I’ve been getting into photography pretty heavily lately and one area of technology that I’ve been paying a lot of attention to lately is photo management and online photo sharing software.
Finding good photo management software
I’ve found that with all of the photos that I’m taking it’s no longer feasible to have a hierarchy of folders on my hard drive that I browse through by hand, so I started looking for photo management software. I didn’t have to look long before I found a perfect solution.
I had never heard mention of Picasa2 before it showed up in my search results for photo management software on Google. I followed the link and looked through the features waiting to see the price but one never showed up, that’s when I saw the “Free Download” link at the top of the page. It was free, and I was going to download it and try it out.
My first impression was that the software wasn’t what I needed. It was very slick, it scanned my entire computer for photos/graphics of various formats and then put them into Picasa2’s easy-to-use interface where I could then proceed to organize and edit all of my photos. But it seemed at first like a souped-up version of Windows Explorer because it was mostly a listing of the folders containing photos with thumbnail views, so I looked for other solutions.
The free version of Adobe Photoshop Album was my next tester. It had some nice features but lacked the smooth interface that Picasa2 had. I didn’t really like the way that it allowed you to organize photos, so I quickly abandoned it and went back to Picasa2, realizing that maybe it was better than I thought. I was right.
It’s difficult at first to take in all of the capabilities of Picasa2 because the software is a little different than anything I’m used to. For example, it has this notion of collection, labels and folders which is hard to figure out at first, but once I got the hang of it I was really impressed. Let’s say I have 4 different folders on my computer that contain pictures of cars. Each of the photos of cars needs to stay in with all of the photos that they were taken with but I want a way to see all of the photos of cars that I have on my computer. How do I do that? Simple, labels. I can select each of the photos with cars in the them and add a label of “cars” and it will automatically create a new “set” of images that have that label, allowing me to quickly view them all. This is just one example of the great things that Picasa2 can do.
One of the other REALLY strong features of Picasa2 is it’s editing capabilities. I’m a Photoshop user, and though there are many things that you can do with PS that you can’t do with Picasa2, Picasa2 does everything that the typical user would want to do. Picture a little too dark or light? No problem, Picasa2 has sliders that allow you to increase light or shadow. Need to adjust the colors in your image? Picasa2 can do that too. They’ve also got a great variety of effects that you can apply to your photo such as a black and white and sepia effect and even more helpful ones like glow and graduated tint. There are 12 effects in all and they are a great way to turn a so-so shot into a wonderful image. The best part of their editing tools is that they’re non-destructive which means that the edits can be changed or removed at any time, taking your photo back to its original state.
Some of the other cool features of Picasa2 are the ability to create slick slideshows, create gift CDs to give to family and friends and the ability to auto-generate a movie from a collection of pictures.
Sharing photos online
With my photo management software chosen and out of the way, I was ready to move on to my online photo sharing software.
I’ve had a photo gallery on my website for some time, but I’ve never been happy with the functionality. I want to be able to share photos with friends and family easily and not have to take up a great deal of space on my website. I didn’t do a lot of research before I received an invitation to join a Wayne County photo group on Flickr. I had heard mention of Flickr before, but didn’t think it was something I would be interested in. I took a look at the group I was invited to and decided to sign up for a free account so I could post my photos to this group. I was instantly amazed at the quality of their services.
Using all of the latest web technologies, Flickr has created a web-based interface that is very easy to use and doesn’t require a lot of clicking or waiting to get things done. The free account even allows you to store an unlimited number of photos (though you can only upload 20Mb worth per month).
One of the best features of Flickr is the community that it is built around. There are millions of people signed up and can look at all of their photos online. However, my favorite feature of Flickr are the groups, which allow you to connect with other people that enjoy taking photos of the same items you do. Do you enjoy taking landscape photos? Beautiful Scenery might be the group for you!
There are so many features that make Flickr great, but you have to try it for yourself to believe it. Why not, it’s free! I’m planning on getting a pro account (it’s only $25/year!!!) soon and moving all of my photos to Flickr and getting rid of my gallery software. I can hardly wait!