Oct 312012

2012101It’s places like this that give me joy in using my good digital SLR camera, and then viewing and editing the pictures later in Picasa.  The picture of the two of us is of particular interest since we were all alone on this beach, and we didn’t have a tripod.  How did we get that picture?  The answer is at the bottom of this post.

Anastasia Island is a Florida State park on the beach at St. Augustine.  We only stayed there one night, but we made our way to the beach at those all-important photography times of sunset and sunrise.  I can’t stop looking at these pictures and just feeling love for the world of beauty that we live in.  I took over 250 pictures!  With help from Picasa’s Side-by-Side editing feature, I chose the 49 best and then edited them so they look even better.  I hope you enjoy them!

The better way to view the pictures is to follow this link to the pictures on Google+, then click on Slideshow.  That will show them full-screen.

My Favorite Picasa Editing features:

Just one example of Before and After editing in Picasa.  I hope you agree … the one on the right is better!
  • Crop: most all of my pictures need a crop
  • I’m Feeling Lucky: I always click on I’m Feeling Lucky. Sometimes – especially with sunsets – I don’t like what it does so I click on Undo
  • Straighten: my horizon always seems a bit crooked when taking ocean pictures!
  • Graduated Tint: to make blue skies bluer, or sunsets redder
  • Increase shadows: for a richer look on some photos
  • Sharpen: when my picture looks a little soft, clicking on Sharpen gives you more defined edges
  • HDRish: when sharpen doesn’t do enough, HDRish will make my images pop! I usually move settings to lessen the effect, it can be very dramatic.
  • Saturation: to make colorful pictures even more colorful.

Mulitiple Exposure Collage in Picasa

2012101That’s how we got the picture of the two of us.  It’s actually 2 pictures and I put them together using the Collage feature of Picasa and choosing Multiple Exposure.  Rarely do 2 pictures work so well in a double exposure – but these two sure did! To see exactly how it was done, members can watch the Collage Short Course of tutorial videos.  Multiple Exposures is the 8th video in the series.

Learn at www.GeeksOnTour.TV

If you want to learn how to do all of these editing techniques – “There’s a video on that!”  Take a look at our Learning Library for Picasa – the first 3 videos in the list are free for anyone to watch, the rest require a Geeks on Tour Membership.

Apr 172012

by Chris Guld, www.GeeksOnTour.TV Aren’t digital cameras great?!  Just snap away to your heart’s content, no worries about wasting film, or costing more money, or taking up more space.  You can see right away if you captured the image you wanted, and take more shots if you didn’t.   I’ve been known to take over 100 pictures in any given day when we’re traveling thru beautiful countryside.  For RVers, like us, you can quickly rack up thousands of pictures! 


Now what?

If you put your pictures onto your computer, which we think you should, then you have lots of choices for what software to use for managing and editing them.  At Geeks on Tour, we’ve been evangelists for Picasa over 7 years now.  It’s a free program that you download to your computer from Google.  We teach several seminars on it, produced over 60 tutorial videos, have a website dedicated to Picasa, and wrote a book on it!    But, we know it’s not the only game in town.  Many people with Macintosh computers are very happy with iPhoto which comes preinstalled on their Macs – even though Picasa does have a fully compatible Macintosh version.  On Windows computers, the gold standard photo editing program is Adobe Photoshop ($700!) or Photoshop Elements ($99.)  There are also several free programs, including Microsoft’s offering – Windows Live Photo Gallery, and a full featured, Photoshop workalike called GIMP.

Why we Still Like Picasa the Best


As you can see from the crowd of over 700 people in one of our Picasa Seminars for FMCA, Picasa is very popular.  The free price certainly has something to do with that, but Picasa also gives you the greatest capability for the least effort.  When we started teaching Picasa about 7 years ago, it was drop-dead easy.  Over the years, Google has added more and more features.  Some areas have now become a bit complex, but it’s still pretty darned easy, especially compared to the full-featured image editors like Photoshop or GIMP.  Before Picasa, I used a program called Fireworks – generally in the same class as Photoshop.  It would take me 1 – 2 hours every time I went thru my process with the day’s 50 or so photos, when I switched to Picasa, the time shortened to about 15 minutes! 

IMG_1712-003The closest competitors to Picasa in ease of use are iPhoto and Photo Gallery.  They even have some features that are an improvement over Picasa.  iPhoto gives you multiple ways to view your pictures in location on a map, better slideshow features, and built in ways to make cards and books.  Photo Gallery has that cool photo fuse feature where you can replace one person in a group shot, it has a Panorama feature that Picasa lacks, and I like the way tags are handled better in Photo Gallery.  I actually considered switching to Photo Gallery but then realized that I simply could not live without Picasa’s features of Text on photos, or combining pictures in a Collage.  And Photo Gallery as well as iPhoto only have a fraction of Picasa’s photo editing features.  I have so much fun just trying all the different single-click effects, then undoing them if I don’t like it.

What about Flickr, or Snapfish, or SmugMug?

I talk to many people who say, ‘Oh, I don’t use Picasa, I use Snapfish.’  They don’t understand.  Picasa is software on your computer for working with pictures on your computer.  No Internet involved.  Flickr, Snapfish and SmugMug are photo sharing websites.  Google also offers a photo-sharing website called Picasa Web Albums, but Picasa and Picasa Web Albums each can stand on their own without the other.  So, “I don’t use Picasa Web Albums because I use Snapfish.” would make sense, but I would still ask them what they use to edit their pictures on their computer.  Maybe they use nothing – just copying the pictures from the camera to their computer, then uploading them directly to Snapfish.  Oh what they’re missing! 

Is Picasa going Away?

picnikGoogle is going thru a lot of transition these days, with their social network – Google + – leading the pack.  They made an announcement a few months back that Picnik is closing on April 19.  Picnik was an online photo editing website that Google bought last year.  They linked it to Picasa with a button along with Picasa’s main editing tools.  Now they’re taking it away, and that is starting a lot of rumors about the future of Picasa.  Many of the cool photo editing tools that were developed at Picnik are now incorporated directly into Picasa 3.9, and many more have become part of the online photo editing available thru Google Plus.  The Picasa desktop product is still very strong at Google.  Google is certainly not above killing product lines, but they do it with failures, not stars.

That said, Picasa may very well be renamed to Google Photos.  It’s certainly appropriate that a star product be recognized by the company’s brand – and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they used the April 19 date to make that happen.   If that happens, I sure hope they do something to distinguish between the online photo-sharing software and the desktop photo management software.  Over and over again, I ‘ve had to explain the difference between Picasa (desktop software) and Picasa Web Albums (online photo-sharing.)  It would be even worse to have Google Photos (desktop software) and Google Plus Photos (online photo-sharing) !!

The Best Software is the One you Know How to Use!

The bottom line with any computer software is knowing how to use it.  You’ll accomplish a lot more with a half-good program that you understand, than with the cream of the crop that you can’t figure out.  I’ll keep using – and teaching – Picasa because I understand it inside and out.  Whenever they come out with new features, like the side-by-side editing introduced in version 3.9, you can count on new videos like the one -below from GeeksOnTour.  Sign up for our free Picasa Tip-of-the-Week if you want to stay on top of all things Picasa!

Geeks On Tour is Jim and Chris Guld. They have been traveling the US in their RV since 2003. They teach fellow travelers how to use computers and technology to plan, preserve, and share their travels. They have both been involved in professional computer support and training since the early 80s. They maintain a family of websites including www.picasageeks.com containing hundreds of articles, and www.geeksontour.tv where members can watch tutorial videos on all their topics.

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Jun 212011

Picasa gives you three options for sorting pictures in folders, Name, Date, and Size.  To see these options, right-click on the folder and choose ‘Sort Folder By.’  I usually choose Date and that shows my pictures with the earliest pictures first and as you scroll down you see later photos.


How to Reverse the Normal Order

Hopefully, if you’ve read our Picasa book, or watched the Videos, you already knew how to do that!  What you may not know is that all three of those options can be reversed.  Name, instead of meaning A-Z, can be sorted Z-A, Date can change from chronological to reverse chronological, and Size that normally sorts ascending (from small to large) can be changed to sort descending (from large to small.) How?  By holding down the shift key when you click on any of the 3 options.

Reverse Chronological Order in Web Albums

In Picasa Web albums, you need to open the album in question and click on the Organize button on the menu directly above the pictures.  Then you’ll see a ‘Sort Photos by…’ drop-down list.  You have a choice of Date (oldest first) or Date (newest first.)


This tip brought to you by Geeks on Tour

Geeks on Tour is a membership website with hundreds of Tutorial Videos on topics of interest to travelers, such as managing digital photos with Picasa, Route-Planning with Streets and Trips, and sharing your travels with a website using Blogger or with friends on Facebook. You can subscribe to our free e-newsletters, or become a paid member and be able to view all of the videos in the Learning Library.

Members may want to view the following tutorial videos.  Not a member?  Join now.

Sync Photo Sort Order

May 262011

Words do matter.  If you ask a question and you use the term ‘Upload’ when the correct term is ‘Import’ you might not get the answer you were looking for!  I see this all the time.

In the Clouds

Let me give you an image that helps me remember the meaning of Upload and Download.  It is very useful to think of the Internet as existing in the clouds above the earth.  In reality, of course, the Internet is made up of lots of computers and cables here on the ground, but since they are accessible without regard to space or time, it’s as if the Internet is a parallel universe above the earth.  Thus the popular current terminology of ‘cloud computing’ simply means all the data your computer is accessing exists on the Internet instead of on your computer.  ‘On the Internet’ and ‘In the Clouds’ have become synonymous.  We also refer to this as Web-based.


Picasa Web Albums vs. Picasa

Picasa is software that exists on your computer and manages photo files on your computer.  Picasa Web Albums (PWA) is a photo-sharing website.  It exists on the Internet, the Web,  … in the clouds.  To ‘Upload’ means to copy from Picasa to Picasa Web Albums; to ‘Download’ means to copy from Picasa Web Albums to your computer.


The terms are not used just by Picasa.  In general computer terminology ‘Upload’ simply refers to a direction … from your computer to the Internet.  ‘Download’ refers to the other direction … from the Internet to your computer.  Even if all you’re doing is browsing the web, upload and download activity is taking place.  When you click a link, you are uploading a request to see something.  Images you view on your browser are downloading to your browser.


Picasa’s Import command is what you use to copy pictures onto your computer from some external device.  That device is usually your camera, but it can also be a scanner, a USB drive, or even a folder on a CD or DVD.  When you insert a camera card into your computer’s card reader (or attach the camera with a cable to your computer) you probably see a popup dialog box asking if you want to ‘Copy pictures to your computer using Picasa.’  When you click on that you are using Picasa’s Import feature.


Import has nothing to do with the Internet.  Import is Picasa’s tool for copying pictures onto your computer from whatever device has the pictures.  You don’t even have to use Picasa’s Import tool if you don’t want to. For a long time, I preferred the import procedures on Canon’s ZoomBrowser.  I would use that software to get the pictures from my camera to my computer.  Once that was done, I would use Picasa to manage them.  As long as they were somewhere within the My Pictures, Picasa would see them as soon as I opened Picasa.

Import also has nothing to do with the relationship between Picasa and pictures that are already on your computer.  If you have pictures on your computer already and you’re not seeing them using Picasa, then you need to use the Folder Manager to make them show up.  If you use the Import command to find pictures already on your computer and then import them to another folder – you will now have duplicates!  Import = Copy.

Remember, Picasa does not store your pictures.  Your pictures are located on your computer, usually within the My Pictures folder, and Picasa sees them there.  The Folder Manager (Tools, Folder Manager) is where Picasa is told which folders to watch – aka ‘scan.’

This tip brought to you by Geeks on Tour

Geeks on Tour is a membership website with hundreds of Tutorial Videos on topics of interest to travelers, such as managing digital photos with Picasa, Route-Planning with Streets and Trips, and sharing your travels with a website using Blogger or with friends on Facebook. You can subscribe to our free e-newsletters, orbecome a paid member and be able to view all of the videos in the Learning Library.


Aug 252010

I’ve covered this feature before … but I don’t think I used a very good example in that article, so I’m going to revisit it.  We’ve recently traveled through Montana … you know the tagline right?  Big Sky Country.  We had beautiful weather with clear blue skies, but my pictures did not do the sky justice at all.  Here is a sample:

Before Graduated Tintimage After Graduated Tint

So, what is ‘Graduated Tint’?’  It’s on the Effects tab, and it has a few options.

image image

When you first click on Graduated Tint, it automatically applies a light blue color to the top half of your picture.  In the example above, I increased the Shade a bit to make the sky even bluer … withOUT making the clouds blue!  Just drag the ‘Shade’ slider to the right and watch the color deepen while it leaves the white areas alone.  Notice, you can also increase, or decrease the amount of the picture that is covered by dragging the crosshair (right on the picture) up or down.

Here’s another example.

Original photoimage I’m Feeling Lucky and Graduated Tintimage

I almost deleted that picture, it was so bland and washed out.  But after just a couple clicks, it is now one of my favorite road shots.

This tip brought to you by Geeks on Tour

Geeks on Tour is a membership website with hundreds of Tutorial Videos on topics of interest to travelers, such as managing digital photos with Picasa, Route-Planning with Streets and Trips, and sharing your travels with a website using Blogger or with friends on Facebook. You can subscribe to our free e-newsletters, or become a paid member and be able to view all of the videos in the Learning Library.

Members may want to view the following tutorial videos.  Not a member?  Join now.

Picasa’s 12 Effects

Basic Edits



Using Special Effects for an artsy-fartsy Miami Skyline


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Jun 192009

If you have a Facebook page – you may want to upload photos from Picasa to Facebook.

The long way is to prepare your photos in Picasa and Export them to a separate folder.  Then, using Facebook’s upload utility, you can select all the photos in that folder.
see Video: Member Tutorial Video: Exporting Pictures for Use in AnotherProgram

The short way is to download a third party tool called Picasa Uploader.  The purpose of this program is to add a button to the bottom row of buttons in Picasa.  It is a Facebook button and it will work like all the others.  Simply select the photos you want to upload to Facebook, click the facebook button, and follow the prompts.

Here’s the step-by-step: Go to the  Picasa Uploader page, and click on the big button to Install Now.’  Follow the prompts and click ‘Allow’ or ‘Yes’ or ‘Ok’ for any messages that come up.  Shortly you should see the ‘Configure Buttons’ screen.  Click on the Facebook Button and click ‘Add>>


When you click OK, you should see the Facebook button at the bottom of your screen with all the other Picasa buttons.  To get back to that ‘Configure Buttons’ screen in order to add, remove, or rearrange your buttons, click on the Tools menu and ‘Configure buttons.’

So, for example, if you don’t have enough screen room for all of them, you might want to remove the BlogThis! button (I never use that one because it limits me to 4 pictures). To change the order of the buttons, click on a button to move, then click on the Move Up or Move Down button.  To clean up the buttons and return to basic Picasa, click on ‘Reset to Defaults.’

Now you should have a Facebook button at the bottom of your Picasa screen.  To upload photos to Facebook, simply select them and click that button!


The first time you do this, you will need to log in with your Facebook username and password.  Then you should see a screen where you can specify an existing Facebook album, or make a new one.  You can also specify whether the album should be private or public.


The final step is to ‘Approve’ all your photos.  Be sure they are all selected, then click ‘Approve Selected Photos.’


If you’ve ever tried to use Facebook’s album feature, you can appreciate how much easier this is!  Although I’m not a big fan of Facebook, so many people use it, that it’s become almost a necessity.  The connections that are made on Facebook just by the sheer volume of people who use it are quite impressive.

With this great plug-in tool, at least the photo album part of Facebook has become *very* easy.  The Picasa Facebook button takes care of resizing your photos appropriately, it also keeps your Picasa caption and displays it on the Facebook album.  This button works on both Windows and Macintosh versions of Picasa.

This tip brought to you by Geeks on Tour

Geeks on Tour is a membership website with hundreds of Tutorial Videos on topics of interest to travelers, such as managing digital photos with Picasa, Route-Planning with Streets and Trips, and sharing your travels with a website using Blogger or with friends on Facebook. You can subscribe to our free e-newsletters, or become a paid member and be able to view all of the videos in the Learning Library.

Members may want to view the following tutorial video.  Not a member?  Join now.


May 282009

If you’ve been following the Tips here, you probably use the Sharpen feature of Picasa.  With a single click it makes your digital photos look a lot crisper.  It can’t take an out of focus picture and make it in focus, but it takes that soft look and makes it … sharper.  I use it on all my photos.

Geeks on  Tour Members can watch the Show-Me-How video on sharpen at:(Member Tutorial Video:Picasa’s 12 Effects)
I also wrote an article about why I like sharpen.

Sometime in this past month (May 2009) an update to Picasa changed the way Sharpen works.  They broke it!  Fortunately, they gave us a special ‘secret’ command to make it work the way it used to.

The secret?  Hold down the shift key as you click on sharpen.  You’ll see your photo get instantly sharper – just like it always has.  You will then need to click Apply to complete the process.

So, why did they ‘break’ it?  Here’s the official word from Google employees.  They say that they fixed a problem that it had before and, in the process made it much slower.  Well, most of us never noticed the problem it had before, but we sure notice the ‘much slower’ part now!

How it works now:
The Sharpen command now has a slider to make it more or less sharp.  The problem is that the slider is *very* non-responsive.  And, even if you slide it all the way to sharpest, we don’t see the results that we used to see.  You only see accurate results if you’re looking at your photo in 100% magnification.  Get to 100% by clicking the 1:1 button in the lower right corner.  But now, of course, you can’t see your whole picture.

Using the Batch Edit tool to sharpen seems to apply the new effect which is much less noticeable than it use to be.  I find myself using the secret Shift method to sharpen all my photos now.

Google says they’re working on it.

This tip brought to you by Geeks on Tour

Geeks on Tour is a membership website with hundreds of Tutorial Videos on topics of interest to travelers, such as managing digital photos with Picasa, Route-Planning with Streets and Trips, and sharing your travels with a website using Blogger or with friends on Facebook. You can subscribe to our free e-newsletters, or become a paid member and be able to view all of the videos in the Learning Library.


Jan 132009

I took a photo this weekend that I really liked. My Mom came with us on a short RV trip and she was enjoying our cozy cab-over bunk and the view out the front window. It was kind of dark and I didn’t want to use a flash, so I hand held a timed exposure to get the shot. Not surprisingly, it came out a little blurry.

I almost deleted it, then I decided to embrace the out-of-focus quality of the picture instead! I used the Soft-Focus effect to make the edges even more out of focus. Then I used the ‘Glow’ effect to lighten it up a bit and give it even more of a dreamy look.

Using Picasa's Soft-Focus effect

When you click on Soft-Focus, you will see your photo get out of focus, all except for a circular area in the middle, around the crosshairs.

Picasa's Soft Focus options

You will also see options for size and amount. Size refers to the size of the circular area to keep in focus. Amount refers to just how out-of-focus you want the rest to be. Just drag them one way or the other and watch your picture. You can also drag the crosshairs around in the picture itself to move the focused part around. When you like the look, click Apply.

For my picture I also clicked on the Glow option which softly brightens up all edges, making it look somewhat dreamy. You also have some sliders to adjust the amount of glow. Click Apply for this effect to take place as well.

Here’s my finished photo:

Using soft focus and glow makes the photo look dreamy!

You may have pictures where these effects create a more dramatic result, but for me, this just makes it look like I intended it to be out of focus!

Geeks on Tour Members can view a video that explains all 12 of Picasa’s special Effects.

Jan 062009

Do you have a scanner and some old photos you want to scan? Have you started to read the manual and given up on figuring it out? I have good news for you! You don’t have to figure out the software that came with the scanner, because Picasa can handle it all for you, it’s just like importing from your camera but, instead of camera, you import from the scanner.

Using Picasa’s Import Command with Your Scanner

I was visiting my Mom’s and we started looking at old pictures. Between the two of us we could identify most of them and I wanted to preserve them. She has one of those all-in-one printer-copier-scanners. So, here’s what I did:

  1. Make sure everything is connected and turned on!
  2. Put the photo on the glass of the scanner – face down
  3. In Picasa, click ‘Import’
  4. Click the arrow for the drop down list of devices. You should see your scanner listed … select it
  5. Now you will see a screen that depends on your scanner. There should be an option to ‘Preview’. Click that.
  6. You should now see your picture, there may be some settings you want to change here, but if it looks OK then
  7. Click the button to Scan
  8. When it’s done scanning, you’re back at the standard Picasa Import screen. Click Import all.
  9. Select a folder to put it in. I made a folder called ‘Old Photos’ for the first one, then, for each subsequent scanned photo, I selected that existing folder from the drop-down list.

I scanned 53 old photos in this manner. It took me somewhat over an hour. Then I just took another few seconds to use Batch Edit and do an ‘I’m Feeling Lucky’ and ‘Sharpen’ to all 53 at once. I think the results are great. What do you think?

This is a photo from circa 1962 – me at 10 years old in Alaska. It looks better than the original!

GOT Class Members can also view related videos:

Importing from Camera
Sharpen and Batch Edit
Basic Editing Features

Dec 302008

If you go to the Grand Canyon in the summer of 2008, do you put the pictures in a folder called Grand Canyon? Or a folder called Summer 2008?

How about when you return to the Canyon in 2009? Do you put them in with your other Grand Canyon photos, or make a new Summer 2009. If you make a Summer 2009 folder, how can you see a slide show of all your Grand Canyon photos? Whatever you do, DO NOT make copies of the pictures so they can be in a Grand Canyon folder and a Summer 2009 folder. That quickly becomes a mess.

You don’t need to organize your pictures into lots of different folders. Just keep it simple, all pictures into one folder for the year – or, if you take enough, put them into folders by month.

Picasa has this magical feature called Albums. An album is like a virtual folder. You can go thru all your pictures and find the photos of your dog, marking them for a ‘dog’ album. You haven’t moved the pictures, you haven’t copied them, you’ve just created a list of pointers to them so they are all grouped in one place. That place is called an Album.

Select the photos, then click the 'Add to Album' button
Select the photos, then click the ‘Add to Album’ button.

Once a group of photos has been marked in an album, you can now create a Gift CD with all the photos in the album, you can make a movie, or a slideshow, export them or upload them all at once.

So, don’t organize your photos into a lot of separate folders. And, definitely don’t make extra copies of them to put in different folders. Just make one simple folder structure – I put all photos into a folder for the month they were taken. This also makes it a simple matter to back up my photos. I do it every month and I just back up the folder for that month.

Then, you can create as many different Albums as you want. One picture of my dog, Odie, in June of 2008 will be stored in the folder 200806. But, it could show up in an Album called ‘Odie’, another album called ‘Minnesota’, and a third called ‘Dogs.’ The picture only exists once on my computer – in the folder. You can view it in that folder, as well as in all three Albums. The albums are magical creations – the photos don’t really exist there. I can delete a photo from an album but it still exists in the folder and whatever other albums I may have grouped it in. However, if I delete the photo from the folder … It’s gone.

Albums are wonderful creations, but you also need to understand that they are a creation of Picasa alone. If you ever need to use some other program to see your pictures, the albums won’t be there.

Geeks on Tour Members can also view the following tutorial videos to learn more:

Using Albums
Picasa 3: Folders
Picasa 3: Search for pictures
Picasa 3: Selecting Pictures
Picasa 3: Starrred Photos
Preparing photos for other programs with Export