Live Photo Gallery v Google Picasa. And the winner is…..

Arriving at a final conclusion about which one of these two excellent free photo editing programs is superior to the other has certainly not been easy.  Until recently I would have definitely chosen Windows Live Photo Gallery, simply because of its ability to upload your photos to so many other photo hosting sites such as flickr and Facebook and  its inbuilt panoramic photo stitching ability.  It has been the mainstay for all of my photo editing for as long as it has been available to use,  but since the recent new updates to Picasa such as the excellent  People tagging which recognises the same faces in your photos and  the  easy to use  Geotagging feature, I have to choose  Picasa. 

Yes there all me

The new facial recognition is so time saving, requiring the user to only  tag a few photos of a particular person in order to enable  Picasa to then find other instances of  that face then tag all other instances automatically, or if it is not sure, suggesting to the user all other instances. This is a boon if you have lots of photos of a person. The Geotagging feature is so easy to do as well,  being right there on the viewing page. 

Geotagging in PicasaSince I began to compare both of these programs, Picasa has received two new updates. Contrast this with Live Photo Gallery which has not been updated with any new features for nearly a year.  That means that even if Geotagging and people recognition were introduced into Photo Gallery in the next Wave 4 update, supposedly scheduled for sometime next year, it then means that Photo Gallery would in essence be playing ‘catch up’ with Picasa.

My only gripe with Picasa is that it doesn’t allow you to publish your photos to outside sites such as Flickr or Facebook, by default you have to upload to your Picasa Web albums,  although this can be worked around  by simply downloading the PixelPipe plug in to Picasa and then enabling Flickr and Facebook sites (or any other site that you happen to use) into PixelPipe. 

The default extras available in each program tend to balance one another out.  Picasa contains an excellent Collage feature by default, whereas Photo Gallery has the ability to create a panoramic photo.  Both allow you to make a movie using your photos and both of the Movie features are fairly easy to get to grips with even for a new user.  There are other extras available for Photo Gallery such as Auto Collage and Photosynth which can be downloaded from HERE  but they are not currently built into Photo Gallery by default.   Also Auto Collage is not free to use at this time.

I am hoping and keeping my fingers crossed that in the new Wave 4 updates to LIve Gallery the following will be included into Photo Gallery by default. Auto Collage incorporated, Geotagging inside the Live Gallery window using the excellent Bing maps, Photosynth also included and people tagging being able to (as in Picasa) recognise the same face in all of your  photos after you have tagged just a  few.

Then  my conclusions would obviously be completely different, but as these two excellent free photo editing applications stand at this point in time and  in light of the recent updates made to it,  I have to choose Google’s Picasa.

TG

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Live Photo Gallery v Google Picasa.round 4 continued.

Live Photo Gallery  Extras.

In this post i will  take a look at the extras that are included in Windows Live Photo Gallery. There are others available such as Auto Collage and Photosynth but at this time they are not available in Live Gallery  by default and need to be downloaded from the extras website, so in the interests of fairness I will not include them.

My favourite extra that comes as default in Photo Gallery is the Panoramic feature.  It is available to the user by clicking on the EXTRAS tab at the top of the viewing window once you have highlighted your chosen photos to make into a panoramic photo.  Of course in order to make use of this feature, you have to first of all take some suitable photographs of your subject or the inbuilt stitching process will not work.

To do this, you simply take a series of shots panning sideways as you take them. So for example, if you want to take a photograph of a particular location but it is too wide to fit into one  shot, all you need to do is take your first shot at the left or right  hand side of the vista, then move the camera across to the left or right, making sure that the second shot slightly overlaps the first one, then move across again and take another shot which overlaps the second one until you have completely included the whole of the subject.  (see the three photos below.)

SNC13674SNC13675 SNC13676

You can also take a photo of a tall building for example and in that instance move the camera from the bottom to the top of the subject (or vice versa)  in order to include it all.  Once you have loaded your photos into Live Photo Gallery, then all you do is select them, followed by clicking on the make tab in the task bar and then selecting Create a panoramic photo from the drop down list. Live photo gallery will then attempt to stitch your photos together into a panoramic shot and once it has achieved this, you can give the completed picture a name.  It can then be cropped (to exclude any rough edges) and fixed in the usual way, before being saved to your picture files. (see below the completed panoramic photo.)

Xmas shopping in York stitch

As with Picasa, you can also create a movie with your photographs, and as a fair comparison, I chose to make a movie using exactly the same photographs and music as I used in Picasa.  After selecting the particular photos, all you do is click on the Make tab and then select Make a Movie. As long as you have Live Movie Maker installed, you are then taken to the Movie Maker screen where you can then easily create your movie.  Again in the interests of fairness I have used the Auto Movie feature and not altered anything apart from the title screen  (font,background colour) and the ending screen. (font,background colour.)

You can choose to make a blog post about your chosen photos if you have Live Writer installed, or you can burn your photos to a DVD to send or give to someone else.  Live photo gallery does allow you to tag people in your photographs if it recognises that a person is included in a shot as it recognises faces , but as yet it does not ‘recognise’ a particular face once you have already tagged that person  in the same way that  Picasa does, so for example, if you have named someone in a few of your photos, it won’t then know who they are, or suggest that it is the same person.   Nor is there any way to Geotag your photos into Bing maps either. 

You can make a collage of your photos in Live photo Gallery by downloading Auto Collage, but at the moment this is not included in Photo Gallery by default. You can of course easily add more photo tools to Live Photo Gallery by downloading either Auto Collage or Photosynth directly from the Extras tab and  I hope that they will be included into Windows Live Photo Gallery in the next Wave 4 update alongside an easy to use Geotagging feature utilising the excellent Bing maps.

TG

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Live Photo Gallery v Google Picasa.round 4.

This round is all about the extras that are included with both of these free programs. For this post, I am going to take a look at some of the extras included with Google’s Picasa, and then do a later post about the extras included with Live Photo Gallery. To say that both of these programs are completely free to use, they both include some fantastic extras for you to make use of. I am going to concentrate on the ones that I feel are likely to be the most useful to  new users.

Name Tags.

The new version of Picasa now includes name tags, and this feature is very useful because its such a time saver.  As soon as you have installed Picasa and it has finished  loading in all of your photos stored on your computer, it begins to scan all of them for peoples faces. You can add a name to a persons photo and then Picasa will find all other instances of that named person and ask you to verify if those photos are of the same person or not  You can confirm them all or individually.  I  personally love this feature and it really works well, saving you the trouble of sifting through all of your photo collection to name individuals included in them.  However, do note here that Picasa will find every person’s face in every photo that you have stored! Luckily you can choose to tell it to ignore any that are superfluous.

Confirm all your people photos

Creating a Collage. 

Another useful feature included in Picasa is the ability to create a collage of a collection of your photographs.  To create a collage, you simply select some photos or pictures and then click on the Collage icon at the bottom of the viewing area.  You can scramble and shuffle the pictures, change the background to either a plain one or have one of the pictures as a background. Each picture included can have a frame or not, and you have complete control over the finished  size of the Collage.

Creating A Collage in Picasa

Geotagging in Picasa.

Another very useful included feature is geotagging which is made so easy to do in the new version. If you have a photo that was taken at a particular place or spot, just click on the Places icon and a world map will load on the right hand side of the viewing screen. You can then move and click until you arrive at the town/city or area where the photo was taken. Then all you do is just drag and drop the chosen photo into the map to geotag it. You can add as many shots of that area/building etc as you want just by dragging them to the map area. Each photo geotagged is then assigned a small red ‘flag’ on the right hand lower side to denote that it has been geotagged. Its so easy!  Again, I love this feature.

Putting my pic in its place

Making a Movie

You can take a collection of pictures and easily create a movie out of them inside Picasa.  This feature is ideal for a collection of photos of a trip that you made or a day out for example,or as in my demo a theme.   You can add some music to the movie from your music files, decide on the title and the fonts used for it, choose the transitions between each photograph, play it through and then edit it until you are satisfied with the result. You can also add some captions to individual photos when you edit it.

Unfortunately I have not been able to  include the completed video in this post  to show you as  I had  lot’s of problems trying to get my video file uploaded to YouTube, in fact I had to give up trying in the end as I do not have unlimited uploads/downloads. This uploading videos area  definitely needs sorting out by the Picasa bods as it appears that I am not the only one who has experienced difficulty in this area.  Let’s hope that I have better luck in my next post when I’ll be taking a look at the extra features available in Live Photo Gallery.

TG EDIT. Have now managed to get the video uploaded to YouTube by cheating and using Windows Live Movie Maker instead. So the enclosed video is made with Picasa but uploaded with Movie Maker. I have not altered it in any way.

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Live Photo Gallery v Google Picasa round 3.

More extensive editing in Picasa.

In this post I intend to take a look at the more intensive editing features contained in both of these two free desktop photo  editing programs. . Looking at Picasa first, it’s editing sidebar which is placed on the left hand side of the photo screen  is divided into three separate areas or tabs. These consist of Basic Fixes, Tuning and Effects.

Picasa's Basic FixesBasic Fixes contains clickable icons for Crop, Straighten, Redeye, I’m Feeling Lucky (auto fix) Auto Contrast, Auto Colour, Retouch, Text and Fill Light. Only Fill Light has a adjustable slider. The Redeye feature in Picasa is particularly impressive because even if the person who is affected by the redeye is some distance away in the photograph, Picasa can still enable Redeye correction and it automatically draws a green square around each affected eye so that all the user has to do is to click on Apply.

Fix red eye in PIcasaTwo features which are included in this category that are not available in Photo Gallery are Retouch and Text. As the name implies, Retouch allows the user to touch up someone’s face in order to cover up any  blemishes for example by brushing it out. You can choose which size of brush you wish to use and then by clicking the circle above the blemish you can cover it, and then click on Apply. You are able to ‘undo’ the patch or cover if you are not happy.

The text feature allows you to place some text into the photograph. You can choose which font and size of font to use and also its alignment and its transparency.

Placing text on a photo The middle tab Tuning consists of four separate sliders for Fill Light, Highlights, Shadows and Colour Temperature to enable you to ‘fine tune’ the photograph.  All can be reversed with Undo Retouches. The last tab Effects features all the different Effects that you can apply to your photo  shown as small icons consisting of that  particular photo so that you can easily see just how each effect will look when applied to the photograph. So Picasa contains some  quite extensive editing features considering that it comes entirely free to use.

PIcasa shows you its effects.

More extensive editing in Photo Gallery.

In direct contrast, the editing column in Photo Gallery is placed on the right hand side of the photo editing screen. It’s editing tools make far more  use  of sliders in order to adjust each feature. They consist of the following, Auto Adjust, Adjust Exposure, Adjust Colour, Straighten Photo, Crop Photo, Adjust Detail, Fix Red eye and Black and White Effects. With the adjust exposure feature as well as sliders for Brightness, Contrast, Shadows and Highlights, you also have  a Histogram so that you can see how your adjustments look.

The Adjust colour also makes use of sliders for Colour Temperature, Tint and Saturation.

Photo Gallery's finer adjustmentsWhen you click on Straighten photo, a grid is overlaid on top of the photograph to assist with lining up any vertical or horizontal lines in that photo. Crop photo allows you to crop out any areas that are superficial to the photo and both of these features also work exactly the same  in Picasa.

The Adjust detail feature is relatively new  to Photo Gallery and was added during the last updates. It allows you to Sharpen up your photo by using a slider. Firstly as soon as you select Adjust detail, the photo is ‘zoomed in’ so that you are more able to see the close up affects of your sharpening, then because applying any sharpening usually introduces ‘noise’ into the photo, you can click on the Analyze button to reduce the noise that may have been introduced during the sharpening procedure.  I have found that this feature works quite well.

Adjusting detail in Photo GalleryThe Fix red eye in Photo Gallery does not work in the same way as the same feature  in Picasa.  Instead, the user  has to manually drag the mouse pointer around the effected eye instead of the program automatically drawing a rectangle for you, and so whilst it is fairly easy to do if the affected person was fairly close to the camera when the photo was taken, it is not as useful if the person was stood quite a distance away.  However, one could argue that its harder to spot the incidence of Redeye if someone is a further away. 

Fix red eye in Photo galleryThe Black and white effects in Photo Gallery also are shown as small icons displaying their effects, but not of  that particular photo, so the only way to see just how they look when applied to your photo is to click on them and try them out.   All adjustments made to any photograph can easily be undone by clicking on the Undo button at the very bottom of the Edit column.

Black and White effects in PG In the next round between these two programs,  I intend to focus on any extras that either program provides such as the Panoramic feature incorporated into Photo Gallery and  the Collage feature and the Geotagging that is available in Picasa.

TG

Live Photo Gallery v Google Picasa. round 2.

Sharing your photographs in Picasa.

As I am comparing these two programs from a newbie’s point of view and how they might make use of them both,  I decided that next I would compare how easy it is to share your photographs with other people, as that is probably the next thing that a new user might want to do.  They may want to send their newly edited photographs to someone in an e-mail, or upload them to an online site such as  Facebook to share with family and friends.

PIcasa choices for sharing In Picasa, the choices offered for sharing a particular batch of photos are found at the bottom of the main screen.  You can choose to do the following with your selected photographs, you can upload them to the Picasa web albums, send them in an e-mail, print out your selected photos, copy them to another hard disc, you can buy prints from an online provider, post them to a blog on Blogger if you have one, create a collage with these photos, make a  movie with them or Geo-Tag them using Google Maps.  That’s quite a choice, but a new user will probably just want to send them in an e-mail or perhaps upload them to a site where others can then view them.

Choice of Email program for sending your pictures Most of the icons used are nice and large and also mostly self explanatory as to their use.  Clicking on the Email icon will bring up a window containing your desktop email program (in my case Windows Live Mail) or offer to use Google Mail instead. You can make sure that your choice for this is permanent by  ticking the ‘’Remember this setting, don’t display this dialog again’.  There’s also a handy Help offered as well. 

As I use the desktop email program Windows Live Mail I was then able to choose to send these photos as a photo mail.  Alternatively you can upload your photos online to Picasa web albums where you can then inform your family and friends  that they can view them.  If you don’t already have a Web Album you can create one and this will require a Google mail address.  You can also stipulate who can see the photos once they are uploaded.

Uploading to Picasa web albumsThe printing offer Shop is a good idea for those users who don’t own a printer and there are quite a few different sites to choose from  such as SnapFish,  myPix.com, Klick and Bonusprint to name but a few and these choices will be  different depending on which country you reside in.

Sharing your photos in Live Photo Gallery.

Choices for sharing in Photo GalleryThe different choices for sharing your photos in Photo Gallery are found on the toolbar at the top of the main window.  Again, you can choose to e-mail your photos to someone and clicking on email will take you directly to Windows Live mail and the photo email page (see picture below) so that you can then send your chosen photos to someone as a photo email.  Because Photo Gallery is part of the Essentials suite of programs which also contains Windows Live mail, obviously these two programs are meant to work well together and this shows by how your photos are automatically inserted straight into a photo email.

Windows Live mail synced with photo galleryAlternatively you can upload them to either Windows Live if you have an account there, or  alternatively you can upload them to flickr.  With the addition of a plug in you can also upload them to your Facebook account as well.

Publishiing to flickr When uploading to either Windows Live or flickr via the Publish tab,  you are allowed to choose  which folder (or set in the case of flickr) to upload to, and also set up permissions for who can view these photos. To add more services to upload to such as Facebook, you just choose More Services where you are then taken to the Windows Live Photo site which then lists the plug ins available to you.  Its a pretty comprehensive list consisting of Facebook, SmugMug, Picasa Web Albums, PIxelPipe, Iperuty, Multiply and Drupal. 

In order to sum up the sharing choices given to the user in both programs, I feel that they offer very different options in regard to how they approach which sites you can publish your photos to with Picasa only giving the choice of its own Website, whilst Photo Gallery gives the user a range of options including Picasa’s, so Photo Gallery is definitely more versatile and ‘’open’ in this respect.

In my next post I plan to take a look at the more complex editing features of both programs and compare just how easy they are to use.  

TG

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