Monday, July 29, 2013

Photo Editing with Picasa

One of my DT buddies from Color My Heart asked me to do a quick tutorial on photo editing.  If you are interested in making your pictures look better but haven't got the skill (or money) to get a professional program, I encourage you to download Picasa.  Here's the link:

It's free and takes about two minutes to download.  Once you have that done, come back here and we'll work this thing together.

One of the great things about Picasa is it will automatically pair up with picture/albums you already  have on your computer.  You don't need to separately load them to edit, and once you save your work, it updates the photos in your personal library, too.

The left side of your first screen will look like this:

The buttons on this screen which are in constant use are "Straighten" and "Crop".  When you click "Straighten" it will give you grid lines over the top of your photo and slide bar along the bottom.  As you slide the bar from L to R, your photo will tilt.  The grid lines will help you line up your photo.  This is great because sometimes I have to lean at a funny angle to get the photo of my card without hindering the light.  I just leave myself some room around the edges (because that's why God invented the "Crop" feature) to straighten it out.

The "Crop" feature will give you a drop-down menu for the size of the finished photo.  For cards I intend to link up to challenge blogs, I use the "Square/CD" option.  That way I end up with a final photo that fits those little pictures.  Once you choose the final photo size, place your cursor on the picture of your photo (which I'm not showing in these photos because I want you to see the icons clearly), click and hold your right mouse button, and drag the cursor to the size you want.  There are stretch buttons which will also be available to use as you fiddle with this.

Then I click the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button.  This doesn't always give me a better photo or get me where I want to go, but it's a good start.  Sometimes it's absolutely brilliant and does everything I need it to do with one click.  (The reason I don't start with this is because Picasa will "undo" in the order of your edits.  Straighten and Crop are non-negotiable.  If I can't get those to work, there's no point in going further.)

The second tab takes you to a screen that looks like this:

I am constantly fiddling with the light because, even if I get good natural light, my photos start out looking like this:

Now, before we go any further, I should show you my lightbox.

Oi!  Didn't realize my footie socks were there in the picture.  Well...this is how I live.  I think shoes are torture, and socks are a close second.  I don't know how many pairs of shoes I have kicked off under my desk at the moment.  I'm afraid to look. 


My paper is beginning to warp so I'll need to replace it, but as you can see, I cut a box, lined it with 12x12 cream paper, and set it near a window.  Voila, cheap and easy lightbox.

I encourage you to play around with these slide buttons even if "I'm Feeling Lucky" seems to have done the trick.  Also, be sure to test out the "Color Temperature" feature because warming up photos (slide to the R) is almost always a good thing.

I'm going to switch to the last tab, because it has the "Boost" feature on the top left.

To repeat, my usual method is to begin by straightening and cropping my photo.  I then try the "I'm Feeling Lucky" feature.  Sometimes I undo it, but sometimes I keep it and then do some more fiddling.  (There are no hard and fast rules so I actually started by hitting the "Lucky" button, then cropping, but you get the idea.)

Then comes "Boost" because it accents the colors.  Again, there is a slide bar so don't be put off by the first thing that shows up when you hit boost.  I often slide it to the L until there's almost no boost at all, but your eye will tell you when.  If this doesn't work, I undo "Boost" and go fiddle with the light and color temperature, then come back to boost and try it again.  None of these steps are hard and fast rules.  As you play with the features, you will start to get a feel for what they do and which ones to try first depending on your picture.

If I get one I really like, the next thing I'll do is "Sharpen".  It's on the third tab, top left.

Again, this will give you a slide bar.  I have learned not to go past the half-way mark on this because, as it sharpens the edges, it will make your photo grainy.  When you post a photo on your blog in "X-Large", those grains are annoying.  However, very few photos don't benefit from some sharpening. 

And last, but not least, is the Vignette feature.

The first screen it gives you will have a black outline.  If that doesn't float your boat, click on the "Vignette Color" and you will get a whole slew of other color options.

I chose gray for this photo.  As you hover your cursor over each color, it will show up on your photo.  Once you click the color, it will take you back to the screen which allows you to adjust the size, strength, and fade.  If none of the colors given make you happy, you can hover over the box with the rainbow of colors and a whole new box will appear. 

If you are so inclined, there are a number of other features including the option to add text (first tab), which is great if you intend to post to Pinterest, Splitcoast Stampers, or other online albums because you can add your name and blog address right onto the picture.

But I think you will agree that the difference between this...

...and this worth the effort.

Until next time,


  1. Great job, Becca. I'm going to try it today!

  2. Thank you so much! I use the crop, straigten, and feel lucky - but the boost and vignette are new.

  3. Many more options than what's available in iPhoto--thanks for the awesome toot. Will play around when I'm on vacation these next few weeks.

  4. This is a terrific tutorial! So well written and great screen shots too. I know it will be a huge help to lots of folks who would like to work on improving their photos. Would you considering sharing a link over on the OWH Facebook page?

    1. I have posted the link. Thanks for the suggestion!

  5. Does it have watermarking options?

    1. Umm...uh...hmmm. No idea. What's watermarking?

    2. Watermarking is being able to put your name/logo on your pictures so nobody can claim them as theirs.

    3. I use the text feature. I can put my name and blog address. I've not been able to add a logo. But I'm not an expert, I just have played around with it a lot.

  6. Thanks, Becca. I came over from the Stars and Stamps blog. I have been using Picasa but had no idea how much more I could do with it!


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