best photos in a special place, discard the rest. Professional photographers take thousands of pictures and show only their best to the client. Take photos for you, you are your own client. One day you’ll look back and be amazed at your work.


Now for something completely different..... I'm going to recommend a book.

Remember those? Paper, words, pictures? Something you can read at the cottage, in the garden, in the bath even. This one is just about the best book about composition you'll find - "The Photographer's Eye" by Michael Freeman. I'm sure you can find it online and it's certainly in all the best bookshops. It's around $20 online, a bit more in a shop. The author has also written many other books, among which "The Photographer's Mind" and "Understanding Exposure" are outstanding. Highly recommended.

Resizing Pictures for the Web and eMail

We often ask for pictures to be sent, for competitions, slideshows or illust. However, just how 'big' is a 'big file'? Well, it should be borne in mind that No normal computer monitor can display at more than 100ppi (but usually 72ppi - any more is wasted. So, adjust the ppi of your picture(s) to a maximum of 100ppi, and preferably 72ppi.) (This is usually done in the Image/Size control of your graphics software). Have a look at the table of Resources above..... there are videos for resizing and saving for the web and email.
Attaching pictures to email.... Every email application has the ability to add 'Attachments'. When you click on 'Attachments' you will have a dialog box asking for the lo
cation of the file you wish to attach. (So you'll have to know where you saved the file). You just find the file and click 'Attach' or OK. Another method uses what is known as "Rich Text", and you can place a picture within your text (technically, it's still an Attachment).

On the subject of re-sizing images......

  • Wrong ppi or resolution. No image online can be shown at more than 72ppi (except with a few top-end monitors) and certainly not on the club laptop which is used with the projector to display images for presentations and competitions. Saving an image at 300ppi and 3 inches wide will not work - it won't show at better than 72ppi and will be tiny.
  • In conjunction with the above, wrong physical dimensions This is usually the result of not reducing the resolution of the image, or rather the ppi of the image, to 72ppi. But think about it - an image width of just 4 inches?
  • Wrong Colour Space (or no Colour Space at all)..... Colour Space (the range of colours in an image) can be selected for a digital image by changing it in your editor.... and the projector we use (and the normal colour space used online) is sRGB. You actually need a special web browser to be able to view anything in AdobeRGB or PhotoPro spaces. The AdobeRGB has a wider 'gamut' of colours and is great for home printing but can look quite washed out on any other device. The projector that we use can either be set to sRGB or to a custom colour setting - but that would mean changing the setting for each and every image that's not using the same colour 'standard' - if everybody saved in sRGB, we could keep the projector to sRGB and then all images would show at their best and nobody would be at a disadvantage.
  • Wrong bit-depth This is probably the result of processing your Raw image and choosing to open it in an editor at 16-bit depth. You cannot save an image in 16-bit as a Jpeg, so the image was saved as a TIFF.
  • One recent image I received had the 'Grand Slam' of wrong choices.... A 16-bit file, 4 inches wide, saved at 300ppi as a TIFF, and in the wrong Colour Space. Another one was 420 inches wide @ 8ppi. Think about it.

So remember.... Competition Standard.....

Not just in the club but for nearly all other digital competitions - unless otherwise directed - you need to get these right.
  • Saved in the Jpeg format
  • 72ppi
  • Dimensions around 10" (or up to 1024pixels) on longer sides. BUT SEE NOTE BELOW.
  • Colour Space sRGB
  • 8-bits..
NOTE: For images entered in the main club competitions (not the online competition), and therefore to be shown on the projector, note that you need the vertical sides to be no more than 780 pixels..... otherwise parts of the image could be chopped off and/or your image will appear small.

Your Digital Darkroom

Give yourself the best chance of producing top quality photos by building a powerful but affordable digital darkroom.

Your digital darkroom is where the magic happens - where you transform the image captured by your camera into the dynamic masterpiece you envisioned behind the lens. You may only need to make a few tweaks to achieve the desired results, but you'll still need the right hardware and software setup. You will also need to consider your photographic 'workflow', your software, some basics of editing, and showing off your work (printing or putting online). This will be an on-going series, starting with.....

Part 1 - Hardware

How much power?
There are few things more agonising than watching your computer struggle to open image files because its processing chip, operating system and/or memory isn't up to the job. It's important, therefore, to verify the system requirements of your chosen software before buying any new computer. Get the most powerful one you can afford, ,bearing in mind that it will give you about five years of life before you have to start thinking of a new one. Whether it's a PC or a Mac, get a minimum of 4Gb of RAM.
Which Screen's Best?
Most computer screens today are LCD flat-screens with a choice of matt or glossy finish. Matt screens produce less glare, but care with placement is still needed to avoid images appearing flat. Whatever you opt for, it's crucial to calibrate it to ensure accurate colour assessment. What size? I suggest a minimum of 19", but now you can get 22" or 24" for not a lot more when it's bought as part of the deal.
How much storage do I need?
You can work out the average gigabytes of storage you'll need per year based on your shooting format and the volume of images that you shoot each month. Remember, Raw files require around four times more storage than Jpegs and don't forget to factor in the number of back-ups that you'll want to make. I'd recommend 160Gb, though in five years that could seem quite cramped so, again, get what you can afford.
Laptop or Desktop?
Laptops are more fragile and can be less powerful than desktops. The screen will make it more difficult for you to assess colour and tones, while repairs and upgrades cost more. It's probably going to have 'mobile' features..... but if you like the idea of being able to take your digital storage on location with you, the much smaller Notebooks are now incredibly cheap and will allow you to move images from your camera's memory cards into a safer place (huge memory cards are available but if one gets corrupted that's a LOT of pictures lost!) They will also let you at least discard those pictures which don't come up to scratch, but they are usually too under-powered for heavy image editing. Notebooks now have built-in wireless connection so you could find a wi-fi 'hotspot' on your travels or, more expensively (about $300 annually), take an 'internet stick' with you to connect online from almost anywhere. Both Laptops and Notebooks have deficiencies in their power or capacity to store and edit images, so many people would benefit from a small Desktop outfit - not incredibly expensive nowadays, with huge amounts of storage, more accurate screens - they're like the 'tractor' of the desk.... many different tools and different software etc. can be added. A couple of recommended extra items for using with Laptops and Desktops... a larger back-up disk, a Multi-Card Reader (you're bound to be given a card by somebody and asked to edit their pictures) and a drawing/graphics tablet.

Part 2 - Software

Whether you want to just tidy up your images prior to printing or posting online, or you plan to do some serious image manipulation, an image-editing program is essential. If you're working with lots of files you may wish to consider buying dedicated library software too.
Free Software with your Camera
The software that came with your camera (if you have any) usually consists of a very basic image editor and browser that will allow you to look through your files, perform simple exposure and colour adjustment, correct red-eye, crop, sharpen and save. This is ideal for the beginner who just wants something accessible to get started with but more advanced users will find the limited options a serious hindrance. If you don't own any other editing software, it's worth checking what else is in the box, because camera manufacturers often bundle new cameras with trials of more advanced programs. Canon's software, "Digital Photo Pro", is excellent. It can convert Raws for you to edit and do several other things and it's free. Other manufacturers also have free programs to do the same but note that Nikon's software, "Nikon Capture NX", costs quite a bit of money.
Pros: Will get you started, handy in emergencies or 'on the road'.
Cons: Severely limited and basic set of editing tools.
Editing Programs
Adobe Photoshop is the 'big daddy' of image editing software, offering unrivalled power and flexibili7y plus advanced Raw conversion tools. It is, howe7er, very expensive and few amateurs could justify the expense. It's also a tough learning curve to get anything like the best out of it. The Photoshop discussion groups on Flickr are full of questions from people who have obviously jumped in at the deep end and find themselves totally confused (many people seem to get a digital camera, buy a computer and then choose Photoshop because they've been told "it's the best". It probably is, but it has many rivals, mostly a lot cheaper (or free) and many of them are far more usable by the beginner.
One budget alternative is Adobe Photoshop Elements - it follows the same editing principles originated by its big brother (so if you want to eventually have 'full' Photoshop, getting used to Elements makes the transition easier) but tries to simplify the tasks (sometimes, rather annoyingly, even to the point of hiding various tools). It also has an excellent catalogue program ('Organizer') and as well as being a much easier program to learn it's perfectly good for many professionals..... though it can only work properly with 8-bit files. It has the advantage of a lot of support from magazines, books, online resources etc.
Other contenders......
Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo, easy program, as good as PS Elements in many ways (and handles 16-bit files), similar price. Follows its own editing techniques which don't transfer to other programs.
Serif Photo Plus... a clone of Photoshop, very cheap, good documentation - good place to learn.
Gimp It's Free! But it can be difficult to learn if you've become used to the way that Photoshop works. It does everything that Elements can do, probably more, apart from catalogue.
Pros: Offers virtually every image-editing tool you could ever need.
Cons: The full Photoshop is very expensive and the accompanying 'Bridge' catalog software is limited.
Raw Converters
The primary function of a Raw converter is to process and convert the non-standard, otherwise unreadable Raw files that your camera generates into universally recognised, standard image files such as Jpegs and Tiffs. On of the most well-known converter is Adobe Camera Raw, which comes as part of Photoshop, PS Elements and Lightroom (see later). Apple's Aperture also features a powerful Raw converter. Camera manufacturers produce their own bespoke Raw conversion software and there are also third-part options, such as 'Bibble'. Some people prefer the camera maker's own software5 but Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) is regularly updated.... although there is a trap - Camera Raw is updated every two or three months, to include the ability to process the (slightly different) forms of Raw files that each camera comes along with. So you could buy a new camera and get the latest version of ACR. However, you may then find that the latest version of ACR is not compatible with the version of PS or PS Elements or Lightroom that you are using. You still have some options, though...... you could upgrade your (expensive) editing program, or use the camera maker's own software, if available (like Canon's Digital Photo Pro, or Nikon's Capture NX) or your camera may be able to take 'DNG' files - a raw format (often called "Digital Negative") developed by Adobe in an effort to standardise the whole Raw situation. You could also use Adobe's free 'DNG Converter', which will convert your Camera's Raw files (the CR2s, NEFs, PEFs etc) to the DNG format and then you can process it further in any version of ACR.
Pro: Offers dedicated Raw file conversion and enhancement
Con: Other image-editing options such as selection are usually unavailable, can be slow or just a plain hassle.
Library Software
It's easy to get into a kerfuffle when you're working with hundreds of photo files. A specialist library software package such as Microsoft's iView MediaPro or Extensis Portfolio will help you to streamline your workflow. Solutions on offer typically include keywording, cataloguing, backing-up and easy file-sharing solutions, such as slideshows and web galleries. You don't get any image editing tools but, with the exception of all-in-one imaging solutions, (see below) the library options offered by image editors such as Photoshop can't match the power and flexibility of a dedicated library program.
Pro: Offers a wealth of powerful asset management tools.
Con: Image-editing tools are not included.
'Do-it-All' Solutions
'Do-it-All' solutions aim to provide everything the photographer needs to download, organise, edit and showcase their photographs. They provide a complete workflow solution, so that ideally no additional software is required. Apple Aperture and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom are two such programs, both catering specifically for photographers who shoot in Raw. Because of the advanced nature of many of the tools on offer and their extremely powerful system requirements, these solutions are usually only favoured by professionals, but more and more people who 'don't really want to get into editing' are finding them very useful and easy to use.
Pro: All the tools needed to manage, edit and share photos in one program
Con: Require relatively powerful computers to run successfully.

Part 3 - Working with RAW Files

RAW files hold the key to unrivalled photographic quality if you understand how to process them correctly.

The great thing about RAW files is that they capture more image information and offer greater scope for recovery than any other format. Because no settings are applied in-camera, they put you in complete control of the image-editing process.
I'll describe the use of Adobe Camera Raw, which comes as part of Photoshop, PS Elements and Lightroom. The version that works with Photoshop is a lot more advanced than the version that works with Elements, as only Photoshop can exploit the more detailed areas. If you can master 'ACR' then you may find that the software that your camera manufacturer bundled with the camera can do an even better job. (See above concerning versions of ACR and PS/PSE). ACR can also be supplemented by a free download from the Adobe website called "Camera Profiles".  See also DNG files, above. As above, ACR will, if it is up to date and later than the release of your camera model, not only open Raw files from your camera but also, in conjunction with another free download "Camera Profiles", recognise your camera - it will show up in the 'Camera Calibration' tab to give the best result, even before you start making any corrections.
Exposure Correction
The 'Basic' tab offers several tools for refining the shadows, highlights and overall exposure of your image. You can fix minor problems and make subtle enhancements using these, but there are limits, e.g large exposure increases can increase noise in the shadow areas, whereas large exposure reductions can block up shadow details and make highlights appear posterised.
Colour Enhancement
You can correct colour casts via the white balance ('or Tint') sliders or eyedropper, plus fine tune the hue of colour ranges. This is the same as altering White Balance in-camera. There is powerful colour enhancement in the form of Saturation, Vibrance and Clarity tools, plus saturation of individual colour ranges. Just standing back a moment, these subtle colour alterations are all well and good, but completely useless unless you have a monitor that is calibrated to reflect the true colours you are altering (and, if printing, you will need to make sure you are set up properly there too, with print profiles). At this point, we are beginning to wander into 'colour management' territory.... a subject that is beyond the scope of this website. See the Links page for detailed technical matters, particularly 'Cambridge in Colour'. However, if anybody is having problems with their home printing, using PS or PS Elements, feel free to ask me - I've been there, got the T-shirt.
ACR offers sharpening and noise reduction, but the controls are more limited than those offered by dedicated plug-ins, like 'NoiseNinja', or 'NixSharpen'. Frankly, I don't bother touching this tab in ACR.
ACR with (full) Photoshop
This version also has tools for Tone Curve, Hue/Saturation/Luminance, Split-Toning, Lens Corrections and Presets
Other ACR notes...
You can open a Jpeg and run all the controls on it.... just go to "Open As" inside PS/PSE and choose your jpeg, choosing "Camera Raw" as the File Type.
You can adjust several Raw files at a time by opening them all together and using 'Select All' in ACR (however, you can only open one jpeg file in ACR at any one time).
ACR has no multiple layers or selection tools - all adjustments are applied 'globally'.
You can choose to open your file (which is probably a 12-bit file) as either an 8-bit or 16-bit file in PS/PSE. However, bear in mind that PSE (and even PS) is severely limited in how much it can edit in 16-bit and cannot use layers and/or several of the filters.
Just hit 'Open' when finished with the file(s) in ACR and the file will open up in PS/PSE. (Using the 'Save Image' button will save the file directly but I find that it's best to see it in the editor and save from there.) Note that, though it 'says' that you're still working with the Raw file, you are, in fact, working with the Raw file plus a 'sidecar' file (.xmp) which contains all the information about what you've just done to the Raw in ACR. When you've finished editing, you won't be able to Save the file as a Raw - only your camera can do that - so, to keep all the details, quality and editing (and even the layers and selections), at this stage it's best to save as a PSD or TIFF file (though they can be very large).
There's a very useful 8-page set of hints here for using Adobe Camera Raw (the simpler, Elements version).

Part 4 - Editing your Pictures

For consistent results get in the habit of asking yourself the following questions when editing each shot:

Is it well composed?
The first step is to ask yourself whether your shot is perfectly framed as it is. If the answer is no, you may well be able to improve matters using the Crop and Rotate tools in most software (including Adobe Camera Raw). Cropping out excess sky or a distracting element on the edge of the frame, for example, could turn an average shot into a great one.
Are the Levels OK?
'Levels' is the way to find out if any parts of the picture are 'clipped'.... the highlights are 'blown' or the shadows completely void of detail. A Levels adjustment will usually bring an image to its best range of tones, by use of a Histogram. So, assess the exposure in Levels. If the highlight/shadow ends of the tone curve don't reach the corresponding end of the horizontal Levels axis, pull the white/black point slider across until it does. The Midtones slider can alter the appearance like a change of exposure. Note, you should check the Levels even if you've edited your image in Camera Raw, because you may find the exposure is slightly off and need re-editing. The Curves adjustment, if you have one, will also affect the contrast and is worth learning to use properly. Curves adjustments are often best left to quite late in your editing process.
What about colour?
Is there a colour cast on your image? If so, and you're in Camera Raw, adjust the White Balance using the Temperature and Tint sliders. In your main editor, you can alter the saturation of the three channels by use of the Hue/Saturation controls, or you can add a Photo Filter adjustment layer.
Is it sharp?
The last step is to assess the sharpness of your image. Leave software sharpening to the very minimum - if at all. If you need to sharpen then the best option in Photoshop is Smart Sharpen, while in Elements and most other programs you need to learn how to use the Unsharp Mask well. Another method is to use a High Pass Filter - make a duplicate layer, set in Overlay or Soft Light Blend Mode and go to Filter>Other>High Pass, set to about 5px. Unlike the other methods, this will not leave artefacts or increase chromatic aberration.

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