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Microsoft Digital Image Pro 9

by Chris Taylor

I have a fair amount of experience with film photography, both behind the camera and in the darkroom. But when it comes to manipulating images on the computer, to say I am graphically-challenged would be kind.  When I bought a digital camera last year, I knew I would need help.

I tried the Camedia software that came with my Olympus C-750 camera, but I found it quite limited.  Then I won a copy of Adobe Photoshop 7.  I had a friend show me some of the things Photoshop can do.  While it can handle just about any image editing chore, I could see it would be a bear to learn.

I needed something simpler to use than Photoshop and more capable than Camedia.  I found that balance in Microsoft Digital Pro 9.

The user interface is shown in Figure 1.  The centre of the screen shows the working area, known as the canvas.  There are toolbars for commonly used tools.  The left side of the screen shows the Common Tasks bar providing easy access to commonly used functions.  On the right side of the screen are the Stack, which shows the different layers in the current image, and Files which shows all open image files and allows you to choose which one appears on the canvas.



Digital Image Pro has all the standard features one would expect in an image editing program.  You can adjust the contrast and brightness.  You can sharpen or blur the image.  You can modify colour levels and tweak hue, saturation, and tint.  You can adjust lighting levels for shadows, midtones and highlights with the help of a histogram which shows you graphically just how much of the image has different light levels. You can even adjust the individual red, green, and blue channels, if you want.

Where I feel Digital Image Pro really excels is in the way the program makes it simple to correct common flaws in digital images. There are many easy-to-use tools.

There is a blemish removal tool that requires only a point and click to zap blemishes by smoothing in the area.  The fix red eye tool allows you to remove that distraction just as easily.  With three clicks of the mouse, the remove wrinkles tool can take years off your photo subjects and turn you into a hero.  There are similar tools for removing scratches and dust spots.

There is a standard clone brush, which allows you to fill in one area of the image with what appears in another area.  But there is also a blending brush which is quite cool. It works like the clone brush, except it blends the original and replacement image data, making for a smoother, more subtle result.

If you have ever had a distracting element in your pictures, such as a telephone pole protruding from someone's head, or piece of garbage on a nicely manicured lawn, you will love the smart erase feature. Outline an area you would like removed from the image and Digital Image Pro fills in the area with pixels similar to the surrounding area.  This works best on areas that are either fairly smooth such as a plain wall or fairly randomly textured, such as grass.  Figures 2 and 3 show the use of the smart erase tool. Notice how effectively the water and the tree line were handled.



While any image editing program will allow you to adjust brightness and contrast, you might find that some of your images are fine except for shadow areas or highlights.  Digital Image Pro provides tools to add flash to lighten just the shadow areas or reduce backlighting to darken down just the highlights. Figures 4 and 5 show the use of add flash to bring up details in the dark forested area. Notice how the highlights were left alone and only the shadows were lightened.



A common problem is when an image has a colour cast to it.  Every image editing program allows you to adjust colours.  But my attempts to manually adjust colours are painful reminders of why I only did B&W film photography.  With Digital Image Pro, this is not a problem.  Select the option to adjust tint, use the eye dropper tool to point to something that should be pure white and the program does the rest. It doesn't always work perfectly, but it will generally get me pretty close and I can often manage the final manual adjustments necessary to get the image just how I want it.

Format changes are easy with commands to flip, resize, crop, straighten, and rotate.  I really like the straighten picture command.  Sure, every image editor allows you to rotate your picture, but have you ever tried to adjust a picture so it is perfectly level?  With Digital Image Pro, you just find something in your image that you want perfectly horizontal or vertical.  Click on one end, then the other, and your image is immediately straightened.  As rotating the image will leave the sides crooked, you can even have the image automatically cropped so the edges are straightened.

Digital Image Pro comes with 200 filters for a wide variety of special effects such as chalk, coloured pencil, chrome, embossing, and water colours.  I used to view filters as a way to attempt to make a poor picture good.  But I have found some uses for filters that make sense - for example when using an image as a secondary element in a project such as a greeting card or a calendar. In cases like that, stylising the image with a filter can be quite effective.

Even though Digital Image Pro has many features that allow quick and easy correction of common problems, there is still considerable depth to the program and it is quite cable if you want to roll up your sleeves and "do it yourself".  There are lots of drawing tools.  You can use cut-out tools such as the edge finder to isolate areas of the image for manipulation.  The magic wand allows you to select areas of the image that are similar in colour.  The dodge and burn brush allows you to be very selective in lightening ordarkening areas of the image.

Digital Image Pro comes with a nice 275 page printed...yes, printed...manual that can help you get up to speed on how to use the main features.  As well, it has lots of good info on general photography,  canning, and the best of Tips and Tricks on the MSN photo site. Installed along with the program, you will find five instructional video clips that take you step-by-step through processes; exploring the work area, basic photo touch-up, face touch-up, advanced photo editing, and organizing and archiving.

System Requirements:
   700Mhz Pentium
   256MB RAM
   400MB disk space
   800x600x16-bit display
   1MB video RAM

Bottom Line:

Digital Image Pro 9
Available locally for about $140

Originally published: May, 2004

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