What every iPhoto user should know about image editing

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The Effects tab

The Effects tab holds controls for making quick adjustments to exposure, contrast, temperature, and saturation. In addition, you can apply a variety of effects to “vintage-ize” your images. The tab’s included elements are:

Lighten and Darken: With each click of these buttons, the image’s exposure setting increases or decreases, respectively, by 0.10 on a scale of +/– 3.0. The setting adjusts only the image’s exposure, not its highlights or shadows.

Contrast: The Contrast button works similarly. The difference is the scale. Contrast offers a scale of +/– 100. Each click of the Contrast button boosts the image’s contrast in increments of 5. When you increase contrast, you make darker areas darker and lighter areas lighter. Adding contrast often adds a bit more drama to an image. Remove contrast, and the image gets flatter.

Warmer and Cooler: Photographers talk about colors as having a particular temperature, as measured on a Kelvin scale. iPhoto supports this idea by allowing you to adjust an image’s warmth or coolness. Broadly, when you click the Warmer button, the image will become more yellow. Click Cooler, and the image adopts blue tones. You might use the Warmer button to give an image shot indoors with a flash a more lamp-lit look. If an image is too yellow because it’s lit with an indoor bulb, you can pull out some of the yellow by clicking Cooler.

Saturate: The result of increasing an image’s saturation is that nonneutral colors (such as gray and white) become bolder. So, clicking the Saturate button will bring out reds, blues, greens, yellows, and so on more effectively. Dull colors such as gray aren’t affected, nor are white and black. Saturating an image can often make it feel more vibrant. Oversaturating an image can make it appear garish or unnatural. In the case of saturation, you can definitely have too much of a good thing.

The effects below: Below these buttons you find effects presets that include B & W, Sepia, Antique, Matte, Vignette, Edge Blur, Fade, and Boost. You can add any or all of these effects to your image by clicking them. The B & W and Sepia effects are either on or off—you can’t apply them by degrees. You can increment the other ones up (or, once applied, down) by clicking on the effect. If you click the None effect, all the effects you’ve applied are removed. Now, a few words about some of these effects.

Though the subject is on the edge of the frame, the edge blur helps you focus on him.

Professional photographers will tell you that a one-button black-and-white effect like this will produce poor results. That if you want to create stunning black-and-white images, you’ll use a professional photo-editing application rather than relying on iPhoto’s single-button solution. I, as dabbler, will also tell you that you can do better, but you may be able to do so within iPhoto’s editing environment. We’ll get to that shortly.

The other two effects I’ll call your attention to are Vignette and Edge Blur. I do so because, when applied sparingly, they can subtly enhance an image. Give the Vignette effect a single click, and you find that the corners and edges of your image get darker. If you’re working with an image that already has a dark border, this can direct the viewer’s eye to the center of the image where your subject is. On the other hand, if your image is bright around the border, the Vignette effect is likely to look old-timey and, frankly, a little cheesy. The Matte effect very much feels this way.

Edge Blur can have the same result of focusing the viewer’s eye toward the middle of your image. Click it once and you may like what you see. More than a single click, however, and you enter Vaseline-on-the-lens territory, which can make for a soppy, overly emotional image.

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