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
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.
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.
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. Here are some form our Colombia trip:
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.
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:
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).
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
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 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).
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
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.
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):
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:
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
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.