By Randy L. Kendrick
January 25, 2005
Goodbye Film . . . Hello Pixels!
Are you one of the many who received a new digital camera as a holiday gift? If so, you will be amazed at how this changes the way you look at photography. With film you had to develop and print an entire roll to find out if you really got the shot you wanted. If you are like me, often you ended up with a roll full of disappointing pictures.
All that has changed! You now have the ability to take as many shots as you like, but only print the good ones. Plus, with the LCD viewfinder on your digital camera, you get a good idea of how the final picture will look right after you shoot it.
Some people have the impression that you can’t get “real pictures” from a digital camera. By real pictures, they mean photos like those from your favorite photo lab, glossy or matte finished, and printed on photographic paper. This is not the case. While there are some fairly decent home photo printers on the market, the ink is not cheap and to my eye, the quality isn’t as good as a standard photo. My preferred method is to transfer pictures to my computer, tweak them with a photo editing program as needed, and bring the files to a photo lab who can print those real pictures for me. Of course, you can skip the tweaking if you wish. Most photo labs have moved into the digital age, and have the capability to make prints from your digital media, including CDs, Compact Flash, SD, XD, Memory Sticks, and other types of storage commonly used by digital cameras. I also like the online service Ofoto, at www.ofoto.com. Ofoto lets you upload, store, and organize your pictures at a secure website. You can also order prints from your uploaded pictures, which will be mailed directly to you. Since you upload your photo files to their servers, Ofoto also is good insurance against losing your pictures in a computer mishap.
One great thing about modern photo editing software is that really good programs can be had for little or no money. You certainly can spend hundreds of dollars on programs like Adobe Photoshop, but even then, this is less than equipping a darkroom to handle film. Photoshop is the standard by which this genre of programs are measured, and it is still the choice of professionals, but it is also not the easiest program to learn to use.
Adobe realized this and came up with Photoshop Elements. This is a consumer-friendly program that lets you adjust lighting, contrast, fix the “red eye” problem in your pictures, and so much more. It is easy to use and costs well under 100 dollars. Another great program in that price range is PaintShop Pro. I highly recommend either of these.
However, those who read this column regularly know that I am thrifty (read cheap) when it comes to software, preferring to find freeware alternatives to commercial programs. That is why next week I will tell you about some free photo editors, as well as how to organize your growing number of digital photographs.
Free Software Pick of the Week
Microsoft Word is a great word processor. However its power is also a drawback. True, it is laden with features galore, but most people never use more than a handful of the tools it includes. Unused features mean more room on your hard drive taken up by a very large program.
A smart alternative is AbiWord, a free word processor that is no slouch in the features department, but cuts out the high overhead fluff. AbiWord will make a Microsoft Word user feel right at home. The interface is clean, and easy to understand.
AbiWord can do mail merges, create documents with tables, format complex documents, and is a good, general purpose word processing program. It can save its files in MS Word document format, rich text, plain text, and html among others. It also runs on almost any operating system, including any version of Windows since Windows 95, Macintosh OSX, and Linux.
To grab AbiWord, head over to www.abisource.com and download this great program. It is under 5 MB in size. You can also pick up some useful plug-ins for Abiword while you are there.
As with all my software picks, AbiWord contains no spyware or advertising, and is completely free. You can even legally install it on every computer you own, and give a copy to all your friends.
TechKnowledgy is a column written to help people get the most out of their computers, electronics, and other home technology devices and software. Send your home tech questions to Randy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
?2005 Randy L. Kendrick