uLearn.Photography - part of FilmPhotoAcademy.com


Post-Processing Part 1: Software and Management

 

There are many software packages for managing and editing your photographs.  The most famous is of course Photoshop from Adobe.    
 
In this section you are going to learn about a few software options that are available to you, then you will learn how to use the free software package Picasa.


Software Options

 


Adobe

 

Photoshop CC, Photoshop Elements and Lightroom are the three main packages from Adobe.
 
Photoshop CC (Creative Cloud) is the most heavily tooled up software package there is and has pretty much become the de facto standard for editing images.    Photoshop Elements is the light-weight "home" version and is often given away with camera purchases.  Lightroom is principally a photograph organiser - but it does have some serious image editing tools as well.   Many photographers are now finding that Lightroom does everything they need without using Photoshop at all.   
 
Until recently Photoshop and Lightroom have been a £600-£800 purchase.   However at the end of 2013 Adobe launched their new system where essentially you rent a licence for the software on a monthly basis.  For £10 a month you can use Photoshop CC and Lightroom as long as you pay your subscription.   This is a very cost effective solution and the one that I would recommend.


Open Source Solutions:

 

GIMP and Darktable are the two free open source equivalents to Photoshop and Lightroom.  Both are very powerful tools and the fact that they are free should not put you off at all.   Although created, maintained and enhanced by a community of volunteers actually these packages will do nearly everything Adobe does.


Simon's Software Setup

 

My main tools are Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo and ACDSee organiser. Corel I have used since 1992. It has a hugely customisable user interface which has been crucial for me and managing my studio workflow. ACDSee I use for image organisation because again it fits very well into my studio workflow. If I was starting again I would go the Adobe route, but I have a very long history with these two products and my whole working practice is built around these solutions.

I have also written several additional software solutions for managing clients and their images, creating slideshows, handling camera downloads and backups.


Picasa

 

Picasa is free software from Google which lets you organise and edit your photos. You are not going to be forced into paying for additional software to complete this course. So we will be using Picasa as the tool for learning about the principals of post processing on your computer.


Download and Install

 

You need to go to picasa.google.com - on the opening page you will have an option to download the software package.
 
Download the package and run the install.

You can accept most of the defaults but I would suggest that you turn off the option to make Google your default search in your browser. (I don't like software making changes to other programs I have on my system).

Once loaded and first started you will have an option to either search "obvious" photograph locations on your disk or to search all of your hard disks. Select which makes most sense for you. You can always add folders of images later.

If all has gone well you will be presented with a screen like this.
 
On the left is a list of folders Picasa has found, on the right thumbnails (small versions) of your images.
 
Picasa does not copy your files; instead it builds a catalogue of your images containing useful information and small thumbnails of your files.  Your original files are not changed.
 
Even when you edit files your original files are not touched.  When you save your edits Picasa will create a new version of the photograph, leaving the original untouched.
 


Adding Photographs Already on Your Computer

 

Click TOOLS >FOLDER MANAGER to select which folders are displayed by Picasa. You can add or remove folders at any time.


Importing Photographs From Your Camera

 

You may find that you can simply connect your camera to your computer and the two will work out between them how to connect.  You may have to install the software that came with your camera.  Once this has been done the first time you should need to do nothing about connections again.
 
When you connect your camera you can then go to Picasa and click IMPORT.   (Near the top left)

In the new page use the drop down at the top to select where you will import images from.
 
At the bottom decide where you want the photographs to be stored.  I strongly recommend every download has its own folder which you give a meaningful name to.   I always add the date as well.  For example "SummerHolidays-2014-07-24".   I put the date as Year-Month-Day because it helps all my summer holiday folders stay in the right order.
 
You can use the same process to download images from your camera, card reader, memory stick, CD and more.
 
Picasa will also download video files as well as still photographs.
 


Organising Your Photos

 

By default Picasa starts off with folders - these are as you seen them on your computer hard disk.

Picasa can also create ALBUMS - these are collections created solely in Picasa, they are not folders on your computer. Albums are used to collect photos together, without actually moving them on your computer. You can freely add, move and delete photos from your albums and the files on your computer are unchanged. The same photo can appear in many albums.

For example you might have:
  • Holiday Photos
  • Summer Photos
  • Winter Photos
  • My Family
  • Landscapes
 
You can easily imagine how one photo might fit into several of those albums.


Organising By Person

 

Picasa also has a very useful feature that lets you organise your photos by person.  Picasa includes Facial Recognition tools which examine all your photos and tries to match faces to names.
 
On the menu click VIEW > PEOPLE.  This will show you all the people identified so far - which might be none.   Now on the left hand side click on the "unnamed" list - this will show you all the faces that have not yet been recognised.
 

Pick someone you know, click on "Add a name", type in their name and press the ENTER key. If the name has not been entered before you get this little pop-up. Click "New Person" and "OK".

Now, back on the left hand side Picasa will be busy searching for other similar faces.  If you click on the name you have just entered you will see all the pictures that Picasa thinks are the same person.
 
As you continue to add files later on, they will also be automatically added to the People collections for you.


Sharing Photographs

 

Picasa only offers you the chance to email photographs to friends.  Lots of other packages will let you share images directly to FaceBook, photo printing web sites and more.
 
Click on the images you want to share.   To add more than one image hold down the "CTRL" key on the keyboard and click on extra images (this is just like selecting multiple files on your computer).
 
When you have them all selected, click on the Share button at the bottom.
 
This will then use your Google account to email the photographs.    If you do not use Google for mail, then you can ignore this sharing section.


Creating a Collage

 

Picasa has a few other tricks for creating different ways of viewing your images including collages, screensavers, slideshows and videos.
 
To create a collage select the pictures you want (fewer is better) and select CREATE > PICTURE COLLAGE from the menu bar.


Creating a Video

 

Select a range of photos (more is better) and select CREATE > VIDEO > FROM SELECTION
 
The default is a version which just works as a simple slideshow.  But from here you can add an audio-track - either a piece of music or a voiceover you have already recorded.   You can also add different transitions between slides.  My favourite is "Pan and Zoom - Face" - which gives movement to the images, but concentrates on finding faces within the image.

Once you have a video you are happy with you can export it directly to YouTube or make further changes to it using the video editor.   Be patient - creating the video can take some time, especially if you have pan and zoom effects.


 

Now this is a rather clever little video builder.  This time you only select images with faces of one person.   Click CREATE > VIDEO > From Face Selection.    When you get to the creation screen set the option "Best Transitions".
 
This creates a video where the face stays in the same place on the video as each of the photographs change; this creates a "morph" like effect and is great fun.


Geotagging and Places

 

A standard feature of most phone cameras and quite a lot of new cameras - especially compacts, less frequently DSLRs - is the ability to "geotag" any image. Basically this records the latitude and longitude of the location of the camera when the picture was taken.

For a serious travel junky that can be really useful, since it automatically records exactly where you were for each picture. Often loading such images into FaceBook, Google and so on will also automatically put the image on the map - and let others find your images by location.

However, I do have a security concern about this feature, having seen so many pictures of "my lovely valentines necklace", "my new television" etc being posted on FaceBook along with exact locations of your house is a bit of an invitation to Burglar Bill (as is telling FaceBook you are going on holiday!).

Picasa will automatically find geotags in your images and you can view live on Google maps the location of your images. You can also add geotags to images which currently don't have them.


Tags - General Keywording

 

You can also add a plain text tag to images. These are essentially keywords for images and you can use them to simplify searches. So you could for example tag images by "macro", "insect", "flower", "garden", "abroad". Then you could search for all "macro" images. This would include insects and flowers. You could then narrow the search to "macro" and "insects" and only see your insect macro photographs.


Backup Your Photographs

 

In our earlier lesson we have looked intensively at options for keeping safe backup copies of your images.
 
Click on TOOLS> BACKUP pictures and Picasa will let you save a copy of your images either to an additional disk location or external hard drive, or burn them to a CD or DVD.
 
This is a useful quick option, but hopefully after our earlier lesson you now have a much more robust method of making sure your images are safe and secure.

 

 

The final lessons will involve using Picasa.  Although the principles apply to any software package the specific examples will be for Picasa.  So you should go to picasa.google.com and download the software so you can work along with the examples.
 
If you are using another image managing software solution, then explore the options available to you for:
  • Detecting people
  • Geotagging locations
  • Using Keywords and other searches
  • Sharing your images
  • Creating videos or slideshows