Each time I go shutter-happy, I'm reminded of digital photography's beautiful myth. Yes, impressive megapixel loads deliver in-your-face resolution that elevates photos from the usual point-and-shoot quality. However, there's that time-sucking task of cropping, editing, captioning, and distributing the sprawling photo collection, and those are things even the fanciest camera on the market won't do.
The time and effort it takes to process a large batch of photos can be off-putting, but here are a few media-organization tools from the CNET Download.com library to move along the sometimes-arduous process of getting photos from the desktop to your friends.
Many photo organizers come with basic image-editing tools, especially for resizing and removing red eye. They're not always the most effective, but work well enough for the average user posting to a Web album. Heavy-duty editing can take time, but can also greatly improve image quality. If you've got the $100 to invest, Photoshop Elements impresses as an all-around editor with a features arcade and powerful editing tools. Paint.NET (check out the video overview) is a robust, consistent achiever in freeware photo editing. Though it supports layering and blend modes, bear in mind that it's intended for personal rather than professional use.
For simple edits and optimizations, look no further than FastStone, a free image viewer and editor that does a first-rate job with essential tools for resizing and filters.
Organizing and sharing photos
Windows Vista users can boast about the built-in photo gallery that displays image thumbnails in its default view, making files easier to identify; however, Windows 2000 and XP users can achieve the same effect, and arguably a better one, with programs like Picasa and Webshots Desktop (Disclaimer: Webshots is a CNET Networks business unit.)
Google's free photo software, Picasa, is a full-service image manager (for Windows and Mac) that makes finding and sharing photos painless. Picasa optimizes photos for export via e-mail, uploading to a Picasa Web album, posting to Blogger, and rolling a geotagged image into Google Earth. Hello, an additional application, will export full files of entire albums to other Hello buddies.
Webshots Desktop similarly organizes with an intent to upload, but situates itself as a desktop manager that allows shutterbugs to drag and drop photos to their online Webshots account.
Slide show projects
Let's say you want to jazz up your photos for production. Ulead CD & DVD Picture Show is a fun, feisty slide show app that incorporates backgrounds and a soundtrack into the photo flow. Slide shows are easily burned onto gift CDs and DVDs. Another Ulead product, Ulead Photo Express, combines management and editing tools with creative photo projects like cards, calendars, slide shows, and animated GIFs for use on mobile devices.
Check out other digital photography apps in our library to immortalize your favorite vacation memories.