Monday, September 15, 2008

Picasa 3 out, D300 RAW support (and my wolk flow)

I downloaded the update to Picasa 2, Picasa 3 a few days ago and have had a chance to try it.
Here's a youtube.com video of the new Picasa:


The main things I use Picasa for are:

  • File Manager

  • Quick Edits to a day's shoot, processing hundreds of files in minutes

  • Searching for images based on location, based on the folder names


  • I should probably describe how I manage my files. When I get home from a shoot, I move all the files to a folder based on the date and location. I went to Blackwater NWR MD yesterday on 9/14/2008, so those files are in a folder named 2008_0914_BlackwaterMD. I then use a Bulk Renaming Utility to rename all the files to a format based on the date and sequence number of all the images I've taken with a particular camera. Here's a sample file name from yesterday: 2008_0914_D300_34767.jpg. I can tell from the file name when I took it, and which camera I took it with, and I also know it is the 34,767th image I've taken with my D300. By taking the time to create meaningful folder names, and date and camera specific file names I can use Picasa to easily search for date or locations, or individual files.

    Picasa 3 adds the ability to add text to images, or a "watermark" of text on multiple images being exported at the same time.

    Once I off load my images from the cards, and rename them, I will review them with Picasa. If the day was amazing, best shots ever of something, I will burn the originals to DVD for backups prior to even looking at them. I do this because I don't want to accidentally delete or overwrite an original because I am in a rush to look at what I think are good images. After a long day, anything can happen while at the PC and I take that little bit of extra care to protect the results of that day...

    Then I will use Picasa to quickly review images in the sequence I shot them (folder sorted by date). When I see something I like I will focus on the image, and apply some quick level adjustments, sharpening (sometimes, recently I skip this step) and a crop, in about 10 or 20 seconds. And then I move on to the next images. As I am working through the photos of a day, I will export them in small batches to a new folder (the edited ones) which follows a specific naming convention. I take the source folder name and append -exp1, for export 1. So for my Blackwater example above it would be: 2008_0914_BlackwaterMD-exp1. Doing them in batches helps because it gives me a chance to get up from the PC for a minute or two, and in case Picasa acts up and looses the edits I did it won't be hours of work, just minutes. The naming convention for the exports helps so I don't accidentally wind up working on a photo in Photoshop that is fact not the original. The -exp1 tells me what stage of edit it is at. And whenever I edit something in Photoshop (cs2) I append -cs to the file name so I know it was done in Photoshop...

    After I have finished the first pass over all my images, I will have a folder of the ones I "picked" with rough edits done to them all. Using this method I can review 500 to 1000 images, in about 30 to 60 minutes, and have a folder I can then review to see what stands out from the group of rough edits. Depending on the quality of the rough edits, I will either add a background and logo and be done, or I will open the original jpg or RAW file and start a new edit.

    I've found this work flow to be pretty good. One of the benefits is that I can't fall in to the trap of working on a mediocre image for an hour or two trying to make it something it is not, and not getting to the actual better images in a timely fashion. It forces me to review my images quickly, and then review those select ones (with edits and crops applied) to find what I want to "use" from a day's shooting.

    And when time passes and I've got thousands of images to look at to consider editing and posting (on flickr) I have already applied an initial review and cut to them, to weed out the ones that just weren't that good.

    The other thing I do relates to uploads. I needed a way to track what images I posted, so as to not repost an image. I create a folder called "uploaded" under each where_ever-exp1 folder. Regardless of what source I picked for an edit (rough edit, original) I put all the edits in the -exp1 folder structure, and then when I post it I will move the posted one and all other flavors of the edited file to the "uploaded" folder.

    Back to Picasa 3. Google has added D300 RAW/NEF support which is nice. But it's not a perfect solution. Picasa 3 doesn't allow for any of the normal RAW adjustments that you can get from Adobe Camera RAW (ACR). It does the equivalent of "I'm Feeling Lucky" on the exposure and settings to the RAW file and displays the results. This can be ok, but very often it isn't the best output. I shoot either JPGs only, or RAW plus JPG, usually never RAW only. I like the JPGs for ease of editing and reviewing, but I also like the RAW as a safety net, and a way to tweak an image beyond what is possible from a JPG alone.

    Picasa 3 also now has a retouch option (which I have not yet tried), and other features which I don't use such as upload to Picasa Web, and Print functions. It can also be used to make collages which I have used occasionally.

    So, in review, Picasa 3 is a great File Manager and tool for doing quick edits. I use it every day and save time working on the hundreds of images I regularly shoot on any given day, and very often the results are good enough that I wind up posting the results that Picasa yields (plus a background and logo/text that I add in Photoshop). And when I want to spend more time on an edit of an original in another program like Photoshop or Photomatix I can use Picasa's file management ability to locate the source file and then work on them in the other program(s).

    Download Picasa 3 here: http://picasa.google.com/

    -Jon

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    4 comments:

    fbgtlewes said...

    Jon, have you ever tried Lightroom and if so how did you like it?

    Bill

    Nikographer said...

    I've not tried Lightroom or NX2 yet either...

    Geekman said...

    Ive used Picasa for years as an image manager and light editor -- now I'm blown away by how easily it handles RAW out of my A200. If nothing else, it handles highlight color distortion with ease.. better than Sony's image converter. Picasa isn't perfect but....

    Wayne said...

    looks like the blog is healthy and doing good work, both for your readers and for you, I hope.

    I do use Lightroom, and can certainly vouch for the excellence of most of the tools you refer to wishing for in your Picasa workflow. The Only one that's still quite weak in LightRoom is the watermarking feature... it's positively amateurish and wimpy, but I know there's such a cry for improving it, that it shouldn't be long before it's updated to something at Least semi-pro.
    At this point, I have it set to open the export folder where I can use a Photoshop Droplet (a desktop shortcut to an "action") which I can use to batch watermark them all. That means two jpg compressions on each image, though, and I'm not fully happy with that.
    NX will likely give the better raw conversion handling, but with the new Profile Editor for Adobe's Camera Raw and LightRoom, that should get handled much better in LR, now, for me.
    One of my fellow Photoworkshop.com users is always going on and on about how much more professionally PhaseOne's Capture One does conversions, so that's worth a look, though I can't yet vouch for any supremacy over LR, as yet. Demos downloads are great for that.
    Not meaning to hijack the post, but wanted to add any useful info relevant to comments made before me.