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My usual choice, and favorite photo manipulation software is Adobe Photoshop, and their Photoshop Album, both of which I use on a regular basis, with the smart piece of software Neat image, that I use to clear up pixilation.
The general manipulation that I carry out on all photos (with photoshop) consists of sorting out the levels (Image - Adjustment - levels or Ctrl+L) by sliding the two arrows in to where the level starts to raise, or what ever looks best (see figures 1 and 2).
fig1Photoshop levels fig2Photoshop levels

Followed by removing any colour aberration, blue or magenta saturation usually,(Image - Adjustment - hue saturation or Ctrl+u), then select blue or magenta from the drop down menu, then slide the saturation bar to far left and the lightness bar the same way (with light coloured aberrations slide the lightness bar to the right) (see figures 3 and 4), this will remove any fringing and usually helps make blacks truer.
fig3Photoshop saturation fig4Photoshop saturation

Then finally a bit of Sharpening is normally required (I have yet to find a photo that does not benefit from this) using the unsharp mask (Filter - Sharpen - Unsharp mask). The amount of sharpening will vary from picture to picture, but the level I have the radius bar set at is always 1 and the Threshold level is left at 0 (see figure 5).

fig5Photoshop Sharpening

On certain pictures I enhance the contrast before any sharpening is done, by carrying out the following:
Go to Layer, and select duplicate layer, then desaturate the new layer (image Adjustments desaturate or Shft+Ctrl+U), then invert the image (image Adjustments Invert or Ctrl+I), then select the layers window and select overlay (this shows the original layer behind the new layer) change the opacity to around 80% (this can be adjusted later), then select Gaussian blur (filter Blur Gaussian blur) then adjust this level until the picture starts to show the more realistic colouration, and highlight level (usually between 15 and 100%) then I normally change the opacity level down to around 50%, but however you feel is correct is best, then finally merge the layers down (Layer Merge down or Ctrl+e), an example of how this changes a picture can be seen below (figure 6 is original, figure 7 is the altered image)Thanks to Norman Koren Where i found how to do this.

fig6Short-eared owl fig7Short-eared owl
An example of the layering procedure explained above. The original picture is on the left the altered image is on the right.

For the purpose of my on-line images I usually lower the size to 400 X 300, and add a copyright logo (details of how to create one are on Andy Brights website).Each gallery is then built using EGG or the Easy Gallery Generator available free to anyone by visiting the linked site.

The important thing to remember, is to experiment with what manipulation tools work best for you and your pictures, others can only give tips and examples of their settings.



All images and website Ashley Beolens 2003.
Images may be available for use upon request.