- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 24, 2002

Instantly, the cats, Michael and George, looked brighter. They were still asleep in the afternoon sun, lounging on a chair, but I could see. Anyone could, if they'd been there.

Using a simple adjustment on a new computer program, I was able not only to adjust the brightness and contrast of a digital photo of our two domestic shorthairs, but also to enjoy the results, once saved, on my computer's "desktop," where the image is the "wallpaper" for my Dell portable.

Would that every adjustment in life were that easy.

Easy or not, improving and enhancing digital images is becoming more and more important. Boston-based publicity consultant Marisa D'Vari, whose book "Media Magic" (www.deg.com) is a treasure-trove of public relations ideas for entrepreneurs, never goes anywhere online without making sure her digital image is the best possible.

"As long as my 'virtual self' looks good, I'm happy," Miss D'Vari, a former Hollywood publicity executive, said. "In today's world, where [Adobe] Photoshop offers a tool called 'healing,' which can wipe out a blemish and perk up a pasty complexion, there's no excuse for not being impeccably dressed at any time," she added.

The full Adobe Photoshop product, now in version 7.0, will set you back around $600 more than most day spas will charge for an afternoon's work. And frankly, one has a lot to learn when using any of the high-end photo-editing programs, even if such learning pays big rewards. But if you need it as someone else might just really need that Botox treatment this high-end program, for Mac and Windows, is the way to go.

Other recent programs have much to offer users as well. On Sept. 25, Ulead Systems Inc. will formally release its Ulead PhotoImpact 8, which offers a wide range of photography tools, including the rather idiot-proof method I used to brighten the tabbies. The $90 program $80 if you download it from www.ulead.com; upgrade rebates are available on both versions will let you do a whole lot with your photos, including format them for use in various designs (from greeting cards to magazine covers), create Web sites, design logos (including 3-D) and embed a slide-show of your pictures, using JavaScript on a Web page.

Testing the software, I found PhotoImpact 8 easy to install, fast running and intuitive in its interface and use. You can easily e-mail photos and slide shows, as well as record photo CDs that can be viewed on a TV set.

In short, PhotoImpact 8 is a powerful tool for beginning, intermediate and advanced users. It also can use "plug-in" items for Adobe Photoshop, making the Ulead program even more versatile.

Microsoft's Picture It! Digital Image Pro (pictureit.msn.com) is a $109 program (with a $30 upgrade rebate available) that offers a broad range of editing tools for digital photos. The software is designed to take advantage of Windows XP's easy transfer of images from digital cameras. Among the features I liked were the ability to add flash to a picture after it has been taken, get better lighting on a person shot outdoors or adjust the backlighting on a picture to minimize the "blown-out" look some sunset photos might have.

Finally, Adobe's Photoshop Elements 2.0, $99 for Windows and Mac (www.adobe.com; $30 rebate available) is another excellent choice. While lacking the "healing" features of its big brother, Elements lets you organize pictures, add a fill flash, save images for the Web and do many of the editing tasks the larger program does. Plus, it's one of the few image editors for the Mac and runs superbly under Mac OS X.

Write to Mark Kellner in care of The Washington Times, Business Desk, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002. Send e-mail to [email protected], or visit his Web page, www.kellner2000.com. Talk to him live Fridays from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. EST on www.adrenalineradio.com.

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