Digital Photography – some more tips to help you get more out of your art

Continuing with the digital photography theme Colin Cartmell-Browne takes a look at at Picasa, a free alternative to Photoshop.

PHOTOSHOP, with its wide range of editing tools, is the go to piece of software for many photographers.

However many of these tools are unnecessary for those who just want to improve their photographs slightly before printing. Many, including myself, need little more than the ability to zoom in on a particular part of a photograph (cropping) or make minor colour alterations.

Although there are plenty of, free, alternatives a personal favourite is Picasa from Google. Picasa has two main roles, a file management system and photo editing. This month I will look at the file management side of Picasa and cover the editing functions next month.

Getting started

Although, technically, Picasa is no longer supported by Google it is still available for download. Just go to https://picasa.google.co.uk/ and chose the Mac or PC version. Once downloaded, follow the on-screen instructions to install the programme.

One slight warning- one of the options on the last installation window is to send anonymous stats to Google.

Personally I think this is a bad idea and always untick this option before clicking the finish button.

The first time you load Picasa it will want to search through your computer to find all photos and image files. This is fine, except that it can take a long time and will add every image file it finds, including those used by other pieces of software. It is easy enough to remove these later.

Photo organisation

Once Picasa has run the initial set-up you will be presented with a layout similar to that in figure 1.

Figure 1: Picasa's set up

Figure 1: Picasa’s set up

Photographs are organised by year taken and folder name. For example in my copy of Picasa I have a folder called Floods Nov 2015 under a heading of 2015. These were the photos relating to the floodsaroundd Egremont last November. There is also a number in  brackets, this is the number of photographs in that folder. Facial Recognition

One really useful function is facial recognition. Switch this option on and Picasa will go through every image and group together those it thinks are the same person. These photos appear under their own sub heading of ‘people’ See figure 2.

Figure 2: Photos which Picasa think contain the same person will appear under the ‘People’ subheading.

Figure 2: Photos which Picasa think contain the same person will appear under the ‘People’ subheading.

The first time you do this it will group everyone under ‘unnamed’ but under each photo is a text box. Just type in a name and Picasa will then group together all photos with that person in. Any it is not sure about will get a little question mark underneath the photo. You can then select yes or not (tick or cross) to confirm whether that person has been correctly labelled. The system is pretty good. I have only had a few false tags, and these were easily fixed.

Adding/Removing Photos

Adding a photos to Picasa is easy. One menu bar just click File>Add File to Picasa. This will then bring up the usual windows explorer type box. Just navigate your way through your filing system until you find the photo you want and click ‘Open’. You could use the import option but this usually results in there being two copies of the same photograph on your computer’s hard drive. However remember than any changes you make to the photograph are happening to the original!

One annoying issue with Picasa is that you can remove an entire folder from but not individual photograph. To remove a folder right click on the folder name and click ‘remove from Picasa’. This will not delete any photos but will remove them from Picasa. (You could select delete from disk but this is a permanent deletion.)

There are many other options not covered here, including the ability to geotag photos (say where they were taken) so you can also group by locations. Personally I’ve never used that function and prefer to give my folders location names like ‘Holiday in Blackpool’.

Like most things it’s probably best to play around with Picasa and discover for yourself what features you find useful.

Just remember that you are playing with the original photograph so any changes may be permanent!

Next month: Taking a look at the editing side of Picasa