Picasa Tip: Picture too Dark? Here’s how to fix it.

We took a beautiful drive up the mountain thru a town called Jerome in Arizona. Jerome is perched right on the side of that mountain with a sweeping view of the Verde Valley in the distance. Unfortunately, when I took the picture, the town was in deep shadow and sunlight filled the sky and the valley below. If I had taken the picture with my smartphone, I would have used the HDR setting to better expose both parts of the picture, but this was taken with my digital SLR. If I had set my camera to auto exposure bracketing and taken 3 pictures of this scene, I could have created an HDR later, but that’s a whole other article! The picture you see at #1 is all I had to work with this time – let’s see what Picasa can do with it.

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The original picture.
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Use the Fill Light slider on the basic fixes tab to add light to the town.

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Some photo editors, like PhotoShop, give you tools to add light to just the dark part of the picture, but Picasa is not that sophisticated. When I drag the slider to increase fill light, the entire picture gets lighter, leaving the sky and the valley pretty washed out. Use Fill Light sparingly – your picture can get very grainy.

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Screenshot 2014-11-29 04.51.02

To get some color back in the sky, I use the Graduated Tint button on the third tab of editing tools. This fills the top third of the photo with a blue tint. You can adjust the area of the fill by dragging the crosshair. The crosshair first appears in the middle of the picture. I angle the fill by dragging the crosshair control down and to the right. Watch this free Tutorial Video: Graduated Tint
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Lastly, I added a bit of the HDRish effect in order to accentuate the details in the picture.

 

Before

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After

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This ‘fixed’ picture may not stand the test of scrutiny. I wouldn’t blow it up in a large print, and I wouldn’t submit it to a photo contest, but these fixes do help preserve a memory in a web album when the original picture was simply not good enough to keep. Using the simple buttons and sliders in Picasa’s editing tools, you don’t need to know a lot about layers and levels of color and light. Just click a button, drag a slider, if you don’t like what you see, drag a slider the other way.  Still don’t like it? Click the Undo button!

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The Picture your Camera Captures vs. the Picture Picasa can Give You

Here is the picture my camera captured:

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After Crop, Boost, Increase Shadows, and Graduated Tint, here is the picture that Picasa can show me:

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It’s a subtle difference, but it makes all the difference. The second picture is what I remember seeing. The beginning of a crimson sunset, with the dramatic Morro Rock in the distance and the natural beauty of green grasses and and other dune vegetation in the foreground.

Watch this 3 minute video to see just how easy this transformation is with Picasa.

You can undo any editing feature that you use, so don’t be afraid to experiment. That’s the beauty of Picasa, you can try as many of the editing buttons as you want and see which ones you like. Don’t like it? Just Undo.

As part of our Geeks on Tour Learning Library, we have nearly 100 tutorial videos on all aspects of Picasa. Here are links to just a few. Notice the ones that say “free” anyone can watch. To watch them all, you need to be a member of Geeks on Tour.

  1. Overview of Picasa #156 Free
  2. Folder Manager #233 Free
  3. Basic Edits #261 Free
  4. Ways to Save #140 Free
  5. Google+ Auto Backup and Auto Awesome Free
  6. Short Course on Organizing your Pictures w/Picasa – 8 Videos
  7. Adding Text to Pictures #104
  8. Picasa’s 12 Effects #121
  9. More Effects 13-18 #253
  10. Resizing Pictures

Picasa Tip: Smile! It’s Auto-Awesome

If you upload 2 or more pictures of the same group of people to Google+, the Auto-Awesome feature will create a composite picture with the best smiles.  Here are two pictures I took of our friends David and Lynn when they visited us in our motorhome:

Original Photo #1
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Original Photo #2
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Google+ Photos Creates a New Picture with the Best Smiles

You don’t have to do a thing other than upload the original pictures to your Google+ account and, if you have Auto Backup turned on, you don’t even need to do that.  The next time you view your photos on Google+, be sure to check the Auto-Awesome group and you may get a pleasant surprise!

Auto Awesome Smile! Picture Created by Google+ Photos:

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Step-by-Step Instructions

In case you’ve never used Google+ photos, or never seen the Auto Awesome pictures it creates, here’s the details:

  1. You must have a Google account that has joined Google+.  If your Google account is less than a year old, it was automatically part of Google+.  If you’ve had your account longer than that, you have probably seen many messages giving you the opportunity to join Google+.  In order to take advantage of the many features of Google+ photos, you do need to join Google+.
  2. Using Picasa on your computer, select the pictures you want to upload and click the “Share on Google+” button.  It doesn’t matter what album you upload them to, all photos in your Google+ photo library (public or private) are candidates for Auto Awesome.
  3. Visit your Google+ photo albums at www.plus.google.com, click on Home, then photos
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  4. While viewing your photo albums, click More then Auto-Awesome
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  5. You should now be seeing all the Auto-Awesome pictures that have been created from your pictures.  You can tell what type of Auto Awesome was used by reading the starred words in the upper right corner.  These pictures are private, only you can see them unless you Share or Add to Album (under More menu) that is already shared.
  6. To read more about Auto Awesome see Google’s Help Page on Auto Awesome

 

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.

Picasa Tip: Brighten a Selected Area of a Picture

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Have you ever wished you could use Picasa’s Fill Light tool on just a selected area of a picture?  Take the picture at right as an example, the Lincoln Memorial in the background is perfectly exposed, but the two faces in the foreground are too dark to see.  If you use Picasa’s Fill Light tool, you can make it so the faces are bright, but the whole picture is affected.  The Memorial will be way overexposed.

If you upload the picture, using the “Share with Google+” button, you will have more editing tools available to you, including the Selective tool.  Once the picture is showing on your Google+ Photo album, you can view it then click the Edit menu.  If you are using the Google Chrome browser, you will then see the four basic editing tools and several “Creative Adjustments.” We’re using the Basic editing tool of ‘selective.’  This is similar to ‘burning and dodging’ in darkroom terminology. This feature requires the Google Chrome browser, it won’t work with Internet Explorer, or Safari.

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Once you’ve chosen the ‘Selective’ tool, then you click on “Add Control Point.”  In this example, I did it twice, once for each face.  So

  1. Add Control Point, and click on one face
  2. Adjust size of selection to cover the face
  3. Increase brightness by clicking on B and dragging to right
  4. Increase contrast by clicking on C and dragging to right

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When you’re done, click “Done Editing.”  Now isn’t that better?!

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This edited picture only exists online, in your Google+ Photos Album.  If you want it on your computer, you’ll need to use the Download command.

Geeks on Tour members may want to review the videos about uploading pictures:

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.

Blurring Someone’s Face

Blurring facesQ: I do therapy work with people and horses.  I love taking pictures while the people are with the horses, but I need to preserve their privacy before I show the pictures to anyone else.  When Picasa had the Creative Kit option, I would use the Focal Pixelate feature to make the faces unrecognizable.  Is there a way to do that now with Picasa?

Melinda

A: You’re in luck!  I have discovered a way to do this.  On the last tab of editing tools, you will see a Pixelate option.  That will pixelate the entire picture.  But … if you hold down the shift key, you will notice that “Pixelate” becomes “Focal Pixelate!”  Who knew?!  Then, there’s one last step.  “Focal Pixelate” will pixelate the entire picture except a circle around a focal point.  What we want is to pixelate only a circle around a focal point.  To do that, you click on the Reverse checkbox.

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Now, you need to set the focal point to a face.  You should notice that your mouse is a green crosshairs and wherever you click will set the focal point to that spot.  Then adjust the sliders until the pixelation is strong enough to make the face unrecognizable – that’s the Impact slider.  The Radius slider controls the size of the circle.  Edge Hardness refers to the outline of the circle, it’s better to have it soften so as to blend with the rest of the picture.  When it looks how you want, click Apply.

You can repeat this process if you have multiple faces that need to be blurred.

This feature can also be used to blur some text, just realize that you are limited to a circular area.

Creative Kit is Picmonkey.com

You might also want to know that all the features you knew and loved in Creative Kit are available in the online photo-editing website called Picmonkey.  Teeth whitening, suntan, arrows, speech bubbles, hearts, mustaches, and so much more.  Picmonkey allows you to edit pictures from your computer, Dropbox, Facebook, or Flickr

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, using Smartphones, 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.

Give your pictures a little Boost

toolsHave you ever played with the tools on Picasa’s last tab?  There are a lot of fun effects here.  The first one is called Boost.  Just a single click will make your picture pop!  Actually, it may pop so much it hurts your eyes!  So, we recommend toning it down a bit by using the slider.   When you first click on Boost, it increases color and contrast to the 50% mark on the slider.  If you drag it back to 15 or 20% we think you’ll get a much more reasonable effect.

 

Too Much Color and Contrast

Take a look at this picture, it’s a bit overdone don’t you think?  This is what you get with just one click of the Boost button.  Notice the image of the slider, the strength is set right in the middle.

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Too little Color and Contrast

This is the Original:

The Bay Side

 

Just Right Color and Contrast

Now, here’s what it looks like if you click on Boost, but just back off on the Strength Slider a bit.  I think this picture is just right.  The grass is a luscious green, the sky is a sun-drenched blue and the shadows of the palms are more distinct.  It makes the original look a little muddy by comparison, yet it doesn’t look too unreal.  Just click Apply, and you’re done!

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There are lots more fun and easy editing tools.  If you are a Geeks on Tour Member, you can watch these videos that will demonstrate all of the editing tools:

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, using Smartphones, 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.

Bummer! Picasa’s Creative Kit is Gone

If you click on the button in Picasa to ‘Edit in Creative Kit’, today this is what you’ll see:

creative-kit

What was Creative Kit?

If you don’t know what Creative Kit was, here are some articles I wrote about the useful tools in Creative Kit that do not exist in Picasa3 proper.  Now they don’t exist for Picasa/Google+ users at all!

What is the Replacement?

If you have joined Google+, there is a new Edit button when you’re looking at a single photo.  When you click it you get several photo improvement tools.  Other than the ‘Selective Adjust’ which allows you to change exposure for selected areas of the picture, I don’t see anything that you can’t otherwise accomplish using Picasa3 on your computer.  And, you must be using the Chrome browser for this new edit tool to work.

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Are there other Options?

The Creative Kit button began as a plugin to the Picnik photo editing website that Google bought a few years ago.  Some of the Picnik folks have gone on to create the websites PicMonkey.com, and Ribbet.com.  Check ‘em out!  The Ribbet.com website looks a lot like the old Picnik / Creative Kit with effects, stickers, text, and many more features.  The basic tools are free, then there is a Premium version for more.  The Premium version currently is free for a limited time.  Ribbet can connect directly to your Picasa Web Albums / Google+ Photos, so it is almost like having the Creative Kit back – only better!  The only drawback is that it’s not accessible with a button from within Picasa3 on your computer – like the old Creative Kit was.

Picmonkey.com has it’s own look and feel, but seems to include all the features you could possibly want for editing, enhancing, and embellishing your pictures.  I also notice that it is integrated with Dropbox!  Hmm, could this be a complete alternative to Picasa Web Albums / Google+ Photos.  I know a lot of people who would love to have all the capabilities of online photo storage and editing without the need to be a part of Google+!  If that is you, then PicMonkey and Dropbox are worth investigating.

Why did Google Make this Change?

We REALLY don’t know!  The new Editing button is completely different … not an upgrade of what was there.  The Google/Picasa folks don’t maintain any communication with us like they used to back in 2009 when they had us do a joint webinar with them.  I think the team is all new people, and we don’t have a clue what their plans are.  It’s been clear for quite a while that Google’s priority is bringing everything together under the umbrella of Google+.  In fact, Creative Kit was getting so good, I was almost ready to say they planned to do away with the Picasa3-on-your-computer program and insist that you do all your editing online.  But, the new online Editing doesn’t have anywhere near the features that Picasa3 has!  We’re at a loss.

All comments are welcome!

p.s. Thanks to Ribbet’s facebook page, I did find a little more information on this article: Google’s Bet On Native Client Brings Chrome And Google+ Photos Closer Together.  So now I understand that the change is because of a technology choice – my hope is that they will start enhancing these tools and add things like text and stickers and facepaint back in.