Selective memories

By DAVID SHAMAH
October 21, 2005 14:56

Thanks to new photo editing technology, you only have to remember what you want.




digital camera 88

digital camera 88. (photo credit: )

There they are. The little ones all gathered around a board game, bickering and arguing as only little cousins can. Then there are the parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents - the whole extended family, jabbering away about the other relatives who weren't able to come.

Holiday time is here, and the relatives have gathered for their semi-annual hegira to your house. After all, you're the one with the big mirpesset - perfect for family gatherings! And there you are, the hapless host of this holiday happening. Good thing there are only a couple of opportunities throughout the year for gatherings like this - your sanity, not to mention your food bill, couldn't handle any more!

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Yes, you love them all, of course - but couldn't they be a little more well-behaved? It's also a good thing the video camera's broken; the noise would make most of the audio unintelligible, and what you would be able to hear would be better forgotten.

Much better to take still photos with your new digital camera. This way you can get everyone to pose properly, and make sure they show their "good" side. Years from now, you'll look over those pictures lovingly, wishing once again for the warmth of the moment - which is as it should be, because family is important, and our forgetful natures allow us to separate the wheat from the chaff, if you know what I mean.

So those photos you snap now are really your primary bridge to those golden memories in the future. But because you're using a digital camera, you have a lot more options than the older generations who created the family memories you know about from the photos snapped on a Brownie or Kodak 110 Instamatic.

Digital pictures get stored on a computer hard drive or CD, and can be backed up umpteen times to ensure that they are preserved for time immemorial. Digital photos are also fungible; you can easily changed them around to reflect a "better" reality (such as eliminating spilled coffee by either cropping it out or waving your digital photo editor's "magic wand" tool).



REMEMBER, we're creating memories for posterity, not a photo essay for a newspaper article. What we want to remember about great uncle Irving when he moves onto a better life (i.e. a luxury retirement village in Florida) is his wit and wisdom, not his clumsiness.

But that only works for people who are adept at using the somewhat-threatening looking tools in programs like Photoshop - assuming they are willing to shell out the big shekels to buy it. We've mentioned here in the past cheaper alternatives that work just as well as Photoshop (such as the the freeware Gimp, http://www.gimp.org http://www.gimp.org/), but money is not necessarily the main roadblock for most people to get into editing digital photos.

Let face it; most of us have enough trouble figuring out how to connect a USB cable from the digital camera to the computer in order to download the photos.

Downloading and installing hundreds of megabytes worth of software is scary; you never know what you're going to get, despite reassurances from all and sundry that downloading is perfectly safe. You may have gotten a CD with your digital camera that purports to include an editing program, but you just can't find the installation program on the disc anywhere - especially since the instruction manual sounds like it was written in poorly translated Chinese.

So you just leave the photos as is; if raw images were good enough for the Greatest Generation (as the WWII generation was called), it's good enough for Generation X or Y, or whatever they're calling it today.

Which is a shame, because not only is digital editing much easier than you think, but you don't have to install a thing to have access to a first class editor that will help you make your pictures perfect! The Creating Online Web site is one of those sites that tries to give back to the community, or so it seems, because they've got a bunch of free tools that are mostly designed to help users enhance their own sites.

But you don't need a Web site to benefit from Creating Online's free online image editor - all you need is a digital photo you can upload, a mouse and a keyboard! The editor supports GIF, PNG and JPG pictures (the format your digital pictures are most likely in). There are 10 tools you can choose from, all designed to let you mold your photo to be just what you want it to be.



YOU GET THE basic tools, including tools to crop or resize a photo, as well as rotate/flip capabilities. The crop tool is very easy to use - you just drag a corner of the photo until you've gotten rid of the extraneous area, leaving you with the subject in focus.

You can also adjust the colors of the photo; there are a large number of presets that you can apply to the photo that are globally designed to enhance the color set of the picture. Just choose the color set (like applying a bright color to a dark photo) and check out the results. In addition, you can change the lightness of the existing colors (Gamma setting) or convert the photo to black and white. And if you decide the changes you've made are not what you want, just click the undo button.

There are even little bits of clipart you can add to your photo, including a comical talk or thought bubble (those boxes with the lines or the bubbles used mostly by superheros). The point of those is to contain the text you can create, adding words or thoughts to a photo you might send out as a greeting card. Both the text boxes and the text itself can be moved around anywhere in the photo. And when you've done your editing, just click on the download button to save it back on your PC.

If you've ever done digital editing, of course, these tools will seem somewhat lightweight compared to what you get in Photoshop, although they are perfectly fine for the parameters they operate in - and these tools happen to constitute 95 percent of what most non-professional users would want an editing program for anyway. But the editing site is also a great way to get your feet wet in the area of digital editing without having to make any commitments - there's nothing to download, and you can close your browser at any time if you change your mind (note that your original picture stays where it is, and when you save the edited photo it gets moved into a completely separate file).

Speaking of digital cameras, one complaint many people have about them is that the viewfinder screens are too small. I don't know if this dissatisfaction comes about because people have forgotten the days when 35mm cameras had no screens to display what the lens was seeing at all, or because the camera buying public has suddenly developed a severe case of eye strain - but you'd think people would be happy to have such a screen at all!

No matter - we aim to please, and displayed here is the back of a new Sanyo Xacti Digital Camera (http://www.sanyo-dsc.com/english/products/vpc-e6) which boasts, among other features, the largest digital screen for any camera in its class (under 8 megapixels), measuring in at 3 inches diagonally. Maybe with such a big screen you won't have to edit photos - you'll be able to see that coffee spill before you snap the photo, and get everyone to move just a little bit to the right before they say "cheese."



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