?EUR?And There Was Order!

Published Date
01 - Apr - 2005
| Last Updated
01 - Apr - 2005
…And There Was Order!
A digital camera has its advantages such as low running cost, instant access to results and so on. However, managing the images, after transferring them onto your computer is a gargantuan task. With a film camera, all you had to do was click, send them to the studio for developing, and they even would give you an album to store your photos!

With digital cameras, though, your photos are now stored as files on your computer. Searching through a number of un-indexed files on your computer can be a veritable nightmare.   

The problem is akin to when MP3s were a rage. You would have thousands of these files on your hard drive but none tagged properly and searching for a particular song was tedious. Then, someone came up with a multi-feature MP3 manager that allowed tagging, simplifying the whole process.

Similarly, today, we have managers that take impeccable care of your digital photographs. They allow you to take complete control of your digital assets, be they photographs or videos. They let you capture your photographs, tag them, fix minor problems like red eye, apply basic effects like blur and share them in the form of slideshows, calendars, VCDs and much more.

To take you through some practices that should help you take care of your digital photographs, we have taken two of the best available managers; Adobe Photoshop Album 2.0 and Picasa 2 from Google.

As we proceed, we will look into their utility value, in terms simplifying the image management process.
Taking Those Images In
Typically, images on a PC have multiple sources; they could be those shot using your digital camera, a scanned photograph, photos taken by your mobile phone or even wallpapers downloaded from the Internet. So, an image manager should have the options to capture images from all possible sources. The process of acquiring images is often termed as 'Importing'.

As you will see, Photoshop Album 2.0 has a neat, simple interface for importing photographs. It has options for importing from cameras, scanners, mobile phones and folders on your hard disk.

Picasa 2, too, has a similar, simple-to-use interface, but lacks the structured segregation offered by the Adobe product.

Once the photographs are imported from the respective devices, they are stored on your hard drive. In Windows XP, 'My Pictures' is the default folder for storing images. However, as far as possible, avoid storing your photos in this folder. There are two main reasons for this:
First, in case of a virus, where your OS fails to boot, a backup of this folder would be required before you can reinstall the OS.

Second, as the 'My Pictures' folder is in the root drive, C:, an eventual increase in the folder size will slow your system.

The best option is to create a dedicated folder on a partition of your hard drive, and then setting the appropriate path in the image manager. You could even move the entire 'My Documents' folder to a partition for safety.

Once you import the images, they need to be arranged; this is done by cataloguing or categorising.

Cataloguing is the most important step in image management. It decides how fast a particular photograph can be searched from your collection.

There are many ways of categorisation; the simplest is similar to the directory and file structure we have on our computers.

A parent-child relationship exists between the directory and files. The disadvantage of such classification is that a single file cannot be linked to two separate instances unless two copies of the same files are put into two separate folders. This is especially true in case of photographs, as they are connected to a person on multiple levels such as, the event, the people involved, the place, or a variety of factors.

So, if you want to segregate your photographs, you have multiple options to consider; should they be categorised under an event, people or place?

To get past this, you need another method for classification, which runs parallel to the simple directory and file structure and eliminates the need for having multiple copies of the same image. This is achieved by  'Tags'.

Tags allow you to append extra information to the same photograph so it can be linked to multiple occasions or people.

Picasa 2 allows you to add the folder name, captions for the folder, information about the place you shot the photos, and the date at the end of the importing process. This is the first level of categorisation.

Once the photos are arranged in a folder, you can add captions to individual photos too. So, while searching, a filter can be applied for these captions.

For adding tags to a particular photograph in Picasa 2, you need to select it and then click on the 'Label' button in the bottom pane. Every label entry is displayed on the top left hand corner. So for searching, you can go through the label entries, or type in the label or caption.

In Photoshop Album 2.0, once the 'Import' function is completed, images are placed in a temporary folder-Photowell. The next stage is to organise them.

Images can be tagged either by applying pre-defined tags or by creating new ones. You can even create sub-tags under a main category, for example, under the main tag 'People', you can add 'family', 'friends' etc. It also allows you to collect random photographs and group them as a collection (album). This comes in handy when you want to collect, say, all the photographs of cars that are on your hard disk, into one collection called 'Cars'.

From The Word Go 
When you take a photograph with a digital camera, the camera automatically attaches some information related to the photograph to the file. This information is known as meta-data, which includes the date, time, resolution, exposure settings and other technical information. Image management applications often use this information to organise photographs,; especially if the manager has a 'Timeline' feature. It is therefore advisable to set the date and time of your camera before you start shooting. All digital cameras allow appending names to the photographs. Clever use of this feature reduces your post-shooting work and also takes care of basic organisation of photos. For example, append 'party' to photos taken at a party, so when you download them, they will automatically be named as party001, party002, and so on. 

Now, when you need to search for any particular file, you can do so using a tag. A point to note is that Photoshop Album 2.0 does not allow you to search by typing; it has check boxes against the name of the tag. When you search by applying a particular tag, you select the check box against that tag. You can also check multiple boxes so that it does a 'or', 'and' and 'not' search. This search methodology is not available with the Picasa 2.
Straightening Out Those Rough Edges
No matter how diligently you take those pictures, they lack that extra bit, you think, would make them outstanding. In digital photography, the trick lies in post-shooting touch ups that can transform mediocre photographs into breathtaking shots.

Red-eye, blur due to shaky hands, dark photographs due to improper lighting are some common aliments in digital photography and any image manager worth its salt should be able to correct these aberrations.

Picasa 2 comes with some neat handy tools, which let you play around with your photographs and brings in that professional touch. These tricks are divided into three categories-Basic Fixes, Tuning and Effects.
Basic Fixes offer a one-click solution for some common problems, such as Auto Contrast, Auto Colour, and Fill Light. It also consists of a 'Cropping' and a Red-eye removal tool. One feature in particular that we found quite unique and interesting was the 'Straighten' tool. It allows you to straighten a tilted photograph i.e., it aligns the subject along the vertical axis.

'Tuning' provides that extra control over lighting conditions and shadows. Here, too, you have a one-touch correct option, which that does the magic, in case you fall short of the requisite creative ability.

Finally, 'Effects', allows you to apply digital effects by using filters. In all, there are 12 effects that can be applied on the fly, at the click of a mouse. In case you don't like the final output, there's always 'Undo'!

Compared to Picasa 2, the touchup options in Photoshop Album 2.0 are limited, though it does offer the necessary tools cutting out the fancy bells and whistles.

For fixing your photographs, you need to click on the 'Fix' button in the main menu, which opens a window. The fixes are classified into General, Red-eye, Crop and Filters.

The fixing window has 'Before', 'After', and 'Before & After' panes that lets you view the photo to be touched up in three versions as the names suggest. We found the 'Before & After' pane useful since the resultant effects after applying a fix are easy to notice.

For applying any fix in Photoshop Album 2.0, you need to click on the check box that automatically applies the fix. Clicking on the adjoining 'Expand' button reveals options for finer control over the fix.

Spreading The Warmth
The best part about digital photography is that you can make as many copies as you want at a click of a button and share them with friends and family. You can also put them up on your website, make an e-card, a photo-VCD, or a slideshow.

When it comes to sharing photographs, Picasa and Photoshop Album have some unique features. Photoshop Album 2.0, though, scores over Picasa, as it offers significant, yet unique and simple ways to share photos.

Photoshop Album 2.0 allows creation of your own albums, slideshows, VCDs, eCards, calendar, and photo book. It provides you with more templates than you would need for creating that special album or calendar.

In fact it requires just six steps to make any of the above (Refer explanation below). While slideshows are common, albums, calendars, and VCDs require some optimisation for proper printing and running. Photoshop Album 2.0 does all necessary optimisations for printing an album on your desktop printer.

Picasa 2 has options that help create posters, collages, screensavers, and even a movie, straight from the selected photographs. Once created, you can print them, e-mail them or send them directly to www.blogger.com for sharing using hello.com.

Like all other digital assets that can vanish off your hard drive in the event of a hard drive crash or any other outage, digital photographs are also prone to the same fate; so a backup is a must.

A good image manager should provide you the option of backing up your photos on a CD/DVD or to some other machine on your network.

Both, Picasa 2 and Photoshop Album 2.0, have backup options built into them, which work flawlessly. Moreover, both applications allow incremental backup, thereby saving precious space on your hard drive.

The Verdict
To conclude, Picasa 2 and Photoshop Album 2.0 are excellent in what they do, although Photoshop Album 2.0 comes across as a full-fledged professional application. Picasa 2, though, is excellent considering it's free.

We recommend Photoshop Album 2.0, though, to those who have to deal with a lot of phot graphs on a daily basis. For an amateur, Picasa 2 should do.

It's important to remember though, that digital photographs can add up in numbers rapidly and maintaining an easy-to-remember system of tagging and  nomenclature is a must.

Creating A Calendar Using Adobe Photoshop Album 2.0 

1.Click on 'Create' and select         4. You can add photos for each
'Calendar' to begin                            month of the year

2.The next stage is to choose        5. A preview of what the
a template                                         calendar will look like

3.Name the calendar and decide    6.You could e-mail, print or make
the year you want it for                     a PDF of the calendar

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