Thank you all for all of your wonderful praise of my series of majestic eagle photographs! I share my images to brighten your days and also to help inspire you. As my long-time followers know, I have been on a personal mission the past couple of years to improve my photo editing skills. I have to give a lot of credit to the magic of photo editing for making the eagle series a reality.
I still have much to learn, but I currently use Photoshop CS5 for post-processing of my images. This powerful editing program is a bit of overkill for most amateur photographers. I started out with Photoshop Elements (now available in version 9.0), and it provides superb results without much financial outlay. However, if your budget is truly pinched, there are free editing programs available which provide marvelous results.
Picnik is one example of a free online program. Blog Beautiful Designs recently posted an excellent Picnik tutorial by talented Cheryl of TidyMom fame. Cheryl uses a lot of great-quality pictures on her blog, and she edits them quickly and easily with Picnik.
I took this free program for a test drive with my original digital file of the polar bear. Quite frankly, the original image is so poor, my finger hovered for a while over the “delete” key. (LOL, I hear a collective “gasp” out there in blogland!) But I wanted to select a candidate that was pretty much hopeless, just to see what I could do with it. Hold on to your britches, because here is the original.
Folks, it doesn’t get much worse than this. It was one of the last pictures I took on our recent polar bear trip, and I quickly snapped it while looking out the front of the tundra rover (with a dirty windshield), right as it was leaving the area. The bear was lurking around the tundra lodge and ready to walk under it. The image is too dark, the color balance is a mess, the framing is bad, there are visible smears on the windshield, etc. It’s just plain sad and rather embarrassing to post here on my blog, quite frankly. The only things going for it is that the bear is in reasonable focus and he strikes a cute pose.
At the beginning of this post, we saw how well the photo cleaned it up with Photoshop CS5. This result took me about 10 minutes. Below is its side-by-side comparison to the original. Rather dramatic, don’t you think?
Now let’s look at how well the photo cleaned up with Picnik. This amazing result took me only about 1 minute.
Here is a before/after comparison. Quite frankly, I was shocked at how well this free online program did!
So now you’re probably wondering how well does the free program match up to the pricey one. Right? Here is a side-by-side comparison between the Picnik (on the left) and CS5 results.
The corrected image using Picnik lacks a bit of contrast punch and doesn’t duplicate the texture of the CS5 one. But the resultant image is a beautiful capture from a rather hopeless original. And you can save yourself some serious pocket change over the CS5 program! Just so you know, I could duplicate the CS5 result with its little brother, the Elements program. It would just involve more steps and take a bit longer to do.
I hope that this dramatic example inspires you and demonstrates why I am a big fan of digital editing. If you don’t use a program now, please start! You will be so much happier with your photographic results. And cost is not an issue anymore with free online programs available that provide dramatic results. Like me, perhaps you will be motivated to challenge yourself to improve your photo skills in the days ahead. I know that my journey is still scratching the surface.