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Free Photo Tools


By James Wise
web posted June 15, 2009
TECH TIPS – In today’s world, many of us are using digital cameras to take pictures of our family, trips, events, and more. Quite often our skills or cameras aren’t at a professional level. In that case, some simple editing might be in order such as redeye removal, sharpening, straitening, among other tools. Recently, a reader wrote to ask about suggestions for a photo editing program. In today’s column, I wanted to offer a couple of different options for this: Picasa and Windows Live Photo Gallery. Both of these programs are free and offer some easy to use tools for photo editing, organization, and sharing.

To start out, let me explain that while both of these programs offer Internet based services, they are in fact programs running on your computer. So, if you don’t have a high speed Internet connection, don’t worry. After you have downloaded the program, you don’t need Internet access unless you want to use things like online photo sharing or order prints online.

Picasa is a free Google product which integrates Google’s Picasa Web Albums for online photo sharing. You can download Picasa from http://picasa.google.com/. After you install the program, it scans your computer for picture files and shows thumbnails of them. To edit a picture, simply double click the picture to enter edit mode. From here, you can use various tools like redeye removal, photo crop, contrast adjustment, etc… You can also manually tune aspects of the photo and apply effects like changing a photo to black and white.



Another helpful tool is “tagging” photos. Tagging allows you to add information to photos. This can really help with searching. For example, you could tag photos that have your mother’s picture with the word “Mom”. On her birthday, you might want to give her something with these pictures. So, you can search for “Mom” in Picasa to see all the pictures with that tag. To apply a tag, just hit the tag button located on the toolbar at the bottom of Picasa (just above the print button). You can enter one or more tags per photo. You can select multiple photos by clicking the first photo, holding down the ctrl key, and clicking each additional photo. An important note is that the tags you enter in Picasa are available even within other programs that support tags (like Windows Live Photo Gallery).

You can create an album of photos as well. Just select any pictures you may want to include in the album, right click, and choose “add to album.” You can select an existing album or create a new album.

If you want to share your pictures with others, you can select pictures or albums and then upload them to Picasa Web Albums with the upload button on the bottom toolbar (or by right clicking the photo or album). You can also use Picasa to create a CD with your pictures by clicking the “Create Gift CD” at the top of an album or folder name. If you want to order professional prints of your photos (or other items like cups, t-shifts, mouse pads, etc…) you can use the “shop” button on the toolbar at the bottom of Picasa.

Picasa has other nice tools as well like collage, movie, screensaver, etc….

Windows Live Photo Gallery is part of Microsoft’s “Windows Live” group of services and programs and offers its own online photo sharing site. You can download Windows Live Photo Gallery from
http://download.live.com/photogallery. This program works in much the same way as Picasa with many or all of the same features noted above.

There are really so many options available with these programs that I didn’t have time to cover them in detail in one column. Instead, I decided to give you a brief overview of some things these programs have to offer. If you would like more details about how to do anything with either of these programs, just email me (edgefieldtechhelp@gmail.com) and I’ll be happy to help. In future columns, we may take a more detailed look at some of these features, especially the web sharing option.

While these programs may not offer the complex editing capabilities of paid software like the excellent, but high priced and sometimes complicated to use, Photoshop, I believe they offer some great and easy to use features for an impossible to beat price.





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A book by Columnist Carl Langley

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