Visuals: Simple Post-Processing for Food Photography: Free, Cheap, and Easy Tools



Brady Evans brannyboilsover
Bridget Ams
Diane Cu, moderator

Diane: The editing software tools can be overwhelming, and the costs can be high. But there are free tools now that are fantastic.

Bridget: It's easy to take photos to the next level. And it's free, so why not? With editing you can make colors more vibrant and you can sharpen images. A little editing makes a big difference. Especially if you don't have the right lighting or the right equipment. You can't edit a bad photo. If it's bad, you can't edit your way out of it. Photoshop is really expensive. We've chosen our 4 free favorites.

Some rules of thumb:

1. Do not edit the original photo. Make a copy first. Keep the original separate.

2. Straighten the photo: does it need to be rotated so it looks right?

3. Crop: Crop the image so that you get an image that has visual interest, focus and a good shape. Define your composition.

4. Resize: Take your images down in size. Don't need to have massive image files. The images will load faster. Vastly important. Enhances user experience.

5. cCone: fix mistakes. Clean up your image before posting using the clone tool.

6. Smudge: Can fill in with a smudge tool if you have an empty part of the frame.

7. Curves: Curves and levels do the same thing. They fix your exposure and brighten up your image. A histogram shows how bright your pixels are and you can alter the white and black and gradients in between. Levels has another histogram where you can alter whites and blacks to make the image brighter.

Question: Do you need to do curves and levels?

Bridget: you don't need to do both. Whatever you feel comfortable with. If you like the way the image looks, then stick with the process that works for you.

8. color balance: You can retint your colors, or adjust colors. It's and easy fix.

9. Saturation: Might not use all that often in food photos, it can be overdone and then the food looks fake. Use it to make the image look more like real life.

10. Sharpening: You can't fix an unfocused photo. But you can sharpen an image to it looks crisper.

Bridget: You might not use all the above steps, but you'll certainly want to edit your image in some way.

Brady: We chose free editing programs because I'm frugal. The criteria we used: availability (for both PC and mac), versatility (each program could do all the edits above) and capability.

1. The only one that's downloadable to your computer, has wide range of editing options, is very similar to Photoshop, has the most advanced capabilities and detailed adjustments. It also does straightening without automatic cropping.

2. Web based, similar to gimp, most advanced web-based program.

Question: I haven't used these programs. Will the names of the above 10 options show up on each program?

Brady: Yes. There are tutorials as well. Especially in GIMP.

Question: Can you open Photoshop files through GIMP.

Brady: Don't know.

Brady: Pixlr has good tools, GIMP's are more detailed.

Question: Are there auto adjust settings in GIMP

Answer: yes.

Brady: There are downloadable scripts in GIMP. They are plug-ins. You can save custom styles.

3. Online site with no registration and no downloads. It may be the best equivalent of Picnic. Uses a lot of sliders. Very simple.

Brady: I don't like the sliders as much. Less user control. All the terminology is user friendly, easy to understand. At some point you'll be asked to register to get to some of the effects. One of the most user friendly way to frame images. This is the most user friendly editing program out there, but you may grow out of it quickly.

Question: Can I only upload one image at a time

Answer: Yes, no batch editing.

4. : It's web based. And has photo storage capability. Membership is required. User friendly. Same abilities as pic monkey.

Brady: I don't like that you have to be a member, login, and go through 4 steps before you can get to your photos. Like PicMonkey you may out grow it.

Question: Do you play with brightness and contrast?

Answer: levels and curves are the best tools to use.

Brady: this whole process takes about 2 minutes once you get the hang of it. Photo editing is quick. And you don't have to do all the steps. every photo is different.

Bridget: You can watermark photos, but it wouldn't be really elegant. You can add text but it's hard to add a logo except in GIMP. GIMP allows you to edit just the logo. Can resize your logo as well.

Question: For watermarking photographs, I use window live writer. You can add a watermark but it's not part of your photo. You can change the color, location, and some other options. It's easier than in a photo editing software.

Bridget: PicMonkey allows you to do an image or a collage to edit. I use GIMP to edit my image, but then switch to PicMonkey for the collage.

Brady: GIMP can be confusing, and it's more complicated. There's a greater learning curve. For collages, go to PicMonkey.

Bridget: Email me if you get confused about using GIMP.

Brady: there's a flowchart and diagram on our website to see the difference between the programs and techniques to edit photos.

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You might be tempted to over edit your images. You can go too far. More advisable to under edit. Fix your fundamental problem before you edit. Be aware that it's tough to edit an ugly image and make it look a lot better. Maximize your editing before upgrading your camera. You can use a point and shoot camera, and learn how to edit better.

Question: What should we avoid?

Brady: One was photoflexer, but it was hard to use. It was like PicMonkey but better.

Bridget: Aviary was also not as good.

Brady: We deleted the photo editors we didn't like.

Question: I shoot jpegs and raw files.

Diane: I'd assume you could use raw files. I don't see why you couldn't.

Brady: GIMP might be the program to use.

Question: My biggest problem is color correction.

Bridget: Fix it in your camera first. Identify white first. You still have to have good light. Incandescent lights don't work as well. If the image is too cool, you can add red or yellow. I prefer GIMP to edit white balance. there are 8 sliders. Lots of flexibility.

Brady: When I had trouble with color balance, I'd always use a white plate. I'd open the image in GIMP, and I'd adjust to the brightest spot on the white plate as white.

Question: There is a GIMP plug in for raw images.

Question: Is there a specific advantage to a downloadable editor?

Brady: I like that GIMP is on my hard drive.

Diane: GIMP is more steady and you don't have to worry about internet speed. It's accessible 24-7.

Question: Do you end up loading a bunch of suspect stuff if you use the free software?

Brady: No. No ads. No email or junk mail. nada.

Diane: We'll stay to answer questions. Thanks everybody.

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