Not everyone can afford their own copy of Adobe Photoshop (even with the student editions offered by sites like JourneyEd or CampusTech), and it’s not always convenient to drive to the campus just to touch-up your pictures.
A good alternative program to consider for “basic” photo-editing, in my experience, is Google’s Picasa.
Like most Google products, not only is Picasa free, it also focuses on user-friendliness and intuitive controls.
Though Picasa is lacking in sheer power compared to Photoshop, it’s also has a much smaller learning curve to use effectively.
The following is a quick crash-course on the tools available in Picasa for editing your photos.
Uploading Photos With Picasa
Uploading your pictures is painless with Picasa. With computers running Windows, when you put in your SD card, it should bring up a prompt with “upload pictures using Picasa” among the options.
After selecting this option, Picasa will run and begin automatically copying your photos.
While this operation is running, you can select or create a destination folder for your uploaded images.
After copying has finished, you can either select which images you’d like to upload, or simply ‘Upload All Photos’.
After the pictures have uploaded, you’ll be taken to your Picasa Library, from here it is simply a matter of selecting a photo to edit.
Double-clicking an image opens it in the Picture Editor, though you can easily select other pictures to alter without having to exit the screen.
Editing Photos In Picasa
Editing and altering your photos is intuitive and easy with Picasa. Most of the available tools are labeled in a self-explanatory way, and the level of adjustment is controlled with a slide bar.
As you move the slide bar, Picasa will render the changes in real time, allowing you to preview the changes without committing to them.
If you change your mind about the alteration, a prominently displayed and easily-accessed ‘Undo’ button is found in each tool’s menu.
Editing tools in Picasa are found in three tabs located to the left of your selected image. Here’s a brief description of the three tabs and the tools they contain:
While most of the tools shown in the image to the left are pretty self-explanatory, a few are worthy of further explanation.
I’m Feeling Lucky: A Google standard, this tool makes automatic alterations based on algorithms and image characteristics.
Auto Contrast: This tool attempts to correct the contrast of the image without user input.
Auto Color: Similar to the aforementioned tools, this feature gives the colors in your image a tune-up.
The second panel of Picasa’s tool suite consists of four slide bars,
The last slider, ‘Color Temperature’, changes the dominant color in the photo, similar to changing your camera’s white balance setting.
From the ‘Effects’ tab, you can add various properties and filters to your pictures.
With ‘Effects’, you can accomplish many tasks with photos.
Change color pictures to black and white or sepia tones, sharpen or blur the focus, and the like with ease.
With most of these options, you can select only specific areas to adjust, or target the entire picture.
The only real drawback I can think of with using Google Picasa for editing your photos, is that there is no simple and easy option for adding borders to your pictures without printing them.
While there are methods to add photo borders using Picasa, it is a bit involved for the scope of this tutorial. That, and other advanced features of Picasa will have to wait for future blog entries…
Picasa 3.8 is available for download on Windows and Mac operating systems.
– Wayne Sisson