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Take Pictures, Tell Stories: Stay on Top of the Chaos

Submitted by Cindi Trainor on May 27, 2010 - 9:22am

'Photo Paper' courtesy Orin Zebest

In sitting down to write Part 5 of this series, "Turning Images into Objects," I realized I'd gotten ahead of myself. If you've been keeping up with this series, you'll know that we've covered photography basics, what the modes on your camera mean, and ideas for using your camera creatively in the library. Before we can think about prints, greeting cards, business cards, stickers and other interesting and practical things that you can make from photos, you have to get them off the camera and onto the web. Simple, right? Well.... It can be, if you plan ahead a bit. Here are some tips that may help.

Every digital camera comes with a USB cable with which to move files from the camera to your computer. Another option is to use a card reader, either via a USB cable or one built into the computer. The speed of either method will vary; I recommend that you try both and see which is faster. Your importing workflow will vary depending on which program you choose to manage your images. Some programs, like Apple's iPhoto, copy each image into its own folder structure, regardless of the original location. This is fine if you're importing from a card, but if you've pointed the program at a folder on the hard drive, you now have two copies of each image in that folder.

There are many options for managing the images on your hard drive. My two favorites are Google's Picasa and Adobe's Photoshop LightRoom. Either can help you organize, label and rate images; view and edit metadata; and navigate using the folder structure of your computer. LightRoom is aimed at photographers who have hundreds or thousands of images and is an excellent package for editing, exporting, creating files to print or even creating web galleries. Picasa is made by Google and is aimed at the every day photographer. Editing capabilities are built into Picasa, as are ability to upload to Picasa Web Albums, the companion website, or to print, export, publish to Blogger, or do fun things like create a collage or movie. Picasa's editing controls are very intuitive, and the folder view is easy to navigate. Unlike LightRoom, Picasa is also free!

LightRoom and Picasa's organization and management features both center around folders, albums--called "Collections" in LightRoom--and metadata, but Picasa has an added feature helpful to the every day photographer: Name Tags. Picasa uses face-matching technology to help organize photos according to the names that you supply. Sometimes the results are stunningly accurate; sometimes, not so much.

The secret to capturing a perfect image while you're learning is to take as many shots as the time and situation allow. This practice logically leads to hundreds, if not thousands, of images to sift through, export, process, and upload. The following process is one way to prevent your hard drive from filling with image dander: After importing photos into your image management software, flip through them one-by-one, deleting any that are beyond repair (overexposed, underexposed, out of focus) or that you just don't like. Mark any that you like using the software's rating system, which often comprises stars. At the end of the first pass, you should have a group of rated images. Repeat this process until only a few photos remain. These should be the best. Process, export and upload these and don't look back.
Up next: Sharing photos online.

About the "Take Pictures, Tell Stories" series

This summer, I had the pleasure and privilege of participating in a LITA Preconference session with Michael Porter and Helene Blowers titled, "A Thousand Words: Taking Better Photos for Telling Stories in Your Library."  Michael and Helene shared great tips for using and reusing photos to record and relate the stories of our libraries and our communities, and I explained and illustrated the basic principles of photography and that pictures can be improved by understanding how these principles work together to produce a properly exposed image.  There was a ton of content shared over the day; over the next few months, the “Take Pictures, Tell Stories @ Our Libraries” series will share some of this and other photo-related content with TechSource readers.