This beginner picture fix tutorial uses the free pixel-based image editor PhotoFiltre, which has some wonderfully simple image adjustment tools. This makes PhotoFiltre ideal for a beginner picture fix.
During my review of PhotoFiltre, I found it to be a bit of a mixed bag, but I was very impressed with its simple picture fix approach. The simple one click tools are very intuitive. The application lacks layers which means it won't be suitable for users wanting more powerful tools for more advanced effects. For users wanting easy tools, however, PhotoFiltre is a perfect starting point.
1. Getting PhotoFiltre
PhotoFiltre is available for free download from the PhotoFiltre website and is only 3.75MB for the English version with installer. You just need to double click on the downloaded installer and follow the simple instructions to install the application. This also includes the Ask Toolbar, but when you get to the Install the Ask Toolbar screen, just remove the tick from the first check box if you don't want to install it.
When the application is installed, go to File > Open and then navigate to any photos that you want to work on, before clicking the Open button.
2. Introducing the Picture Fix Tools
All of PhotoFiltre's adjustment tools can be accessed through the Adjust menu. However, the toolbar above the document window contains several one click adjustment tools that make this the ideal tool for a beginner picture fix tutorial. If you click on the thumbnail, you'll see two red rectangles that highlight the tools we'll be using.
From the left, these are the Auto Levels and Auto Contrast tools, which can be a quick fix for some images. Next are the Brightness, Contrast, Saturation and Gamma correct tools, which have plus and minus buttons to apply adjustments in fixed increments. The remaining tools can remove dust spots from images, blur a photo to make it look softer, and sharpen a photo to make it look clearer.
3. Adjusting a Light Photo
An underexposed photo will look too light and washed out. If you click on the previous thumbnail, you'll see that there are two photos in it, one too dark and the other too light. The thumbnail in this step shows the light image after some simple adjustments.
The first step is to click the Gamma correct (-) button (mouse over the buttons to show their name) once and then click the Contrast (+) button once. I repeated this step three more times. I then clicked the Brightness (+) button once to brighten the image. This reduced the contrast a little too much, so I clicked Contrast (+) one more time. Finally I clicked Saturation (+) once to add some more depth.
4. Adjusting a Dark Photo
An overexposed photo will look too dark and muddy. This step shows the dark photo from the earlier thumbnail after a simple picture fix has been applied.
In this case I applied the Gamma correct before making any other adjustments and I clicked the Gamma Correct (-) four times. I then clicked the Contrast (+) button six times, followed by the Brightness (+) once. At this point I wasn't yet happy, so I clicked the Gamma correct (+) once more followed by Contrast (+). Finally I boosted the colors a little by clicking Saturation (+) twice.
This shows how you can combine lots of small adjustments. Remember, you can always go to Edit > Undo to remove adjustments.
5. Sharpening a Photo
Another common picture fix is to sharpen a photo a little.
The two one click sharpening tools in PhotoFiltre are located to the right of the second highlighted box (see the image in the Introducing the Tools step). The Sharpen tool is the left hand one and the Reinforce tool is on the right. I clicked the Sharpen tool twice to add a little more definition, particularly to the fur. The Reinforce tool will apply a significantly stronger sharpening effect, but this really should be used with some care. In most cases, you will find it better to apply sharpening more gradually.
6. Apply Soft Focus
There are three one click tools that apply different levels of blurring if you are looking for a soft focus type picture fix. These three tools are located to the left of the Sharpen tool.
The Dust reduction tool is intended to operate upon spots that look out of place in an image, but you will often see an overall softening of the image when it is applied. The Soften tool, as the name suggests, applies an overall softened effect to a photo. The Blur tool applies a stronger effect but works at a level that means it is a practical tool in general use. The accompanying picture has had the Blur tool applied twice and the softening effect is not too extreme.
The picture fix approach taken by PhotoFiltre, with one click tools applying fixed incremental adjustments, is extremely intuitive. Even complete newcomers will quickly find that they can mix and match the different tools to greatly improve their images.
Note: Before applying image adjustments, it is always advisable to save a copy of the original image in case you make changes that you later don't like.