Digital Photography Gift Guide: Image Editors, Eye-Fi, and More

When I was a kid, this was a magical time of year. When the Sears Wishbook came in the mail, I'd meticulously comb through it in an effort to compile a detailed list of suggestions for Santa. These days, I make a sort of wish book for digital photographers--and this year is no different. This week and next, I've got some gift recommendations for the digital photographer in your life, or for your own holiday wish list. And while you're thinking about buying presents, don't forget to check out my tips for buying a photo printer--a terrific gift for the photographer on your list.

Upgrade Your Photo Editor

What software do you use to tweak your photos? If you said "Microsoft Paint" or "whatever came with my camera," then perhaps it's time to splurge on a modern photo editing program.

My favorites include Adobe Photoshop Elements 8 and Corel Paint Shop Pro X2. Either one of these programs will deliver all the essential tools, including layer support, levels and curves, plus the ability to "plug-in" extra filters and tools for special effects.

And just like last year, I still recommend the somewhat more pricey Adobe Lightroom 2 (about $200) if you want to combine high-powered photo editing and photo organizing--it's the program I use for the majority of my digital photo work. For more information, read "Five Reasons to Try Adobe Lightroom."

Give the Gift of Wireless Photo Transfers

What's the most boring part of digital photography? That's right--transferring photos from your camera to the PC, so you can edit, organize, and post them to the Web.

Well, if your camera uses an SD Card for photo storage, then put a 2GB Eye-Fi card on your wish list. With an Eye-Fi card in your camera, you can automatically transfer photos from your PC and, if you want to, even send them directly to online photo sharing sites like Flickr, Facebook, and Picasa. It works like an ordinary SD Card, but its wireless connection saves you from having to plug your camera into your PC and manually transfer photos.

Consider Some Fine Literature

I tear through several photography books a year, and I assume many other photographers do as well--it's only natural, since we all want to improve our photo techniques and become better photographers. I mention this because this is the one time of the year that I recommend my own book, How to Do Everything with Your Digital Camera, which is now in its fifth edition.

My book provides easy-to-understand information on improving your exposure, composition, and lighting, and then shows you how to tweak your photos on the PC. It includes such topics as creating panoramas, high dynamic range photography, and the care and feeding of digital SLRs.

I've written a few other books, as well; see my Web site for a list.

One last thing: Do you have (or plan to get) a Palm Pre smartphone? Then you should check out my new book (written with my buddy and fellow PCWorld blogger Rick Broida) How to Do Everything with Your Palm Pre, which will hit bookstores shortly after the holidays.

Want more? If you need some help with the full version of Adobe Photoshop CS (not Photoshop Elements, which is the "lighter" program that I generally use to demonstrate techniques in Digital Focus), then you might appreciate a book I've been spending some quality time with recently: The Adobe Photoshop CS4 Book for Digital Photographers, by Scott Kelby. Scott writes great books, and this one is no exception: It is packed with dozens and dozens of well-written tutorials for all sorts of photo editing techniques. And the whole book is in full color.

Speaking of full color, I also love Harold Davis's Light & Exposure for Digital Photographers, a gorgeous collection of stunning digital photos that serve as object lessons for all sorts of tips and techniques related to composition, exposure, lighting, and other photography essentials. It's a great motivational gift for photographers looking to improve their skills.

Shop Smart

One last suggestion: Shop wisely. I often include links to PCW Shop & Compare here Digital Focus, because that's a great place to compare prices at a slew of online stores.

Bing, Microsoft's new search engine, is a great place to look as well, because you can get cash back on many purchases that you make using Bing searches.

And finally, check out Dealnews for a heads up about sales and discounts on all sorts of electronics, including cameras.

Check back next week for more holiday gift ideas, including digital photo accessories like camera bags, tripods, digital SLR goodies, monitor calibration tools, and more.

Hot Pic of the Week

Get published, get famous! Each week, we select our favorite reader-submitted photo based on creativity, originality, and technique.

Here's how to enter: Send us your photograph in JPEG format, at a resolution no higher than 640 by 480 pixels. Entries at higher resolutions will be immediately disqualified. If necessary, use an image editing program to reduce the file size of your image before e-mailing it to us. Include the title of your photo along with a short description and how you photographed it. Don't forget to send your name, e-mail address, and postal address. Before entering, please read the full description of the contest rules and regulations.

This Week's Hot Pic: "Hummingbird," by Laurie Kenny, Waterbury, Connecticut

Laurie writes: "I took this photo of a hummingbird at a Weigelia plant in my back yard garden using my Nikon D 80. I was pleased to be able to capture the stillness of one wing while the other is blurred from movement while the bird hovers over the flower."

This Week's Runner-Up: "Sleepy Squirrel" by John Slaughterbeck, Portage, Ohio

John took this photo with his Canon EOS 50D. He adds: "The squirrel was asleep until my dog barked and woke him up. Notice the snow on his nose."

To see last month's winners, visit our November Hot Pics slide show. Visit our Flickr gallery to browse past winners.

Have a digital photo question? Send me your comments, questions, and suggestions about the newsletter itself. And be sure to sign up to have Digital Focus e-mailed to you each week.

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