Focusing on Some Fast Fixes for Photo Failures

Despite all attempts by camera makers to make photography foolproof, we all still make less-than-perfect pictures. Sometimes, we're the problem — we're too close or too far away or can't figure out how to use the camera's foolproofing features. Sometimes, the problem is that reality stubbornly refuses to comply with our expectations: The sky is overcast, Great-Grandma can't be present for the family photo, or management has decided to cancel a product that appears in the product-line photograph.

Fortunately, Paint Shop Pro has a wide range of solutions, ranging from quick-and-dirty fixes to professional-level retouching. Here are some fast solutions to a few common problems.

Rotating right-side up

Photos that lie on their side are a pain in the neck. Don't put up with it! Take these simple steps:

1. Press Ctrl+R — a fast way to pop up the Rotate dialog box.

2. In the Direction area of the dialog box, click either the Right (for clockwise rotation) or Left (for counterclockwise rotation) option boxes.

If you have added layers to your photo, click the All Layers check box. You probably haven't done so, however, or else your neck would already be stiff from turning your head sideways!

3. Click OK or press the Enter key on your keyboard.

Chances are, all your sideways photos need rotating in the same direction. Fortunately, the Rotate dialog box remembers which rotation you chose in Step 2; for future corrections, all you may need to do is press Ctrl+R and the Enter key!

Photos with too much flash

If you got a little too close in a flash photo, Paint Shop Pro may be able to help you back off a bit. Try this fast fix:

1. Choose Adjust --> Brightness and Contrast --> Automatic Contrast Enhancement.

The Automatic Contrast Enhancement dialog box comes to your aid. The photo may already look better in the sample in the right window. If so, click OK and skip the rest of these steps.

The preview window on the right shows the result as you make any changes in this dialog box. If you can't see enough of the picture there, click the button with the magnifier and – icon to zoom out.

2. To make the picture darker, click Darker (on the left).

3. To reduce contrast, click Natural (on the right).

You can try Flat, too, but it's often too flat.

4. For the maximum darkening, contrast-reducing effect, click Normal (in the center).

For a lesser effect, click Mild.

5. Click OK.

Photos with way too much flash are washed out, which may be harder to fix. If, for example, portions of someone's face are practically white, you need to restore skin tone without affecting the rest of the picture. A little work with the Smudge tool can help you push skin color into small white areas. Alternatively, try carefully selecting the entire face area with a feathered edge and then using the Manual Color Correction effect to change the white area to skin tone.

Removing unwanted relatives

Removing unwanted relatives is much easier in Paint Shop Pro than in real life. You're not limited to relatives, though. You can use the same Paint Shop Pro tricks to remove other unwanted features, like power lines or passing automobiles.

The task requires some skill and some sort of continuous or repeated background, like the clapboarded side of a building, a grassy field, a rail fence, water, or shrubbery. If the unwanted relative is blocking more than half of some unique feature (like a fireplace, chair, or china cabinet), the job gets nearly impossible.

The main tool for the job is the Clone Brush tool, which you use to extend the background over the unwanted feature. For example, you can brush out junk on a lawn by brushing lawn, taken from just below or alongside the junk.

Here's the general idea:

1. Click the Clone Brush tool (two-brush icon) on the Tools toolbar.

2. Right-click the background you want to brush over your object, in an area that has no unique features.

For example, if you're removing lawn junk, right-click in the grass, not near other junk. Don't click too near the object you want to remove, either. Because backgrounds tend to have horizontal strips of stuff, like grass at the bottom, trees in the middle, and sky at the top, clicking to the left or right of the object you want to remove usually works best.

3. Drag carefully across the object you want removed.

If, in Step 2, you right-clicked to the left or right of that object, move the cursor only horizontally before you drag. That precaution ensures that you extend the correct strip of background and don't paint grass, for example, where you want trees. As you brush, the Clone Brush tool picks up pixels from under an X that starts where you right-clicked and follows your motion. Keep an eye on the X to make sure that it doesn't pick up pixels you don't want. You may need to reset the X in a new location periodically; return to Step 2 to do so.

You probably need some trial and error to get a feel for the process. Press Ctrl+Z to undo any errors.

One problem with removing relatives and other objects is that if they were initially blocking a unique object, that object now has a hole in it. For example, the relative may well be blocking one arm of a person or half of a piano (if that relative is fairly wide). Fortunately, many objects are symmetrical; if Aunt Katy's left arm is now missing, you may be able to copy her right arm and paste it in place of the left one. (You can even mirror half a face to make a whole one in some instances. Results may be unsatisfactory.)

Use any selection tool (the Freehand tool, for example) to select the object you need to copy. Press Ctrl+F to float the selection, press Ctrl+M to mirror it, drag it to the correct position, and then press Ctrl+Shift+F to defloat it. Press Ctrl+D to remove the selection marquee. You may need to do a little painting and retouching because any light striking the object is now coming from the wrong direction.

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