Yikes. Dead set on being able to take a good photo, I did everything I could to help the cause. I learned words like aperture and white balance, upgraded my camera (thanks, Michelle!) and soaked in all the e-tutorials I could. But even with all the effort and hard work, I know I still have a little while to go before being able to take that perfect picture.
So, until that happens, I use Picasa. Unlike fancier options like Adobe Photoshop, Picasa's free, idiot proof and has all the bells and whistles I need (and can handle). Here's a little about how it works.
Here's a picture of Ruby before any editing. She's a hard subject because her black coat is practically highlight resistant and eyes are almost as dark as her coat. Most times, she basically looks like a furry black blob having a bad hair day.
Enter Picasa. I'm able to increase the fill light, highlight or shadows. I can even adjust the white balance if for some reason my shot was too warm, etc.
After a couple of adjustments Ruby has two eyes, two ears and a shiny coat. The updates take me all of 2 minutes and they make a world of difference. Man, she's adorable.
I'm also a fan of two different image processes - 1960's and cross process. Both give off that vintage/retro type feel, warming up the photo and switching up the contrast. An added bonus is once you apply one of these image processes, you can adjust the fade to best suit your style.
If you're looking for a free and easy photo editor I recommend Picasa. It's simple to use, offers plenty of editing functionality and makes me happy every time I open it. Aside from Adobe Photoshop (duh), it offers the most realistic and natural editing capabilities, making it seem like you took just that good of a picture in the first place.
I was not paid for this post and am not in any way affiliated with Picasa. The opinions are 100% mine.