Managing digital images

Where the heck is that picture?

Exquisite image–A green turtle photographed by my old buddy Stephen Yeow off the waters of the island of Sipadan earlier this year.

My first Mac laptop, a G3 Powerbook, had 6GB of hard drive storage.

At that time my largest Compact Flash card had a 128 MB capacity.

Today, about a dozen years later, just one of my Secure Digital cards alone easily holds more data than that hard drive.

You don’t have to be a long time digital photographer like me to see that as long as you own a digital camera, you’re headed down the same path as me–just a little later.

So you better get organized and develop some sort of workflow–fancy word for a system of messing with your digital images.

If you don’t, good luck finding your pictures when you want them.

In fact, if you don’t practice safe computing like making frequent redundant backups, you might one day lose everything.

I’m a Mac users but I often  teach on Windows so I won’t be dragged into which platform is superior.

Repeat after me, “Nikon or Canon, Mac or Windows, neither blows especially when your work flows.”

All kidding aside, no matter what your photography aspirations are, you do need some sort of organization help and a simple photo editing software.

The most affordable, almost-free solution for Mac users comes bundled with every new Mac — iPhoto. Perhaps someone can offer a similar suggestion for Windows users.

Gimp, a photo editing application,  is free but is very limited in what it can do.

Google’s Picasa is free so long as you don’t upload to their Picasa Web Albums.

If you do, just know that you’re granting Google all rights to use your images for perpetuity without any payment to you.

I don’t use Picasa and I can’t in good conscience recommend using it for that very reason. Remember not everyone makes a living from photography so  some of you may find those terms reasonable, useful especially if you want to share your pictures with friends.

Here are some  wonderful examples. Enjoy these exquisite underwater images from my old friend Stephen.

Photos by Stephen Yeow

A wonderful collection of exquisite underwater photos by Stephen Yeow

Apple’s iPhoto is an organizer and a simple photo-editor very similar to Adobe Photoshop Elements.

Hobbyist and Amateurs

  • iPhoto or Adobe Photoshop Elements

Advanced Amateurs, or anyone with extensive digital photos, professionals

  • Aperture (Mac users)  or Photoshop Lightroom
  • Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Photoshop Elements

Adobe Photoshop and its smaller less robust brother Adobe Photoshop Elements comes with Adobe Bridge. Earlier version of PSE version had something called Organizer.

That is just nothing more than a database which generates grids of thumbnails with ability to add keywords or lets you search by various criteria like EXIF information, metadata or folder names.

iPhoto or Adobe Bridge provides users with a graphical interface to see all the images in thumbnails. You have the option of making duplicate copies of your files and have it imported into iPhoto or Organizer so that they are all in one location for those 2 applications. A better solution and more practical one is to leave your images where they are physically and then tell those apps to generate the small thumbnails for easy searching but just link to the originals. That will save lots of hard drive space.

The only caveat to this approach is that you MUST not move your images or rename them with Finder (Mac) or Windows Explorer . Instead, when you open those images, you should either work on a duplicate copy of the file or remember to use “Save As” a new file to a new location.