Vail Valley tech: Software makes digital photos a delight
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL VALLEY, Colorado –I’ll admit it: I have an addiction. The kind of addiction that takes over when I least expect it. The compulsive – no, obsessive – kind of addiction where I just can’t help myself. Hi, my name is Jessie, and I’m a digital photo addict.
You see, I’m the kind of person who has to have my digital camera with me at all times, just in case something “photo-worthy” happens. Even more, I’m the kind of person who, when a photo op pops up, and many times even if it doesn’t, has to take millions of photos of the same scene.
I’m not sure why I do it – perhaps hoping that a photo of the same landscape, taken two second later might have better light or composition than its predecessor; or the fourth photo of my cat might actually catch her smiling back (yeah, right!). Either way, I find myself easily filling up a camera card with hundreds of pictures each time I take it out.
My addiction can be costly if I’m not careful. Even though I’m no longer paying to buy film or have each roll individually developed, I still seem to spend a lot of money on my hobby, from upgrading memory cards (because apparently one gigabyte is just not enough) to buying external hard drives to save all of my photos on. Plus, there’s the new cameras I’ve bought because, well, I tend to wear them out and the stack of DVD-Rs I’ve gone through backing up all of my treasured photos.
Lucky for me, there’s one part of my hobby that doesn’t cost any money: my photo organization software. In this week’s Tech Bytes, I’m taking a look at Picasa, a free, photo organization and editing program that works on both Windows and Linux PCs and Intel Macs.
For me, Picasa stands above other photo management applications that I’ve tried for a number of reasons. First, it works with your existing file organization system, and doesn’t force you to keep your photos in any specific folder on your computer or name them in any certain manner.
Instead, it leaves your photos exactly where they are and works as a sort of catalog – allowing you to see all of the photos on your computer at once, in one, easy-to-use program. This also means you can start using Picasa at any time, even if you already have a number of photos on your computer.
The beauty of Picasa is that it is simple to use yet packs a full feature set. Launch Picasa and then connect your digital camera and it will walk you through the steps to download your images and add them to the library.
You can make a new album of all your favorite photos just by dragging and dropping. Double click on a photo to edit it, and then you can crop, straighten, adjust contrast and color, retouch and remove redeye. You can also fudge the lighting of the photo and change the color temperature. A number of built-in effects allow you to change your photos to sepia tone, black and white, soft focus and more.
Another great feature of Picasa is that it never changes your original files. Even if you make edits using Picasa, it saves them to a new copy of the photo, preserving the original. Picasa also allows you to backup your photos to DVDs or CDs with a few simple steps.
My favorite part about Picasa though is the number of options that are built in for sharing your photos. Just select the photos you want to share and then with as little as one click, Picasa allows you to e-mail them to friends, upload them to a free Web site that it will help you set up or send them to your blog.
The printing features within Picasa make printing your photos a breeze because they work with your existing printer setup. If you want professional prints of your photos, Picasa also has a “shop” button that allows you to easily send your photos to one of a number of printing companies to have your prints delivered to your door – or ready for pickup at Walmart in one hour.
New in the latest version of Picasa is the ability to add name tags to people in your photos. Picasa will then use face recognition to search out other photos that it believes matches your tags, and will automatically create individual albums for each person. I was truly amazed at how quickly it recognized me in hundreds of other photos, and how accurate it was, even with my numerous hair cuts and color changes throughout the years.
Another new feature in 3.5 allows you to “geotag” your photos. This means matching your photos up with the locations on a map where they were taken, allowing you to quickly find all of your photos from a particular place.
So, if you’re a photo addict like me and have thousands of images that you need help organizing, but don’t want to spend a lot of money doing so, consider giving Picasa a try and see if it works for you. Picasa can be downloaded from the Internet at picasa.google.com.