Saturday, March 24, 2012

Hard to believe that Picasa is free

In an earlier post, I promised you I would tell you more about Picasa—a Google program that you can download for free. I can’t take credit for discovering Picasa on my own—a friend told me about it—but I like it so much that I want to encourage you to use it, too.

So what exactly does it do? It gives you an easy way to share, search, and edit your photos. I actually don’t use it for sharing, but it basically allows you to create on-line web albums. You can make the albums private and share only with friends and family or you can make them public for everyone to view.

I do use it to search my photos, and it’s so much easier to find a photo than via Windows Explorer. If you are looking for a photo via Windows Explorer that you don’t know the name of, you have to open each subdirectory individually to look for it.

With Picasa, the subdirectories are listed in a column on the left, and you have the option to click on any of them that you wish, but it’s not necessary. If you’re unsure where a photo is, all of the thumbnails will be displayed so that all you have to do is scroll from top to bottom to easily find what you’re looking for. And the thumbnails are quite large, so they are much easier to view.

Other than by file name, you can enter different search criteria such as ISO or camera model, just to name a few. You can even click on a photo of a person and have it look for photos with similar faces—pretty cool. You can also add photos to a star folder and search accordingly to easily find your best photos.

One of best features that it offers is straightening. All you have to do is click on the straightening tool and your photo will display with a grid pattern that makes it super easy to see how to make the correction via a slider that you move to the right or left.

The red eye correction is fabulous, too. With Windows Photo Gallery you have to physically tell it where the eyes are located to remove the red, but Picasa knows where the eyes are—how does it do that—and all you have to do is click apply. And it’s more accurate—at least in the case of my eyes—because it turns the red to blue. With Windows Photo Gallery, it always changes my eyes to brown.
HDR-ish Effect

The “finely-tuned lighting and color fixes” that are available include: fill light, highlights, shadows, and color temperature.

Examples of some of the “fun and useful imaging processing” are: sharpen, warmify, saturation, sepia, B&W, infrared film, Lomo-ish, Holga-ish, cinemascope, vignette, pencil sketch, and Polaroid.

If you want to compare an effect with your original or another effect, it’s easy to do. You can click a button that will place a copy of the photo side-by-side with the original and you can try all sorts of effects and compare them to see which you like the best. And effects can be layered in infinite combinations.
Focal B&W Effect

By far, one of the best features is how easy it is to downsize photos for easy emailing and posting online. You can email directly from Picasa and have it send the file in a smaller size of your choice or you can export to a file where you can then choose what to do with it.

You can also have it automatically place a watermark on the photo and although it’s nothing fancy—some text of your choice—it’s better than nothing. And the best part of all is that it never changes your original photo.

When I used Picasa for the first time, it was a little confusing regarding the changes that I had made to my photos. When viewing in Picasa, you will see all of the changes, but if you then open a photo in Windows Photo Gallery, you won’t see any of the changes until you officially save them in Picasa. In other words, just applying an effect doesn’t save it.

You have the option to undo every effect that you’ve applied, so you can really play around with it. But if you have saved it and you change your mind, don’t panic because Picasa saves a backup of the original, so you can actually undo the save and go all the way back to the beginning and start over.

It is packed with so many useful features—some I haven’t even talked about—so what’s holding you back? Go immediately and download Picasa; and please circle back with me and let me know what your favorite feature is.


  1. My favorite features in Picasa include the collage creation tool, the image management tools that allow me to find photos based on folder name, file name, partial names, 'faces', metadata information, and even color tone. While programs like Lightroom 3 go well beyond Picasa's editing capabilities, Picasa is still king for ease of use, speed, and image management - and, it's free.

    1. Yes, the collage-creation tool is a great feature--lots of fun can be had with that. Thanks for commenting about your favorites!