Tech Savvy: Dealing with Digital Pictures

There are many software programs that provide digital photo management capabilities. I will focus on capabilities offered by two of these programs. They are Picasa and Windows Photo Gallery. Picasa is a free program provided by Google and Windows Photo Gallery comes built in with Windows Vista and Windows 7. Both applications have their pros and cons but in this article I am going to focus on common features across both of them that will help you better deal with your pictures.

After you have taken photos with your camera you need to transfer them to your computer. Most camera's will provide a USB cable to connect the camera to the computer or you might have a memory card reader that allows you to insert your camera's memory card in to the computer directly. The key here is that you must get in the habit of regularly transferring the pictures from the memory card to the computer and erasing them from the memory card so it can be re-used. All to often people will not erase the memory card and will run out of room for new pictures. This nullifies one of the major advantages of a digital camera.

After you have imported the pictures in to the photo management software on your computer you should take a few minutes to perform the following tasks:

Delete bad pictures
I prefer to delete pictures on the computer instead of on the camera. Unless you have an obviously bad picture which you know you can delete immediately on the camera, it's easier to review the pictures on the computer and decide which pictures make the cut.

Associate Descriptive Tags with Pictures
This is probably the most useful and least used feature in photo management software. A “Tag” is a descriptive word or phase that is associated with a picture of group of pictures. For example, let's assume your family just returned from trip to Florida where you went to Disney World and the beach. You took 150 pictures on the trip. 100 of the pictures are from Disney world and 50 from the beach. You would apply a tag of “vacation” to all 150 photos. The 100 Disney World pictures would get an additional tag of “Disney” and the 50 beach pictures would get the “beach” tag. Notice that you can apply multiple tags to the same picture. Over several years and more Disney or beach trips you have built a library of hundreds or thousands of pictures. Using your tags, you can quickly locate all the pictures from Disney World. Or perhaps you want to create a scrapbook of all the beach trips from the last 5 years. Just search for “beach” and they will appear.

Editing Pictures
Just about every photo management program has simple features to adjust the exposure/color of a picture as well as removing red-eye. After you have imported a batch of pictures, you should take the time to review and edit each picture. Red eye is common in many pictures taken with a flash. Luckily it has become quite easy to fix. Usually all you have to do is select the area around the red-eyes in the picture and then click the red-eye button in your software program. The software will look for areas of red coloring inside the selected section and will turn the red areas dark so they look more like natural pupils instead of devil eyes.

Now is also a good time to crop or rotate your photos. Perhaps you have a great family picture on the beach except for that pesky guy in the background looking for sharks teeth. Just use the crop feature to exclude him from the photo. You can also easily rotate a picture that was taken with the camera in a vertical position. Don't be afraid to experiment with editing your pictures to change exposure or colors either. If you make a change to a picture and realize you don't like it, you can simply use the “Un-Do” feature to reverse the change. Un-Do can typically be found under the Edit menu or by hitting the ctrl-z keys on your keyboard. Un-Do allows you to freely experiment with changes without penalty. This is a great, low risk, way to explore the features of your photo software.

Printing/Sharing Pictures
OK, so you have downloaded the pictures to your computer, deleted the ones that are no good, editing the remaining pictures and added descriptive tags to them.... Now you need to share these great pictures with your friends and family. There are many ways to do this. I will cover the most common ones.

You can simply print the pictures using your personal printer or send them to be printed using an on-line service. So of these online services will print them at a local store so that you can pick them up locally. You can also choose to create a photo album. These are a wonderful way to keep photos from a special trip or occasion. Most of the online photo printing services have a photo album printing option. If you want to share a lot of pictures with someone, the best way is to burn a copy of the pictures to a CD or DVD disc. A CD can hold 150-250 pictures and a DVD can hold up to 6x that amount. The advantage of making a copy this way is that your friend can have a high resolution version of the picture to store in their photo library.

I hope this article helped answer some of your questions regarding digital photography and your computer. Don't be afraid to experiment and learn. Please make sure that you back up your computer daily, especially if you keep precious files like digital photographs on the computer.

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