Among the many ways to share and store photos, Picasa is one of my favorites. Along with great desktop software for management, Picasa’s web interface has a great selection of features and options. If you’re looking for a smart, simple and easy way to share and store your photos with the ability to expand, in both storage and flexibility, as your photo albums do — Picasa is a great choice.
Picasa and Google
As with all other Google products, Picasa requires a Google account to get started. For those of you who already use Gmail or another Google service, you’re already ready to go; simply log in using your Google account.
If you haven’t upgraded your Google account’s storage, Picasa will come with 1GB of free storage, separate from your Gmail storage space. That’s enough space to give Picasa a good test, but once you decide to use Picasa — you’ll most likely want to upgrade your storage. Purchasing additional storage is cheap and will be shared between all your Google services, a nice feature I think.
If you happen to need more than 1TB of storage space between all your Google services, options are available all the way up to 16TB. For most people, 1TB or less will be plenty. I’ve added 80GB to my account.
Paid storage is in addition to free storage offered by Google. 1GB free storage with Picasa Web Albums + 80GB of paid storage; I have 81GB of total available space for Picasa and 87GB available for Gmail. 80GB being shared between the services.
Uploading Your Photos
Once you’ve logged into Picasa, adding photos is pretty straight forward. Just click the upload button near the top, next to the tabbed navigation.
If you’ve already uploaded photos, you’ll be asked if you want to upload photos to an existing album or a new album.
In this case, I want to create a new album. Enter the details for your new album, optionally entering where the photos were taken and even showing the location of the photos via Google Maps. Make sure you set your sharing options at the bottom. In this case, I want the album to be public but I don’t need to notify anyone.
The feature to notify friends, family or coworkers is a nice additional feature to keep people updated on new photo additions. This is especially useful for those photo additions that aren’t public or require sign-in to view. Alternatively, your public albums have RSS feeds that can be subscribed to.
Next, select your photos and click Start Upload. This is not one area the web interface of Picasa Web Albums that shines. The web uploader is terribly inefficient, but probably for a reason (but still not excusable). Google wants you to use their Picasa desktop software to upload and manage your photos, which is a great application but a better method for uploading via the web should be available.
If you plan on uploading more than just a few photos at a time, you’ll want to download Picasa for the desktop.
If you’re a Mac user and use iPhoto, you can instead use the Picasa Web Albums uploader within iPhoto. I don’t like being tied to desktop software to manage my photos though, especially for uploading. I want something as light and fast as possible, which would be the direct interface of the Picasa Web Albums uploader.
Using the Picasa uploader is fast and straight forward. Simply drag your photos or video into the sidebar area, select your settings, enter your info. and hit upload. When it’s done it will ask if you want to view your web album.
I won’t get into the full Picasa desktop software but it’s pretty decent photo management software; I just prefer using a combination of Photoshop and direct uploading with the Picasa Uploader.
Upload Quality and Formats
Unlike most other photo storage and sharing web apps online, Picasa doesn’t edit, compress or reduce the quality of your uploaded images. This was a huge deciding factor when I was choosing between Flickr and Picasa. Flickr may not do this any more, but they used to.
Picasa also supports a wide range of image and video formats, ranging from .JPG and .TIF to .PSD and even a large selection of RAW formats. Some of these image types consume a rather large amount of space in comparison to formats like .JPG, so it’s great having the option and ability to easily manage and store these kinds of formats in Picasa.
It’s also important to note that when uploading photos via desktop apps, the default quality option is set to “1600 pixels”, which will reduce your image sizes. I change this to “Actual Size” so I don’t loose any image data.
Once you’ve uploaded your photos, you have a variety of sharing and organization options available. You’re able to tag and caption photos (along with allowing comments), organize and reorder them, order prints, embed album galleries, etc.
One particular feature of Picasa I enjoy, is integration with Google Maps. You’re able to edit location details of your photos and have those locations placed on a Google Map for easy viewing of your photo locations. You’re also able to set Picasa to automatically detect location info. from your photos and include it in your album maps.
As you tag photos, you’ll also notice that Picasa includes facial recognition. Much like Facebook’s tagging, you tag people in your photos which are automatically detected by Picasa. Photos with tagged people are tied to your Google contacts, or you can create new contacts.
Admittedly, Picasa lacks some more advanced sharing options I think should be integrated, although it just depends on what you need or expect. Clicking the Share button in an album brings you to a form for inviting people to view or collaborate on your album.Another option is to share a link to the album (or a specific image). This is generally what I use to share album photos but an option to connect to Twitter or Facebook would be nice. You can also optionally embed a customizable slideshow in your website with tables or an embedded flash slideshow.
If these embedding options aren’t enough for you though, Picasa also has an API available for getting into a deeper level of customization.
You can optionally allow viewers to download your photos, at full resolution.
While Picasa doesn’t implement some of the more popular social media features available on other sites, they do make it pretty easy to explore other people’s photos as well as where they were taken. No, it’s not quite on par with what Flickr offers, but it’s not bad either.
Although Picasa has many more features, this is a great starting overview. Picasa isn’t quite as integrated with social media as other sites, nor does it provide some of the more advanced community sharing features as sites like Flickr; it does, however, do a great job of storing and managing your photos, especially with it’s optional desktop software.
If you’re a beginning photographer (like myself), Picasa is a great way to easily store your mass (or soon-to-be) collection of photos (I have two Picasa accounts), then manage and share them as you see fit.
What do you use for photo storage, management and/or sharing? I’d love to hear what you think of Picasa or how it compares to other sites like Flickr. Leave a comment below!