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Masking/blend photo by photo editor
This is a simple one, but I can't find a tutorial on how to make soft shadows around a photo. I have tried searching for mask, blending and etc, but none turn up what I am looking for. I know someone out there knows exactly what I am looking for and where to find it. If I knew the correct search terms, I could probalby find it on search engines. 
I have attached a sample photo to make sure everyone understands what I am looking for. I have seen the tuts before, but can't find any now. 
Try www.hiddenelements.com or www.retouchpro.com forum. If you go to Retouch Pro, there is a thin gray bar on the left of the screen. That is the MENU. click on it and choose the Forum or go to the bottom of the pop out menu and choose Demos. Good luck.

Unsharp Mask and Other Filters

Many of the image editing programs also have a filter called "unsharp mask." This filter can be a single-action filter or it may have one, two or more sliding controls to change certain filter features. Each program offers "Unsharp Mask" slightly differently. 
The filter takes an image which appears "unsharp" and analyzes it looking for color and contrast differences, which it enhances and smooths. A picture which was resized up to 50% can generally be made to appear perfectly in focus with this filter. 
If you are reducing an image much more than 50%, you will want to use the "Unsharp Mask" filter and another filter called "Sharpen Edge." 
Sharpen Edge (or Edges) works by taking the sharpest distinctions between colors and contrasts and making them slightly sharper, generally by darkening them. 
Using this filter can restore legibility to text which was previously shrunk beyond the ability to read. 
There is a strong interplay between resizing an image, using the unsharp mask filter and using the sharpen edge filter. If you're not familiar with these filters, take an image which you would like to see at less than half its present size and experiment with the Resize feature and then apply various combinations of Unsharp Mask and Sharpen Edge. 
There will be some settings, on those programs which offer filter settings, which you will find optimal for certain photographs or images. Write down those settings, or if the program allows, save the settings. 

GIMP v Photo$hop
GIMP looks and feels much like Adobe Photoshop (GIMP = GNU Image Manipulation Program). Unlike Photoshop, the GIMP is free (as in beer) and does not need to be registered or activated.

There are desktop and user interface (UI) differences between GIMP and Photoshop. That might take some getting use to if you already are familiar with Photoshop. 

Traditionally, Photoshop has had an easier to use desktop and user interface. However, the GIMP 1.3 desktop and UI changes all that. GIMP now is as easy to use as is Photoshop -- perhaps even easier.

GIMP does not have all the advanced, commercial, pre-press features that Photoshop does have. However, it comes pretty close to Photoshop with actual photo editing and image manipulation. Moreover. GIMP has some features that Photoshop does not have.

In short, unless you are a professional photographer or image editor who needs Photoshop's prepress features, you likely can do just about everything that you need or want to do with GIMP instead of Adobe Photoshop. Moreover at Photoshop's $649 price tag ($169 for upgrade from a licensed copy of Photoshop 7 or earlier) there are 649 more good reasons to use GIMP instead of Photoshop.

Photoshop has a greedy and consumer-unfriendly end-user license agreement (EULA). GIMP is free and has a very consumer-friendly license known as the General Public License (GPL). Please see the Adobe Photoshop & GIMP Licensing Note in the right-hand sidebar.

Additionally, Photoshop has a horrible and very anti-consumer Product Activation requirement. GIMP has no such crap! Please see the Adobe Product Activation Note in the sidebar.

A very nice thing about GIMP is that you can try it without paying a cent. Moreover, if you try the GIMP and like it, you do not have to pay a cent to keep on using it. If you are a Linux user, chances are that you already have GIMP installed on your Linux-based computer.

If you are a Microsoft Windows user, chances are that you do not already have the GIMP installed. Nevertheless you can download a Windows version of GIMP, free, and easily install it yourself. If your Linux distribution did not come with the GIMP you also can download a free Linux version of the GIMP. Download links are in the Resources section at the end of this article on page 2.

Top 4 Beginner Photo Editors for Macintosh
These tools offer bitmap-based image editing, photo enhancement, and graphics creation capabilities for the beginner. I selected these top picks based on how easy they would be for a graphics novice to learn and use, but I also looked at how flexible they would be for the long term.

How to Choose a Photo-Editing Program 

With a photo-editing program, you can "fix" or change images acquired from a scanner, digital camera, or the Internet and print them, import them into another document, post them on a Web page and use them for desktop backgrounds. 

1. Check reviews in computer magazines and on the Internet to narrow your choices. 

2. Buy Adobe Photoshop if you need a professional program. 

3. Look for a program that can directly import images from a scanner or digital camera. 

4. See what a program's automatic image-correction feature will do. 

5. Make sure the program can crop, resize, flip and rotate images. 

6. Compare color adjustment capabilities of programs. You should be able to adjust contrast, brightness, sharpness, hues and color-saturation levels; change a color; and convert color to black-and-white or grayscale. 

7. Compare artistic tools for painting, drawing and erasing, if you will use them. 

8. See whether the program allows you to insert additional text and graphics. 

9. Compare the quantity and quality of included templates, projects, and special effects "filters" if you will use them. 

10. Look for basic desktop-publishing capabilities, such as the capability of printing multiple pictures on the same page, if you will use these capabilities. 

11. See whether the program lets you preview changes and whether the preview is in a small box or done on the original image. 

12. Compare export and output options. You should be able to save a photo in several graphics formats. 

13. Compare the ease of using the various programs available. 

Basic programs are often bundled with scanners and digital cameras. 

Complex, professional programs, such as Adobe Photoshop, are immensely powerful but are also difficult to use and expensive. If you're just going to be scanning photographs of your children and cleaning them up for a Web site, you're better off with a cheaper, simpler program.

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