Taking the picture – although there is a tremendous amount of art to that – is only the first step. Once the photo is taken and you’re satisfied with the image as it appears on your camera’s screen, and once you’ve downloaded it to your computer hard drive and saved a backup copy in a remote location such as cloud storage, you will want to do something with it. At minimum, you’ll probably want to save it to a different file format to make it easier to publish the photo or share it with other people over the Internet. The bigger the file size, the longer it will take to transmit. Compressing the file allows it to be moved online more quickly, and for that if nothing else you require a decent graphics program. Not all graphics programs are created equal.

Some have more capabilities than others, while some are more user-friendly than others. A complete and exhaustive description of graphics programs and what you can do with them is beyond the scope of this book, but here are several of the better graphics programs on the market and their good and bad points. Adobe Photoshop. This program is one surely everyone’s heard of by now, and for good reason. It’s fairly pricey ($700 or more depending on the package), but for the power of the tools combined with ease of use, there’s nothing else on the market quite like it. It’s professional grade and quality, and can produce professional quality graphic art, but it’s simple and user-friendly enough that someone who isn’t a professional can use it well. If you already have Photoshop, there’s not much reason to look at any other program. Corel PaintShop Pro. Corel is famous for its full-featured graphic arts software, CorelDraw. Easily as powerful as Photoshop, and the professional standard for years, CorelDraw isn’t quite as user-friendly, and only a bit less expensive. There’s a steep learning curve in the beginning. However, there’s a wealth of training materials that can make the process easier. Again, the price tag isn’t for the faint-hearted (about $500 for the full graphics suite), but given the capabilities of the program and the availability of superior customer service from the company, it may well be worth it. Those two, Adobe Photoshop and CorelDraw, are the most popular professional grade programs on the market. There’s one open-source graphics program that can be downloaded free that has many of the same capabilities, but is more difficult to learn. It’s called GNU Image Manipulation Program, or GIMP. (The acronym is in universal use.) GIMP is not quite as full-featured as Photoshop, but it has all of the main features and it’s free. You can, at worst, manage quite well with GIMP until such time as your artistic ambition takes you in to areas where it won’t suffice, when you may decide that paying for Photoshop or CorelDraw would be a good investment. Certainly for just about any application of graphic arts to business purposes, and for retouching photos, GIMP will suffice perfectly well. GIMP isn’t very user-friendly and its controls aren’t perfectly intuitive. However, there is an extensive user manual available online as well as plenty of on-line help, both official and unofficial – including some very good videos on YouTube. These are only a few of the graphic design programs available, of course. But they are the top two programs that require payment and the very best that’s free when it comes to working in photography. Other graphics programs may have more to offer when it comes to creating original drawings or electronic paintings, more in the way of 3D capacity, or other features that these three don’t offer. But from a photographer’s perspective or that of someone who wants to use them along with photography to create things for publication online, these are probably the best programs available. If you’re not already familiar with graphic arts programs, this will be something else that you need to learn which you don’t think of as “photography” necessarily. But so it goes in the digital age. With analog photography, you needed (if you were to have any control over this aspect of the art) to learn about how to set up a darkroom, and invest in chemicals, an enlarger, safelights, and all the other equipment necessary for processing your photos from exposed film to finished prints or slides. The use of graphics software is the replacement for all that in the digital age, and it’s easier to learn, less expensive, less potentially dangerous (photographic chemicals are quite toxic and potentially a health hazard), and less likely to result in a disaster that destroys your work. Computer graphics are also more versatile, more fun to work with and a lot less messy and smelly. (If you’ve ever worked in a darkroom, the smell of stop bath – like concentrated super-powered vinegar – is unforgettable.) If you want to engage in serious, artistic photography (and it’s hard to see why you’d need a digital SLR camera for anything less than that), at least a basic understanding of and skill with graphic arts software is every bit as important as a proficiency with the camera itself. Today, when you’re finished taking the picture, you’re only half done.