Suffering post holiday happy-snap headaches? Got so many photos crowding the hard-disk, you feel like throwing them all away? If that sounds like you, we've got some programs and pointers to help ease your nightmare.
(Credit: Derek Fung)
Each time we go shutter-happy, we're reminded of digital photography's beautiful myth. Yes, fancy cameras and impressive megapixel counts can deliver brilliant photos far above the usual point-and-shoot quality, but then there's that time-consuming task of cropping, editing, captioning, and distributing the sprawling photo collection.
Don't be put off by the time and effort it takes to process a large batch of photos — here's a step-by-step guide to help you share your photos with friends and family.
Step 1: Image editing
Many digital cameras come with some basic photo editing software for getting photos from your camera to your computer, plus a couple of extra tools like the ability to resize and remove red-eye. They're not always the most effective, but work well enough for the average user posting to a Web album.
If you're willing to invest a bit more time and money though, you'll be rewarded. For AU$245, Photoshop Elements impresses as an all-around editor with a features arcade and powerful editing tools.
For those who are a little more stingy, never fear — there are plenty of free image editing tools available. Below are a couple of our favourites.
- Paint.NET is a robust, consistent achiever in freeware photo editing. Though it supports layering and blend modes, bear in mind that it's intended for personal rather than professional use.
- FastStone does a first-rate job with essential tools for resizing and filters, great for simple edits.
- GIMP is another good editor that can perform many tasks like retouching, across a wide number of platforms including Windows, Linux and Mac.
- IrfanView is a stalwart of the free image editing scene, available as a download for Windows. Though the interface isn't as pretty as some of the other options listed here, it's incredibly fast and does a good job of batch-processing tasks, like resizing a bunch of photos in one go.
Step 2: Organising and sharing photos
Windows Vista has an inbuilt photo gallery that displays image thumbnails in its default view, making files easier to identify; however, Windows 2000 and XP users can achieve the same effect, and arguably a better one, with the programs listed below.
Picasa in action.
Picasa, Google's free photo software, is a full-service image manager (for Windows and Linux only, but there is a Mac uploader for Picasa Web Albums) that makes finding and sharing photos painless. Picasa optimises photos for export via e-mail, uploading to a Picasa Web album, posting to Blogger, and rolling a geotagged image into Google Earth.
Webshots Desktop similarly organises with an intent to upload, but situates itself as a desktop manager that allows shutterbugs to drag and drop photos to their online Webshots account.
Flickr is Yahoo's photo sharing service. With the standard free account, users can upload 100MB of photos per month via the web interface, email or mobile phone. You can organise photos into sets, tag images and let friends and family see your shots by sharing the URL to your Flickr account. Pro users (for US$24.95 per year) have unlimited uploads and additional photo editing tools.
Step 3: Printing and storing photos
While it's great to be able to share photos instantly with friends and family using the above tools, sometimes it's nice to have a physical reminder of your holiday memories. There are a number of ways to do this — either by purchasing a dedicated photo printer or multifunction printer with photo capabilities, take a memory card full of images to your local photo store or photo kiosk, or use an online printing service like Snapfish.
Dedicated photo printers have the advantage of being more compact than their multifunction counterparts and are often easier to use because they don't have to be connected to a computer. Multifunction printers by their nature perform several tasks and most have the ability to produce photo prints as well, though they are generally more cumbersome and often don't produce as good pictures as a dedicated photo printer of the same price.
Online photo printing services allow you to upload a number of images and select print sizes, paper finishes and options like collating your prints in a photo book, all delivered to your door. Some services like Fujicolor even allow you to pick up your prints at participating photo stores.