Consumer Reports: Impressive Images

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One of the many benefits of a digital camera is the ability to crop and retouch your photographs. There are plenty of software programs that let you get creative — even if you're technically challenged. Consumer Reports took a look to see what these programs can do.

Jason Oates takes hundreds of pictures with his digital camera.

" I use it everywhere. It just gives me a lot of freedom to pick the pictures that I want."

Once he's selected his favorites, Jason uses software to change his pictures on the computer so they're exactly the way he wants them.

Consumer Reports just looked at the imaging software program Jason uses, and a dozen others including Jasc Paint Shop Pro 7, Adobe Photoshop Elements and Microsoft Picture It Digital Image Pro. Testers found they have a lot to offer.

"Even the basic programs we looked at let you crop the pictures, and brighten them, or change the contrast — sometimes even with just one click."

For the more serious photographer, some software goes further.

"The advanced programs give you better control over the picture. You can cut parts of one picture out and put them in another one, or you can change the texture so they look like painting for example."

Other advanced features include the ability to add text, or change the colors of different parts of the picture.

But this kind of software is costly and can be complicated. Much less expensive and easier to use is a basic program such as ACDSee from ACD Systems. It costs $44.

Consumer Reports says a program like this would work well for someone like Jason, making a big difference in the end result.

Consumer Reports says if you don't want to print your pictures yourself, many of these software programs have partnerships with online photo processors like Ofoto, Shutterfly, or Fujicolor. You can become a member and use the software to change your photos and upload your files. The service then prints the pictures and sends them to you in the mail.

View more Consumer Reports stories here.

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