When you take a lot of photos, you know how frustrating it is to take the perfect picture. It does not matter what type of media or camera you’re using, because the slightest movement, difficult lighting conditions, or a fast moving subject can significantly change the composition of your actual photo. Every photographer needs good photo editing tools to rehabilitate and rescue your “almost” perfect pictures.
Google’s Picasa application is a free, easy to use photo editor that plugs directly into Google’s Picasa Web Albums service. It has a lot of features that will help you clean up your images quickly, and helps you share them on the Web with ease. If you are new to image manipulation, Picasa is a great tool, because it does a lot of the work for you, and helps you edit images very quickly.
Installing and Using Picasa
After you download Picasa from Google, just run the application to install it. The first time you run the application, it will search your PC for images, and automatically add them. The Picasa Library allows you to arrange and organize your photos, create image sets, and label photos.
You can also Import images directly from your camera, and Sync your images to the Web. When you’re ready to edit an image, just double-click it, and it’s ready to edit.
The image manipulation tools on the Basic Fixes tab are what you expect from any photo manipulation app. You can Crop, Straighten, Retouch, correct Redeye, and change the lighting. If you want to add comments to a picture, the Text tool lets you do it with ease.
Picasa can also automatically adjust both the contrast and colour for you with the click of a button, so it takes the guess-work out of correcting basic colour issues in your photos.
The Crop feature allows you to define the area of the picture you want to keep using your mouse, but it also gives you a Manual option. You can choose the image size and ratio to crop your image with, so you do not have to worry about trimming the image later. When you choose one of the options from the menu, the selected area of your photo automatically adjusts to that size and ratio.
You can create a 5×7” photo or a CD Cover in seconds. After you define the size of the area you want to retain, you can click and drag the selected area to move it to the area of the photo you want to focus on. It is exceedingly easy to change the focus and resize a picture while maintaining specific dimensions.
If you want to write on your photos, the Text tool makes it as simple as possible. When you select Text, just choose your font options, click anywhere on the image, and start typing.
If you scan a lot of photos, the Straighten and Retouch tools will allow you to correct crooked scans and heal blemishes. It takes a few minutes to straighten and touch-up a photo in Picasa, and it would take a lot more time to make the same corrections in applications like Photoshop.
The tools on the Tuning tab all essentially adjust the colours in the photo. You can adjust the Fill Light, Highlights, Shadows, and Colour Temperature to make your photo look more natural, and more like the original subject. As you adjust the slider bars, your image will update immediately, and you can choose to keep or discard the changes if you do not like them.
The Effects tab allows you to make wholesale changes to the entire image with the click of a button. You can take a colour image and convert it to B&W or Sepia. You can add a Tint to an image to make it look like you’re viewing it through colored sunglasses. You can change the colour Saturation to brighten the colours in the image or tone them down.
With the Film Grain and Soft Focus tools, you can actually change the entire texture of the picture and make it look like it was taken with a film camera or with a different type of lens.
Picasa is a very easy application to use, because all of the features are labelled simplistically. Tuning your photo is a matter of changing the settings on a few sliding bars. The Effects are easy to apply to your picture, and the most common types of photo effects are all available with the click of a button.
One of the best parts about Picasa is that when you make a change, your image is adjusted immediately, and you have the option to Apply, Cancel, Undo, or Redo the changes. Picasa has all of the functionality that any novice or intermediate photographer would need to touch up images. If you scan a lot of photos, it can also help you straighten and touch up images to remove flaws.
Picasa will help you organize your images, clean them up, and help you share them on the Web. If you are in need of a powerful image manipulation tool and do not have a lot of money to spend Picasa is perfect. As your photography and image manipulation skills progress, you may need to move up to a more powerful application, but this is a great to start out with.