Jewish World Review Sept. 27, 2002 / 21 Tishrei, 5763

Put on a (happy, unwrinkled, tanned, whatever) face

By Mark Kellner | Instantly, the cats, Michael and George, looked brighter. They were still asleep in the afternoon sun, lounging on a chair, but I could see. Anyone could, if they'd been there.

Using a simple adjustment on a new computer program, I was able to not only adjust the brightness and contrast of a digital photo of our two domestic shorthairs, but once saved, the results showed up on my computer's "desktop," where the image is the "wallpaper" I look at when using the Dell portable.

Would that every adjustment in life were that easy.

Easy or not, improving and enhancing digital images is becoming more and more important. Boston-based publicity consultant Marisa D'Vari, whose book "Media Magic" ( is a treasure-trove of PR ideas for entrepreneurs, never goes anywhere online without making sure her digital image is the best possible.

"As long as my 'virtual self' looks good, I'm happy," Ms. D'Vari, a former Hollywood publicity executive, said. "In today's world, where [Adobe] Photoshop offers a tool called 'healing,' which can wipe out a blemish and perk up a pasty complexion, there's no excuse for not being impeccably dressed at any time," she added.

The full Adobe Photoshop product, now in version 7.0, will set you back around $600 - more than most day spas will charge for an afternoon's work. And, frankly, one has a lot to learn when using any of the high-end photo editing programs, even if such learning pays big rewards. But if you need it - as someone else might just really need that Botox treatment - this high-end program, for Mac and Windows, is the way to go.

Other recent programs have much to commend themselves to users as well. On Sept. 25, Ulead Systems, Inc., will formally release its Ulead PhotoImpact 8, which offers a wide range of photography tools, including the rather "idiot proof" method I used to brighten the tabbies. The $90 program ($80 if you download it from; upgrade rebates are available on both versions) will let you do a whole lot with your photos, including format them for use in various designs (from greeting cards to magazine covers), create Web sites, design logos (including 3-D) and embed a slide-show of your pictures, using JavaScript (stet) on a Web page.

Testing the software, I found PhotoImpact 8 easy to install, fast running and intuitive in its interface and use. There are so many features, users may be easily sidetracked, such as converting a photo into a charcoal-style sketch, or watercolor, with the click of a button. You can also easily e-mail photos and slide shows, as well as record photo CDs (providing you have a CD burner) that can be viewed on a TV set when played in most DVD players.

In short, PhotoImpact 8 is a powerful tool for beginning, intermediate and advanced users. It also can use "plug-in" items for Adobe Photoshop, making the Ulead program even more versatile.

Microsoft's Picture It! Digital Image Pro ( is a $109 program (here, a $30 upgrade rebate is available) that offers a broad range of editing tools for digital photos. The software, product manager Michele Richardson told me, is designed to take advantage of Windows XP's easy transfer of images from digital cameras. Among the features that I liked were the ability to add flash to a picture after it's been taken, better lighting a person shot outdoors for example, or adjusting the backlighting on a picture to minimize the "blown-out" look some sunset photos might have.

Finally, Adobe's Photoshop Elements 2.0, $99 for Windows and Mac (; $30 rebate available) is another excellent choice. While lacking the "healing" features of its big brother, Elements lets you organize pictures, add a fill flash, save images for the Web and do many of the editing tasks the larger program does. Plus, its one of the few image editors for the Mac and runs superbly under Mac OS X.

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JWR contributor Mark Kellner has reported on technology for industry newspapers and magazines since 1983, and has been the computer columnist for The Washington Times since 1991.Comment by clicking here.

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© 2002 News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of The Washington Times. Visit the paper at