- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 19, 2006

A British Columbia, Canada, software firm, ACD Systems, and their managing director, Madelene Garcia, is offering some tips for better holiday photos:

Top Five Holiday Photo Blunders

1. The green-eyed grinch. A close cousin of red eye, green or blue eye occurs when the camera’s flash reflects off a pet’s eyes.

“You’ll notice that photos of your pets often show blue or white-green neon circles in their eyes,” Garcia says. “Unfortunately you just can’t use regular red-eye removal for this.”

However, you can transform Fido back to his gentler self, using your computer if you have photo editing software.

One method that even beginner software users can try is to select the neon-colored areas in the eyes and adjust the color to a darker shade. When fixing green eye in this way, Garcia also recommends adding a glint of light to a pet’s eyes to create a more a natural look.

2. Fade to black. Shots of holiday lights make for some of the finest memories. However, nighttime backgrounds can mean that your digital camera picks up the colorful lights, but leaves people and backgrounds in the dark.

“This is a common problem with holiday photos - you take a picture of your house and family with all the lights outside, but you can’t see the house or the people. You just see the little pinpoints of light,” Garcia says.

To bring back the background on a dim photo, Garcia recommends adjusting the shadows and highlights in the overall image to find a balance of between the darker areas and the brighter lights.

3. Shake the cold. Another common complaint with family photos at the holidays is the cold. Cold weather means wind-burned cheeks and runny noses that can ruin otherwise perfect photos of loved ones.

“Sometimes we all need a little improvement, especially children,” Garcia says. “If I have the perfect picture of my son, except for a scratch, a runny nose or dark shadows under the eyes, I can fix up the image and save it instead of dumping it.”

Instead of using Kleenex, parents can wipe away distracting elements by simply selecting the problem area and adjusting just the pixels to blend in naturally with the rest of the face.

4. Lighten up. The visual landscape changes in winter. Not only is the sun lower and the days darker, but holiday activities often take place against a backdrop of reflective white snow.

Digital cameras will base their exposure from the available lighting and how the light reflects off of the subjects in the photo - frequently changing the colors of people and clothing and resulting in a much different picture than the memory you were trying to capture.

“One common problem is that the all the colors in your photo may seem gray and drab, or conversely, the snow may appear very bright white, but a red holiday sweater might show up as dark maroon,” Garcia says.

By either adjusting the overall light levels in a photo or selecting specific areas to focus on, you can often make your subjects as bright and vivid as they were the day you took the picture.

5. Garish color. Another common problem is that photos shot in low light with a flash take on a reddish overall hue that washes out the other colors.

“In many cases you can save these photos and bring back the natural colors by adjusting the temperature and tint of the photograph,” Garcia says.

She advises focusing on one element in the photo that can help bring the other colors back into balance. For example, you can change the hue of the overall photo until skin tones or a wood floor look just right. Chances are that this will remove the reddish cast and bring the other colors closer to real life.

Now, the ACD Systems folks have a software package, ACDSee, which supposedly helps on all this; perhaps they’ll supply a review copy and if so, I’ll keep you posted.

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