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