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Photo phixers

Digital photography overloading you and your computer? Google's latest iteration of Picasa should be able to help you.

Kushan Mitra        Print Edition: March 21, 2010

February 2010 marked the 20th anniversary of Adobe's Photoshop, a truly remarkable piece of software without which magazines like BT would look a lot worse. It was also prescient, as photography changed dramatically with the advent of the digital age. Millions of amateur photographers were born, especially after mobile phones started sporting digital cameras. And, as storage prices crashed, people were not limited to the 36 photographs in a costly roll anymore, the average family vacation might generate a thousand photographs shot on multiple devices instead of the couple of rolls that would have been used a few years ago.

Enough about the revolution; the problem lies in the organisation. Collating and storing images is a pain for most people. If you have a newish Apple computer, you would probably use the excellent iPhoto software, but on the PC, there was no option until Google's Picasa came about. It analyses your hard drive and stores images according to the date on which the folder was made and if the photographs have image data, it could sort images by when they were taken.

The latest iteration of Picasa (version 3.6) has taken a feature previously available on Picasa's Web version and added it to the free download version. This is facial recognition software. Now this is not a perfect piece of code, but it does make photo storage a lot easier. It works by analysing certain facial features, we are not sure which, but it can include the position of the eyes, jaws, cheekbones, etc.

Mark out a picture of one face once, try to use a largish image of that person's face when you are marking it out, it can dramatically improve later results and Picasa then starts crawling through your folders for all images of that person. As we said, it isn't perfect, but then again Picasa (like iPhoto, which has had the same feature for over a year) keeps on asking you to verify the face on images.

The simple advantage of this, as most people would not have bothered to even rename their image files, is that you easily find images featuring certain people. Looking for images of you and your daughter? Just enter those two names and all the images with both of you in them pop up. No matter where they are on your computer. You can download Picasa from http://picasa.google.com and iPhoto is included in the iLife suite included with every new Mac.

Personal photo editing and organising software makes your life a lot easier by:

  • Organising photographs any which way you want-Date taken; faces; tags; cameras and even with deadly accurate location data-if you're using a new mobile device with Global Positioning saved in the Exchangeable File Format (EXIF).
  • Face recognition software that (most of the time) allows you to quickly find and tag all pictures of a certain individual or pictures with two certain individuals.
  • Allows you to make nice animated slideshows of your pictures with various fade-in fade-out effects and audio.
  • And, best of all, software like Picasa (http://picasa.google.com) for PC and iPhoto (included on all new Macs) are free.

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