Eric Baker

Processing digital
photos

v3.3  11 June 2016  © Eric Baker
www.chericbaker.co.uk



Contents

Importing
First pass
Processing
Publishing

This guide is basically a Windows-oriented attempt to answer the question "just back from a lovely, scenic trip - what do I do with all those photos in my digital camera?" Taking the photos in the first place is covered in my taking good photos guide.

Importing

Open with First connect your camera to the computer, with the USB cable it came with or by putting its memory card in a card reader (your computer may have one built in). Then copy or move the images from the camera to a suitably named folder, probably under Pictures (eg Win 8). If you're offered a choice go for the option that leaves you in control - open the folder to view files.

If you have another copy of Windows Explorer open and pointing to the empty folder (I call the one I use for processing new images 0temp so it's at the top of the folder list) you're going to put them in then you just select the photos you want, Edit, Cut (for Move) or Edit, Copy (for Copy). Then click across into the empty folder on your computer and select Edit, Paste.

I always avoid (and don't bother installing) the software that came with the camera and any other software that tries to jump in the way of simply copying or moving the images to a folder of your choice.

If on holiday without a laptop we can attach a camera's memory card to our Hudl tablet via a cheap OTG cable. Then we review the photos on the nice, big Hudl screen, delete the less good ones then back up the remaining (good) ones to the tablet's micro SD card and sometimes to a memory pen too. I always feel nervous with only one copy of irreplaceable photos. I did once lose a few on a corrupt camera card.

For older, printed photos or transparencies you need a scanner. I've got one that does a good job on old slides as well as printed photos. Clean the photo or slide before scanning to cut down on the touching up task once scanned. I often spend a fair while with the clone tool in Photoshop before saving scans from old prints. I scan at 240 or 300 dpi from larger prints, 400 from smaller ones and whatever the maximum is for slides. I always scan straight into Photoshop Elements then save the images as jpgs.

First pass

Now run Faststone Viewer - get it free from faststone.org if you haven't already got this lovely piece of software - and point it at the new photos on your computer. Travel back and forth through the images.



Venice reflections







Photo folders
You should delete, delete then delete some more, until you've got rid of all the less good near duplicates and all the shots that didn't quite work. You can also rotate portrait images at this stage. Note that some cameras put a sort of rotate flag on portrait images. Faststone obeys this and rotates the display but Photoshop Elements seems to do so just sometimes.

I nearly always then rename the remaining shots - if they're worth keeping surely it's worth renaming them from DSG01391 or similar so they are searchable later. In Faststone just tap the F2 key, type in the name you want then tap the Enter key. Renaming can also be used to sort the images into a logical order. This is especially useful if you are processing images from two or more cameras.

Windows 7 search You can then do a search later, eg in Windows Explorer, via the Win 7 indexed search or something such as Google Desktop. It's amazing what you can quickly come up with that way.

You're now almost ready to process the images. But first have a look through them full screen and save a copy of any you think really stand out (and which you might later want to do a larger print of) to a folder where you keep copies of your best originals, just as they came out of the camera (but with sensible names). I have a "classy originals" folder for each year.

Processing

Now you can process your photos in a photo editor. I swear by Photoshop Elements, around £60 at Amazon, although I stick to the Edit function and avoid the Organizer - that has a hissy fit when you move photos around outside its control. If you must you can slum it with the free Google Picasa but that lacks many of the editing tools I find invaluable. There are loads of free Photoshop tutorials on the web.

To load images into Photoshop I select them, ten or so at a time, in Faststone. Then tap E (for Edit) to load them (you have to tell Faststone which photo editor to use the first time).

In Photoshop I used to crop my images to 7 x 5" at 400dpi. That's a nice format to view (less square than digicam format) and if I then printed them it was usually at 7 x 5" size so there was nothing more to do to ensure a perfect fit on the photo paper. But now I always just crop to fit the image content - with a mini laptop, tablet and smartphone I don't print many photos nowadays and if I do it may well be in a photobook with a variety of shapes; just set the crop tool to No Restiction and select the rectangle that looks best:
Unrestricted crop in PE

If you want to crop for printing, depending on the version of Photoshop, it's something like this:
Crop in PE


Venice cropThe little double arrow lets you switch quickly between portrait and landscape format. Some purists like to stick to the original image but I find cropping improves many of them. Sometimes I'll even crop a portrait image from a landscape original, as shown in the screen-grab. With modern digicams the resulting image is fine for viewing and for printing at least up to 7 x 5".

Do remember that when printed you'll typically lose a little slice around the edges of the photo so don't crop too tightly - leave a bit of margin.

Next is one of the most important steps. It is amazing how many otherwise good images look a little lifeless because they are over or under exposed.

PE levels control Photoshop has a brilliant Levels control (Ctrl L is the shortcut) to fix this. I call it up for every image after cropping, to correct exposure. If the histogram (mountain range) covers the entire width between the outer little triangles then the photo is well exposed and you just hit Esc to get out. But if there's a gap either side (as in the badly exposed example shown) just slide the little triangular handles towards the edge of the histogram and you'll see your photo come to life. You can also pull the centre triangle left or right to change brightness.



List of jpgs


Vista Start search
At this stage there may be nothing else to do in Photoshop. But a proportion of images need something fixing. It could be redeye or getting rid of powerlines or a double chin. It all depends on how much you feel like doing. Practice and you'll soon get fluent at the sort of editing jobs you need to do repeatedly. If confused there are plenty of tutorials online. You could even learn fancy tricks such as how to cut someone out of one picture and slide them into another.

PE modes There are also all sorts of controls for adjusting saturation, colour temperature and so on. But I mostly avoid them because they can make a photo look artificial. Ones that can be useful on over-contrasty images are the controls to lighten shadows and darken highlights. In most versions of Photoshop it's easiest to find those via the Quick editing mode but stick to Expert for most things.

Next I save the image (Ctrl S) over the top of the original at medium high jpg quality (9 in Photoshop Elements) and close it (Alt FC). Repeat with all your images and you're done, with classier images than came out of the camera. You can now move the remaining images to their final destination folder.

Sometimes I want a really wide angle shot - beyond the capabilities of any of my cameras/lenses. That used to be a real problem, trying to stitch together images in Photoshop Elements, especially where the exposure differed from shot to shot. I thought of an ultra wide angle lens for my SLR but they are very expensive. The answer was Microsoft's updated and free ICE (Image Composite Editor) software. It does a brilliant job at stitching overlapping shots together. Below is a 300 degree interior, four shots taken on a tripod with the camera on manual (to keep the exposure constant). I also took a 360 degree series of photos in our garden, hand held, and those were stitched together very well too. This has got to be very bad news for people manufacturing ultra wide lenses.

PE Quick tools
If I want to apply special effects to selected photos I now use the Nik Collection, once $500 but now free from Google. Once installed it appears as an extra option in the Photoshop Elements Filter menu and also as a floating toolbox (PE12). So far I've just used it to make a black and white version of a dramatically lit photo from Rome.

The image on the right shows what was a colour photo of the Vittoriano in Rome. In the distance, and seen from high up in Trastevere, it was suddenly lit up by a little burst of sun, with everything around it left dark. The Silver Efex Pro plugin from the Nik Collection gave lots of different effects to choose from and made it easy to choose something a bit dramatic.

The menu over the image shows the full range of Nik filters. I'm looking forward to trying a few more of them. But I do try to avoid anything garish.

Publishing

Once you have a lovely collection of images you can decide what to do with them. You can print a selection, resize some and email them or post them to an online photo sharing site such as flickr - there are well over 4,000 of mine on flickr. I used to resize images before uploading to flickr but since we got fast (FTTC/Infinity) broadband I just upload the full size ones then add tags, locate them on a map etc. Here are some images stored in flickr:


Nik Collection
I also edit some to the perfect size to be a Windows desktop background. With my Win 8 PC I've got side by side HD monitors and have different images on each, changing every hour or so:

Dual screen

I keep a few albums of photos on our tablets and smartphones and our entire collection is on our mini laptop we take on most trips. I get a very few printed at larger sizes and often incorporate photos into cards for birthdays, Valentines Day etc. If I want to print photos for an album they are all sorts of shapes, not just 7x5, so I'll lay them out on A4 pages in Photoshop, print them on my Epson P50 then guillotine them into individual prints.

I've also produced a few photo books. With Blurb I found their layout software weak and ended up making up entire pages in Photoshop - the results were very good. More recently I've found that myphotobook (.co.uk) has superb layout software that lets you make images any size and aspect ratio, overlap images, add text anywhere etc. The books are printed in Germany and the quality is pretty good. My latest was with Albelli. The layout software was pretty easy to use, the quality of the printed book good and they let you keep a copy of the book online with them so you can send people the web link.

Finally, what would you feel, having gone to all this effort, if your hard disc died and you lost them all? Lots of people do lose lots of their digital images. Do get into a routine of making regular backups. I regularly mirror all our photos between our desktop and laptop computers and make full data copies on an external USB drive regularly.
Best of all I pay 9 pounds a month to Dropbox for their Pro version with file history. That automaticically stores changes online and synchronises them across the internet with our other computer (selective folders as our laptop has a smallish SSD). They are also available to our phones and tablets, which can also store selected files offline.

In the Windows Explorer folder view on the right, the green ticks mean everything under those folders is backed up online with Dropbox.

Carbonite backups