Being able to take hundreds of travel photos with a digital camera gives rise to a new problem – how to quickly sort through all those pictures from your digital camera to select the best ones without it becoming a longwinded chore? Google’s free photo organising software Picasa can be a big help
People with digital cameras tend to take a lot more photos than back in the days of film. Because there’s no processing cost to see the pictures and you can see what you’ve taken immediately on the camera’s LCD screen, snapping lots of shots is the easy way to ensure you get the perfect picture. The big advantages of digital cameras give rise to a new problem – how to quickly sort through hundreds of pictures from your digital camera to select the best ones without it becoming a longwinded chore? This has been a real problem for me since I started trying to get better at photography. It’s not unusual for me to come back from a two week trip with over a thousand photos on my memory cards – and the prospect of sorting through them was daunting, to the point where I was putting it off because it seemed too time consuming.
The solution was using Google’s Picasa photo gallery and editing software. It’s completely free and available for download as part of the Google Pack. For me, it’s become an all-in-one package – not only does it download and organise all my images and let me easily pick out and recategorise the best ones, it also provides some extremely simple to use but quite powerful tools to tweak and correct images. So, as it might someone else out there grappling with how to organise their travel photos, here’s my method for quick and easy photo sorting and organisation.
1) Downloading and storing photos from your camera
Picasa is extremely easy to use and intuitive – it automatically starts up when you plug your camera into your computer and downloads your pictures for you (click the Import button on the top left if it doesn’t). Then the program prompts you save the pics into a folder with a name of your choosing, and organises all your folders on the left of the screen under the Library column. I have found that sometimes Picasa stalls during this process, after which closing and repening the program and switching the camera on and off tends to sort it out.
2) Identifying your best pictures
Where Picasa comes into its own is the ease with which you can run through each folder of images and mark the best ones, all using keyboard shortcuts which is much quicker than using a mouse to point and click. Select a folder, and thumbnails of all the folder’s images appear on the screen. Use the keyboard’s left and right arrow keys to go back and forth sequentially through the folder’s images. To mark a good image, press the space bar. This makes the image “starred” and a yellow star momentarily appears on the screen (and falls off the screen if you press the space bar again to de-star the image). This way you can quickly plough through an entire folder’s contents in a few minutes using the left and right arrow keys to go backwards and forwards and the space bar to star images. I don’t get too fussy at this point – I star all my images that are halfway decent and above, not necessarily keepers.
3) Separating your best pictures from the pack
Once you’ve starred all the images, click the Back To Library button in the top left corner. The thumbnails appear again and you’ll see all the images you’ve starred now have a small star in the right hand corner of their thumbnail. What you can do now is store all of your best pix in their own album so as to keep them easily separately from the morass of mediocre pix in the original folder you downloaded. The image still remains in the same physical place on your hard drive, but Picasa lets you organise your pix into albums to group and categorise them however you want. Picasa albums are like labels or tags – you can put the same image in as many different albums as you want. Select File and New Album (or press CTRL+N). The program will prompt you to name your new album – I usually call it “Best Of Whatever The Original Folder Name Was”. Select Edit and then “Select All Starred”. You can now drag all the starred images into the new album which will have appeared at the top of the left hand Libary column.
4) Show off your pictures
That’s it – you’re done. You’ve just been through and selected and seperated all the interesting photos from the photos you’ve downloaded, and over time using the same method you’ll end up with several albums all showcasing your best pix of each different place you’ve been to. When you click on any Album, it will show all the thumbnails in it – click on any thumbnail and use the right and left arrow keys to go back and forth to show off the images to other people. You can email your pix and also blog them using Blogger direct from Picasa. You can also batch export your photos – useful if you want to post them on your own custom built website – or use Picasa’s built in Web Album functionality to publish them directly online.
5) Changing your mind
If you decide some of the images in the album shouldn’t really be there, simply press delete and the picture will be removed from the album – but not from your hard drive. This way you can keep refining your choice of best pictures if you wish. You can also use Picasa’s tweaking tools to enhance the images without altering the original file you downloaded. Using those, however, is a subject for another posts as this one is quite long enough!
Here’s the Picasa download link again:
Do you have any tips for using Picasa? Do you think there’s better free photo organising software out there (for PCs?). Do leave a comment if so. Thanks.