Software tracks, fixes photos deep within computers

Albums: Digital cameras and scanners inspire picture-taking beyond what we can remember.

November 13, 2003|By Kevin Washington | Kevin Washington,SUN STAFF

Many of the people who snap away with digital cameras rely upon the software that comes with their camera or photo inkjet printer to organize, view or enhance their digital images.

This wouldn't be a bad thing if most of the software wasn't just some afterthought for the camera manufacturer. Much of it lacks depth for helping you keep ahead of the bazillion pictures that you might shoot during the life of your digital camera.

Losing photographs on my hard drives is a regular occurrence, because every few days I'm either testing a camera or shooting images on my fishing trips to some of the most scenic locations along America's East Coast. In fact, a count of images on my hard drive at home was close to about 2,600 - and that's after I transferred several thousand to CD-Rs about three weeks ago.

Since the digital camera came into vogue a couple of years ago, several software companies have provided photo albums for the PC. The better ones offer ways to easily index and find images or folders of images and to share them. The best of the group also provides quick-fix software that allows you to improve photographs if they're too dark or have red eye, as well as to rotate or crop the images.

Adobe Photoshop Album

The best for my money is Adobe Photoshop Album 2.0 ($50), which carries the moniker of Adobe's revolutionary photo-editing program.

Album, which is in its second incarnation this year, provides a more than adequate filing system so that the images you shot last Christmas can be indexed so they won't be confused with images from the previous four Christmases.

Adobe enables the user to see all of the photos and also tells where video and audio clips are on your computer with its sophisticated but easy-to-use Find command.

Once you know what's on your hard drive, you can use Photoshop Album to organize your images. Having a tough time figuring out when you shot what? I frequently have this after I have revisited a location where I have shot lots of pictures, like the Gettysburg battlefield. A calendar view in Photo Album shows you when photographs were placed in the computer - making it easy to figure out which trip to a location produced which pictures.

Given that I often forget when I've shot photographs because I shoot so many, it helps that the calendar view reminds me of when I last visited a location.

Templates in the program make it easy to create slide shows, cards, calendars and other quick-view devices for your images. You can then move the images to the Web or publish the photos.

I especially liked the ease with which you can compress photographs for the Internet. Many 3- and 4-megapixel cameras shoot photographs suitable for printing at 300 dots per inch without having to go through photo editing. This is way too large a file for e-mailing; I get more requests from colleagues to reduce a massive photograph for e-mail than for any technology question.

Meanwhile, most of my photos ultimately end up on CD-Rs; I know that they won't fade there and I can just pop them into the nearest computer if I want to share them with someone standing beside me or who is online hundreds of miles away.

Adobe has nicely thought this out and has a burning program inside Album 2.0. If you have a CD burner, the program enables you to burn CDs right then and there.

Jasc's Photo Album

Several years ago, before Adobe Photoshop came with an image browser and Windows had a fancy image viewer, I depended upon Jasc Paint Shop Pro ($50) to see thumbnails of images in folders. Jasc, which had an album program called Aftershot, now has Paint Shop Photo Album 4, another good organizer for your photographs.

In fact, you can get Paint Shop Pro 8, the company's photo editing software, and Paint Shop Photo Album in a recently available Power Suite package for $150, a good start for parents who have budding photographers in the home or a photo enthusiast not yet ready to blow $650 for the latest version of Adobe Photoshop and Photoshop Album.

You might find that the software for fixing pictures in Jasc's Photo Album isn't nearly as easy to use or as powerful, in my opinion, as the software in Adobe's, but the sharing options are equally good. I liked the printing interface for outputting images to an inkjet printer. Paint Shop did a good job of optimizing space on photo paper for making prints. And I like that you can marry an MP3 or other music file to a photo slide show.

Extensis Portfolio

Many professionals and Macintosh users like Extensis Portfolio 6.0 ($199) for organizing their photographs. I thought it was an adequate organizer without being as good as Photoshop Album. The organization was relatively easy, but Portfolio is a true dedicated asset manager with few extras.

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