Unless you're creating content on your computer that is destined for your accountant, you'll sooner or later wish you could produce and manipulate digital images. Does that digital photo that you have included in your online course serve its instructional purpose? Is there extraneous information that you wish could be cropped out? Do you really need three images or would one that combines parts of all three do a better job? Image editing know-how is the answer.The Tools
Firstly you'll need the software. If you're a user of the Windows operating system then you've probably played with the Paint program and noticed its limitations; it will only do so much and handles Windows Bitmap (BMP) files best. To tell the truth, if you seriously want to work with digital images then you'll need to invest in a professional image editing program and take some time out to learn to use it. Examples of such programs are Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, Macromedia Fireworks, Equilibrium's Debabilizer and Paintshop Pro. More information on these programs is located at the end of this article.
Since these image editors are all extremely powerful - they are used by professional graphic designers after all - they can be a little complex to learn, but there are numerous books (and web tutorials) available that will teach you the more generic features in a relatively short time span. Once you get the hang of it, watch out, you may find the process of image manipulation so fascinating that you slowly turn into an eye candy hound.
The functions these programs offer may vary slightly from one to the other, although at a basic level they all offer features that are essential to work with images. For instance, they offer resizing, cropping, adjusting colour levels, brightness and contrast, selecting and moving parts of an image, applying a variety of creative effects and of course converting your images to different formats. And this is only the beginning! Importantly, unlike some of the less pricey products, professional image editing software is able to perform these tasks at a fine, granular level so that you can achieve exactly what you envisage. Combined with the power of a digital scanner and camera the potential for creativity and professional results is potentially stunning. You'll want to pack away your old Rolleiflex camera and the photo chemicals you've stored on the bathroom shelf within a week. But we digress...Working With Images
So you've got the software installed on your computer. Now what? You'll need a little general background about digital images before you can start working with them. Images in the digital world are usually generated in one of two paradigms: raster or vector. We don't want to immerse you too deeply in the murky technical side; suffice to say that vector-based images can be resized without quality loss, whereas raster images cannot. While vector imaging is superior in many ways, most casual graphics work is done with raster images. This format does not require innate artistic abilities and rigorous training in visual design. Hence we'll concentrate on raster images. Most digital graphic files that you'll encounter, particularly those you see on the Web, will be of this type.
Examples: GIF, JPG, PCX, BMP, TIFF
It is important to realise that raster file formats will lose their quality and detail when enlarged. The more they are enlarged the more visible the pixels of the image become. What are pixels? They are smallest screen unit, those tiny dots on your screen that, when placed together in their thousands, comprise the photo of my golf bag displayed on my computer screen. So, in light of this, one of the cardinal rules of raster image manipulation is that you start off with the largest possible master image, which should only be sized down and never up (unless you're prepared to tolerate the loss in detail).
The other point to remember as you begin working with images is resolution. Much hype is made of this in technical guides and advertisements, yet the standard resolution of a computer monitor is a measly 75dpi (dots per square inch). This means that when you're working on everyday images that will be displayed only on a computer screen, such as online course materials or the wedding photo that you want to email to your aunt, the highest resolution needed is 75dpi. Anything more is overkill unless you plan to print out your image on paper at some point.
Bearing these basic rules in mind we're sure that you too can begin to use your computer for more than mere web browsing, word processing and email. Equipped with the right software and a brief familiarisation of its features, you'll soon be producing brilliant images.Resources:Image Editing Software