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The free photo imaging software - Picasa you need to know about

Perhaps the best thing about Picasa though is the price – when they say it’s free photo imaging software they mean it. It is indeed absolutely free! Yep, you can download it and install it and it won’t cost you a bean.

It has a reasonable album part, and, although the image editing options are limited, they are good enough for many digital photographers. It therefore makes sense to give it a try. If it does everything you want it to do then you’ve got yourself a bargain. And if it doesn’t, then you haven’t wasted anything in the process.

What’s it like to use?

It will do this for most file formats (jpeg, gif . . .), but not RAW files. If you take RAW photos, then Picasa is not for you. If you don’t know what a RAW file is, then you don’t need to worry!

When you first install Picasa it will automatically start to organise your photos for you. It will search your hard drive for any image file and add it to your album of photos.

By default Picasa will look everywhere on your hard drive for any image file. This can take a while. To speed things up you can tell Picasa which folders to look in. So if you save your photos in just a few folders, tell it where those folders are and it will ignore the rest.

It’s like having an automatic real time update of all your digital images.

One clever trick is that once you have set the folders you would like Picasa to look into, it will constantly update your album whenever you move photos into those folders.

Free photo imaging software - picasa
In box 1 there is a list of your folders where the image files are stored on your hard drive. This can make it easier to find photos if you know where certain files are stored.

In box 2 there are the “labels”. Labels are Picasa’s version of the tags that are used in most image editing software.

You can make up your own labels and then attach them to any photo that you like. The downside here is that you can’t combine labels (to search for both “friends” and “holiday”, for example). This is a small weakness with Picasa.

The options for organising your photos aren’t nearly as slick as something like Photoshop, but this is free photo imaging software. It works, even if it is a little clunky.

How about editing my photos?
If you double click on any thumbnail image (box 3) Picasa will load that image into the editing part of the program. Here you’ve got a few options. Below is a screenshot of what you can expect:

Free photo imaging software - picasa
    The “Basic fixes” tab may be all some photos need. The options here are fairly straightforward.

“Crop” and “straighten” do just what you'd expect, then there’s Google’s “I’m feeling Lucky” button.

This is well worth clicking. What it does is adjust the brightness, contrast and colour of your photo.

It doesn’t always make an improvement, but most of the time it does. And if you don’t like the effect, then simply hit the “undo” button.

The “fill light” works like a brightness control rather than a proper fill light (fill light should lighten shadows, but leave bright parts of a photo alone).

However, click the “Tuning” tab and you can make adjustments to the highlights and shadows separately.

There’s more to this free photo imaging software that basic image fixes though. Picasa also comes with a few special effects up its sleeve. These are found on the “Effects” tab. Take a look at the screenshot below:

As you can see, the “Effects” on offer are things like black and white, sepia, soft focus . . .

For example, when making a photo black and white Picasa lets you choose a filter colour to place over the black and white effect.

It doesn’t make a huge difference though, and won’t make your black and white photos really stand out.

But, it works, and it may be all you need. And, after all, this is free photo imaging software.     
Free photo imaging software - picasa

Free photo imaging software – Picasa summary
To sum up, the negative points first:

    * Album doesn’t allow multiple tags for photos
    * ”Labels” only have limited use when searching for photos
    * Editing options are limited

And the good points:

    * Automatically updates your album if you add photos to your folders on your hard drive.
    * The “I’m feeling lucky” button works well, and is all some photos need.
    * It’s free!

On balance, you’re getting a fully functional photo album, and some basic image editing software.

If you want my recommendation – try it. If it has all you need then you’re onto a real winner. And if it doesn’t you can go back to the free photo imaging software reviews and look for something more suited to your needs.

Picasa, the free photo imaging software, comes as part of the Google Pack. If you don’t want the rest of the pack just de-select them when you get to the download screen.

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