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Be Your Own
Photo-Processing Shop

For those to whom digital photography is new, you may be surprised to learn you no longer need a photo service to produce your prints, nor do you need a darkroom technician to crop or touch them up. You can do it all yourself.

However, it helps to be familiar with some of the terminology. Digital images are called "bitmaps" because a collection of tiny colored squares called bits are mathematically mapped on your screen to create an image. JPG, GIF, and BMP are "bitmap formats" which create the images, using different formulas.

Many folks use small "photo printers" that automatically produce a 3x5 or 4x6 paper print, much like you used to get from a photo processing service. However, these printers offer very little in the way of "editing" features and their output is pretty much "what you see with your camera is what you get on paper."

Full Size Printer Offers More Options

I prefer using a desktop printer that will output any size I specify, and even print multiple pictures on a single sheet. I also prefer to "edit" my pictures before sending them to a printer.

Photo-editing includes things like making a picture lighter or darker, having more or less contrast, and changing the image size to anything you want. You can also remove unwanted things from a photo as well as put things into it that were never actually there.

Dozens of Image-Editing Programs in Use

All printers, scanners, and digital cameras come with some basic editing software, so you may have several programs on your computer. Since there are so many, I can't give tips on using them all. However, all PCs come with Windows Paint; so I will explain some of its most-used features here.

Some Basics of Windows Paint

Launch the program by clicking Start>All Programs>Accessories>Paint. Clicking File>Open will normally take you to your My Pictures folder, where you can double-click a target image to display it on the Paint "canvas."

The average digital photo is too large to be printed on a sheet of standard paper, so reducing its size is often the first thing you'll do. Click on Image>Stretch/Skew and type a percentage into the Height and Width "Stretch" fields. I find that 25 or 30 percent works well with most digital photos. If the new size doesn't look right, do Edit>Undo (or Ctrl+Z) to return to the original.

However, if you like what you see, click File>Save As and give the edited photo a new name. If you want to crop part of a photo in order to, say, remove extraneous background around a subject, use the Select tool (top right icon) to draw a box around the subject. Then click Edit>Cut and Edit>Paste to put the cropped selection in place.

When ready to print, click File>Print Preview to see a miniature of how your picture will look on paper. Use File>Page Setup to adjust margins and choose paper orientation.

Paint, as its name implies, is more of a "painting" program than a photo-editor, but the above features can be useful.

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