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Five Steps to Better Photos With Free Picasa Photo Manager

Chris enjoys photographing the places he visits. He shares these photos as travel articles and also mixes them with creative writing.

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We carry our smart phones everywhere, and the bonus is that we have a pretty decent camera with us as a result. A lot of the shots turn out just fine, but there is always that one that would have been great if it just had a little more color and was a little sharper. So we hang onto that so-so photo and store it in our phone until we need the extra memory. Then we toss it because, well, it was just so-so.

There is a way to bring that photo to life. First let me tell you what I am NOT talking about. In Picasa, and in other photo management programs there is a function called Saturation. When I was new to photography, I used that function all the time. But then I took a good, honest look at my photos and realized there was something fake about them. The greens were too green and never in the history of fair weather was the sky that blue. A red shirt looked as though it had been painted with watercolors.

One day I was experimenting with Picasa, and I stumbled upon a way to drastically improve the appearance of a so-so photo without using Saturation. In fact I didn’t have to add color at all. I realized that all the color was in the photo. It just needed to be released. So open up Picasa, or download Picasa free from Picassa.com and lets get started.

Picasa should open to your photo library where all of your photos are stored. If you’ve just downloaded Picasa, you will need to import at least the photo you want to work on.

Find the photo you’ve chosen to practice on and double click on it. This will open up a new window which will have an enlarged image in the center and tools to the left.

Library View

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My So-So Photo

I have chosen to work on a photo of a Philadelphia cobblestone street. I don’t know how old the street is, but it is in the historic part of town, only a block from Independence Hall. So I suppose this street could be over two hundred years old. I really like stonework like this, so I took a shot of it. But the result was less than exciting as you can see. So lets do some work on it and try to make it a better photograph.

Lighting Icon (step 1)

This street "T's" at Independence Hall.  I took this shot on Thanksgiving day, 2013.  Just two days ago as I write this article.

This street "T's" at Independence Hall. I took this shot on Thanksgiving day, 2013. Just two days ago as I write this article.

Step One

Click on the tab with the icon of a half black and half white sun. Now you have tools on the left that will help you work with the contrast of lights and darks in your photo. We won’t be using any tools that have to do with color.

Shadow Tool (step 2)

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Step Two

Go to the tool labeled “shadows.” Drag the slider over until the photo is much too dark. Keep in mind you can undo all of these changes and start over. So don’t be afraid to experiment and learn.

Fill Light Tool (step 3)

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Step Three

Find the tool labeled “Fill light.” Drag the slider over until you see a much improved image. If you feel you are seeing distortion, you can undo everything and start over. To do this, just click on the “Undo” button on the bottom right of the tool panel.

Highlights Tool (step 4)

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Step Four

Find the tool labeled “Highlights.” Drag the slider over until you see glare, then back up to where the image is sharper without causing any glare. You be the judge about what looks good. One thing to watch for with the Highlight tool is distortion in very light/white areas. Snow, clouds and sunlight can distort easily, so you won’t normally be moving the Highlights slider very far.

Figure 1--Finding the Sharpening Tool.

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Figure 2--Finding the Sharpening Tool (step 5)

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Figure 3--Sharpening Using Slider Tool (step 5)

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Step Five

Go back to the top and click on the first paintbrush icon (figure 1 above). The first box is labeled “Sharpen.” Click on this icon (figure 2). There will be one slider (figure 3). The sharpen function sharpens the edges of images on your photo by removing pixels. Be careful about moving the slider too far because you could remove too many pixels and have a grainy looking photo. Of course if this happens, simply click “undo sharpen” on the bottom right of the tool panel. When you have the photo sharpened, you are finished with the photo. Simply click "Apply," and then you can store it in Picasa or use it in your next hub on HubPages.

Cobblestone Street Before Editing in Picasa

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Cobblestone Street After Editing in Picasa

If you've ever visited the Old City of Philadelphia, you know that the brick on those 250 year old buildings isn't the dusty red of my original photo, but is the deep, rich color that came out in the final version.

If you've ever visited the Old City of Philadelphia, you know that the brick on those 250 year old buildings isn't the dusty red of my original photo, but is the deep, rich color that came out in the final version.

Be Proud to Share Your Photos

Give these steps a try to next time you share photos on Google Plus, FaceBook, Pinterest, Flickr or any other social website, you'll be proud of the high quality of your photography.

Comments

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 26, 2013:

Thanks Victoria. I'm glad you found this helpful. Happy New Year and take a lot of great photos too.

Victoria Lynn from Arkansas, USA on December 26, 2013:

Billybuc, you don't have to have a smart phone. Just download Picasa for free on your computer and load the pics from your camera. I did a few years ago and played with it some. I need to get back to it, as Picasa really does help photos, while being relatively easy to use.

Very helpful hub!

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 07, 2013:

Deb. I know just what you mean. My sony DSLR is finally repaired and on its way to me. I had to send it to the factory. I've gotten better with it so I don't have to use this technique as often. Your photos are awesome.

Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on December 07, 2013:

Nice to know these things are there if needed. I'm trying so hard just to take a good pic. It will one day happen when everything is perfect.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 02, 2013:

Mary, thanks for your kind words about my hub. This was a fun hub to put together because I know it really can be helpful to people if they try it. Of course the best of all is when I put a photo into Picasa and find that it is already as good as it can be without any touching up.

Mary Craig from New York on December 02, 2013:

Great hub Cam! I haven't used Picasa in years but know how easy and Free it is!

You've provided easy to follow directions and your pictures speak a thousand words.

Voted up, useful, and interesting.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 02, 2013:

Eddy, Thanks for reading and commenting. I hope this comes in handy for you. Have a great week.

Eiddwen from Wales on December 02, 2013:

Interesting and so very useful; thank you for sharing.

Eddy.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 01, 2013:

Fantastic Ruby, glad it's working out.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on December 01, 2013:

I did it and i love it, now if i have enough skill to work it. Thank's again

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 01, 2013:

Pamela, I think you will be happy with the results. Thanks for reading and commenting. I wrote a few more suggestions to always-exploring/Ruby in these comments. You might want to check those out as well. Good luck. Come back if I can be of help.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on December 01, 2013:

Thanks for the great instructions of Picasso. I already downloaded it and am anxious to try it out. I have marked your hub for reference. Thanks for writing such a helpful piece.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 01, 2013:

Ruby, have fun with it. You can't really ruin it since you have the "undo" button. Actually, I have found that when I close Picasa down, it tends to make the changes permanent, but for the time your are editing, you will be able to change it back. Most of the time I begin by darkening the picture and then lightening it. You might try it the other way around if the untouched photo is really dark. Good luck and let me know how it works.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on December 01, 2013:

I want this soo bad! I am going to download Picasa now. It is amazing the difference in the cobblestone street. Thank you so much...

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 01, 2013:

Bill, thanks for reading and commenting. The whole Nikon D series is top notch. I have a friend with the D5000 and the photos are outstanding. But, if you ever get a shot that is less than what you wanted, the method I've outlined here will do a lot to salvage it. I'm off to read your chicken article now.....by the way, I'm also in the middle of another cow hub. Have a good start to your week.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on December 01, 2013:

Very helpful my friend. I don't have a smart phone. Now what? :) I am still quite busy trying to learn all the tech gadgets in my Nikon D3200 digital...I sense I will die before completely understanding it all. LOL