Friday, June 15, 2012

How to Organize Your Pictures Online

This is a continuation from yesterday's .. a Part B if you like.

Yesterday's main intent was to encourage you to design a scheme of your own for organizing your digital photographs IN YOUR COMPUTER'S FILE  SYSTEM. I showed you the scheme that I use, but you may prefer another of your own, or make it like someone else's you know, it doesn't matter. The point is - make a scheme of your own, not using the software that came with your camera - that should only be installed AFTER YOU CREATE YOUR FOLDER SCHEME. Doing it this way, the software will automatically pick up and arrange your photos in the way you've already designed, and keep it that way. If you install the software first, then it will force you to organize your photos in the way that it prefers, which usually pleases nobody but the person who designed the software.

Let's talk about camera software for a minute. Every new camera comes packed with a software CD that usually contains four types of programs for Windows and MAC:

  1. Image Sorting and Browsing Assistant
  2. Advanced Image Editing
  3. Tricks and Enhancements (such as Panorama Stitching)
  4. Camera Specific Aids (such as Proprietary RAW Conversion)

I always install them in Windows, and try them out, but seldom if ever use any of them, even when working in Windows. The first two especially tend to be nothing more than re-inventions of the wheel, unless your camera comes with something more universal, such as Elements, ACD-See or Silkey-Pix. But if it's not a well known branded 3rd Party Software such as these, I've always found them to be rather non-intuitive, in spite of an aim to be "beginner friendly". Sadly, these programs will simply lead a beginner into a lot of bad habits, and if he/she takes a lot of pictures, will leave them in an unsorted mess.

The ultimate goal of Image Sorting and Browsing is to not only get your pictures arranged on your Computer in a sensible fashion, but also to get them arranged on-line, to give your pics an Internet presence. Canon's packaged software, for example, enables you to upload your pictures to the Canon Website, Image Gateway. But strangely enough, just like most camera maker's software, there are frustrating flaws. In this case, all Canon cameras label their JPEG files as *.JPG (capital letters) in the camera, but Image Gateway does not recognize this as a file type - to upload your pictures to this site, you have to change all your pictures to *.jpg (lower case)!!! I point this out to make my next point:

Beginners Advice of the Day - let the camera manufacturers make their great cameras, but let the software firms make their great software. This is just another way of saying you might as well not bother with any camera branded software, but stick to the software giants instead - Adobe, Google, Apple - they all make excellent Sorting and Browsing software that puts your pictures on the Internet.

Personally, I'm a Google man all the way, and they are the creators of Picasa and Picasa Web Albums.
Let's talk about the difference between them - it's important. Picasa is a "Client" Software, which means that it does it's thing by being installed and running directly on your computer. You don't need to be connected to the Internet to use it for organizing and viewing your pictures, but if you are connected to the internet, you can use it to "push" (export) your pictures into the Internet, to appear on Picasa Web Albums. Now, picasa Web Albums in turn, is not installed on your Computer, but runs from the Internet via your Google Account (if you already use GMail, you already have a Picasa Account - cool!) Try it - just go to  Picasa Web Albums and login to it using your Gmail username and password.

In order for this whole Picasa thing to work, you don't really need the Picasa "client" installed, as long as you're on the internet all the time, because Picasa Web Albums is used by "pulling" (import, upload) your photos directly into Internet "Web Albums" which you define in three easy steps. That's the beauty of it. The whole idea is that once you've created a Web Album, that Album has it's own unique internet presence (URL), so that you can copy and paste each Album you create into Emails, or another Website such as your Blog, just like I did here.

Now for those of you "in the know", you might think I'm a little peeved off because of this. Not so. A certain Linux program called GwenView quickly came to the rescue with a bunch of Export Plugins, among them "Export to Picasa Web Albums". When I use GwenView to export my pictures, it locates my pictures in my Windows File System (while I'm using Linux - remember yesterday's topic), and then exports them in exactly the same fashion as the Picasa client does in Windows.

But here's the bottom line: as long as you're connected to the Internet (who isn't?), you don't need any Client Software - simply do all this:

  • leave your camera software CD unwrapped in the box 
  • forget about everything I said above 
  • organize your photos in your File System under "Pictures" in a way that best works for you, using my advice from yesterday as your guide 
  • use your favourite Web Service to import / upload your photo "collections" - this will always create unique URL's for each Collection, or for each individual photo if you wish. 

The only trick is that you need to be able to find your photos in order to upload them - and that again goes back to yesterdays lesson - if you immediately pre-organize them into Folders that are meaningful to you at the time of transfer from your camera to your computer, you'll always be able to find them.

Here is a summary of Web Services that all provide this very same result of creating URL - shareable photo collections:

Chances are, you're already using one of these services. I simply cannot emphasize enough that no matter which Web Service you will use for organizing and sharing your photos online, if you cannot find them because you have not organized them OFFLINE, it will lead to nothing but frustration.

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