Picasa is My Friend

December 21, 2009

OK peeps, I think it’s time I spill the beans on how I take and manipulate my photos.  Several of you have sent me emails asking me about the camera and the software I use on this site.  I’m here to share.  Sharing is what I do.  I love to share, especially with those of you just starting out.  Ha, that’s funny.  “Just starting out.”  That’s me, like, nine months ago.  Strange, surreal, and completely true. 

But first, before I share, I have a few confessions to make. 

First confession:  Believe me when I tell you I am a complete amateur when it comes to photography.  (Some of you are saying, “Um, yes, we know that.”)  In fact, if you said the word “aperture” to me a few months ago, I’d have looked at you cross-eyed. 

Second confession:  I have a really killer camera that does half the work for me.  My weapon of choice is a Nikon D60 and it totally rocks.  Mr. CG bought it for me two years ago when I complained about my flimsy digital never taking pictures when I wanted it to.  You know that 3/4 second delay that misses the moment ?  That fleeting precious moment when your kid is doing the cutest thing ever ?  Then your camera never captures it ?  Hated that.  I complained constantly.  Tears welled.  I might have thrown my old camera a few times.  Then hubby bought me my Nikon. 

Yes, they’re expensive, but oh my goodness gracious darling, are they ever so worth it.  Mine has paid for itself tenfold with the quality of pictures it has given me.

nikon d60 

For example, take this most recent picture of chocolate covered biscotti from yesterday.  My friends, I simply set the camera to “no flash” and shot this beauty.  The camera did 80% of the work. 

biscotti up close

Third confession:  I’ve learned to never ever ever use a flash.  The flash is not your friend when taking up close and personal shots of your latest craft, project, recipe, or kid.  Turn it off, that’s all I can say.  Turn.Off.The.Flash.  Light is your friend.  The flash is not. 

Fourth confession:  I do not use Photoshop for my everyday blog editing.  I don’t have the patience, time, or in depth knowledge of Photoshop to manipulate every single photo.  Yes, I’m learning the program slowly, but I never turn to Photoshop for my everyday blog photos. 

I use Picasa.  Picasa is free.

Picasa is my friend ! 

And I’m not being paid to say this.  When it comes to the basic manipulating and uploading of pictures for this blog?  Picasa is where it’s at.  At least for me. 

Case in point.

Here’s a shot of a pair of platinum diamond rings taken at Tiffanys in San Francisco. 

Dark, uninteresting.  Not impressive.

tiffany 1

 

With Picasa I change the tuning by adding light and enhancing shadow

tiffany 4 temp

 

Crop photo

tiffany 5

 

Change temperature from warm to cooler, then pull saturation out

tiffany6

 

Crop some more

tiffany 7 crop

 

Sharpen picture

tiffany 8 sharpen

Now that’s worth looking at.  And all in about 7 seconds with Picasa.  Seriously.

 

You can also give it some glow too.

tiffany glow

 

Or add a soft focus

tiffanys soft focus

That takes about 3 more seconds. 

 

You go from this:

tiffany 1

 

To this, in about 10 seconds (once you’re proficient)

tiffany glow

 

And you’ll be proficient in no time because look how user friendly these tabs are:

picasa options

 

How about when you take photos at night?  First of all I must say I rarely take photos at night, because you always need good light to take a decent photo.  Unless you’re taking one of those cool “look at my candlelight glow” shots for effect.  But I hesitate to ever take a picture at night because the lighting simply stinks.  And I refuse to use my flash. 

See this cruddy picture of my holiday sideboard taken in the evening?  It has far too many warm tones in my book, but its completely salvageable.  

ex night 

Increase light, enhance shadow, change temperature from warm to cool

ex 3 temp

Crop

ex 4 crop

Reduce saturation

ex 5 saturation

Sharpen

ex 6 sharpen

Add glow

ex 7 glow

Before and After, in ten seconds:

before and after ornaments 

Yes, yes, Photoshop could do a heck of a lot better, and you real photographers know it.  But for everyday editing for this blog? I’ll stick with Picasa.  That is, until I master Photoshop. 

You can make collages for your blog, like the one above, or like this one below. 

poinsettia decor

Purty huh ? 

Many of you already use Picasa, know of its virtues, and have sung its praises, so much of this is very old news.  But for those of you (like me) who are newer to this blogging thing, pay a visit to my friend Sarah over at Clover Lane for a brilliant tutorial on making a custom header for Blogger in Picasa. 

And the best part ?  Picasa is free.  Free ! 

A couple more tips from this self proclaimed complete and total amateur. 

If you have a PC, use Windows Live Writer for Blogger or WordPress to upload and publish your pictures.  You can adjust them to your exact pixel width and make a better impression with a larger photo.

Because.I.Cannot.Stand.Uploading.In.Blogger.Or.WordPress. 

It gives me nightmares. 

And if you have a great camera where you can manipulate the settings, keep your resolution on medium, not small, experiment with your Aperture and Shutter Speed settings, try increasing your ISO sensitivity to 400 or 800, and try to use your “Vivid” or “Soften” settings to change the exposure of your pictures.  It’s what I do, but I’m still learning.

But I’ve got nothing, and I mean nothing, on the Diva of Photography, Ms. PW.  That’s the Pioneer Woman, for those of you who just landed from Mars.  If you want a real lesson in photography, go visit, but beware, you’ll be lost in her tutorials for hours, they’re so good.  

So you see?  Picasa is your friend, especially for us beginners in photography!  If you haven’t already, download it now and give it a try.  

Happy shooting, cropping, and editing !

If you’re a blogger, or a gen-u-ine photographer, feel free to add your two cents on taking, editing, and uploading pictures.  Feel free to mock me.  Am I living in the dark ages ?  Is there something better out there ?   That’s free and user friendly ?  What camera or software do you use ?  Do share.  Inquiring minds want to know. 

*******  UPDATE:  I’ve downloaded Picnik based on all of your suggestions and like what I see !  Will report back in the New Year with its performance . . . .

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