Google Photos Announcement–This is BIG

Google Photo LogoA few days ago, Google announced the latest incarnation of their online photo storage and sharing service, now called simply, Google Photos.

Before I tell you the good and the bad of this announcement, let me give you a little bit of history. In 2006, Google offered an online photo storage and sharing service called Picasa Web Albums (PWA.) It worked in tandem with the Picasa software on computers and it was quite popular. In 2012 Google started the Google+ (Plus) social network and they totally reprogrammed the photo storage and sharing service to integrate it with the social network. They called it Google+ Photos. Picasa Web Albums continued to exist. If you used either of these services, your uploaded photos were stored in the same place, as part of your Google account. You could work with your photos using either Picasa Web Albums or Google+ Photos. These were simply 2 interfaces to the same set of online photos, but since Google+ photos was newer, it was the default. Unless you used a very specific address to get to PWA ( you would be taken to Google+ Photos every time.

The Good

Now, in 2015, we have a third interface. The Google Photos that was announced this week. Why? Because Google is trying to get it right … and, of course, to hold on to that huge market segment of people who care about their photos! Google learns and evolves. They learned that people didn’t like to be forced into the Google+ social network in order to use the photo storage and sharing service. They learned that we all have way too many photos to manage them ourselves. In response, Google Photos is uncoupled from Google+ and it offers free UNlimited storage for photos in original resolution up to 16 megapixels.

This was posted by the folks at Google about Google+ and Google Photos:

…it’s become clear that while social networks are great for sharing images and video clips, they’re not where most people want to store all their private, personal photos and videos.
That’s one reason why Google has been hard at work building an entirely new photos experience from the ground up. One that works for the photos you want to share, as well as the ones you don’t.

Google Photos is a standalone app for Android and for Apple iOS, as well as a website – These are all available now, for free. Probably the coolest new feature is found by using the Search feature. Tap the search icon (magnifying glass) in the mobile Apps, or click in the search field on the web. Instantly, you will see your photos categorized by People, Places, Things, and Types. I was amazed to see my pictures grouped under Things: Sky, Mountains, Flowers, Cars, Sunset, Boats, Kayaks, Caves, Camping, Lighthouses, and on and on. If I click (this view is private) on the picture labeled “Boats” I see lots of boat pictures that have collected in my photo library over many years. 

2015-05-30 20.25.12

I click on boats, and I see … boats, from luxury yachts, to

personal kayaks, to boat docks and more.


If you want to see your photos using Google Photos, there is no transfer necessary. It’s the same set of photos that you’ve been uploading all along. The ones uploaded to your Google account. Knowing your Google account is key. If you have more than one Google account, you need to pay attention to how you are logged in. If you want a master library of photos, you need to accumulate them under one account. Then you can see them using Google Photos, Google+ Photos, or even Picasa Web Albums. All three interfaces still exist so far.

The Bad

Lots of features are missing. Although it is easy to share pictures via email, facebook, and many other avenues, I see no way to simply make an album public. I am accustomed to giving a link to my photo library and anyone with that link can see all my albums that I have made public. So far, I have not found any command to do that in the new Google Photos. I also see no way, in the iPad app, or the website, to play a slide show of my pictures. The Android App plays a slideshow slick as can be, but you can’t see captions. The editing features that are built-in to Google Photos are very basic. For example, there is no way to add text to a picture, or to retouch a blemish. Picasa Web Albums is still the only interface of the three which offers to make an embeddable slideshow, it is also the only one that offers a way to get prints from your online photos, or view album photos on a map.

The Assistant is new and makes it drop-dead simple to create collages, animations, and stories – but if you don’t like what it creates you’re out of luck, no modifications allowed. And, it crashed on me a couple times trying to create Stories and Movies. I expect this will improve over time.

If you install either the Android or the Apple iOS App, pay close attention to the default setting to turn on “Backup and Sync.” This is ON by default. If you leave it that way, you will be transferring ALL photos from that device to the cloud. If those pictures are already there, you may end up with a lot of duplicates. If you pay for your Internet connection, it may get pricey!  Although the Apps give you an automatic way to upload every picture taken with your mobile devices to the online photo library, if you’re like me, you still want your master library on your computer and I see no way to do that easily. So I’m still going to use Dropbox to get the pictures from my mobile devices to my computer, then I’ll let Google’s AutoBackup take them from the computer to the online library.

The Unknown

What is going to happen to Picasa? They don’t say. I still think that Picasa is the best way to interface between your photo library on your computer, and the one online, so why would Google drop it? But, Google is living in the future, a future where there are no more computers, just mobile devices and online libraries. Even if they did discontinue it, the Picasa that you have on your computer will still keep working, but it will upload pictures at the old, lower resolution rather than the new higher resolution. I expect that they will keep Picasa around for a while to come. They do need to update it just to change that one button that now reads “Share on Google+.” It needs to read, “Upload to Google Photos” and it needs to upload at the higher resolution. When I see that update, I will be confident that Picasa will be around for quite a while.

Google Drive can also see the photos in your library. It is showing all recent pictures in folders by month. I like that, but I don’t understand why it is only showing recent photos and an occasional older photo. I had understood that Google Drive would be another interface to the complete library, but it is unknown how this is being implemented.

For lots more reading on the new Google Photos, try a Google search for #googlephotos. The video of the actual Google announcement is on this blog post by The Verge.


Picasa Tip: Don’t Take Vertical Pictures

IMG_2063I’ve enjoyed taking pictures since long before digital photography came along, and I used to pride myself on the fact that I would notice when a vertical composition was best.  You would see me turn my camera to capture the ‘portrait’ layout of a picture almost as often as I would hold the camera normally to take the ‘landscape’ version.

After a few years of taking digital photographs, and displaying them primarily on computer screens, I almost never use the vertical, ‘portrait’ layout.  It’s not because I object to having to rotate them; Picasa sees the camera information about rotating and does that for me automatically.

Viewing a landscape and portrait photo using Windows Explorer, the portrait version will appear sideways:

Viewing the same photos using Picasa, and it will automatically rotate the portrait photo following the embedded information from the camera:

Vertical Pictures don’t Fit on Computer Screens

I try not to take pictures vertically because they leave so much wasted space on the computer screen.  This is especially noticeable in slideshows.  Watch the following slideshow and notice how tiny the vertical photos appear:


To see how to make a slideshow like this, here’s the article: Putting a Picasa Web Albums Slideshow into a Website or a Blog.

This tip brought to you by Geeks on Tour

Geeks on Tour is a membership website.  There are lots of tutorial videos on editing your pictures with Picasa’s tools.  The first 3 are free for all to view.  To see all of them, you need a Geeks On Tour membership.  It’s only $7/mo or $58/yearly.  Join Today!

Pictures of Anastasia Island State Park in Florida

2012101It’s places like this that give me joy in using my good digital SLR camera, and then viewing and editing the pictures later in Picasa.  The picture of the two of us is of particular interest since we were all alone on this beach, and we didn’t have a tripod.  How did we get that picture?  The answer is at the bottom of this post.

Anastasia Island is a Florida State park on the beach at St. Augustine.  We only stayed there one night, but we made our way to the beach at those all-important photography times of sunset and sunrise.  I can’t stop looking at these pictures and just feeling love for the world of beauty that we live in.  I took over 250 pictures!  With help from Picasa’s Side-by-Side editing feature, I chose the 49 best and then edited them so they look even better.  I hope you enjoy them!

The better way to view the pictures is to follow this link to the pictures on Google+, then click on Slideshow.  That will show them full-screen.

My Favorite Picasa Editing features:

Just one example of Before and After editing in Picasa.  I hope you agree … the one on the right is better!
  • Crop: most all of my pictures need a crop
  • I’m Feeling Lucky: I always click on I’m Feeling Lucky. Sometimes – especially with sunsets – I don’t like what it does so I click on Undo
  • Straighten: my horizon always seems a bit crooked when taking ocean pictures!
  • Graduated Tint: to make blue skies bluer, or sunsets redder
  • Increase shadows: for a richer look on some photos
  • Sharpen: when my picture looks a little soft, clicking on Sharpen gives you more defined edges
  • HDRish: when sharpen doesn’t do enough, HDRish will make my images pop! I usually move settings to lessen the effect, it can be very dramatic.
  • Saturation: to make colorful pictures even more colorful.

Mulitiple Exposure Collage in Picasa

2012101That’s how we got the picture of the two of us.  It’s actually 2 pictures and I put them together using the Collage feature of Picasa and choosing Multiple Exposure.  Rarely do 2 pictures work so well in a double exposure – but these two sure did! To see exactly how it was done, members can watch the Collage Short Course of tutorial videos.  Multiple Exposures is the 8th video in the series.

Learn at http://www.GeeksOnTour.TV

If you want to learn how to do all of these editing techniques – “There’s a video on that!”  Take a look at our Learning Library for Picasa – the first 3 videos in the list are free for anyone to watch, the rest require a Geeks on Tour Membership.

The Easy Way to Scan Slides

There are slide scanners that you can buy that do a pretty good job.  But, how are you going to decide which of your old slides to scan?  You’ll probably need to project them and take a look before you can decide right?  Well, why not just snap a digital picture of the ones you want to keep as you project them?

The easy way to scan slides

Set up a Slide Show

You might even get out the popcorn and serve some wine to your family or friends while having one last slide show of your old slides. 

Jim being the projectionist
Jim being the projectionist

Here’s my camera on a tripod with a slide being projected.
Take a digital picture of a projected slide

This made it so easy and fun.  We watched several trays of slides and I just clicked the shutter every time there was a slide I wanted to keep.  I had to experiment with the settings a little, but not much.  Half of the time I even used my automatic point-and-shoot camera.  The biggest issue was being careful that the projected image was in focus before snapping the shutter.

Here is the resulting picture from the slide shown above:

Picture taken from a slide

With a couple clicks in Picasa after the fact, they come out pretty good. 

Here’s how an image looked just by snapping a photo of the projection screen.  Notice I didn’t even worry about capturing the vertical image.  I left the camera set up the same for every slide.
Slide before Picasa
Here’s the picture after a simple crop, straighten, and ‘I’m Feeling Lucky’ in Picasa. 

Slide after Picasa

Would they have come out better if I used a slide scanner instead?  Maybe.  Certainly if I had them professionally scanned.  Meanwhile, if I had to wait till I decided which slides to scan, bought a scanner, and then went thru the scanning process – it might never get done.  This way, after a couple of evenings, I’m finished!  it was fun and free.  Now I have some precious pictures of my Mom’s travels from before digital cameras. This one is from her trek in Nepal in 1990.

Picture from slide - Mom in Nepal 1980

If you have slides – give it a shot!  What do you have to lose?

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.

Small Pictures Disappear

The other day, I cropped a picture to just a person’s face and then I exported it to a folder called avatars.  As I exported, I resized it to 200 pixels because that was the requirement of the website where I planned to upload it. (Tutorial Video: Resizing Pictures with Export)  The export worked just fine.  It displayed the resulting image in the Avatars folder using Windows Explorer, just like Export always does.  But, when I searched for Avatars from within Picasa I came up empty handed. (Tutorial Video: Search) I even re-located the picture in Windows and got the exact name to search for – still no luck in Picasa.

What The?!?!

What a mystery!  I can see the picture outside of Picasa, but not inside.  It’s definitely there, but Picasa can’t find it.  This may happen to you sometime when you receive an image attached to an email.  (Tutorial Video: Receiving a Picture Attached to an Email)You save the image in your My Pictures folder, then try to view it using Picasa, and it’s nowhere to be found!

The Secret is Small Pictures

There’s an option on Picasa’s View menu called Small Pictures.  If you check that … voila! Your pictures appear.  So, what’s the purpose of the Small Pictures setting?  This is the way Picasa avoids showing you all the icons and other images used by various software on your computer.  Picasa figures, if a picture is 200 pixels or less, it probably isn’t a photograph, so it doesn’t show it.  If you want it to show, just click the option.


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.


Fun with Picasa and Picnik

Picnik is the web-based photo editing software that Google bought earlier this year and added it to Picasa.  If you want to play with our pictures, trying out different effects and add-ons, this is *really* fun.

Here’s an example of the fun I had.  It’s called the Crystal Ball effect.  Read on and I’ll tell you how I did it.


Using Picnik

You start in Picasa.  Select the photo you want to play with and click the Picnik button in the Basic Fixes.  Click ‘Yes’ when asked if you want to edit this picture in Picnik.


Then wait …. this part takes a while.  Picnik is completely web based, and it has some very powerful features.  You need a very good Internet connection for this to work.  Once it is loaded, you will now see your picture and have all of Picnik’s editing tools available to you.  The really fun stuff is on the Create tab.


I found ‘Crystal Ball’ on the featured list of tools as part of the Halloween series.  Just click once on the Crystal Ball tool, and here’s what you get:


Then there are lots of options to play with including the color of the crystal ball, the placement of the picture, and how distorted it should be. If you like the results, you click ‘Save to Picasa.’  You can choose to overwrite your original, or make a separate copy.  I make a separate copy.

Have fun!  Notice that some of the tools say ‘Premium.’  That means you have to be a paid subscriber in order to use those.  The fee is quite reasonable at $24.95/year.  They even have a link for you to give a Picnik subscription to someone as a gift.  Could be a great addition to your Christmas list!

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.

Members may want to view the following tutorial videos.  Not a member?  Join now.

Basic Edits


Retouching Photos

Fix Redeye

How Picasa Handles Edits






Picasa Releases Version 3.8

A few days ago, Picasa version 3.8 was released.  You will be getting it automatically at some point.  One day, when you open Picasa, you’ll see a message about a new version being available.  If you want to get it before that day comes, you can re-download it from Picasa’s home page.  For more detail, you can watch a previous Geeks on Tour Tutorial Video on Updating Picasa.

There are quite a few new features introduced with this release, here is Google’s official list of new features in the Release Notes:


Face Movie

If you like the Face Recognition feature of Picasa, you’re gonna *love* Face movies.  The hard work has already been done – recognizing and sorting faces.  If you have Face Albums in Picasa, it is now a single click to make a movie where all the pictures of one person are automatically shown in a slide show.  Just click on any face album, and you’ll see a new button for ‘Create Face Movie.’


All you do is click on it and wait a minute, it will take all the pictures in that Face Album and create a movie.  There are a few options, just like a regular movie.  You can add music, adjust the amount of time allotted to each picture, and change the transition type.  But, you don’t have to do anything.  Just view it, save it if you want, and upload to YouTube if you want to share it.

What’s different between a Face Movie and a regular movie?  Picasa takes each whole picture and aligns it to the face.  So, as dozens of photos of a person play one after the other, you see their smile in the same spot on the screen.  It’s really quite beautiful.  I can see this becoming standard background slideshows for all personal special events: birthdays, graduations, weddings, and funerals.   Something that would have taken a professional film producer hours, days or weeks and thousands of dollars, is now a click of your mouse!

Edit in Picnik

I’ve written about Picnik before – it is a web-based photo editing program that was acquired by Google earlier this year.  With Picsa 3.8, they have made it accessible from within Picasa on the Basic Fixes tab.


If you’ve ever wished you could do more retouching, or more fancying-up (clipart, frames etc.) Picnik is your answer.  In the images below, notice the whiter teeth on the right, and the lack of wrinkles.  That was done with Picnik.  BEWARE – this is a slow process unless you have a very high-speed Internet connection.  When you click on the button to ‘Edit in Picnik’, it first needs to upload your photo to the web, then you edit it there, then it copies it back down to your computer.

Before image After (whiten teeth, remove wrinkles, instathin)

You also need to know that some of Picnik’s features are ‘premium.’ It costs $24.95 for a year of access to the premium features.  In the sample above– whiten teeth is a free feature, remove wrinkles is premium.

Here’s another example: ‘Dodging.’  So often, I have pictures where only one part of it is too dark.  If I use Picasa’s Fill Light feature it lightens everything, but with Picnik’s Dodging feature, I can just lighten the parts that need it, like the faces in the photo below.  I don’t want to wash out the Lincoln Memorial, just lighten the faces a bit.

Before ‘Dodging’
After ‘Dodging’

Dodging is one of those ‘Premium’ features.


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.

Members may want to view the following tutorial videos.  Not a member?  Join now.