Using Picasa Photo Viewer
By Brooke Saunders
One of the greatest free programs on the Internet is Google's Picasa. Clever name, and I can imagine Picasso himself would have fun with this easy to use program. Besides those great vacation photos, it is vital for ecommerce projects. If you are taking pictures of people and products, you have to get the pictures just right before uploading them or making a slide show.
When you try out other programs to edit photos, you really find out how tough they are to use, and/or just plain annoying. Recently I was trying to find ones that did something that Picasa couldn't, and I could barely figure them out, even the simple functions took a lot of effort. And the gold standard, Photoshop, which has wonderful features far beyond Picasa, is tricky to use for the beginner.
To get Picasa, google "Picasa download," and you'll find it right away. Download the program and save it, and then open it. To start editing a picture, click on the option to import a file under "File," and select your picture you wish to edit.
The functions are extremely clear and easy to use, including crop, retouch, and many others. One icon is "I'm Feeling Lucky," which is a one-stop general photo enhancer that I find useful for some photographs, always worth a try.
One handy feature is the "undo" button, you can always click "undo crop" or "undo straighten," and start again.
If you look next to the "Basic Fixes" tab, you'll see "Tuning," where you can lighten or darken a photograph. If you have a photo that is washed-out looking, darkening it can make a dramatic difference. Lighting can also help a murky or dark photo.
Picasa is great for preparing photographs to use in a Movie Maker slide show, as you need to get them just right before you start a project. I usually create a special folder that has the photos I plan to use, and after finishing them in Picasa, I save them in that folder ready to access when I start.
You can salvage photos that don't look so good for one reason or another with all the various features in Picasa, and also in Windows Movie Maker. Besides obvious improvements such as lightening a photo or darkening it with the "tuning" feature, you can make it sepia tone, black and white, or saturate the colors. This is useful for pictures that look faded, and still need to be brightened. Try darkening a photo to bring out the color first, and then try saturation. Too much saturation is not good, and the nice thing about Picasa is that you can easily tell with the "what you see what you get" aspect of how it works.
One neat trick Picasa has is the ability to blur part of the photograph around a clear part of the image, you can both increase the width and intensity of the blurring to great effect. I once made a color photograph sepia toned, and blurred half the image except for the focal point, and it came out great. You can even make part of the picture in color and part of it in black and white.
Also, since you are in the Google empire, you can easily post a photo to your blog by clicking on the blog option at the bottom and follow the prompts.
One thing to remember when you are scanning a photograph from a print or other image is that you must close in all the sides in the scanning of the image. If you put a small picture in the middle of the scanner and save it with all the white border around it remaining, it makes it very hard to enlarge in Picasa. So use the feature in your scanner to move the frame in until it leaves very little white space before saving.
Though sometimes you can crop white space out around a photo, and it will enlarge when you save it, sometimes it won't, and ends up a tiny image that does not fill the screen.
One good thing about Picasa is that it saves the original photograph, so you don't lose it when playing around with the editing. I'm not exactly sure how all this works, but as with all programs, explore and test every corner of the software on all types of photos, and you'll find out plenty of new things.
You can't beat the price, absolutely free, and combining all other factors, Picasa is one of the top products when you need those photos for family or business edited.
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