I recently bought a new camera. Still a little intimidating and I have not gotten to use it much yet. However this post was more driven by the software that came with the camera. I was completely unimpressed with the software bundle considering this was a DSLR. I understand that if I plan on using RAW format that there are some hoops to jump to convert the file but in general the software was poorly done.
Then I was watching a program on Discover HD Theater called “Its All Geek To Me” and since it was on digital cameras I was very interested. They cleared up some questions I had already been pondering regarding how to take better pictures. Then they went into how to get the pictures from your camera onto a computer. As expected when they discussed the software the first one mentioned was the Mac software but then they mentioned Google Picasa. Two thoughts here; the first being this is very similar to my concerns about Windows Live and its marketing. Much like search and maps the public is being hammered from various sources about the Google platform. Sure I am partial but there was a time when no one knew what Google was, back when Yahoo was the household term. Working in IT I see the anti-Microsoft bias all of the time. Secondly, I used Picasa and granted I am not sure when this TV show was recorded but to pick Picasa over Windows Live Photo Gallery seems very un-geek. Sure, there will be those who prefer Picasa or the software that came with your camera or some other product but for a show claiming to be geek teaching the public, they really short changed the viewers.
It took me some time to understand Windows Live Photo Gallery and for that matter the Windows Photo Gallery that comes with Windows Vista. I guess I am old school so the way to organize files is to use file folders (aka directories) so the process of using “Tags” seemed foreign. After using it solely to import, and manage my photos I found it to be a very nice application and much like Picasa it is free. I really like the feature where you can create a panoramic picture by “stitching” multiple pictures together. *an example of stitching two pictures to make one-> http://cid-eb07580dfe0e1448.skydrive.live.com/embedrowdetail.aspx/Public/PiratesGame/SkylinefromPNCPark.jpgIt seems to handle red eye and other minor editing functions. I can’t justify buying Photoshop and there are some pretty cool cheap and even free products for doing more in-depth editing. One of the disappointments with Windows Live Photo Gallery has been the cropping and more importantly the resizing tool. Camera megapixels keep going up which means your picture files are getting bigger. When you are sending these files to friends and family, chances are they don’t need the full depth of the file as it came straight from the camera. Yes the large format is great if you are printing posters or doing some major editing but in general most files can be reduced to a size where the clarity is still amazing but it’s not clogging up your hard drive or internet bandwidth.
Then there is the question of what to do with the pictures to share them…. I am really liking the Skydrive system to store as well as share the pictures. Being able to send a link or even embed (as I did with the stitching example above) within web media. I know many people use services like flickr, snapfish etc.. but considering I can not access flickr from work as it is blocked (corporate security) not to mention I have not been impressed with what I have seen. The Windows Live Photos seems to be a service that could be better or maybe removed, I just think its a great name but that you can’t send a link to a specific picture is a big missing.
Another new tool from Microsoft, and yes it is free, that I recently came across is the Pro-Photo Tools. I came across this when I was looking into “geo-tagging” files for use with Deep Zoom collages. The tool simply expands the file information you can add to a picture. It also has some embedded functions that perform GPS calculations and record the GPS data into the file information and view them on the map. It is version 1 and hopefully some tweaks are added like a template so that common fields like Photographer can be applied easier. Check it out at http://www.microsoft.com/prophoto/downloads/tools.aspx