Managing Windows Phone Photos

 

Smartphone Photos

 

Smartphones are certainly more capable than desktop computers when it comes to photos. There is a built in camera and apps for sharing via email or “in the cloud”. Enhancing and editing can be done right in the phone. The whole thing fits into a pocket and is unobtrusive in use.

Here are some thoughts on using a Windows Phone, in my case a Nokia Lumia 900.

LJK_5608-P (479x800)Most built-in smartphone cameras are quite powerful and comparable in features and performance to many point-and-shoot digital cameras. Once you have taken a photo, you have a number of options for managing and sharing the picture.

LJK_5599-P (479x800)In the case of the Windows Phone, the camera stores the photos in a folder in the phone called camera roll. A tile on the phone, Pictures, gets you to the photos stored on the phone as well as to the pictures on your SkyDrive. The SkyDrive pictures can be found under albums.

You can keep and enjoy your photos on your phone, of course, but you may want to share them or move them to your computer and manage and enhance them there.

As with all things electronic these days, there are several ways to accomplish any task. Moving, copying, or sharing Windows Phone photos is no exception.

Share to SkyDrive

The option to share on SkyDrive can even be set up to work automatically for every photo. The image is copied to a SkyDrive folder named Mobile uploads. If you don’t have a folder by that name, it will be created. Pictures copied to SkyDrive with this command are scaled to 718 by 518 pixels. That is less than 0.4 Mpx, less than 5% of the 8 Mpx my camera records. Bummer? Not really.

There is a reason for the reduced resolution photos being uploaded to SkyDrive. If you are not in Wi-Fi range the upload goes over the cell phone network. This tends to be costly and slow. It does get it up there right away, so if your Mobile uploads folder is shared with friends, they can see your photos right away. Note: By default the Mobile uploads folder is not shared, so if you want your friends to see that album, you must share it with them first.

Share in Email

Attaching photos to emails is the way photos have been shared by all of us for a long time. This is also pretty straightforward with the Windows Phone. Here again the pictures are scaled to a lower resolution. This has been the custom for email sharing for a long time. My Windows Phone reduces the images to 1632 by 1224 pixels, that is about 2 Mpx, about a quarter of what my camera produces. Not bad, but still not the full glory of my Nokia phone camera images.

Using the SkyDrive app

LJK_5596-P (499x800)If you want to copy your photos in their full, original resolution, the SkyDrive app (a free download) is the way to go.

Without the SkyDrive app you can see your SkyDrive albums on your Windows Phone, but with the app you have full control, just like you have from your computer. Touch SkyDrive and touch an album, or a folder, and it opens and shows the contents. The circled-plus symbol opens the “add file” window and you can select a photo from any phone folder or even another SkyDrive folder.

The actual upload to your SkyDrive will take place when you are connecting with Wi-Fi. If you are not connected, the upload will be delayed. This saves you cellphone network usage, at the price of possibly having to wait until you have connection with a hotspot.

You can select only one photo at a time, and the maximum number of photos set to upload to SkyDrive is five at any one time. As soon as one or more is uploaded you add another.

Gotcha Warning!

In none of these procedures do you have the opportunity to specify a file name. It is all done for you. The SkyDrive app assigns file names in this format: WP_yyyymmdd n, the “WP_” part is always the same, the “yyyy” is the current year, the “mm” the month and “dd” the day. There is a space which is followed by a sequential number (shown in the format here by the “n”) if more than one image is uploaded in a day. This is the upload date, not the date the photo was taken. If the images are removed from the folder the phone just starts over with the numbers at the next upload. This can cause duplicate file names. Also, if you upload to more than one folder, this numbering can lead to duplicated file names. Be very careful so that you don’t loose images because of file name duplication!

Direct connection – phone to computer

You can, of course, connect you phone directly to you computer. Windows Phone requires the Zune program to be installed to handle the communication with the phone. The sync option creates a folder called “From phone name” in your My Pictures folder. This is the default location, the folder name will contain the phone name that you have set up after the “From ”. Zune creates subfolders in this folder for each folder on your phone. These are named the same as on the phone, so there will be a folder named Camera roll and all the photos in the camera roll folder on the phone will be copied to this folder.

The images in the Camera roll folder will be full resolution copies. The naming convention here is WP_00nnnn.jpg with a six-digit, zero-padded sequential number starting with 000000.

While this file naming scheme is the same as photos uploaded to SkyDrive with the Share on SkyDrive option, the file names are not the same in the two locations! A specific photo will most likely have two different names! This can be more than confusing. My advice is to move your photos to conventional folders and rename the images in a more consistent manner.

Once you have your cell phone photos on your computer you can manage them just like other photos.


Simulcast

In the days of yore, the term “Simulcast” was used to indicate that a program was being broadcast simultaneously on different media like a television channel and a radio station. Here I just want to indicate that this article is posted on two blogs, This ‘n That and Café Ludwig. This “multipost” is part of an experiment which I will report on upon completion.

.:.

© 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

Slide Shows compared

Showing your album as a slide show can come in handy in many situations. Most online photo sharing services offer a slide show feature with automatic advance. Since Windows Live SkyDrive recently disabled this feature I have received many inquiries about how to present photos automatically.

Here is a comparison of a photo album as presented by Flickr, Picasaweb, myPicturetown and Shutterfly. The album, consisting of 16 reduced-resolution images (1024 pixel horizontal dimension), was uploaded to each photo sharing service.

Here is the set of photos and below are links to view the album – and run the slide show – in the three services:

collage

view Flickr album

view Picasaweb album

view myPicturetown album

view Shutterfly album

 

My impressions:

flickr

Flickr

There is a short download delay, but the images download rapidly. The slide show runs right from the link, no need to click a play button. The slide show does not automatically cycle after it has played through. The default setting is to scale images to the browser window or to the full screen(F11). The option menu calls this quaintly “Embiggen small things to fill screen”.

It is possible to get to the author’s “Photostream” with a keyboard shortcut (“m”).

 

picasawebPicasaweb

The slide show has to be manually started with the “play” button in the control strip at the bottom. Tools for managing the slide show timing are right there. The images are not enlarged beyond the actual size. For this album the photos do not fill a large screen but are surrounded by black.

Not scaling has the advantage that the photos do not become unsharp as is the case when they are enlarged beyond their actual pixel size.

 

 

myPicturetownmyPicturetown

With this service there is a significant download delay before the album appears. The slide show does not start by itself but is started with the “play” button (lower left). The slide show goes immediately to full screen and the images are scaled up to fill the screen.

Accompanying the slide show is a music track. The viewer can turn the music off or make another selection (from 5). By default the show recycles and starts over again and again.

 

shutterflyShutterfly

The Shutterfly slide show starts right away. Images are not enlarged beyond their actual size. The show plays just once and must be manually repeated.

The controls at the top of the photo remain even when full screen mode (F11) is selected.

 

 



The viewer of these slide shows cannot get to other parts of the author’s shared photos, except for the Flickr show, as noted.

Obtaining the web address, URL, of a slide show is just a matter of starting a slide show when you are signed in to your account and copying the address from the browser address bar. This is not available for a show in myPicturetown. For that service, the address is obtained by a “share album” feature (it sends an email with the URL).

 

Which photo sharing service provides the best slide show?

That depends, of course, on your preferences. All of these photo sharing services, and there are many others, do things a little bit differently. We all have our on individual likes and dislikes. If you would like to share your opinion, please comment on this post.

.:.

© 2011 Ludwig Keck

Sharing Photos with myPicturetown

Nikon has offered a photo sharing service for quite some time and recently made improvements. With a claimed user base of over a million and a half it is not among the largest sharing services but offers some nice features. You do not have to be a Nikon photographer to set up an account at myPicturetown. Two levels are offered: a free account with 2 GB of storage and  a fee-based “Gold” account with more storage and additional features.

The site requires Adobe Flash Player and the user interface has some unexpected quirks, it is also unexpectedly slow in operation. In addition there is an up-loader app you install on your computer that used Adobe AIR. install-11

Sharing photos is by email – somewhat like sharing a SkyDrive album. I prefer a clean web address like you get at Flickr or Picasaweb, but that is not available. The generated email message is quite pleasant and looks like the one shown here.

The “View photos” link is extra-ordinarily long, not something to be typed by hand. If you wish to share in a way other than the email link, an URL shortening service is advised.

One nice feature is that you share just one album. The recipient can view the photos an a pleasant slide show, but cannot view the rest of your site. In my opinion that is a definite plus.

You can define the background of the album with several color and design options. The layout and appearance are attractive and functional. When the visitor gets to the album it looks about like this:

myPictT-12

Clicking a thumbnail on the right displays it in the space on the left. The little play button, image,

in the lower left starts a slide show, with music! The viewer has a set of tools to set the transition speed and effect and to pick the type of music track. Not much choice there, I don’t like any, but this is a nice touch.

The viewer can also download the set of photos in the album as a ZIP file.

Take a look at my album, either image above links to it, and see if this is something that would appal to you and your friends.

.:.

© 2011 Ludwig Keck