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Your PC IS A Dakroom

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Auto Adjust Crop a Photo Adjust the Exposure Adjust the Color

If you have a PC with Windows Photo Gallery you have a digital darkroom.

Years ago I was a serious photographer with several cameras, assorted lenses and a darkroom (aka a closet). Today I enjoy the simpler digit photography way of putting an idea to paper. The only thing I could do in a darkroom that I can’t do with my laptop is to burn and dodge prints (darken or lighten specific areas of a photo). I am sure that there is photo editing software on the market with that feature but I can do with out it.

I am assuming that you know how to download you images to your computer. If you don’t know how, read your camera owner’s manual and take the time to set it up. Once set up with the proper defaults, the transfer is a snap. For me the process is:
  1. I plug my Nikon L16 into my Acer laptop.
  2. Turn on the camera.
  3. Auto play tells me to select Nikon transfer.
  4. I click start transfer.
  5. Seconds later the transfer is complete.
  6. I turn off the camera and unplug it.

For 200 images the process takes 2 or 3 minutes. The images are loaded in to a predetermined folder for me to access at any time. I also delete the images off the camera so I never have to worry about “running out of film“.

The Only 3 Procedures You Need To Know

  1. Cropping a photo removes all the unwanted clutter in the original picture. Now that film is free I will take literally hundreds of pictures from differ angles and background to get the finally image I am looking for. I don’t worry about the background or if the framing it just right. I do that in my laptop darkroom.
  2. Adjusting the Exposure after the picture has been taken is just unbelievable. In film photography if the exposure was off there wasn’t a lot you could do. Now with digital photography you can go back in time and correct your exposure. My Nikon L16 has an automatic exposure setting so all I do is point and click. However; 90% of the time the image is under exposed. I could override the setting each picture or switch to manual but I know I will be cropping the image anyway so I adjust it 1 or 2 clicks in the digital darkroom.
  3. Adjusting the color is great. In film photography the color lab adjusts the overall color of all prints to a neutral 19% gray tone which works for most home pictures. However; in digital photography the camera see the subject exactly as it is and there is no lab to adjust it. For example when you take a portrait of someone in the shade the overall tint is blues (the color of the sky). The camera didn’t lie, those are the true colors. When you view the scene your mind adjusts the colors to what it knows to be the true “sunlight” colors. Using your digital darkroom you can adjust the colors to make the image more natural.

How It’s Done

Using a photo I took for a webpage How to Make a Novelty Pencil, I will show you how to use all 3 editing techniques. I wrote this webpage while camping in the Oregon Cascade Mountains using solar power for laptop, camera etc.

Original snapshot before PC darkroom photo editing.   Completed image after using PC darkroom techniques and Windows Photo Gallery.

                     Before                                                                            After

For the photo I wanted natural diffused sunlight which means a shady area. I knew I would need to Adjust the Color. My Nikon L16 usually underexposes photos in this situation so I knew I would need to Adjust the Exposure. I wanted to take a lot of photos at different camera angles and change the backdrop colors to see which would look best so I didn’t concern myself with framing the image as I would Crop it later. I took over 160 photos to get the 3 images I eventually used for the webpage.

Working with Windows Photo Gallery [WPG]    [Top}

I go to the folder containing my transferred Nikon images. The Nikon transfer program automatically names the images. I usually rename and move the images I am working with 3 in this case) and then delete the entire transfer folder to remove the unwanted images (157 in this case).  Once relocated I double click on the image I selected. A new window appears with the image and a tool bar of options. Use the rotate buttons at the bottom to turn the image if necessary.

If you need help WPG has a little circle with a ? in the upper right corner for a help menu.

The WPG gives you the option to undo any changes that you make along the way or to revert to the original image. However; I like to make a copy of the original, some times it is easier to find. When exiting WPG the program will automatically save your new image under the name originally selected.

Warning: Using the Revert Option will undo all of your work to that point not just your last action.

Selecting the “Fix” icon on the tool bar will get you started. A group of options will appear on the right side of your image. 

Snapshot Cropped using Windows Photo Gallery.  Exposure adjusted using Windows Photo Gallery.  Exposure adjusted using Windows Photo Gallery.

Step 1: Cropping                                Step 2: Adjust Exposure                Step 3: Color Adjustments

Auto Adjust    [Top}

This feature allows you to do a one click exposure and color adjustment. This will adjust to the standard for all images much like the drugstore photo lab did for your film negatives. I always start with this option to see what the standard looks like but 9 out of 10 times I undo the auto adjust and do it myself as described below. If you’re in a hurry or don’t know what needs fixing, this is an easy quick solution.

Cropping the Image    [Top}

Select Crop Picture from the menu options on the right. You will be asked for a proportion. The default is custom where any rectangular shape is fine. In the art world there are “standard” sizes for frames. Popular sizes are 8 x 10 or 5 x 7 and more. If you have a frame in mind or just like a particular shape you can select it in the dropdown menu. If you need to rotate the crop frame, click the Rotate option.

To size the image area, click your courser on the corner of the crop frame and drag it to the desired size. To reposition the crop frame click anywhere in the frame and drag it. When satisfied click Apply to crop the image. If you are unhappy with the result simply Undo the crop and begin again.

For my webpage I chose a square for this image.

Adjusting the Exposure    [Top}

Select Adjust Exposure from the menu options on the right. Two slide bars will be display for adjusting Brightness and Contrast. To use the slide bars click and drag the pointer left or right to attain the desired effect, OR click to the left or right of the pointer and the exposure will be adjusted in increments.

My image was dull and underexposed so I increased the brightness 2 clicks and the contrast 1 click.

Adjusting the Color    [Top}

Select Adjust Color from the menu options on the right. Three slide bars will be display for adjusting Color Temperature, Tint and Saturation. To use the slide bars click and drag the pointer left or right to attain the desired effect, OR click to the left or right of the pointer and the color will be adjusted in increments.
  • Color Temperature: I always use the color temperature when the photo was taken in the shade. This removes to blue (cold) tint to the image.
  • Tint: I rarely adjust the tint. Tint adds an unnatural look to a natural image. If I am looking for a surreal image I may use the tint to the extreme.
  • Saturation: if the photo was greatly underexposed the image will be thin or transparent and colors not as dense or solid. Use saturation for a more solid color. Using to much saturation will make your image look like a cartoon. The reverse is true for overexposed photos. I have noticed when using saturation that the tint needs adjusting.
My image was a real challenge. I had the blue (cold temperature) from the shade and the blue reflecting from the background. The goal here was to make the cup white again.
Three clicks to the right on the color temperature bar and one click to the right on the tint bar and the cup was white again.

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You are the Critic

At this point take a moment and look at the finished image. I even suggest that you walk away and get a cup of coffee or pet the dog anything to take your eyes and your mind off the image. When you return look at the image as though it were the first time. Let your first impression be your final critique. If necessary make additional adjustments. Remember this image is stored in your PC Darkroom. Returning to make further edits is just a click away.

Printing Your Photo

At this point you can print the image in front of you using the Print option on the tool bar or you can move on to the next photo. Windows Photo Gallery gives you many options for multiple standard size prints if you choose more than one print from this image. If you want to make a page full of different images go to the Gallery and select the images you want to print. For example you can select 4 different images and print them in a 3 ” x 5” format on one page. Refer to the WPG help feature for more on printing your photos.

My Acer Laptop computer was purchased with Windows Vista Home Premium preinstalled. This Windows Photo Gallery described here is a standard feature. Other WPG versions may vary but similar results can be expected.

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