There was a time when I thought that I needed a variety of software to achieve a few simple tasks, even though they were somewhat related. For example, I thought I needed a screen capturing app, never bothering to realize that I can do this in ACDSee.

When you encounter hiccups in your day to day computer use and you need to communicate with the technology expert in your life, when you really want to show your friend, teacher, mom, therapist, etc just what the heck you’re talking about, when you’re too tired or lazy to use your words: a screenshot will speak volumes.

When you are ready to take a capture of any part of your screen, in Manage or View mode, go to Tools | Screen Capture… The Screen Capture dialog will allow you to configure the area you want to capture. You can select between capturing:

  • your current monitor
  • an entire window, or just the content inside of it
  • a region with a fixed size, (which you can specify from the drop-down menu), or a region that you select with your mouse cursor
  •  an object, such as a child window, or a menu under your cursor

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When capturing any area, except for a region, you can elect to include your mouse cursor in the shot by checking the Include mouse cursor checkbox at the bottom of the dialog.

Next, decide on the destination for your capture. Do you want to place it on the clipboard? From here, you can paste it to a new location. Or do you want to open the captured image in your default editor? Or, choose File to have the Save dialog come up after you have taken your capture, at which point you can choose a name, location, and format for the file.

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Next, identify how you want to take your capture. Since you won’t want the Screen Capture dialog in your way, you must choose how to initiate the capture. If you want to choose a combination of keys to act as a keyboard shortcut to initiate your capture, enter them in the Hot key area. I chose “P” so that I can press the key and go, “Pow!” If you would rather the screenshot be taken at a designated point in time, you can use the Timer option. Choose enough time to set up whatever it is that you want to capture on your screen.

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To begin, press Start. If you have opted to take a capture of a selected region, drag your cursor around your desired area when prompted. If you opted to use a hot key, enter it when ready.

And, there you go. Find your capture according to where you selected to put it. I saved mine here:

saved_file

Control which areas of your photo are sharp with Digital Camera World’s Depth of Field cheatsheet.

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The concept behind, or perhaps the need for, Develop mode can be a bit confusing when you’re first getting into processing your digital photos. I know that it wasn’t intuitive for me. But it’s a pretty sweet mode, so it’s worth taking the time to understand its value. So what’s this Develop mode I speak of all about?

When adjusting your images in Develop mode, the original file is never changed. The changes are saved in a separate file, and are applied each time you open the image. This allows for what we call “non-destructive” developing of your images. It is there to ensure that even if you go very far down a path altering an image, that even if you wind up with something you’re unhappy with, you always have the opportunity to start from scratch, as you possess an untouched original.

When you open a developed image in Develop mode, it displays the settings you previously left them at. This allows you to revisit the image at any time to adjust the previous settings.

So what does this mean for saving in Develop mode? When dealing with a RAW image, you make your changes, then click Done. The image’s develop setting are stored in the XMP file of the RAW and in the ACDSee database. If you’re talking encodable files, such as JPEGs, when you develop an image and press Done, the develop settings are stored in an XMP file, and the original and the XMP file are moved to the [Originals] folder. In Manage and View mode, the image with the changes applied is displayed. The develop settings are also stored in the ACDSee  database. Basically, your original is safely preserved and stored with your changes, and your changes are added every time you look at it.

Ok, now that we’ve gone through the concept, let’s put it into practice. So take an image that you think could use some sprucing, and open it in Develop mode. Apply settings to achieve the look you want.

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Now that you’ve got your image just as you want it, press Done. You’ll notice that your options are Save or Save As. Save As means that you save a version of your developed image with a new name or format and switch to the updated image. Maybe you’re generally inclined to play it safe in these cases and use the Save as option. But stay with me on this workflow first. So, press Save. *Cue dramatic music*

But, the next day, you come back to it and … what were you thinking? Your changes do not, er, stand the test of time, and your opinion on them has changed. Well now you’re in trouble, right? The original is gone.

Guess again! The original is preserved. In Manage mode, right-click the image. Go to Process | Restore to Original.

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Et voilà Your original is back, no harm done.

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In Edit mode, your original image is also preserved. However, the difference is that with Developed images, you can remove any of the changes you have made, regardless of the order that you added them. This allows you to avoid having to start from the beginning. In Edit mode, everything you do to an image is done on top of the results of the previous operation. If you added a series of 10 different edits, but wanted to remove the fifth edit, it would be necessary to start from scratch. But Develop mode bypasses the issue of an order of operations. You can even change the settings on individual selective adjustments, like brushes and gradients.

Furthermore, Edit mode is destructive, which means if you edit and save and edit and save and edit and save, each save degrades your image quality. But in Develop, your changes are all applied at the same time — you always start from the original.

What Else Makes Develop Mode Worthwhile?

Develop mode really makes a difference in the context of RAW photos. What is a RAW photo? A RAW image straight from the camera is undeveloped — it is merely sensor data. When you take the picture, the camera records all the light levels on its sensor and writes them to a file. It also writes in metadata from the camera, such as white balance settings. This is the RAW data.

When you shoot JPEGs, the camera takes that RAW sensor data and does develop processing on the image using the current camera settings, such as exposure and white balance, which produces the image that you see on the preview window or on your computer. Like a polaroid camera that produces the decent-looking image out directly from the camera, the develop processing is done in the camera and never needs to be done again.

Develop processing has to be done in order for a RAW file to be viewable. This processing occurs automatically using default settings, (based on the settings that your camera wrote into the RAW file, such as white balance), as ACDSee displays the image on the screen. Develop mode allows you to change and customize that automatically-applied develop processing to whatever you want it to be. So imagine you take a photo with the wrong white balance settings on your camera. If you’re shooting a JPEG, you can improve the image, but no matter what, you started out with a blueish image because of that wrong setting, and your ultimate image is never going to be perfect. However, if you shot the same image as a RAW, you can change the white balance settings in Develop mode and your results will be as though you went back in time and used the correct white balance settings from the beginning. You will get perfect results because you are working with the pre-white balance RAW sensor data.

Opening a RAW image in Edit mode does not do the same as Edit mode opens your RAW image with the RAW processing already applied.

It’s worth noting that if you alter an image in Edit mode first, and then take it into Develop mode, ACDSee will prompt that the edits will be lost. Develop mode needs to work with the original pixels, as opposed to pixels that have had develop processing added to them, and then editing.

Develop mode is also awesome for the advantage of develop presets.

I think there’s a small part in all of us that likes to impress our friends. Don’t deny it. We’re all in this together. And it’s not a negative thing. We’re social creatures.

This is evidenced by the existence of social media. And where better to show off? I like to think of my Facebook profile as an online space with potential to exhibit, amongst other things, my style and aesthetic. This I do with a snazzy cover photo developed from my own photography. But I have very little artistic skill, so it makes impressing people with arty stuff a bit of a challenge. Or it would, if I didn’t have access to tools to cover up my artistic handicap. This is where ACDSee comes in.

To start, you may want to tidy up any exposure, lighting, or sharpness-related flaws. While the photo will be smaller than the original, might as well make it the best that it can be.

touch_up

After tidying up the image, you can add some special effects to make it pop. In the Add group, go to Special Effects. Select a special effect that looks good to you. On that special effect’s panel, you will be able to adjust the settings. (Note: not every special effect has settings to configure.) So, for me, I find that, more often than not, the special effect applied to the entire image can be a bit much. This is where the brush comes in handy. At the top of the panel, click the Edit Brush. brush As I spent time brushing an area, in this case, a branch in focus in the forefront, I am disinterested in doing more brushing. So, on the Edit Brush panel, I select Load last applied brush strokes.load_last_applied Now,  I click Invert all brush strokes.invert_brush Now, the brushed area — the mask — is every part of the photo that is not the branch in the foreground. So effectively, I did a little bit of brushing in the Sharpen tool and can leverage that effort into masking the entire rest of the photo in this other tool. Time saving for the win!

inverted_mask

It may be better to uncheck the Show brush strokes checkbox to better fine-tune where the effect begins and ends.

fine_tune

But ultimately, you may not have to fuss with it too much, as the photo is not going to be this big on your Facebook profile. Change the sliders to get just the look you want. From here you can add more effects, or if you like what you’ve done, then it’s time to take it into the Resize tool. Press Done. In the Geometry group, click Resize.

resize  On the Resize panel, uncheck the Preserve Aspect Ratio checkbox. Under Pixels, change your dimensions to 851 wide by 315 tall. Press Done.

resizing_fb

As the in-focus element of my photo is located on the left, right where the Facebook profile photo sits, I am now going to flip the image. Under Geometry tools, go to Flip. Select Flip horizontally.

There we go. We’ve got a cover page ready for upload. What’s the fastest way to get that sucker to Facebook? Right from the ACDSee application, actually. Press Done on the Flip panel. Press Done again on the Edit mode panel. Save when prompted. Open Manage mode. Above the File List pane, select the Send menu.

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Under the Send menu, choose To Facebook…

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On the Facebook Login window, enter your Facebook login credentials. Once logged in, you will see two options at the bottom of the window. Choose Upload photos to an existing album, then select Cover Photos from the drop-down menu.

facebook_uploader

Press Upload. After your image uploads, select View in Facebook. Facebook will open in your internet browser. Navigate to your profile. Hover your cursor over your current cover photo and choose Change Cover. Select Choose From My Photos in the drop-down menu. It should show your photo as a recent upload. If not, navigate to your Cover Photos album and select your freshly uploaded image. Once the image has loaded, if you mouse over your cover photo, you will see Drag to Reposition Cover, but that will not be necessary as your photo is already the exact size of the area.

Ta da!

cover

Your options are pretty darn infinite:

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fb_option7Or even:

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And so on and so forth. Give it a try. I think you’ll find a special sort of joy in experimenting. You can re-purpose mediocre or even bad photos, and in the long run, your friends think you are an artiste.

For example, this:

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came from this:

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