An Introduction to Digital Cameras and Photography Pt 2

by Alan Zisman (c) 2017


This document:
Last updated: 2023-12-06

connecting your camera and computer
organize your photos
editing/enhancing photos
about Picasa
sharing photos on Facebook, email, etc
printing photos, calendars, books etc
backing up your photos
This workshop is being given in two parts. The first part introduced you to your digital camera (or phone/tablet camera) and to composing and taking better photos with it. Part two looks connecting your camera to your Windows or Mac computer and using basic software on your computer to organize your photo collection, make basic edits to your photos, and using your photos in printed projects like photo books and calendars.

Talking about digital cameras and photography can be confusing and complicated - there are a wide range of types of digital cameras, from simply point-and-shoots to complex SLRs. As well, increasingly people are using their smartphones and tablets to take photos. So no one size fits all! As well, people are storing and editing their photos on Macs and Windows PC, on iPads, iPhones and Android devices and using cloud services. One relatively brief introduction can barely scratch the surface of all of these.

What this isn't: It's not going to be make you a professional photographer - it's not going to into detail on using the many manual settings on a pro-level camera or to use the astounding depth of options on pro-level software like Adobe Photoshop.

Instead, we're going to take a look at several pieces of software available for Windows PCs and make some recommendations for Mac-users and users of iOS and Android devices. We'll also look at several cloud-based photo storage services and book/card/calendar printing services.

Working with your photos on a computer or tablet:

Once you've taken your photos you're going to want to do more with them - you probably want to store them, organize them, share them with friends and relations, edit and enhance them, print them and more.

For many people, their photos are the record of their lives and an invaluable enhancement to their memory. As a result, it's important to have a way to back up your photos to guarantee they won't be lost.

Some cameras offer options for wireless connecting to computers, tablets, and online services, either using Wi-Fi built into the camera or by using a special memory card that has Wi-Fi in the card (!). I've tried both of these - personally I find this too fussy and don't bother. Instead, I prefer either connecting my camera to my computer using the charging cable or removing the memory card from the camera and plugging it into my computer. (Some laptops and desktops have a built-in memory card slot - if that's not an option, inexpensive memory card readers are widely available to plug into the computer's USB port).

Apple sells adaptors letting you either to connect your camera to your iPhone or iPad or to plug in the camera's memory card. Android device owners can purchase so-called OTG (on the go) USB adaptors that also let you connect a digital camera or memory card reader to a smartphone or tablet. In both cases, though, I would rather transfer my photos to my computer, and then transfer my pick of the bunch to my phone or tablet. (You're welcome to do otherwise!)

If you have taken photos with your smartphone or tablet you can organize, edit and share them directly on that device - but it's probably worthwhile transferring them to your computer.

Your camera may have come with a DVD disc loaded with software - you don't need to install any of this software for your camera to work with your computer. In fact, I'd recommend you not bother - the camera companies aren't particularly adept at designing computer software and the programs that they include don't offer any special features and generally do whatever they do awkwardly and are mostly trying to lock you into only using their brand of camera. (Alternatively, they may bundle trial versions of commercial photo applications which they've been paid to give you).

Both Macs and Windows are able to connect to cameras without additional software and include basic photo organizing and editing software - this may be all you need. If you want more, there are lots of free and inexpensive products you can try.

When you first connect your camera - or its memory card - to your computer, a message may pop up asking how you want to deal with this newly-connected device - choices can include opening a variety of different pieces of software, opening the computer's file management utility (to show you the list of photos), or to do nothing. Unfortunately, the choice you make will happen each time - and may be difficult to change after the fact.

Here's what I saw the first time I connected my Nikon S7000 camera to my Windows 10 PC - I had only a few seconds to click on the first message. (If you miss it, unplug the camera, plug it in again and try again!)

Attach 1

When I clicked it, I saw the scrollable image on the right - including more possible actions and programs than it had room to display, based on the programs installed on my computer. If you don't see a list like this, it may be because you've already chosen what should happen when you connect your camera to your computer...

If a list likes this pops up on your computer, it may have somewhat different choices - you probably have a different set of programs installed on your computer that are able to work with photos.
Attach 2

I prefer having my computer's file management utility (Windows File Explorer on Windows computers, the Finder on Macs) open - this lets me view the photos, copy them to the location of my choice on my computer, delete them from the camera's memory card, etc. without locking me into any particular program on my computer. Choosing that action or 'taking no action' means the computer will treat the camera or memory card as an external drive, letting me open any piece of software to work with my photos - including the file management utility - at some later time.

Note that I had to browse through several layers of folders on my camera's memory card to reach the actual photos. If I was displaying the 100Nikon folder in the window, I could have dragged it to the Desktop - this would copy that folder and all the photos in it to my computer's Desktop; from there, I might rename the folder and copy it to my computer's Pictures folder.

An alternative to connecting your camera and computer with a USB cable is to pop the memory card out of your camera and plug it directly into your computer - either using a slot built into your laptop or desktop or using a small, inexpensive memory card reader.

If I'd done that I wouldn't have seen anything on screen - but the memory card would appear as a new drive in Windows File Explorer letting me quickly get to the same screen as the image on the right. (On a Mac, it would pop up on the Desktop as a new external drive).

If you've chosen to have the computer load the photos into some program then you have to learn to work with that program....
Windows File Explorer

If I connect my Android camera to my computer, it will appear in the file management utility as an external drive with both a Pictures folder and a DCIM folder. Like my digital camera, the photos taken by my phone's camera will be in the DCIM folder. If I connect an iPhone/iPad, I can use Apple's iTunes on your computer to transfer photos (and music and videos) onto and off the iOS device. You can also use Windows File Explorer as explained here - but it will only be able to view the Camera Roll folder on the iPhone or iPad. (Note: You may need to install Apple's iTunes on your Windows computer in order to connect to your iPhone/iPad - even if you're using Windows File Explorer rather than iTunes to transfer photos).

Alternatively, Windows 10 users can install Microsoft's Photos Companion app on their phone or tablet - versions for iPhone/iPad and for Android - and use it to wirelessly transfer one or multiple photos to their PC. See: How to Wirelessly Transfer Photos From Your Phone to a PC

For more on transfering photos between your computer and your iOS or Android phone, see: How to Get Photos Off Your iPhone (or Any Smartphone) and How to Transfer Photos From Your PC to Your Mobile Phone

New in 2022: The simplest ways to transfer photos directly from an Android to a computer

New in 2023: How to Transfer Photos from iPhone to Mac Without iCloud

Once you've got photos on your computer (or tablet) here are some things we commonly do with them:

Organize your photos:

Photo albumsWhen you have a large number of photos, you probably want to organize them in a way that helps you find the ones you're looking for. You can do this right in your file management utility - Windows File Explorer or the Mac Finder, creating folders inside your Pictures folder in a way that makes sense to you. Maybe different folders for each year. When I take a trip, I like to have a folder for all the photos from that trip: Italy 2016 for instance. I have a folder named Grandchildren and one for Family - everyone else. A folder with my dog's name - Roxie. You can drag the photos into the appropriate folder.

Many photo applications - including the Windows Photos app included on all Windows 10 computers - automatically shows you all the photos in your main Pictures folder and any other photos you tell it to include. Then you can create 'albums' with the titles of your choice and select which photos to include in each album - these albums are not  folders with a physical existence on your computer's drive - if you decide to use a different photo album program, you'll see all your photos, but they won't be organized into these albums anymore.

Some photo applications include other ways to organize photos; photos taken on your smartphone or tablet can include location information - you may be able to automatically organize your photos based on where they were taken. Some photo applications try to recognize faces - a fun option to enable... in that case, you are asked to give a name to each individual's face and the computer tries to recognize all photos with the same face. (Watch the computer stumble over the faces on statues or paintings!) Afterwards, you can ask to see all your photos with a particular person in them.

Note that most of the time, your photos aren't actually stored 'inside' the photo organizing application - the photo files are still individual files in your Pictures folder. You're using Windows Photos or Picasa or Adobe Photoshop Elements to look at your collection of photos. If you move to a computer that doesn't have that application, you can easily import your photos to a different application.

If you're using a Mac, though, Apple's iPhotos or Photos app 'thinks different' - it copies all your photos to its iPhoto/Photos library, taking up twice as much space on your computer and making it harder to work with the photos outside that app.

Here's an image of Windows 10's Photos app, showing its Album view - note that it automatically created albums based on date. You can also create your own custom albums:

Windows 10's Photos app - album view

Unlike Windows 10 (and the Mac), Windows 7 does not include a photo-organizing app. Windows 7 users (and Windows 10 and Mac users) might want to take a look at Adobe's free Adobe Bridge program. (You will need to create a (free) Adobe account or sign in with your Google or Facebook account to get the download).

Edit your photos:

Most photo library apps, including Windows Photos, Picasa, and Mac iPhotos/Photos include basic photo editing features. These let you crop photos, remove red eye, alter (and hopefully improve!) the colours. In many cases, there's a one-click 'enhance' button which is worth trying to see if it makes your photo better - if not, you can always undo the change with a quick Control + Z  (Command + z on a Mac).

When you change a photo, you may want to get in the habit of saving the edited version with a new file-name (in many cases using the Save As or Export option).

Here's Windows 10's Photos app showing its tools for editing a photo:

Windows 10 Photos app - edit options

See: 10 Things You Didn’t Know the Windows 10 Photos App Could Do and PC Magazine's review of Apple's Photos app for Mac

Applying filters has been popular lately - there are lots of photo editing and filter apps (free and otherwise) for Windows 10 and for iPhone/iPad (iOS) and Android mobile devices. These include:  Adobe Photoshop Express, Prisma, Snapseed, Pixlr and lots more.

Note - many apps come in a basic or ad-supported free version and a more full-featured pay version. The cost of buying an app is generally only a few dollars. I suggest you try the free version and if it's something you'd like to keep, pay for the full version.

If you need more photo editing features there are lots of programs offering more power - though typically with more complexity and often for more money. Some free options include Irfanview (Windows only) and The GIMP (Mac, Windows, and more). Adobe Photoshop Elements is a mid-range good photo organizer/photo editor for Mac and Windows (CDN$129). Professional users tend to use Adobe Lightroom (CDN$230) and Photoshop CS.

There are lots of different - and often free - photo editing programs for various computer and tablet platforms. For Windows 10, for instance, free choices worth checking include: Fotor, Adobe Photoshop Express, Fhotoroom, Fresh Paint, Gallery HD, and more.

More: The Best Photo Editing Software of 2016


You can often improve the composition of an image after you've taken it by 'cropping' - cutting off part of the image, to remove distracting or irrelevant details.

(Do this on your computer or tablet).

See how cropping improves the original image (a fresco on the wall of the Palazzo Medici Riccardi in Florence):
Fresco - original
Fresco - cropped

About Picasa:

A program named Picasa has been popular with many Windows users - a free photo organizing program with basic editing and sharing features. It was owned by Google who used its technology to built a free online service: Picasaweb and integrated its technology into other Google services. Google stopped supporting both Picasa and Picasaweb in spring 2016 - Picasaweb users and their photos were automatically migrated to Google Photos. Users who have Picasa installed on their computer will find that it still works - even after they upgrade to Windows 10. If you move to a new Windows computer and want to keep using Picasa, you can download a new copy here and install it on your Windows XP, 7, 8, or 10 computer.

However, since Google no longer supports it, you may want to move on. Your photos aren't 'in' Picasa in any way - they're in your Pictures folder and can be accessed by other programs (though you may need to recreate albums). The Windows 10 Photos app is a usable replacement; Windows Live Photo Gallery - part of the Windows Essentials 2012 package - is a usable free option for Windows 7 users, and there are lots of others. (As of early 2017, Microsoft has dropped support for Windows Essentials 2012, including Live Photo Gallery; like Picasa, even without official support it continues to work fine - though Microsoft warns about downloading it from 'unofficial' sources, the Windows Live Essentials 2012 installation program can be downloaded from this link).

See: Picasa Is Going Away: 11 Apps That You Can Use Instead and Moving On From Picasa

Sharing photos:

Lots of users want to share photos with friends and relations - two popular ways are to post photos onto Facebook and to embed or attach photos in email messages. Another way - which I prefer - is to post a set of photos online using one of a wide range of photo sharing services and then post a link to the photos on Facebook or email the link to friends/relations.

Smartphones and tablets may have options in their photo gallery app or even in their camera to share photos directly to Facebook, email, or other popular services. This can be a big time-saver - and is one of the reasons many people prefer to use their mobile devices to take (and share) photos.

Posting on FacebookFacebook: If you have a small number of photos (and a Facebook account), its easy to post them on Facebook. Simply type a new post and click on the camera icon in the top left to add a photo or video file from your computer - you'll be prompted to located the photo(s) on your computer. You can add multiple photos (in the same folder) one at a time (Control + Click in Windows, Command + Click on a Mac to select more than one).

If you create a List from your set of Facebook friends, you can share your photos with only the people who are on that list. Note that Facebook posts only appear in the newsfeeds of a fraction of the people who you think will see it (about 20-30% on average) so it's not a particularly reliable way to share your photos - if you want to make sure peopls actually get notified, use Facebook's Messaging to send your message (and photos) to specific individuals.

Note that Facebook saves relatively small versions of your photos - these will be not much use for printing for instance - so it's a poor way to back up or save copies of your photos while deleting the originals. As well, note that Facebook claims to 'own' any photos you upload to its service, and has sometimes sold uploaded images to advertisers without notifying (or paying) the people who took the photos or are in the photos.

Email: People use multiple programs: Mac or Windows 10 Mail, Microsoft Outlook, Windows Live Mail and more and/or online webmail services: Google Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and more. The details about how to share photos will vary with each. But important to understand - the difference between embedding a photo in an email message and attaching a photo to a message.

When you embed a photo in an email message a smaller version of the photo is placed right into the body of the message along with the text. If you attach a photo (you can attach any file, not just photos), the recipient of the email generally won't see the photo in the text of the email. Instead, they'll get an indication that there's an attached file and will need to click to view or download the attachment - it will typically be saved in their
Downloads folder and they may have to go to that folder to open/view the photo. Look for an icon of a paperclip to add an attachment (photo or otherwise) to an email in most programs and services.

An advantage of attaching your photo(s) - the recipient receives a full-sized/full-quality copy of the photo. A downside - many users are justifiably suspicious of file attachments as its been used as a way to spread malware. As a result, they may not open messages that include attachments. As well, if you'd like to send a bunch of photos, you may reach the point where your message is too large and fails to send or be received.

Google Photos share optionOnline services - again, there are multiple online services for photo storage and sharing. Many offer relatively limited amounts of storage for free accounts (for instance Dropbox and Apple's iCloud); if you make extensive use of these you'll need to plan on paying a monthly or annual fee for additional service.

Flickr offers all new users a hefty 1 terrabyte of free storage. If you either have a Gmail account or an Android phone you automatically have a Google account - Google Photos offers all users free storage for an unlimited number of photos but limits size of individual photos to  16 megapixels - and compresses those photos. Users wanting full-sized/full-quality photos may need to pay for additional storage. (I'm happy to use Google Photos' free service). To have Google Photos automatically backup photos on your computer, phone or tablet, you should install the appropriate app: Mac, Windows, Android, iPhone/iPad - just announced: Google Photos will no longer offer unlimited free photo storage as of June 2021

Apple-centric publication MacWorld recommended Google Photos over Apple's iCloud for people who want to share their photos. In addition, I recommend that people who want to share a lot of photos on Facebook upload the photos to Google Photos - organized into an album - and share the album in a Facebook post - Facebook stores only low-resolution versions of your photos, and doesn't make them easily accessible to people who choose to stay away from Facebook (and there are lots of those folks!)

On any of these services you can organize your photos into albums, perform basic editing and photo enhancement and share individual photos or entire albums with individuals. Your photos are private unless you choose to share them with selected individuals or make them public. As a result, you can post an album of photos, get a link for the album, and paste it into a Facebook message or email - a way to share a bunch of photos without needing to attach them to an email or upload them to Facebook. Here's a link, for example, of a Google Photos album of my photos from my spring 2016 trip to Italy. Note that the Share dialogue box has options to easily share the link to Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

See: 17 Tricks to Master Google Photos and Back Up Your Photographs Automatically With These 8 Tools  and How to Create Shared Photo Albums on Android (And Share Them With Anyone) and The Best Ways to Share Your Smartphone Photos This Holiday

Printing photos, calendars, books and more:

Another way to share your photos is in printed form - on paper. Most of the time, printing your own photos is more trouble, time, and expense than its worth. (An exception might be including a few photos in something like a school report). The sorts of companies that used to print snapshots from film have adapted well to printing digital photos - most let you come in to their shop with your camera's memory card or photos copied to a flash drive and make it easy for you to select the photos you'd like to print. Alternatively, many of these services offer online interfaces, letting you select photos on your computer or tablet, upload them and then drop by their store to pick up your prints (or get them in the mail). Vancouver's popular London Drugs, for instance, offers this sort of online service and even offers apps for mobile devices.

Along with printing individual snapshots, many of these photo services offers the option of using your photos to print customized professional looking calendars, cards, fridge magnets, books and more. Some require users to download a special program or app and design their calendar/book/etc on their computer, uploading the finished design. (Mac users can do this direct from the iPhoto/Photos app already on their computer). Others use a web-based program which can be slower but requires no installation on your computer. Google Photos has recently added a book-making feature.


People's digital photos hold their memories - if they're lost, it can feel like a real disaster. You should keep multiple copies of your photos - ideally in multiple locations - for protection from computer failure (hard drives crash!), theft, fire, and all sorts of other potential disasters. Some suggestions:
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