GIFs (or JIFs, depending on who you ask) are the bread and butter of a good Internet conversation these days. While it’s easy to find reaction GIFs with a simple Google search, sometimes it's impossible to find that exact GIF you want. With this in mind, here are two simple ways to make your own animated images.
Not sure where to start in Photoshop? Here's a crash course on the basics
Photoshop is a powerful application that can be used for a variety of purposes, from editing photos or other images to graphic design and 3D art to light videography work. But Photoshop's power and versatility can also make it incredibly intimidating. The program’s main window is strewn with 20 different tools plus a ton of filter effects and image layers to top it all off. While Photoshop may be as understandable as Sanskrit to a novice, we’re going to show you how to get started with the basics.
When your images aren’t up to snuff, there’s always photo-editing software
Photography can be impenetrable from the gear to actually shooting and then the image editing software is a whole other uphill battle. Even with Adobe introducing Lightroom as a lightweight Photoshop alternative, it can be daunting to see a screen full of sliders as a complete novice. To help get you from serial Instagramer to amateur photographer, here’s a crash course to making your images look great with just a few steps in Lightroom.
No matter where the fates might take us, this much is certain: As we travel down life’s path, most of us take photos along the way and most of us will suck at it. To remove redeye, dust and other unwanted bits of reality from our pictures, many turn to expensive image editors like Photoshop. Others prefer to go the free route and get their GIMP on. If either of these options feel like they’re more image editor than you need, you might want to consider Phoenix Image Editor, our Chrome Web App of the Week.
It was just back in March that Google acquired online photo editor Picnik. Google has now rolled out Picnik integration with the company's Picasa Web Albums. When viewing an image in Picasa, the Edit drop down offers the option to open the file in Picnik. The Picnik interface we're all familiar with is loaded in a frame, overtop of the Picasa page.
Picnik is a fairly impressive Flash-based image editor that won many fans before it was bought by The Big G. Picnik allows users to resize and crop, as well as add various effects. A pro version is available for $4.95 a month that allows access to additional effects and fonts. There are some rumors that a version of Picnik could be available in Google's desktop Picasa software soon, but we'd really like to see some of this come to Android.
The Picnik acquisition seems mostly aimed at making the upcoming Chrome OS more useful. The OS is supposed to be heavily dependent on web apps instead of traditional desktop software. In the meantime, give Picnik a shot on Picasa.
Let’s face it: Photoshop ain’t cheap. And, worse, Photoshop is a kind of software—much like most kinds of software—that only works offline. If you’ve purchased it (or any other graphics-editing program, for that matter), yet you don’t have it installed on the system you’re currently working with, you’re out of luck. No photo editing for you.
Besides, we live in the world of the Web nowadays. With storage turning to the cloud and applications turning to the Internet, we question the need for an offline photo editing program to begin with. For as long as you have an internet connection, you don’t need to spend umpteen amounts of money in order to crop, tweak, and save your images—you can do it all right from the comfort of your Web browser of choice. It’s free. It’s easy. And, best of all, there are plenty of different Web-based photo editors out there, which gives you the opportunity to pick-and-choose a particular service that best meets your needs.
Of course, we wouldn’t want to strand you in a sea of potential Web apps, which is exactly why this life preserver of a guide is going to walk you through the highs and lows of five of the Web’s most well-recognized photo editing tools. We’ll assess each app based on the features it offers, how easy it is for an average PC user to grapple with said app’s interface, and the general user experience that each app delivers. Here’s one good note to get you started, however: All of these Web apps are one-hundred-percent free. Gratis. Costs nothing. On that point, everyone wins the day.
Bibble 5 Pro—one of the first applications to marry sophisticated raw editing with robust workflow management—has a loyal following among professional shooters. Earlier versions were criticized for an overly busy and inconsistent user interface, but version 5 has cleaned up most of those issues.
While its pure image-editing tools aren’t as extensive as Photoshop’s, Bibble 5 Pro does have most of the basic cropping, selection, and layering tools you’d need for digital photo editing—it’s a photographer’s tool, not a general image editor. On the raw side of life, Bibble 5 gives you meticulous control over exposure, color correction, vignette correction, and a host of other parameters, allowing you to fine-tune a photo’s final look. As with Lightroom, Bibble 5 Pro is nondestructive, so if you get lost and don’t like what you’ve done, reverting back to the original is easy.
Adobe’s stand-alone raw app gives you all the granular photo-hacking horsepower of ACR, plus even more sophisticated photographic adjustments tools and a powerful database tool for managing your collection. And like any good raw app, Lightroom is a nondestructive editor, saving changes to metadata settings, rather than changing the pixels themselves, as Photoshop does.
If you’re only familiar with image editors like Photoshop, Lightroom takes some adjustment. For one thing, there’s no “save” function; if you want to save to another format, like a JPEG or TIFF file, you’ll need to use export. The version we tested, 2.6, is fully 64-bit and robustly supports dual displays.
Version 2 of Lightroom is more tightly integrated with Photoshop, but we recommend that you do as much work in Lightroom as possible. All Lightroom edits are nondestructive, but once you load an image into Photoshop, it’s loaded as a 16-bit-per-pixel TIFF file. Any edits in Photoshop are baked into the pixels, and when you save and exit, the TIFF file shows up in Lightroom with the Photoshop changes. The original raw file is still present, but doesn’t have any of the changes made in Photoshop itself.
Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) isn’t a stand-alone app, but rather an add-on built into Adobe Photoshop and Photoshop Elements. Despite its add-on status, ACR offers a rich set of features for tweaking raw files. You can easily adjust exposure, make lens corrections, fix white balance, and do some basic image editing. When you click “done,” Camera Raw creates an XMP file (also known as a “sidecar file”) that reflects the changes you made nondestructively; the actual raw file hasn’t been altered. However, once loaded into Photoshop, any changes made are destructive, and you can’t save the file as a raw file—not even a DNG-variant raw file.
While ACR offers settings for both luminance and color-noise reduction, their overall impact can be hard to discern. ACR’s noise reduction certainly isn’t in the same class as Bibble’s Noise Ninja. And since ACR is itself an add-on, it doesn’t have its own set of aftermarket filters. Indeed, at its heart, ACR is really just a one-dimensional app for modifying the specific properties intrinsic to raw files. It’s got some limited image-editing tools—like crop and straighten—but its real strength lies in easily adjusting basic photographic attributes, like exposure and white balance. Its feature set is limited.
Unlike Canon’s bundled-in editor, Capture NX2 is an added-cost option, though Nikon will occasionally include it as a freebie with DSLRs during sales promos. The pricing might be justified for members of the Nikon nation, as Capture NX2 offers considerable sophistication when editing Nikon-sourced raw files.
The original Capture NX had an obtuse user interface, but the latest version cleans up many of the UI issues. How you go about editing images still takes some effort to learn, but once mastered, certain types of edits are much quicker to make than in a traditional app, like Photoshop.
The number of options can be overwhelming, and it’s easy to wander into the weeds and get completely lost. However, Capture NX2 is a nondestructive editor, making it easy to revert to earlier versions. Every setting has an undo button, and if you load up a saved file, there’s even a way to revert to the original. Capture NX2 saves all the changed data in the main NEF file (Nikon’s raw-image file format), so the saved file is larger than the original raw file shot by the camera.