Sunday, July 13, 2003

Software can help photo jobs



By Rhonda Abrams
Gannett News Service

Just as desktop publishing made it easier to improve the look of printed documents, digital photography is making it easier to add photos and images to all business communications - in print and presentations or on the Internet.

I'll look at software to help you make the most of your digital photos. But first, let's deal with two critical skills: compressing photo files, and transferring files off your computer's hard disk.

Before sending a photo, view it at 100 percent of actual size. You'll be surprised how large some of your photos really are. Compressing files shrinks the size - and quality - of the original photo, but you generally won't mind the loss of quality, especially if you're just sending a product photo to a customer.

But I like to keep a copy of the original-size photo, especially if I might want to use it in a print document or alter it. Transferring these to CD-ROMS gets all those huge photo files off my computer. Thankfully, most newer computers come with CD-Rewritable drives, which can also be purchased inexpensively.

To handle my photos, I tried four software products: the photo software that came free with my digital camera, and three products from Adobe. .

Here's how I liked them:

• Canon ZoomBrowser EX. This came free with my Canon PowerShot S300, which I bought about nine months ago. Frankly, at that time, the software was dreadful. So I went to Canon's Web site, www.canon.com, and downloaded a free upgrade.

What an improvement. This free software did three things very well, in fact, better than the software from Adobe:

1. Transferred photos from my camera or memory card to my computer quickly.

2. Allowed me to view photos as a slide show.

3. Compressed photos to attach to an e-mail message.

But that's about it. The ZoomBrowser EX is not intended for true photo editing, and if you want to be able to adjust photos, you'll need a better choice.

• Adobe Photoshop Album, list price $49. The most recent Adobe photo product, Album is intended for the consumer market but also can be used by small businesses with very modest needs. Of these four products, Album was by far the best - and easiest - for making "creations" - greeting cards, online galleries, photo albums. But I found the file-handling process pretty clumsy.

• Adobe Photoshop Elements, list price $99. Elements surprised me. I had heard it was a "stripped-down" version of the much more expensive Photoshop 7, but it contained about every feature from Photoshop that small business owners could need. If you're serious about using photos, or need to fix photos before sending them, Elements is an outstanding choice.

• Adobe Photoshop 7.0, list price $609. Photoshop is the gold standard in photo imaging. It's the most powerful photo software I looked at, and also the most complex. If your business is involved with graphics or printing, this is the software to choose. There's another nice tool in Photoshop not available in Elements - the "healing tool." If you're scanning photos from prints, this tool can eliminate scratches, dust, and other flaws.

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Rhonda Abrams is the author of "The Successful Business Plan: Secrets & Strategies." For her free business tips newsletter, register at www.RhondaOnline.com




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