Now comes the time to tweak the pictures with the computer. Not being a fan of piracy, I prefer to use free software. My favorites — but there are many others — are XnView for simple or batch operations (for example, to reduce the dimensions of several images at the same time), and Paint.net for retouching.
Obviously, they are not as powerful as Photoshop, but they are good enough if you use a few tricks. Another solution would be The Gimp, but I could never get used to its ergonomics…
I’m not going to explain the whole software operation, but only a few functions that I often use.
Please crop your images! It's so easy! We see too often on the Net photos where a tiny model is drowned in a huge and uninteresting background: a parquet floor, a carpet, or even a towel (I don’t invent anything)! And use a plain soft coloured background, not a 60s style tapestry! An exception though: if the model is presented in a diorama, the latter probably presents as much interest as the model itself.
Type Ctrl + A to select the entire image. Small square handles appear; move them to frame the picture as you want.
Tip: frame tighter at the rear of the model, and wider at the front: a vehicle is supposed to move forward; it’s therefore necessary to let it this possibility, even imaginary.
To crop the image, type Shift + X. Finally let’s save the image. Before validating, click Options to check the JPEG image compression. Prefer a value around 90% (even, at the limit, 80% for a publication on the Internet).
Note: to return to the XnView Explorer, when an image is displayed, simply double-click it.
XnView allows to write scripts (succession of repetitive tasks) and to apply them to several images or a complete folder.
Tip: specify a destination folder different from the original folder, one is never too careful.
For example, I have a script that reduces images to 1000 pixels wide, with a white border, 300 dpi (dots per inch), 90% compression, and sends the edited images to a subfolder named Mod. To “write this script”, in the context menu (right click), just choose the Convert… option, set all the parameters once, and then save the script by giving it a name if possible explicit, into a folder with an also explicit name, like “XnView scripts”.
I sometimes use the Automatic Levels function because, contrary to what I said above, XnView applies a rarely caricatural treatment, and sometimes even almost invisible. This is not the case with Paint.net in which this function is almost never usable, but there has been progress in the latest versions. The Automatic Contrast function, which does not affect the colours but only the higher and lower lights, may also be useful.
Here again, I will not describe everything. I will just explain in detail how I cut the photographed object out to apply a more pleasant background to it, for example a gradient of blue evoking the sky.
The model is photographed in front of a white panel that is neither very regular nor perfectly illuminated. The result is a not very engaging gray background. How to replace it, without the clipping path being too obvious (scissors effect), and without spending a night to this operation?
Attention: the following uses Paint.net Release 4, unlike the French version that used Release 3. So, depending of the release, the process may vary in some aspects.