Managing a SkyDrive Photo Blog

As many of my readers know I like sourcing photos from SkyDrive. This article explains some of the details of how I manage my SkyDrive albums and my photo blog, Gallery Ludwig.

The SkyDrive Desktop App makes the SkyDrive look pretty much like any other folder on the computer. Updating a SkyDrive album is just a matter of dragging the photo or pictures to the folder. That can be done just as easily using SkyDrive in the browser, but with the Desktop folder not just files but folders – albums – can be copied to SkyDrive.

Copy pictures to SkyDrive folder

Of course, any subfolder can be the destination, just like copying or moving stuff around on your computer.

Like other files on a computer, the order of files inside a folder cannot be customized when using the SkyDrive desktop folder. However, using the SkyDrive in a browser provides the Rearrange option – a drag-and-drop feature.

Rearrange SkyDrive photos

You can arrange your SkyDrive photo gallery just the way you want, with the individual photos in just the order you like. As a “front end” or “lobby” to your gallery you need another site. I like using a photo blog for this. You can build some nice pages and have a blog post page showing the latest additions and any stories you would like to tell.

The photo blog is, of course, managed using Windows Live Writer. There is no better blogging tool. The Insert > Photo album feature can place nice link arrangements on a blog page or post. Just take a look at Silver Canvas – Gallery EXP 2. But even a single photo with a hyperlink to your album will be a fine “front end”. Let me explain that a bit more.

I use an album called Gallery EXP as one of my SkyDrive prime galleries. Inside this album are albums, folders for various topics. When a visitor gets to this album the tiles for the sub-folders show little slide shows of the contents. I think this is pretty neat. Here is a still photo of my gallery. Click the image to go to the live one.

Gallery EXP

Getting the link for the albums and photos is just a little bit complicated. For the prime gallery, sign in to your SkyDrive using the browser version. Navigate to your “prime gallery” folder. Click the little image“details” icon to open the information pane on the right side. Click Sharing then click Share folder. In the next dialog click Get a link. Then click Make public. You will now see a somewhat long URL in the address box. Copy this URL and file it so you can use it in the future to provide links to your gallery. You can click the Shorten link to get a short URL. You can see my short URL for Gallery EXP when you move the pointer over the image above. You can similarly obtain URLs for any folders in your gallery.

To inform my visitors of new photos in the gallery, I like to include the picture in an update post in the blog portion of my photo blog – my “landing page” for visitors. Here is how to go about that:

Navigate to the newly added photo in SkyDrive (not in the desktop folder, this requires the browser version).

Get image URL

Insert web image in Live WriterClick View original in the top taskbar. This gets you a view of the photo on a separate page. The address in the browser address field is the URL for this photo. It is rather long. Copy it and file it away. When you insert a photo in Live Writer – Insert > Picture > From the web…  this URL will allow you to source your actual photo and show it in your post.

Here is what such a post looks like:

Azalea Blossoms postOf course, you can see it better by clicking the image to go to that post. Be sure to click Latest in the menu bar to see the most recent posts. And don’t be shy about clicking the Gallery EXP link, it gets you to my gallery.

.:.

© 2012 Ludwig Keck

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Combining WordPress and Live Writer photo gallery features

WordPress recently announced updates to the way media is managed from the blog dashboard (Manage Slideshows and Galleries — All in One Place). This makes using slideshows and inserting galleries in blog posts and pages much easier.

galleryEXP-32For preparing posts and pages in a fast and easy WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) manner, nothing beats using Windows Live Writer. Live Writer also offers neat gallery access via SkyDrive photo albums.

So can both be used together?

Yes, indeed – sort-of.

Unfortunately, Writer doesn’t know about WordPress slideshows or galleries and has some editing quirks. The WordPress editor doesn’t understand the intricacies of the Live Writer “Photo Album” and tries to “optimize” the code. So between the two of them it is a delicate operation to get them to play together.

You can see that WordPress slideshows and galleries can be combined with Live Writer photo albums on my Gallery EXP page at Silver Canvas.

True, in the kitchen you should never use all the spices at once, and this is probably true in building a photo gallery blog as well. But my page is an exception, of course, as I am testing the gallery features of both WordPress and Live Writer.

The pitfalls and problems

Live Writer will not find a page created in the WordPress dashboard (most of the time), so to use Live Writer with a page, the page should be started in Live Writer. Besides that, Live Writer makes a mess of the gallery code generated by the WordPress editor. Example: The WordPress code for a gallery might be:

image

Live Writer will replace the quote marks and the “corrected” code will be like this:

image

You can imagine that when WordPress again gets a hold of this, the gallery won’t look the same.

Now the WordPress editor also attempts to correct and optimize code. When it gets a hold of the large set that defines the images and links of a Live Writer “Photo Album” insertion sometimes strange, and not necessarily beautiful things happen.

Especially insertions with individual thumbnails and links, like the one here, get mangled pretty badly. They get progressively more damaged on repeated use of the WordPress editor.

The strategy for getting an acceptable page or post is this: Plan ahead, minimize the use of the WordPress editor, and don’t make revisions.

Strategy and procedure

To get a post or page that combines Live Writer “Photo albums” with WordPress galleries proceed as follows:

1)  Plan ahead – Sketch out your post or page, note what photo albums and galleries you wish to include. Organize the photos for the albums and galleries.

2) Upload your SkyDrive albums – Set up the SkyDrive photo albums that you wish to include in the root of your SkyDrive. Live Writer cannot find sub-folders.

image3)  Start in Live Writer – Start the page or post in Live Writer. Include all elements and text, and any simple insertions. Insert the SkyDrive photo albums and pick the album styles and other features.

Live Writer provides a nice selection of thumbnail layouts, “Album styles”.

image

4)  Publish to blog – If you are working on a page go ahead and publish it. Since it is new it will not be included in a customized menu. If you are working on a post, select “Post draft to blog” so it will not be published immediately.

5) Edit in WordPress dashboard – Once the page or post has been uploaded the next step is to add the WordPress features – slideshows and galleries – that are not available in Live Writer.

The WordPress Media Library is one huge shoebox with all your images. The new features that make it much more user friendly really do not yet go far enough. imageSelecting the photos for a gallery or slide show is easy in principle, but messy in practice. Here is why:

When you click “Add Media” you are taken to a beautiful page like this:

image

Pretty nice. Click a thumbnail to select it. Only problem is the identification of the thumbnails. You can’t tell which image you are dealing with until you click it. imageThe pane on the right gives the details. Since the Media Library will be filled with many thumbnails and full images, the selection process is a bit cumbersome and time-consuming.

The procedure to get a gallery onto the page requires Create Gallery > Update Gallery > Update (page). The options for the type of gallery, Default, Tiles, Square Tiles, Circles, Slideshow, is a bit temperamental, galleryEXP-27and the interaction between columns and type – it it exists at all – is not obvious.

Re-arranging the pictures within a gallery is a quick drag-and-drop.

Still, WordPress galleries are nice. The slideshow works but the window size is not adjustable. The neatest gallery arrangement is “Tiles”. There is no control over the arrangement, but it is always pleasant.

For all galleries (but not Slideshow), clicking leads to a black-framed large image. A good way to view the pictures.

image

Updating the Mixed Gallery

Updating the mixed gallery can get tricky. If Live Writer is used the WordPress Galleries are messed up. If the WordPress editor is used the photo albums inserted by Live Writer may get spoiled.

Editing in WordPress editor

The WordPress galleries can be easily maintained and modified in the WordPress editor.

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Clicking the Edit Gallery link in the gallery placeholder opens the Edit Gallery page which allows re-arranging, deleting or adding to the gallery, as well as changing gallery parameters. “Add to Gallery” can be done from the Media Library or by uploading. Uploading would be the preferred method – it is also a drag-and-drop process and avoids the confusion posed by the Media Library.

The only downside is that Live Writer Photo Albums might get mangled.

Updating Live Writer Photo Albums

Maintenance on the Live Writer Photo Albums is a matter of updating the corresponding SkyDrive album. That is a snap, especially when using the SkyDrive Desktop App. Just manage the folder like any other folder on the PC and let the app do the updating. Even relocating the album will not affect the operation of the blog post or page – it will continue to work just fine.

If you don’t mind the occasional update headache, combining the features offered in Windows Live Writer and the WordPress online editor can lead to some gorgeous looking photo galleries.

.:.

© 2012 Ludwig Keck

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A peek into the “café art” atelier

Atelier – a studio or workshop, esp. one used by an artist” – Artist? Oh, well, I will use the term anyway.

Here is an actual glimpse of my “atelier”, of course, LJK_5255-Pthe real workplace is inside that black box on the right, my computer. And my tools are a collection of software programs. In this article I will tell you a little about how I import, manage, and organize photos, a bit about “café art” post-processing and some of the tools, and lastly about presentation and sharing of the images.

But this article being about “café art”, I must show this view this way:

atelier-5254-starGY

Importing, managing and organizing photos

My AutoPlay is set to start the import process when the camera is connected and turned on. imageOver time I have collected a ton of programs that, either as their prime task, or as an added feature, provide photo management operations. The program I settled on for that task is Windows Live Photo Gallery.

Photo Gallery is what I use to do the importing. blog-120629-01In fact, this is my go-to program for most photo organizing and managing tasks.

The default setting for most programs is to use “My Pictures” as the location and that is what I use. The import routine creates a new folder with the date when the photos were created as the name. That is already a giant step to keeping photos organized.

Right after import, Photo Gallery opens. I rename all the photos in the new folder to replace the “DSC_” prefix, that my camera insists on providing, with my initials. This is a two-second operation, see How do I replace the DSC prefix on my photo file names?

imageThen I select all the photos in the new folder, right-click, and open Properties. I add some “boiler-plate” tags, and fill in the Authors and Copyright fields.

Most of the specific tagging I do in Photo Gallery, as well as assigning titles, “Caption” as PG calls them.

My photos are now organized. In Photo Gallery I can find them by folder location – or by the date they were taken. But most importantly, I can find photos by tags.

imageSome photographers keep a careful system of tags, but I don’t make a project out of it. Occasionally I discover that I have assigned similar tags like “Athens” and “Athens GA”. I have not visited Greece, so it was easy to select all “Athens” photos, assign the “Athens GA” tag to them and then delete the “Athens” tag.

Finding photos by date or tag is easy. It does not matter where on my computer the photos are, and indeed they will be in different locations. To keep the “My Pictures” folder from getting too messy, I periodically move older folders to an “archive” location on another drive. There the folders are in tear and quarter sub-folders.

That’s pretty much it for organizing and managing, but I must add one note: Other photo managing programs see the same file structure, hence in Picasa, for instance, the organization looks exactly the same.

Editing – post-processing – creating the “art”

Editing or post-processing is what you do to the photos after they are taken. Some cameras provide editing tools. The only one such camera tool I use regularly is “delete”. I prefer to do the editing in my computer when I can see the images on a large screen. A bit of touch-up can benefit just about every photo. This article will not go into enhancing photos by adjusting the exposure, doing some judicious cropping, retouching and other “tweaks” to bring out the best in pictures. This is about “café art”.

It stands to reason that I should define “café art”, so here goes:

Café art – playful, pictorial, or decorative work derived from or based on photographs. Such images do not imply deep philosophical meanings or make profound statements, they are meant to simply provide a fleeting moment of visual pleasure

Actually there is a bit more to café art: It provides a lot of fun in manipulating photos and creating totally new images. Photos that otherwise are suitable only for the “recycle bin” are often my best sources or “substrates”. On occasion I will take some pictures with the specific intent of manipulating them in a specific way. I did so for this article.

Most photo editing programs, as well as some unexpected applications, provide some “art effects”. Windows Live Photo Gallery is somewhat of an exception, imageit only offers some recoloring effects, unless you count some of the color or exposure adjustments.

imagePicasa provides a richer selection. I often use the “Pencil Sketch”, “HDR-ish” and “Neon” tools.

These Picasa tools are simple to use and provide a nice range of the effects.

A neat set of tools is provided in several of the Microsoft Office 2010 programs. imageI often use Word 2010 for its “Artistic Effects” in the “Picture Tools” ribbon. There are some delightful tools. These programs are not intended as photo editors and getting the pictures in and out is not as easy as with the photo apps, but some effects are just not available elsewhere.

image

Another tool I like is FastStone Image Viewer, it has a couple of nice effects that I use often, “Sketch” and “Oil Painting” and offers a rich selection of “Frame Masks”. You saw one of the masks at the beginning of this post.

There are many other art tools and I use several. Photo editors also include extensive manipulation tools. My long-time favorite is Corel PaintShop. This is a professional strength photo editor. Others are Adobe Photoshop and Gimp.

One of the effects that I love to use is what I call “plaster paint” and what PaintShop calls “Topography” (in “Artistic Effects”). In fact I specifically went out to get some photos to use for this article with this effect in mind. Here is one of them:

LJK_5393-C-P3-Cs

This is “Sunlight on Leaves 2012”. This gets me to my final section:

Presentation and Sharing of images

Photos, and especially “art”, is more satisfying when it is shared and presented to others for their pleasure. In this time of the Web, sharing is online. You are seeing these images on the Internet.

There are many photo sharing sites and many other places on the Web where pictures can be viewed. I use several, the menu at the top of this page takes you to most of them.

The sharing service I like the best is not even a good photo sharing site – although it was a couple of years ago: SkyDrive. Microsoft is trying to make SkyDrive the ubiquitous sharing tool for everything, everywhere, and everyone. For sharing photos it is not in the league of Flickr, Picasaweb, Shutterfly, and the many other sites specifically designed for sharing pictures. The reason is that it is much more private, it does not provide an  easy entry “front door”. It is more like a “private club” than a “public house”.

SkyDrive

Once you construct a “Grand Entrance” to your SkyDrive albums, you have a great way for sharing photos. I like to use blogs as the “front end”. You can see this at Gallery Ludwig, and specifically for “café art” at Silver Canvas.

SkyDrive is easy to use. Uploading to SkyDrive can be done right from Live Photo Gallery, directly in a browser, “skydrive.cm”, and most recently, with a SkyDrive desktop app.

Here are some quick demonstrations.

Uploading to SkyDrive from Photo Gallery

Since I use Live Photo Gallery for organizing and enhancing photos already, using it to upload to SkyDrive is just a click away. The process is simple enough: Select the photos you want to upload, click SkyDrive and the process is underway.

A dialog opens showing your SkyDrive albums along with an option to create a new album. One small downside: You cannot upload to sub-folders this way. But that is easily fixed by creating a temporary album, uploading, then moving the photos to the sub-folder where they should be.

atelier-CL-02

atelier-CL-05

Moving the photos is done at “skydrive.com”, that is, online using your browser. It is quick and easy as you can see in the two illustrations here.

One other note: By default the photos will be resized to 1600 pixels (max dimension). There are other options, 600 pixels and “Original”, whatever size the photos are.

Uploading to SkyDrive using the SkyDrive desktop app

atelier-CL-01The SkyDrive desktop app replicates your SkyDrive on your computer and automatically keeps the contents of SkyDrive in synch with the local folder. The local folder is just like any other folder and you manage it with Windows Explorer.

Using the desktop app is just a matter of dragging photos to the folder or sub-folder. The size and other properties of the files are not affected. Note of caution: Be careful that you copy the photos and not move them, unless that is where you wish to keep them.

Uploading to SkyDrive online

Almost as easy as the two methods discussed is uploading to SkyDrive when you are signed in using your browser. You navigate to the folder and click Add files.

SkyDrive-upload-12

A window opens with a message “Drop files here…” (see illustration, you must have Silverlight installed for this option). Just drag the photos over into this window.

imageThe upload process starts right away. Of course, there is a catch. At the bottom of the dialog is a checkbox and the text “Resize photos to 2048 px”. The checkbox is checked indicating that your photos are already being resized. image

If you want the photos to be uploaded in their original size, click the checkbox to uncheck it. There will be another dialog that says “Change photo size”. Click the Yes button. The upload will be restarted and your photos will be uploaded in their full size.

A little bonus

Uploading by way of the online SkyDrive features was illustrated above with a file named “Triptych-5388.jpg”. This is indeed a rather large file and cannot be easily viewed in SkyDrive.

 SkyDrive-upload-07

You can see in the illustration that the size is 12000 x 2800 pixels. Larger than your monitor, I bet.

Here is  “Leaves – triptych” presented in a neat Microsoft service called Zoom.It, just click the image.

Leaves

.:.

© 2012 Ludwig Keck

Using SkyDrive as your Photo Gallery

Windows Live SkyDrive offers a lot of storage for photos and documents. Recent improvements make organizing albums and folders much easier. SkyDrive is not designed to be a photo sharing service, but with some care you can present your gallery in a pleasant manner and make it fun to visit.

Here are some tips for making your gallery a nicer experience for your visitors.

image

 

Organizing your Gallery

imageYou can have folders with sub-folders in SkyDrive, so one album page can lead to others. Recent changes now allow “root location” folders to be moved to any other folder or sub-folder. This makes organizing and re-organizing your gallery quite easy.

Right-click on a folder tile to get a drop-down menu with various options. One available choice is Move to. This allows you to move the folder to any other folder.

imageThe order of sub-folders in a folder is not under user control, however the photos inside an album can be rearranged.

imageIn the right pane, click Arrange photos to go to the “Arrange photos” page. If you have Silverlight installed, this is just a drag-and-drop procedure.

The alternate procedure is just a little more time-consuming. Each thumbnail is shown with a text box below showing a number that indicates the current order. Just replace that number with the new location order.

imageWhen a thumbnail in an album is clicked, it will be shown large. imageThe information pane on the right can be turned off with a click on the “Collapse” chevron.

The right pane also offers a “Play slide show” option. All this can make your album and entire gallery a nice experience for visitors.

image

 

Uploading photos

There are two easy ways of uploading photos to your SkyDrive albums. You can open the “Add files” dialog from folder view. imageAgain there is a drag-and-drop option. Just drag photos from your computer to the “Add files” panel. imageThey will start uploading as soon as you release the mouse button.

Here too, there is a manual method that opens a standard “Open” dialog where you can navigate through your libraries and folders and select the photos to upload.

The second way of uploading is directly from Live Photo Gallery. There is a serious limitation in this method. You can upload photos only to albums in the root of your SkyDrive. You cannot upload to subfolders.

The procedure is simple. imageSelect the photos and click the SkyDrive icon in the Share group on the Home ribbon. Photo Gallery opens a dialog that connects to your SkyDrive. You have to sign in if you are not signed in to Photo Gallery.image

The upload dialog shows your albums so you can select the one to upload to. You may even see other albums that you are permitted to upload to.

You can also create a new album right in this dialog.

Another option is to specify the size of your photos. If they are larger than this specified size, the photos will be scaled down to this size. The default is 1600 pixels on the larger dimension. For most uses this is just fine. You can select “Original” in this dialog to upload photos in their full size. There are uses for that, but that is the scope of this article.

 

Providing a path to your gallery

Now, unfortunately, comes the part that is a “downer”. There is no short, easy to remember, web address for SkyDrive albums. One way to inform your friends of the album and provide them with a link is with an email. This can be done right from the SkyDrive album.  imageClick “Share folder” under the Share group in the information panel on the right.

As you can see in the illustration, there are a number of options. Besides sharing with an email you can post to Facebook and other social networks and to get links that you can distribute separately.

For the email option just enter the recipients’ email addresses. You can include a message in the email. Note that the “Recipient can edit” check box is already checked. Normally you want to uncheck that. imageYou can also require that the recipients sign in to their Windows Live account to view your album. Not something you want to require when just casually sharing photos.

The recipients get a pretty email that looks like the illustration here (the recipients address has been removed). The email contains a “View photos” link that takes the visitor right to the album in folder view with the pretty tiles of the photos. In fact, clicking on any thumbnail in the email opens the browser right to that photo in large view.

imageYou can copy the URL of the photos or the folder. These are very long and ugly, as you can see in the illustration. You definitely would not want to type out such a link. Better to stick to the pretty email. If the album is public, that is shared with Everyone, the email can even be forwarded to others.

My suggestion is this: Set up one folder as your “gallery”, organize you photos in subfolders. Share your gallery with “Everyone” if you want public access. Private albums should go into a separate folder or folders with more restrictive sharing. Note: You can share individual photos. However the visitor will have access to other publicly shared photos and albums.

If you want a public gateway to your gallery consider setting up a blog. Here in this blog post you can see how links to your gallery could be set up:

Using Live Writer as your blogging tool offers a number of ways to show album links. Above is just one example.

.:.

© 2011 Ludwig Keck