Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Photography Tips - Picasa, Collages

A dear friend of mine told me this weekend that I inspired her to go out and take photos of the snowmen in her neighborhood and that she would share them if she knew how to get them on her computer. That was the final straw that made me decide to post some photography tips on my blog. I remember buying my first digital camera before my husband's parents 50th anniversary. I did not have a clue! I had always loved film photography but had no idea what to do with this new fangled thing! I took some photos on it, but then did not know how to have the photos printed (other than on my own printer) and I think I ended up deleting those photos and they are lost forever!

Later I learned about the kiosks at the store where I could download them and have them printed. I have given so many lessons at the kiosks at my Sam's Club. Then stores began having the ability to download the photos from home and either pick up the photos at the store or have them mailed to you. I can download photos to my daughter's Walgreen's in Memphis and then she can pick them up...cool, huh? So much has happened in the last 10-15 years in digital photography that it is hard to keep up with it all.

You do need to know if your computer has a slot for the type of memory card your camera uses. If not, you might need to purchase a card reader that has a slot for your type card. It will have a cord to hook it up to a USB port. If you go to any electronics or camera store, they can help you get the right thing. We will talk more later about memory cards, as they come in different speeds and sometimes that can be critical. Even the readers come in different speeds.

One of my favorite discoveries was Picasa. This is a free program (Google now owns it) that you can download at Picasa.com. It is available for personal computers or macs. It works great as a place to store and edit your photos. You can do basic editing or more creative editing, as I will share here in this post. You will also have access to a web album that makes sharing your photos easy (when there are too many to email). I blog from there often, anytime I can limit my photos to four. I have no affiliation with Picasa...just a very happy user for years!

Today, let's look at some collage possibilities. This has really improved over the years. The collage at the top of this post is actually made of three photos that were placed on top of each other. I will often take photos with this feature in mind. I leave an open space on a photo so you can have just the edge with the bleeding hearts, etc. Yes, you can do this with layers in Photoshop, but my this is so much easier!

My daughter, Allison, has a frame for a calendar that presented a problem. It looks like a twelve inch calendar would fit, but it is just shy of being the right size. To solve this problem, I cut a piece of mat board, saved a place for an 8 by 10 collage (portrait mode) and a 8.5 by 11 calendar (landscape mode). I can do collages for each season that she can change out (posted with photo corners) and mounted the calendar (printed free on the Internet) with brads (so she can pull off each month). Now she can see all the remaining months of the year and have family photos on her kitchen calendar. Plus, it is less expensive than buying a calendar each year.
Picture pile is just one of the collage choices on Picasa. Above is the winter collage for Allison's calendar. I could adjust the sizes, add the border, move the photos around and get it just the way I wanted it. I can make the background the color I want...I can even use a photo as my background. The black and white photo posted down below was also a picture pile I made five years ago for their wedding program. The collage feature was very limited then...I was thrilled with the improvements.
Another option is a grid. The grid above was created and printed 5 by 7 with two grids printed per page. After printing, I cut the photo paper in half and made a nice photo book of a church fish fry, using coil binding to keep them all together. I do one of these books each year for the couple that hosts the fish fry and they can enjoy them for years. Yes, there are so many options for making and printing photos books now, but this is a very inexpensive alternative.

I have also used grids for scrapbook layouts. While in Europe, I took photos of door knockers and handles. I did a grid in a square of sixteen door knockers and printed them for a layout ("What Knockers!").

I will print a grid and use them for a card, such as the card for a wedding shower for the bride of the recent wedding I did. I have photos of her when she was small with her easy bake oven, sweeping with a broom, ("wifely duties"), etc. I used that grid on the front of the card, indicating that she had been practicing all her life to get married!
Hopefully, this will give you some clues to downloading photos and information about Picasa and the collages you can create. We have a lot to cover! Always feel free to comment if you have questions or email me. Also, if you have experience with other free photo editing programs (Gimp, Picnix, etc.), we would be happy to hear about those too!


Ruth Song said...

Thank you for these much needed photo tips.


Joyce said...

Good info Holly!