Handling digital photos

More and more people are jumping on the digital photography bandwagon but the trouble is that many of them know very little about computers.

In theory, it should be possible to rely on mini labs to download ones’ digital pictures, print them and put them on disc. Most people want able to correct and manipulate their pictures and, for that, they have to get involved with computers.

I have been helping people doing the switch to digital for quite some time and have seen how hard most non-expert computer users find it just to get the pictures from their cameras onto their computers. The software that comes with most cameras is terrible, to say the least, and often does not even do the basics.

Many of my pupils had problems getting their heads around the fact that they there was no single program which could do all the necessary as far as their digital images were concerned. Often, their eyes would start glazing over as I recommended this program for a task, that program for another, and Windows, itself, for other things.

I have therefore spent a lot of time playing with various programs over the years in the search for a single program which can do everything that a novice would need to do. This ranges from viewing and organising their pictures to correcting exposure and colour balance.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote of Google’s Picasa program which is a pretty nifty solution and does almost all a novice might need it to. Now, thanks to Andrea Arbuckle, writing in the Natal Witness, I found out about another free program called FastStone Image Viewer.

FastStone can be downloaded from www.faststone.org and, at a slim 3Mb or so, it won’t take all that long to download. It installed very quickly on my system and I must say I was very pleasantly surprised to see that it could view all the pictures on my computer, including the ones from my Canon 30D, which many other viewers can’t do yet.

I prefer FastStone’s interface to Picasa’s because it allows you to see the folders on your computer as they appear in Windows. Picasa makes you import pictures before you can view them with the program, and then it shows you a long list of all the folders that have pictures in them.

You may differ, but I find it pretty irritating not to be able to view my folders in the Windows tree structure that I’m used to. FastStone doesn’t have that problem and has many well-implemented features including a crop board which lets you crop your pictures to right size if, for example, you wanted 10x15cm prints.

It has a very decent selection of tools for adjusting images, emailing them to friends or making contact sheets. It has a very nice feature whereby you can flip quickly through the pictures in a folder at full screen, but still have access to all of the program’s features and commands by touching the sides of the screen with the mouse cursor.

I am really impressed with FastStone and, although it cannot automatically download pictures off of the camera for use (you can do so manually fairly easily), or burn them onto a CD, I still think its one of the best single programs I’ve yet seen. I’m now using it instead of my copy of ACDSee, which I bought a couple of years ago.

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1 thought on “Handling digital photos

  1. Hello Allan,

    I just did a Google Blog search on my name (yep, I’m bored) and up came your article. Thanx for the punt. I must tell you that I was actually put onto FastStone by none other than Anthony Bannister, the famous wildlife photographer.

    Cheers
    Andrea

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