Editing old photos with beloved Picasa, and slide-to-digital converters

Thank goodness I have Picasa! I’ve been editing very old black & white print photos to save digitally and to include some in a family history book I’m putting together. Photoshop costs money and has too much of a learning curve for my druthers. Picasa is a free download with almost no learning curve, perfect for the simpler things I need to do. Unfortunately, I learned it has been discontinued by its owner, Google, in favor of Google Photos, which is NOT AN EDITOR! However, you can try downloading a free version of Picasa from Filehippo.

Last month when I visited my dad, he pulled out a stack of photos from as early as 1910. Many important photos needed all manner of fixing, from overexposure to the subjects being too small to see them very well. From experience, scanning the photos on our printer and then cropping them out of their 8.5×11-size scan page resulted in too small resolution to print out well for book quality. So I took close-up photos with my Nikon, then uploaded them to Picasa to tweak. Cell phones that take higher resolution photos would work, too, just upload directly to computer.

With Picasa, I straightened the photos I took (turning some right-side up first), then cropped to remove extraneous white edging or the background table I had set the photos on. Cropping an original photo itself could also focus more closely on the subject people, in effect making them larger. I was able to correct for overexposure or lighten too-dark photos. I could change the color temperature to remove any yellowing hue. Some photos I had to really work with, adjusting and re-adjusting. In the end, I had clearer photos with resolutions near or above 1MB, vs the lower KBs if I had scanned and cropped.

My dad also pulled out a big box of slides from photos he had taken in Japan in the later 1950s when he was stationed there in the Army. He had a slide-to-digital converter that connected to his computer, so I could place up to three slides (or one strip of negatives) into its tray and the pictures would appear on his computer screen for me to save as .jpg photos. His is an old and simple model; the new ones seem to all have their own screen to see the photos without having to connect the converter to a computer. I have quite a job ahead of me to save (and edit) all those slides, and I will be using some for my dad’s memoir, separate from the family history book.

I use Picasa for many of the photos I take, including exporting into a resized low-resolution photo to then post on social media. It will also allow you to put a watermark on your photo to claim it. I can’t forget how years ago an American family found their family photo on a billboard ad overseas. Lower resolution (less than about 60KB) means no one can steal a photo you post and create nice prints from it – and may prevent the news media from being able to grab and post a clear photo of you if you happen to be newsworthy in a bad way. Below is an example of an original photo and its Picasa-tweaked version. If you know of other good free photo-EDITING programs, please leave a comment.

 

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About moonbridgebooks

Co-author of Cherry Blossoms in Twilight, a WWII Japan memoir of her mother's childhood; Co-author/Editor of Battlefield Doc, a medic's memoir of combat duty during the Korean War; life writing enthusiast; loves history and culture (especially Japan), and cats
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7 Responses to Editing old photos with beloved Picasa, and slide-to-digital converters

  1. I’ve never use Picasa and have a love-hate relationship with Photoshop. I like the website picmonkey.com for simple photo adjustments. I use it a lot for my blog and Facebook posts, making collages and adding text and copyright info to my photos. Good luck with the slides!

  2. Hmm, Picmonkey costs about $48 per year now for basic, once the free trial is over, and that’s for up to 50 images “Hub” storage – perhaps meaning you can only upload 50 images max to work on at a time. Looks like it does a lot, but for online lower res photos, not meant for higher resolution print images. Inquiring minds want to know for future reference.

  3. Amy says:

    I used to use Picasa but stopped after Google stopped supporting it. I use Fotor or the photo editor that came with Windows 10. I also like Snapseed on my phone. All are free also.

    • Thanks, Amy. Fotor looks like it wouldn’t be too difficult to learn.

      • Amy says:

        Fotor is pretty easy—it may not have all the bells and whistles other programs have, but it does what I need it to do since I am not trying for artistic photography—just cleaning up old photos so that the faces are visible!

  4. Super to read a geek post. I like not being the only one to post stuff like this. 🙂 Before recommending an editor, I’d like to remind everyone that if you use Linda’s excellent suggestion to use your HI-RES phone as a scanner, look for a spot with even light and no shadows or reflections. It’s easy to let your hand and phone cast a shadow. It may be a challenge to find a good spot. I use my dining room table in the morning light, but not direct sun. I stand to one side, letting the window light fall evenly over the image. I stand on a stool to get directly overhead and parallel to the photo without casting a shadow.

    I’ll stick with my old version of Photoshop as long as Windows keeps supporting it. You are so right about the learning curve! Even so, I do keep an eye on free offerings and recommend Paint.net as, IMO, the flagship of the free offerings for Windows computers. Phones have some interesting alternative, but you can’t do your best work on a phone.

    I just downloaded and installed the latest version of Paint.net. As it installs, it warns you that if you are being charged, you do not have the legitimate version, which is always totally free. (They do accept donations.) Skip the middle man sites and download Paint.net directly from the source: https://www.getpaint.net/download.html

    IMO, the most important functional difference between Paint.net and Photoshop is the lack of adjustment layers in Paint.net. That means you can’t tweek an edit you made 29 steps back without canceling everything in between. But you don’t miss what you never had. For your purposes Linda, Paint.net would rock. Besides fantastic control of color, brightness/contrast and all that good stuff, you can use the clone function to get rid of the sky blotch in your example.

    The web and YouTube are full of tutorials to help you do anything you want, and both free and paid plug-ins may also help. To use its full power, you’ll want to spend an hour or few learning what things like the levels adjustment can do. You’ll be amazed. Your second example is mid-way between the original and its full potential. Achieving magnificent results does not need to take lots of time once you learn your way around the toolbox.

    • Thanks, Sharon, your tips on taking photos of photos are great. I had some trouble with avoiding reflections and getting a natural light to avoid color distortion. Paint.net sounds a little daunting to me as I get intimidated by talk of layers and paint brushes, but it does sound powerful. Since it’s free, I might try downloading to see if I can handle it without having to take a class – I’m not as techy as you are!

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