I want my gardening photos to have the "WOW" factor like so many I see on Dave's Garden. I'm not a great photographer, and even though I have a fairly good camera (Sony DSC-H1), my photos sometimes need a bit of tweaking. Some of my photos are too dark, or too big, or not centered right. Some aren't crisp enough for me. Picasa can fix all of these things. Let me show you what I've learned in the past few weeks.
You can download Picasa here if you haven't done so already. This article will show you some of the things that Picasa is capable of.
Picasa has been downloaded and tested for a couple of weeks now. I've been working on a major family ancestry project with a multitude of photos and this program has really improved the photos that I have on my computer. I've been using it for just about all of my editing since I downloaded it and I think it's an awesome program! Picasa took my "oh, these are nice photos" and made them into "WOW! These are super nice photos!".
While I haven't found a place to add text to or "draw circles", etc. on my photos, for most basic "fixes" of photographs, Picasa works very well indeed!
Tools to Fix Photographs
I've included bigger photos of the Tuning Tabs so you can actually read them. You may need to refer to these again when viewing some of the photos below. Once you've selected a photo to work on (by double clicking it) there are several sets of tools you can use.
The first tab is for BASIC FIXES, like cropping, straightening, removing red-eye, changing color and contrast. One of my favorites is "I'm Feeling Lucky"! You can also slide the fill light to lighten your photos.
Clicking on the second tab of that set of tools takes you to the TUNING options. The slider bars allow you more fine tuning for FILL LIGHT, HIGHLIGHTS, SHADOWS and COLOR TEMPERATURE.
Those little boxes on the right are AUTOMATIC corrections that the program detects for lighting and (on the bottom) for color correction. I usually click there first. If I'm still not happy with the results, I begin sliding the bars until I am satisfied. Notice also the Neutral Color Picker. When the automatic buttons are pressed, the circle changes colors. I'm not really sure what the purpose of this is.
At any time, you can click on UNDO and it goes back just like it was before you began. If you change your mind and like it afterall? Click REDO. Both Undo and Redo are at the bottom of the options, but are not visible to click on until you actually make changes.
The next tab is for SPECIAL EFFECTS. As you can see, this tab is for modifying your photo using special effects. I haven't tried them all yet. Some are pretty straight forward and some of them are pretty sophisticated in their adjustments. Playing around with it is half the fun! And again, don't worry. If you don't like what happens, you can ALWAYS click on Undo.
One important thing to remember when using Picasa is that when changes are made to the photos, the pictures aren't truly saved until you tell it to SAVE CHANGES. You will need to click on that BACK TO LIBRARY button when you finish editing. Then look at the top of the directory you are working in for the button that tells you to SAVE CHANGES. There will be a number in parenthesis beside that button indicating how many photos in that directory were changed.
Once you click SAVE CHANGES, the photos will be saved securely. Until then, you can always go back to a photo and undo your actions or make additional corrections. I just found out that even after you've saved it, you can go back and UNSAVE it and STILL Undo the steps you took. Sounds pretty fool proof to me.
Quite often, I find out after I download my photos from my camera to my computer, the lighting isn't right. Either the photo is too bright or in some cases, not bright enough. Picasa can fine tune these photos for me. These screen shot images show what you will see as you are correcting the photo.
Click on the TUNING TAB.
SLIDE BARS with mouse until satisfied
You can see how I've adjusted the Fill Light and Highlights slider bars until I'm satisfied with the lighting on this photo.
Here are the before and after photos of this Hardy Gloxinia.
More examples of lighting corrections.
Correcting Night Time Lighting
I have the hardest time taking good night time photos. My hands aren't steady enough to get good images without using a flash. The results with the flash are usually too bright and glaring for me.
Using Picasa, I can correct photos that I would have ordinarily deleted. Use those slider bars until the lighting pleases you.
Sometimes the photos we think we are taking don't look nearly as good as we intended them to because of all of the excess background "stuff". Cropping usually means that we get a much smaller image than we started with. Picasa allows you to choose the area you want and enlarges it to create a beautiful photo. Click on the CROP button.
Hold your mouse button down, starting in one corner, and dragging the mouse to the opposite corner. When you release the button on the mouse, you will see what the new image will look like. You can adjust the edges of the photo at this point until you are satisfied.
When you click on APPLY, the image will show your beautiful plant without all of that excess stuff in the background.
This is what the new image will look like. Be sure to SAVE CHANGES when you are finished.
More examples of cropping and lightening
This is the first year I've noticed the lovebugs on this particular tree and he blooms were covered in them. I took some photos to share on the photo forum but you couldn't see the lovebugs at all. I didn't want to take macro shots because I wanted to show how many lovebugs there were on the flowers, and not necessarily a close up of the lovebugs themselves. By cropping and lightening the photo, the lovebugs became much more visible.
Cropping Photos to Center the Image
Sometimes a photo needs to be cropped so the image is more centered. Picasa makes this very easy to accomplish.
Just follow the instructions above to center your photo.
Once you have it centered, click on APPLY.
Your image is now centered beautifully.
Sharpening the Image
While that image might be centered beautifully, it lacked the crispness I was trying to achieve. Clicking on the SPECIAL EFFECTS area and then the SHARPEN button, the edges of the image are more defined and the image is much crisper.
Converting images to Black and White
I love black and white photos. Picasa makes it easy to convert any image to black and white. That same image from above is easily converted with the click of the Black and White button.
Before and after
I'm Feeling Lucky
The image we cropped earlier looked good. But I know it could look better. The colors seem a bit on the dull side. Clicking on I'm Feeling Lucky allows Picasa to really show you what it's made of.
Notice the vivid colors in this photo now and the way the image just pops right off the screen.
This great button gives the photo that "WOW" factor I wanted when I took this shot.
This image should be familiar to anyone with tall plants. I spend a lot of time rotating my photos. Picasa makes this task very easy.
There are 2 little buttons below each image (I forgot to circle those for this article.) that when clicked will rotate the image either clockwise or counter clockwise.
Wasn't that easy?
Straightening your image
Sometimes when I take photos, I download them and see that the camera wasn't parallel with my subject. Picasa makes it easy to straighten up my error.
This is especially helpful with horizon shots, but we'll use this photo of my house as an example.
Clicking on Straighten Image from the Basic Fixes menu brings up a faint grid over the image and a slider bar.
I can use the slider bar to slightly rotate my image until it's straight. In addition to straightening this photo, I lightened it a bit.
Making a Collage from Your Photos
I love making collages. It's a lot of work though, lining up photos to make them pleasing to the eyes, especially with a large group of photos. Picasa does the work for you with just a couple of clicks of the buttons. The Collage button is circled in the image to show you it's location.
Select the photos you want to include. I collect coleus so I chose this folder for my demonstration.
I selected them ALL by holding down the ctrl button and pressing A. The thumbnails will show in the bottom left corner of the images that you've selected.
Next I clicked on the COLLAGE button. I then get to choose whether I want a PICTURE GRID collage or a PICTURE PILE collage. Making a "Contact Sheet" of my photos is also an option. After only a moment, my collage is completed.
Picture Grid Collage
Picture Pile Collage
I've thoroughly enjoyed using Picasa these past few weeks and will continue to use it. Picasa makes editing photos very easy. I haven't tried everything yet. But I'm sure over time, I will find a reason to try each of these cool buttons in this program. All in all, it does everything it said it would. And for free, you just can't beat it with a stick! I hope you'll try out Picasa.
About Janet Colvin
Living in Southeast Texas, I have always enjoyed tropical plants and warm sunny weather. My gardening has become much more diverse and my plant collection has rapidly multiplied since joining the great folks at Dave's Garden. Working with my sister, we create unique copper garden art. I love to think outside of the box and can be found in the Coleus and Artisans Forum.