Are you a workroom owner who never gets to see your finished work installed? I’m guessing you still take photos of your best work in the workroom. But now you have workroom all around that magnificent treatment. Not exactly the best presentation for that next new designer, is it? Or maybe you have taken loads of photos of the final installation, but many never came out good enough to show clients. Now there is help to add a professional touch (or touch-up) and enhance even some of the poorest photos.
IMAGE ENHANCING SOFTWARE
More than likely, most of you already have such software—it came with your digital cameras or your computers. If you are like me, you didn’t know you had it, much less tried to use it. Being a photography hobbyist, I was interested in good software that I could grow with. However, I admit it; I have to have remedial functions and instructions!
I purchased Microsoft Digital Imaging Pro 10 because I’ve been working with Microsoft software for almost 10 years and thought that would make it more comfortable to learn. And I was right! My purchase also was weighted with the fact that it came with free telephone support for its life. (I pay long distance charges only.) This is the software I have used for my examples with this article.
I suggest you start out using any tutorials or overviews of software that come with it just to get a feel for where things are, what icons mean and the capability of your software. And if you really want to make time to do it, agree to write an article or give a seminar!
When using image-editing software, remember this one rule that is never to be broken: Immediately do a “save as” of your original photo with a new name and a new location; i.e., your hard drive or CD and not the media card.
Every time you change the photo and save it, the quality is reduced. You may also decide you don’t like the way the photo ended up. In that case, you can start over with the original and do another “save as.” Do not try to make changes on the media card unless you are doing it within the camera’s capability and according to its instructions.
WHAT SOFTWARE CAN DO
This can be great fun. You are already creative people to be in this industry, so you just might find that imaging software is a delightful challenge. It even allows you to become an artist without getting paint and chalk all over you.
1. Lighting, exposure, contrast, color: By playing with these automatic features in my software, I was able to lighten the very dark photo. I always try the auto features first and click the “undo” button if I don’t like what it does.
Photo 2 is much lighter. However, the first time I lightened the photo, I found there were many extra things I did not like and could not see before.
2. Removing items: These are the many distracting things that I removed in Photo 2:
• Clock and wall ornament on the far left wall
• Hutch/table on the far right wall
• Light in the ceiling
• Cell phone and notebooks on right chair
• Bowl on the floor just above cell phone
• Light switch on the wall behind that same chair
I used what is called a “cloning” tool to paint over the items with the surrounding color. Some things can be removed in seconds. Others take longer. If you dress your scene properly before taking the photo, and with an eye for what you may need to remove later, you minimize your editing time.
3. Frames/mats: My software has a selection of frames and mats and you can change the color. See Photo 3.
4. A work of art: There are many filters in software to make your photo look different. Here again, I try each one that might work and then undo it if it is not what I’m looking for. Photo 3 is the colored pencil filter. I did need to remove a few spots after doing this.
Why turn a window treatment into art? Make it a thank-you gift to your customer. Isn’t what you create a work of art? Let them see the beauty of the art. It will help them to realize that they are getting more than just draperies. If you really get into working with software, you could even create somenote cards for them.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
If you are a wholesale workroom and you want to grow your business, you must have a nice portfolio and/or Web site for future clients to see your work. Photo 4 is typical of photos shot in the workroom. You need to rid this photo of the busy workroom background and, what isn’t so obvious, level it up.
1. Prepare the canvas: A blank page in my software is called a canvas. It’s easier to prepare it before getting your treatment. Using a rectangle drawing tool, I first created a wall and colored it. Then I created a window frame and colored the glass area.
2. Copy and paste: There are various tools for tracing around an object. After tracing around this treatment, I copied it and pasted it on the canvas.
3. Straighten horizontal: The treatment was a little lopsided, so I straightened it using the straightening tool.
4. Sizing: After selecting the treatment, I adjusted the width and depth to fit the window. So what do you think of Photo 5?
I learned a valuable lesson with these photos. Resolution is important! Photo 1 had much higher resolution than Photo 4. I could print Photo 1 as a quality eight-by-10. However, I could not enlarge Photo 4 any more than five-by-seven or it became too grainy.
Most software and some Web sites will allow you to have your photos submitted and printed online at a very reasonable price. This eliminates the trip to and from the store to have them
If you chose to take your photos to a store for printing, you would have to have a CD burner because your changes would not be on the media card. Printing photos yourself, especially eight-by-10s, is certainly an option but more expensive.
The point of learning to use this type of software is to better promote your company. Think about color photos vs. black-and-white. Color has more impact. Real treatments have more impact than drawn ones. Treatments you created yourself have an even greater impact. Think how professional photos would add to all your marketing materials: portfolio, brochures and business cards (in the software), Web site, CDs and newspaper ads (software can do black-and-white).
Imaging software allows you to do marvelous things quickly with the automatic settings. If you need to enhance your marketing materials, give this approach some thought. Consider the value of what you can create vs. the time involved to learn and use the software. Also include the fun factor, and that you might want to use it for family photos.
Before you think about purchasing software, go check your computer’s programs, your scanner and your digital camera’s instruction book. You just might find a nice image-editing surprise!
Kitty Stein, CWP, WCAA past board member, is a 26-year veteran of the drapery workroom industry. Having owned drapery workrooms as one person and as a company of nine, she is now president of Workroom Concepts a consulting firm offering educational resources to the industry on its Web site (www.workroom concepts.com). Her experience in both the retail and wholesale window covering arenas has contributed to her success as a business consultant. A professional speaker and writer, she has authored several industry products including Order in the Workroom, The Price List, Workroom Specifications and Price Your Work with Confidence, available through D&WC.