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Page last updated at 17:17 GMT, Friday, 17 April 2009 18:17 UK

Click Essentials: Photo editing

Man reviewing picture

Our essential guide to making your online photos look like the work of a digital David Bailey.

The digital camera has completely revolutionised the world of photography over the last few years.

From taking snaps on a mobile phone to capturing a perfect picture with an SLR camera, digital photography has made it simple to take, review and upload images instantly.

But before sharing your images with the world, why not give them a digital makeover with a spot of photo editing?

Free software

Online apps such as Picnik and Photoshop Express are a good source of basic photo editing tools for users with lower-powered machines or netbooks.

For those preferring to work offline, downloadable desktop applications such as Google's Picasa include similar tools to the online packages.

But these free examples of photo editing software are not as powerful as those found in professional packages.

Photoshop Express does come with 2GB of free storage, while with Picasa offers 1GB for free with the option to purchase more.

There is always the option of using these apps simply for touching up pictures and then uploading them to any number of photo sharing sites, including Flickr or Photobucket.

Photo editing pointers

Red Eye Removal

The common problem of red eyes can in some cases be solved by using a red eye removal tool found in photo editing software. But be careful because this kind of automatic tool is not always 100% accurate.

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An image can sometimes be improved by simple cropping - cutting out part of a frame can improve the way a picture looks. Some packages contain auto-cropping features or it can be attempted manually.

Colour and Contrast

These online apps also include tools for automatically correcting colour and contrast, apply them to an image and see if you like the results.

Re-touching

If there is an unsightly blemish that is ruining an otherwise perfect picture, re-touching will allow the user to gently smudge an unsightly mark away. Choose the appropriate size brush for more precise control.

Light and Shade

Further fine tuning can be achieved by adjusting highlights and shadows - increasing the amount of shadow can often make an image appear bolder.

Plus, if the colour in a picture is a bit wonky, adjusting the colour temperature can make the image look warmer or colder at the click of a slider.

Or if you would prefer a completely different palette for a picture, then adding a tint can put an entirely new complexion on things.

Effects

Effects can also be applied to an image, such as the sketch effect in Photoshop Express and Picasa's focal black and white to help highlight a particular part of an image.

Common features include sharpening an image, and using the auto black and white and sepia tools.

The interfaces for all of these apps vary slightly, but as they have fewer features than paid-for counterparts, it is fairly easy to get to grips with the basics of photo editing.

Let the world marvel at your masterpiece when you are happy with the results. But a couple of words of warning - less is more, and too much image tweaking can be a bad thing.



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