Eric Baker

Processing digital

v3.4  04 October 2018  © Eric Baker


First pass

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.


If the pictures are on a phone just get them onto the computer in the usual way. With my Android phone they get transferred to our computers automatically any time I put the phone on wifi at home.

Open with If the images are on a camera, 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. 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 File 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 folder on your computer and select Edit, Paste. I usually copy images across then format the camera memory card when I know I've got them.

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.

On holiday we usually take our tough little laptop with its SSD and 13.3" HD screen. I start by copying the latest photos to a folder outside the Dropbox folder system so as not to overload the local wifi as Dropbox backs up to the cloud a load of images I'm about to cull. I always feel nervous with only one copy of irreplaceable photos so I leave them on my cameras until we're back home.

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 stamp and spot healing tools 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 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. Here are some form our Colombia trip:

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.

I nearly always then rename the remaining shots - if they're worth keeping then 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 File Explorer, or I often use the amazingly fast Everthing search utility. 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 £60-70 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. There are loads of free Photoshop tutorials on the web.

To load images into Photoshop I select them, four 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 always crop to fit the image content - with a PC, mini laptop, tablet and smartphone I don't print many photos nowadays and if I do it will probably 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, just dial up your output format (eg 5x7 or 7x5) and optionally specify dpi (300 is fine for most prints).

Venice crop Sometimes I'll even crop a portrait image from a landscape original, as shown in the screen-grab.

Do remember that when printed you'll typically lose a little slice around the edges - 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 histogram 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 (but Alt NLC, Brightness/Contrast, gives more control).

List of jpgs

Zaragoza 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 much 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 an impossibly wide-angle interior, four shots, hand held, in Palm Springs. 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).

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, eg the lower image.

The menu over the image shows the full range of Nik filters. One shot I took of the Gormley Iron Men in the sea in Crosby looked great after being passed through the High Structure (harsh) filter and came out brilliantly on a quality 75 x 75cm canvas print.


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 around 8,000 of mine on flickr. They've attracted around 1.5 million views (Oct 18). Here are some images stored in flickr (album view):

Nik Collection
I also edit some to the perfect size to be a Windows desktop background. With my Win 10 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 more recent photos are 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 and usually in a photo book. Mostly I use Albelli (Bonusprint). The layout software is superb, the quality of the printed book really 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 (or phone) died and you lost them all? Lots of people do lose lots of their digital images. Get into a routine of making regular backups. Dropbox continually backs up our photos and docs to the cloud and synchronises PC and laptop. That makes everything available to our phones and tablets, which can also store selected files offline. I also make full data copies on an external USB drive regularly.

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

It really is so reassuring, having all our precious photos - travel, family etc - reliably backed up to the cloud. We even pay a bit extra to Dropbox to get a year's file version history so we can recover old versions of files.

Dropbox backups