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April 15, 2005 Image management is exploding:  which one do you choose?   

Free is a very good price.

For about five years now, the manufacturers of photographic equipment and materials have offered free services to digital photography enthusiasts.  The reason for their generosity is simple:  they want to keep customers loyal to their products.

Mostly they offered access to online storage and inexpensive printing.  Nikon, Epson, Kodak, Microsoft, and many others were eager to bring people through their online programs.  In my classes, I've stressed the value of online storage and presentation for two reasons.  First, it provides a level of security that storage on the home computer cannot achieve.  Hard drives can fail; houses can burn down; and anyone can erase images from a multi-user computer.  Chances are that you won't miss the image of Uncle Fred until you need to have it for a Christmas present.  And second, they offered convenience--in sharing images over the internet, and in getting images printed and sent to friends.

But in the last month, there's been an explosion of activity in the field of "free things for us to use."  Google has brought out a new version of its Picasa software.  Hewlett-Packard announced  that it has acquired Snapfish.  And Yahoo announced that it has purchased the online site Flickr.  The big guys are seeing the gold in them there hills.  And now it's time to take a look at a newly populated playing field.  Just like everything else in digital photography:  just when you think you know the rules, they change.

Google / Picasa         

Picasa 2 is a free download.  You get the program by going to Google, clicking the "more" button, and navigating to Picasa.  It will be worth the trouble you take to download the program and give it a shakedown cruise.

There are many things you'll like about Picasa 2.  The top of the list, though, is the photo editor.  I don't think there's an easier, friendlier editor anywhere in the computer world.  Anyone, regardless of photographic knowledge,  should be able to modify photos in less than a half hour.  We're not talking about Photoshop-level tools here; we're talking about down-to-earth terminology that the average Joe can understand.

For example:  let's say your photo is a bit dark.  You have a couple of easy options.  You can go to the "Tuning" tab.  There is a "One Click Fix" wizard that will decide for you what needs doing, and there are sliders for highlights, shadows, and fill light.  A few seconds of moving those sliders around will show you what can be done to the photo.  If the overall color of the photo is wrong, the "Color Temperature" slider  will modify it in a second.  This is a very powerful tool that works much better than it should.


Kodak Easy Share Gallery

Ofoto has changed its name to Kodak Easy Share Gallery.  And they have updated the look of their website.  For awhile they were offering some extremely good discounts on prints and products in order to call attention to their new marketing work.  This Kodak site is very user-friendly, and in some ways it points to the future of digital photography.  For example, it is now very easy to do photo editing online, using their software.  The adjustments that can be made using this online software are somewhat rudimentary;  but they are probably the kinds of edits that the great percentage of amateur photographers want to make.  Cropping, red-eye removal, color balance, and black and white conversion are all very accessible now.  

I remember sitting at lunch with a Kodak sales rep about ten years ago, and he told me that pretty soon, people would be able to edit their photos online and send them for printing without having loads of expensive software on their own computers.  I guess he was right.

ACDSee & Sendpix 



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