Wednesday, March 13, 2013

basic edit using Picasa

I wanted to help my mom out with something for a tutorial for her blog and thought that this might be helpful for more than just her so she said I could use her photo for this tutorial.  I loaded her image into Picasa - which is a free photo-editing tool from Google but there are plenty others I could have used. Aviary is the new free product from Yahoo, Gimp is an open-source photo-enhancement program. I also found PicMonkey which is very impressive - their filters are fantastic. Adobe even has a free basic online photo-editor called Photoshop Express.  But a basic edit is a basic edit no matter what program you are using. So here we go! 

original image
Above is my mom's original image, it's just a little under-exposed. If you're not used to using editing programs or anything like that this might seem like an overwhelming thing to edit - but really, it's not. Not at all.

The cause for under-exposure in a point and shoot is typically a result of zooming in too much for the available light, the same can be true of a DSLR with a 18-55mm zoom lens. When you zoom in you restrict the aperture from widening as far. If you've taken a shot and it looks a little darker than you wanted it to you can zoom out and see if that helps, or you can set your camera to Aperture priority and lower the number (which widens the aperture to let in more light) sometimes a portrait setting will do the same thing. You might also check to see if you are blocking your light source.


I loaded the image into Picasa and clicked the little "edit photo" button to launch the online photo-editing program. Above is what the "Auto-Fix" looked like.

original image in Picasa editor

Below is just the exposure bumped up. If you'll notice it makes the image look a little bit flat, or washed out. There's not as much depth of color or difference between the darks and lights. So let's play with the other levels as well.

adjust the exposure
bump up the highlights - the light places in the image
increasing the shadows adds some depth to the image 
increasing the contrast just a little helps too
I usually play with the image a bit. Typically I over-edit first and then bring down the individual elements until I find something I'm comfortable with. It takes a bit of tweaking to find the right balance of dark & light. Next I clicked on the "Color" tab:

fixed the White Balance in the image

The "White Balance" is the color temperature of the image. If the image is overall too blue that's called "cool" or if it's too red it's called "warm" I used the "Neutral Picker" and clicked on the gray corner of the image to get a brighter, warmer white. You can also do this by sliding the "temperature" slider. Usually you only want to change the temperature by a little.

I also bumped up the saturation a little.

I thought it would be fun to also demonstrate some of the Effects that are available in Picasa. Effects are located in the top left corner of the screen in the "Basic Edits/Effects/Decorations/Text" toolbar.

This is the "Cross Process" effect
This is the 1960's effect
Whenever you apply an effect you usually want to reduce the opacity (or "fade" ) of the effect, at least a little.
This is Cross Process + 1960's
This is the Reala 400 effect - which I love for this image. This would make a great final edit.
This is my final edit. I wanted it to look a little bit stylized. Some people like that, some people don't.
I think you should do what looks good to you, which is something that is going to develop over time.
here's another option that's brighter and cleaner.
 for a more subdued edit don't boost the contrast or saturation and slide the color temperature to -1
So that is one way to edit your underexposed images in Picasa. I'd love to hear your suggestions or questions! And if you're interested in handcrafts my mom has a very helpful blog called Rebecca Kelley Sews.


  1. Wow. That looks great. I don't use Picasa much but I have friends who do. I'll pass it on! :)

  2. I love these edits! Your final edit is actually my favorite!


Your comments make my day!!

Sign up to be notified about upcoming classes!!

* indicates required