November 4, 2009

Better Blog Photos Part 2: Picasa 3.5 vs. Photoshop 7

I promise to get back to horticulture posts soon, but I have discovered some more tricks to improve blog photo quality and want to post about them. Thanks very much to everyone who shared their methods on my previous post. After reading your comments, I downloaded Picasa 3.5 to compare it to Photoshop Elements 7. Aha! I think I figured a few things out. I am not an expert, but here is my 2 cents' worth on the differences between these two photo editors and when you'd want to use them.
But first let me share these first four photos so you can see differences for yourself. The first one hasn't been edited at all, except to downsize it to 600 pixels wide and 300 ppi resolution. Dreary. No magic.

This next photo was edited in Photoshop Elements and looked vibrant and beautiful before uploading. But Blogger's uploader doesn't like jpeg files that have been edited in Photoshop, and it sucks out a lot of the color, especially the red and black.

This next photo was edited using just Picasa 3.5. It has more color, but I couldn't do the darken-the-edges trick that I pulled in Photoshop. I like the soft edges button in Picasa, though.

This last photo was edited first in Photoshop, then I used the soften edges button in Picasa and uploaded it using the Picasa editor. Shebang! Color, contrast, a bit of magic.

After playing around with Picasa 3.5 for one night and using Photoshop Elements for a year, here are my observations. Picasa is easy to figure out and covers most of the basic edits that will enhance photos for web use. The button/slider combos allow you to quickly create some fun effects. Photos uploaded to Blogger from Picasa will not get faded. And Picasa is free. I think competent Picasa users can get to a fairly high level of blog pictures - as good as 90% of the garden blogs out there.
If you want to get to the very tippy-top of cool photos, you'll need to learn Photoshop (or Photoshop Elements, like I have). That's what the professionals use. But that requires money - both to purchase the program and to purchase online training or how-to books. You won't figure out the fancy tricks on your own. It also requires quite a bit of time to learn the cool stuff that Picasa can't do . . . obviously I'm still learning. And uploading Photoshop-edited files directly into Blogger will fade them. So for many busy garden bloggers who aren't intensely interested in photography, Photoshop doesn't seem necessary.

Finally, if your photos are getting faded when you upload to Blogger, this paragraph is for you. The picture above is yet another version of the autumn crocus 'Waterlily' from my last post. But I played with it in Photoshop Elements to give it a more artsy feel. I couldn't have done this in Picasa. To get it into my blog without fading and without using another photo-hosting website (like Photobucket or Flickr), I opened the picture in Picasa 3.5's editing program that I recently downloaded for free. Then I clicked the green 'Upload' button at the bottom of the screen to send it to Picasa without fading. The key is to use Picasa's program on your computer to upload to Picasa's website. When the upload is complete, you can click on the 'View Online' button, which takes you right to the screen where you'll copy the large format photo link to paste into your blog (see my previous post for full instructions). So the process doesn't add a lot of time. Hooray! I was very excited when I figured this out. Maybe I won't have to switch to Wordpress after all.

I couldn't resist just one more Photoshop-Picasa-blend edit. Contrast and color adjusted in Photoshop, then the Glow button in Picasa. I hope this post helps you weigh out your editing options. Isn't this editing stuff fun?

Oh dear, I think you might get the wrong idea from the autumn crocus and iris photos with soft colors . . . I made them that way, they didn't get faded from uploading. So here's a really saturated geranium (and I like this one soft instead of super sharp). Plenty of red and black here!


  1. Hi VW, Yay! I've been happy with Picasa 3.5. It's very compatible with Picasa Web Albums and Blogger. To post photos on my blog, I have two tabs open on Internet Explorer and can quickly click back and forth from Picasa to my blog to copy, paste and resize. Almost scary, it's so easy.

    Have you tried Gimp? I downloaded it and my teenagers use it flawlessly but it made my head spin. Apparently it's better than Photoshop but I wouldn't know. But it is a free download and free is a very good price. I'd be interested in your comments on it. LOVE your header photos!!!!

  2. Great stuff, photo gal! Thanks for the insights. And I see you have moved to a full width column, all the better to enjoy your lovely photos with. I'll have to hunt around your blog to see if you've posted on that.

  3. Grace, I just briefly looked at the Gimp website. Wow, it has layers and names that look very much like photoshop. Sounds like this might be a good choice if your budget doesn't include money for photoshop. Sometimes free products have more hassles/problem than purchased ones, though. Hmm. My little kids are not happy that I spent so much time working on this post already today (and on the new header), so I'd better not explore Gimp any more today. Will have to post more on it later. Great tip!

  4. Hi VW, your tips are very useful... it´s so great that you like gardening and photographing, I would love to write more but is much easier for me to read in english than to write... I can see that you are very accurate and ara busy learning great things... so good for all of us that are trying to improve pictures.
    María Cecilia

  5. I've noticed how faded my pictures look once I uploaded them. I look at them in i photo and think how great they look, and then once they're on my blog they look so dull.
    I'm glad to be learning these tips from you. It's such a big difference with photoshop.

  6. VW ... thank you girl for all of this information !
    I know this may sound funny .. but I use an old ACDSee photo manager but I am interested in seeing other programs (especially the free ones !) ... but I haven't loaded my Olympus program yet from my newer camera .. so that could also be an option for me .. I'm insecure and tend to stick to the programs I'm comfortable with .. Picasa hasn't given me a nervous breakdown so far ? haha

  7. I seem to upload my pictures to Picasa ( while on picasa (there is an upload button) I think when I first started blogging I used the blogger new post window to upload pictures, but had no control. Once the pictures are online at Picasa I choose the size I want and use the embedded link to that picture and copy and paste it into my html posting. I think I need to upgrade to 3.5, not sure if I just have 3.0.
    Great comparisons on the constrasts and lighting and blurring the edges. You are right--what a difference.

  8. I did a quick look over your past photography posts, have you mentioned what camera you use?

  9. What excellent information. I use Photoshop all the time, but I am headed over to Picasa to try your tips. Thank you for a great post!

  10. Janet, I don't know if I have mentioned my camera. I have the entry-level dSLR from Canon - the Rebel XS 10.1 megapixels. I kind of wish I had an XSi with more megapixels, but the photography books I've read say to buy a less expensive camera and save your money to buy better 'glass' (lenses). I have been using the kit lens that came with the camera, but it's not very fast and doesn't have super great quality. The lens I'm dreaming of is Canon's 24-70mm f/2.8L USM standard zoom lens. I think that would keep me happy for the next few decades! It's fast and and versatile and high quality, but the price tag is a big ouch. I might spring for it if it goes on a great sale around Thanksgiving.

  11. The difference in the different photo editors is amazing!

  12. Hi VW

    I currently use picassa 3. I haven't downloaded 3.5 as I wasn't convinced (rightly or wrongly) I needed the extra functions provided as they didn't appear to give anything extra in terms of quality.

    Aside, I must say how good your photos are getting these days. I even had a quick spin around your photo blog.


  13. Wow VW...your photo's are so pretty and all the info! You should be teaching a class. Thank you for taking the time to share.

  14. VW, I've bookmarked these posts because I currently use Photoshop Elements and have also downloaded Picassa, though unlike you have not found it particularly easy to navigate. I think it's because I have 6 years of client photos organized using the tag mechanism in Photoshop which if course is irrelevant in Picassa.

    I use Elements for so many other things besides photo editing - for example, I design, draw and create holiday cards for my clients every year and I need the Photoshop functionality for that - but I would like to begin incorporating more Picassa as well.

    Anyways, this is a long way of saying that you are providing excellent advice that I really need, but can't quite bring myself to sit down and practice with quite yet. So if I suddenly start pestering you with questions this winter on two month old posts, you'll know I finally committed to improving my photos!

  15. Doing a little more research about cameras and looked at the lens you spoke of... whoa! I am looking at either a Canon Eos Rebel T1i or Rebel XSi or Nikon D90...though the Nikon is $$$

  16. VW, This has been an informative series! The photos are really great examples of what we can accomplish if we try! As a mac user I am trying to find what works best with iphoto! gail

  17. Hi VW, Not that all my photos are perfect right off the bat (usually not!), but when I post on my computer, they often look fine. But when I look at my post on someone else's monitor... that can be a different story! Love your photos and suggestions, though. :-)

    Thank you for returning to answer my question!! You must have done a great job in "blooming where you are planted," in that you were asked to design another garden. :-) I'm hoping you have fond memories of your time in Iowa. :-)

  18. Hi VW, I have left this post until I had some time to devote to it. I must admit I am struggling, but I take heart that you thought the photos in my latest post on Judy's garden looked good. I think I a bit (to put it mildly) challenged in this area. Still as long as I move forward at snails pace I guess that's OK.
    Anyway thanks for the help, it's good to know you're there and so encouraging and helpful.
    Cheers, catmint

  19. Love your photos and suggestions!!

  20. VW, thanks for the research which is substantial. I blog and take photos and enter photo contests and wow is your information valuable. I have been avoiding photoshop and learning Aperture from the Apple Company(I have all Mac equipment) . Have you heard of it? If so, what is your opinion between photoshop and Aperture?
    I will download Picasa and see what I can gain from it. Come see my photos on Welcome your opinion.

  21. thanks for the comparison between the 2 types of software! helps me to decide which i should be using.. for a beginner like me, picasso would be sufficient :)


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