Playing with the New Google Photos: Animations

Dead Sea Sunset by Natalie Parker

I took the plunge and decided to try the new Google Photos.  I’ll put comprehensive thoughts in a future post, but I wanted to share one cool thing today: animations.

As Google ingests all 30,000 photos in my collection, every so often it will take similar photos and animate them!

You must enable this feature by clicking on Settings and turning on Suggest New Creations.

I love seeing this surprises pop up.  At the top of this post is the sun setting over the Dead Sea.

Or, perhaps you like baby monkeys?  These two are from a national park in China:

Monkeys in China by Natalie Parker

It handles sports pictures really well:

Cal Football at Northwestern by Natalie Parker

And pictures of koalas:

Koala at Taronga Zoo in Sydney by Natalie Parker

One of my favorites is from our wedding day.  Our photographer took a bunch of pictures of us on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, trying to get the effect of people zooming by us.  I don’t think the pictures were that successful by themselves, but the animation really shows the effect:

Wedding Day on Telegraph Avenue Berkeley

I see just a few nit picky downsides:

I can’t control what is animated and what isn’t.  Sometimes it splits items into two animations when really everything could have gone together.  EDIT: I’ve learned I can create my own animations using the Photos mobile app.  I haven’t found that option on the web version.

I can’t edit for brightness and color.  If I haven’t edited some of the photos (often they are dark), the animation will use unedited photos.  Once the animation is created, I can’t edit to punch up the color.  If I really wanted an A+ looking animation, I’d have to delete, edit, and reupload the pictures then hope Google selects and animates them again.

For example, I really really want to fix the brightness so this little penguin looks like he did in real life (on bright white snow!):

Penguin moving by Natalie Parker

Or fix the brightness on this set of me sliding down the snow in Antarctica:

Sledding in Antarctica by Natalie Parker

But, all in all, I love these!  I’m not sure what I’m going to do with them since I can’t exactly put animations in a scrapbook.  We’ll see!  What would you do with these?


Getting the Correct Date & Time on Photos

Batch Adjust Photo Dates by Natalie Parker

Have you ever thought about the date and time on your photos?

My phone always selects the correct local time zone because of cell towers.  My camera, on the other hand, has a manually-set time zone.

Why is having correct date/time important?

It really matters for sorting photos from multiple sources.  If I have cell phone photos and DSLR photos, I’d like to flip through them at the same time so I can decide what I want to keep.  If I took a picture of the same thing with both devices (it happens).  I need an easy way to scroll through and see them at the same time.

Plus, my camera has this annoying habit of restarting photo numbering at odd points during the trip, so even just looking at that one source, I have to sort by date/time to see them in order.

It also matters for posterity.  Having at least the correct date is helpful for looking back in the future.

Option 1 – Change Time Zone on Camera

The first option is to change the time zone on the camera right at the beginning of the trip.  When you get home, no muss, no fuss.

Personally, I’m pretty sure I’ll forget to do this.  It hasn’t occurred to me on any previous trip and I don’t want to forget to switch it back.

Option 2 – Change Time Zones on Photos Afterward

This is much better.  If you know what time zone your camera is on and what time zone the picures are supposed to be, some quick math and a Picasa tool can fix it in a few seconds!

Use Picasa to Batch Change Time Zones

Understand what time zone your camera is in.  Either check your camera settings or pick a photo you generally know what time it was taken and compare the time recorded on the photo.

Make sure to take Daylight Savings into account.  I figured out my DSLR is in Pacific Standard Time (as opposed to Pacific Daylight Time, which is during Daylight Savings).  It’s also important to know if where you are traveling has Daylight Savings or not.  Our trip to Ireland was after the US sprang forward, but before Europe did.  I flew to London the next weekend during the spring forward.

Figure out how many hours off your photos are.  When I did the math, I realized my photos in London were 9 hours behind what they should be.

In Picasa, select the photos you want to change dates/times for.

Batch Adjust Photo Dates by Natalie Parker

Click the Tools menu, then click Adjust Date and Time.

Batch Adjust Photo Dates by Natalie Parker

In the pop up box, change the time.  It will show the time for one of the photos, so just adjust accordingly.  For my London pictures, I added 9 hours.

Make sure the radio button for Adjust All Photos by This Amount is selected.  Then click OK.

Batch Adjust Photo Dates by Natalie Parker

All done!  Sort your photos by time and they will appear chronologically no matter what device you took them on.

How to Color Correct Craft Photos

Color Correcting Craft Photos by Natalie Parker

Editing craft photos is always challenging.  I’m not talking about making pictures look better than real life.  I just want my pictures to show what things look like in person — not that easy!

Even with my fancy pants DSLR and trying my best to use natural light, my photos still come out dark and a bit off color.

The darkness I can fix.  I use Picasa to turn up the exposure and add a little more contrast to compensate.  Even then, the pictures are still tinted a bit — they’re either too blue or too warm.  Even more challenging, if I fix the temperature on the photos, it’s hard to get a series of photos looking the same.

Here’s the trick: add a piece of white paper to your photos.

Color Correcting Craft Photos by Natalie Parker

I use a small square of white cardstock and position it in my photo so it’s on the side where I can easily crop it out later.

Color Correcting Craft Photos by Natalie Parker

See what I mean?  I took that photo in natural light in my living room.

In Picasa, use the eyedropper tool and the white paper to correct the photo.  Simply select the eydropper and click on the white paper.  Boom!  The color is instantly corrected.  I’m not an expert, but I think it has something to do with telling the program that the paper is a true white and it adjusts the rest of the colors accordingly.

Color Correcting Craft Photos by Natalie Parker

I do this step first, then I play with the brightness and contrast.

Color Correcting Craft Photos by Natalie Parker

When I’m done, I crop the white paper out and get my finished product:

Color Correcting Craft Photos by Natalie Parker

As a reminder, Picasa is a free photo editing tool.  I’ve written about my favorite Picasa editing tools here, and how to make photo collages in Picasa here.

Color Correcting Craft Photos by Natalie Parker

I Love Street Art

Street Art by Natalie Parker

Street Art by Natalie Parker

Street Art by Natalie Parker

Street Art by Natalie Parker

Street Art by Natalie Parker

Street Art by Natalie Parker

Street Art by Natalie Parker

Above in order: Melbourne, Paris, London, Paris, Melbourne, Melbourne, Melbourne

Not many words today — just pictures.  I love street art and I love taking photos of it when I travel.  I went through my photo collection to find my favorites from my trips.  Melbourne is by far my favorite and I love how the city has embraced street art.  I can’t wait to use these in a scrapbook.

Improving My Photoshop Skills

Improving Photoshop Skills by Natalie Parker

It’s been a few months since I took a Skillshare class and started using Photoshop.  I want to take a few more of their Photoshop classes this summer.  But for now, I’m cruising along and learning some new stuff on my own!

If you understand the basics, it’s pretty easy to learn new tasks without a class.  Like many things in life, just Google it.

How I learned to make Animated GIFs

I’m going to use my new GIF skills as an example.  When I took a blog design class last year, it included instructions on how to make GIFs.  The problem was my version of Photoshop wasn’t the same and I couldn’t figure out how to make it work.

By then I totally had my hopes up for creating GIFs so I had to find something.  Enter Google.

For a very specific task, it’s pretty easy to find someone who has published instructions or a video to help.  Just take what you want to do plus what program you want to do it in.  I searched create GIF CS6 because CS6 is the version of the program I’m using.  And boom!  I found instructions to tell me exactly how to do it.

The result?  I have cool GIFs that flip through each of my finished scrapbooks in my blog archives.

I use this same principle when fiddling with CSS when I can’t remember how to do something.  So many people put helpful instructions online!

Improving Photoshop Skills by Natalie Parker

2006 Photo Count

Photo Purge by Natalie Parker

My 2006 scrapbook is all complete.  It’s time for my 2006 photos to head off into the sunset (aka backup).  As I mentioned in my photo process post, I purge photos heavily after scrapbooking.  How did I do here?

When I started the 2006 album, I had 620 photos.

After purging, I ended up with 173 photos.

Note, this does not include the 1057 wedding and honeymoon photos from 2006.  I already purged those when I finished the wedding scrapbook, taking them down from about 4000.

That means I’m keeping about 25-30% of my photos permanently.  Not bad, I think.

It will be interesting to see how I do in the years to come, I’m going to try and make sure I get a count before I start the next album.

almost made a graph here but decided to spare you.  Maybe next year?

Photo Process 2: During and After Scrapbooking

Photo Processing by Natalie Parker

I last talked about my photo process in 2011.  This post is part 2 in a series showing my current process.  Read part 1 here.

Where we left off, my photos were purged and safely backed up.  After that work, my photos will usually sit for a couple (okay, a few) years until I scrapbook them.

Step One: Ready to Scrapbook, Go Through Photos

Before I design a page, I look at the photos to get an idea of what I want to use.  I edit and touch up the ones I really like and think I will print using basic Picasa tools.

Step Two: Crop, Print, and Scrapbook!

I do not crop the original photos.  I will touch up the originals but if I need to crop them to fit in a page, I crop copies.  I print all my photos at home and only print them when I need them.  No waste.

Step Three: Purge Again

After I’m done scrapbooking, what didn’t get used?  Do I really need all of the photos?

The scrapbook is my final thing that I do with the photos.  If I didn’t use it in the scrapbook, I think hard about deleting it.  For archivists, this process is called appraisal (I know you were dying to know that).  Not every photo is worth saving.  Saving too many makes it harder to find the important stuff.  I’m serious.  I’ve read studies on it.

Anything that doesn’t fit the “save forever” label gets deleted.  After finishing my wedding scrapbook, I ruthlessly deleted a ton of wedding photos.  Serious.

Step Four: Make Sure Metadata and Tags are Correct

Yep, I talked about tagging in the last post.  When I check the metadata again, it will have been at least a couple years since I touched the photos.  Maybe I realized that I like tagging transit photos now?  Maybe I want to tag every picture that has yellow in it?  I update all of the tags.

Step Five: Backup Again

I delete the backups on my external hard drive and on SmugMug.  Then I recopy and reupload the new folder that has the touched up, purged, and retagged versions.  SmugMug doesn’t have syncing, which is really a bummer.

That’s it!  The end!  A place for everything and everything in it’s place.

What do you do with your photos after you put them in albums or scrapboook them?

Photo Process Part 1: Pre-Scrapbooking

Photo Processing Tips by Natalie Parker

I wrote about how I process photos back in 2011.  2011, as in three years ago!  Some things I wrote about then I still do, some are different.

Today’s post covers everything I do with photos before I scrapbook them, using our recent trip to Europe as an example.  Tomorrow, I’ll talk about how I manage photos during and after scrapbooking.

Step One: Take the Pictures

Because, duh.  I take pictures with my DSLR and my phone.  On our trip, I used the DSLR mostly.  I used my phone when I was at work, when I wanted to share a photo on Instagram, or when I didn’t have time to get the big camera out.

Step Two: Purge on the Road

I still follow this process.  Never let bad photos get to your hard drive or cloud (if you can help it).

I try to purge on the camera and phone.  On our trip to Antarctica, I purged the DSLR at the end of every day.  On this trip to Europe, I was so busy working that I only purged my cell phone.

I only purge what’s obviously bad on the small screen.  I have an auto-backup to the cloud on my phone, so when I purged the phone, I made sure it purged the backup.

Step Three: At Home, Load All Photos onto Hard Drive

When we get home, I copy all the photos to a folder on my hard drive.  More detail here.  This includes phone photos!  I plug our phones into my computer and drag everything to the folder.

When we got home from Europe, this is what we had:

DSLR: 1624 photos
Cell Phone: 274 photos

Step Four: Purge

I mean really purge.  This is such a chore but I make it a priority when I get home.  If I wait too long, I’ll never do it.  I don’t want junk on my hard drive taking up space.

I delete all blurry or bad photos.  If I have 2+ versions of a photo, I pick the best one.  But wait, I don’t know how I will scrapbook it yet.  How will I know if I will want that other angle of my wine glass?  I’m over it.  I only save more than one photo of a thing if I really think I need it.  I don’t think missing the other angle will screw up my scrapbook.

If I have the same photo from my phone and the DSLR, I will pick the best one.

After that purge, I go back and take a second look.  Do I really need that back lit photo?  It’s the only photo of the restaurant where we sat on the Golden Horn to watch the sun set?  Here’s the thing: I’ll remember it.  I have it in my journal.  I’m not likely to show the crappy photo to my family or my Facebook friends.  Out it goes!

After the purge, this is what I had left:

DSLR: 515 photos
Cell Phone: 176 photos

Step Five: Edit Metadata and Tag

I add a title to the “Title” field.  I don’t bother describing each one individually but pick one that works for the whole set.  I add my name in the “Author” field.

Then I tag.  I tag the name of everyone I know in each photo.  I don’t use facial recognition because I like my tinfoil hat.

I tag pictures that have food or flowers because I tend to want to find those later.  Not sure why to tag?  I wrote a post about it here.  It really helps finding things later.

Step Six: Backup

I copy the folder onto my external hard drive and upload the pictures to a SmugMug album.  If my computer crashes, my house gets robbed, or my house burns down, my photos are safe.  I’ve been using SmugMug for 2 years and I love it!

Note: DVDs are not a safe form of long term storage.  They will degrade over time and you can lose your photos.

Step Seven: Share

I’ll share a SmugMug link with people who are in the photos so they can download full resolution copies.

I may put together a Facebook album, a blog post, or a slideshow for our families.

For big trips, I’ll make a photobook.

Notice that editing and touching up photos isn’t on the list?  I’ll edit the few I share, but I leave most of it until I’m ready to start scrapbooking.

That’s Part 1!  It’s what works for me and is about all I can handle when I travel.  The process is the same for everyday photos, I just take the time to purge and back up every couple of months.  Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow!

Photo Processing Tips by Natalie Parker

Photo Printer Care

Photo Printer Care by Natalie Parker

My photo printer and I decided to have artistic differences again.  I was going to call them irreconcilable differences but we have reconciled and I’m not divorcing it at this time.

Along the way to solving this issue, I learned a thing or two about photo printer care.  Read on!

The short version

I need to use my photo printer once a week and if I don’t have anything to print, I need to print a test page.  I also need a good print backup in case I can’t use my printer.  Ordering prints at a drugstore is not good enough.

The Long Version

Due to my current creativity issues, a lot of time passed without printing any photos.  I lost track of time and didn’t realize how long it had been until I wanted to print our anniversary photo.

I was worried.  I knew from experience a couple years ago (albeit with a cheaper printer) that when I left the country for 2 weeks and didn’t use it, something happened and it wouldn’t print properly.

Sure enough, after a few weeks of nonuse, the anniversary photo had lines on it.  Noooo!  I replaced a low cartridge and cleaned the ink heads several times.  After each time I printed a smaller version of the picture.  It got better, but not 100%.  At one point, the lines went away but then it printed blurrier than the one with the lines!

Trying not to panic, I took the printer to an authorized repair shop.  He took a look at it and said he couldn’t find anything wrong with it — it was in great shape.  It was as fun as thinking there’s something wrong with you but the doctor not being able to find anything.  He told me to run a couple more cleaning cycles.

So I went home and cleaned it again.  After a couple more cycles (I think 10 total by this time) it WORKED!

The guy at the shop told me that long periods of nonuse can cause the print heads to dry.  He recommended printing something often to prevent this.

Trying Prints at Walgreens via Snapfish

In the middle of this, I really wanted to finish the anniversary page.  So before it was fixed, I used Snapfish to send the photo to my local Walgreens (hoping for instant gratification).  Not so much.  The color was off and the quality was noticeably poor.

Download a Test Page for Your Printer

I made a PDF to print once a week if I don’t have anything else to print.  The printer guy told me to print something that will use each of the cartridges.  Many printers come with four cartridges (CMYK – cyan, magenta, yellow, black).  My Espon printer has those plus a red and orange.

download a CMYK test page 
download an Epson, 8-cartridge test page

So, if you order prints, whom do you order from?  What should I use as a backup service?

Photo Printer Care by Natalie Parker

Picture Story: Leftover Wine

Picture Story by Natalie Parker

After several hours of traveling we were finally home.


After several months of feverish wedding planning, deciding to change jobs a month before the wedding, making all of our favors, decorations, and playlists, welcoming our family to town, having a rehearsal, getting ready, getting married, having a reception, dancing, late night hot dog run, up early the next morning, on a flight to Hawaii, checking out volcanoes, having a little beach time, taking a boat tour, going out to dinner, looking at the stars, hiking on the coast, trying to figure out where to return the rental car, back through security, back on planes, shuttle to the parking lot, in the car, Mr. P deciding at the last minute to carry me inside, we were finally home.  Exhausted.

After so much happening, it was peaceful to be home in the quiet.  Together.

We came home to find out parents had hung up leftover flowers to dry, stacked leftover wine in the garage, put leftover wedding cake in the fridge, and stacked our gifts and leftover favors nicely in the living room.  As orderly as anything could have been.

And so, on our first night of married life finally home, we popped open some leftover wine from the reception, curled up on the couch, and tucked into some KFC we picked up on the way home.

Sometimes you just need popcorn chicken.  Sometimes that’s just about perfect.

Picture Story is a new feature where I take a picture from an upcoming layout and tell its story.  Stay tuned for the layout featuring this story.