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Picasa saves the world

September 2008


The world of photography has been turned on its head in recent years by the introduction of digital cameras and their incorporation in all sorts of other gadgets, most notably into mobile telephones. In fact, the quality of cameras that are being built into these phones these days is so high, and the quality of mobile phone reception seems (to me, at any rate) to be declining so fast, that there is some question as to whether they are phones with cameras added or the other way around.

However, whilst the cost of photography has dropped, mainly because we no longer need to buy and develop films before we see the pictures we have taken, the law of unintended consequences has lurched into view, as usual. The technological “advance” has meant that we have to learn a whole raft of new skills, such as how to connect our cameras to a computer before we can see pictures in a decent size, how to use new software, how to send photos by email or order prints, and so on.

Compared with taking a film to the chemist and going back a day or two later for the pictures, it’s a nightmare.

So, assuming that what you want is to be able to deal with normal family snaps, rather than professional or highly technical photos, this is my advice.

First, ignore whatever free software came with your camera. It will almost certainly be complex, badly designed, difficult to use and incomparable with other programmes on your computer. Instead, install Picasa, the free programme from Google (you can download by clicking here) is all most of us will ever need.

Without too much effort on your part, it will transfer pictures from your camera to your computer and organise them into files, as well as allow you to edit and add effects to them. The built in instruction file is pretty good, and if you work through the “Learn the Basics” section you should be able to get to grips with it fairly quickly.

Where it really comes into its own, however, is giving us all the ability easily (and for nothing) to publish our pictures on a website for others to see and make their own copies if they want.

I think this is a terrific system, especially for families. Suppose you take a few pictures at a family party; you get them onto your computer (via Picasa), decide which are the ones worth keeping, and delete the rest. You can then tinker with them a bit – lighten them, perhaps, or cut out the “red eye”. You can then upload the good ones to free a “Picasa Web Album” and send an email to any interested parties with the web address of the album.

Each of them can then look at the pictures using their own computer, and download copies for their own use, perhaps to use to order prints of their own from a commercial service, or print them out themselves on their own equipment.

This has two huge benefits, one for you and one for the recipient. For your part, you pass the cost and bother of getting copies done onto the person that wants them. This will save you a fortune and lower your blood pressure. And from their point of view, they can view the album of pictures as fast or as slowly as they want, when they want without having to listen to your commentary, which will keep their blood pressure lower, too. Everybody wins.

I have demonstrated some of the effects you can achieve with Picasa elswhere - just click here.