BirdCam No. 2:  Photo Management

Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Chestnut-backed Chickadee (Poecile rufescens)

Having just installed a second BirdCam station, I am already getting activity.  I have also discovered some nifty software for managing and editing photos.  In BirdCam No.1, I am using an Eye-Fi SD card which transmits images to my laptop via Wi-Fi.  It works well, but also has some drawbacks.  For BirdCam No.2, I decided to go with a standard SD Class 6 card.  This meant I needed software that would download the images, sort them into subfolders by date and keep track of images already transferred.  I don't like the way Picassa and Windows Live Photo Gallery want to take over everything.  Sometimes I like to root around in my folders on my own and use the Windows Photo Viewer.  I also don't like the way WLPG will save changes without asking.

After some study, I settled on FastStone Photo Viewer now in version 4.3.  I am tickled to death with it and it's free to boot.  It is very fast and requires only a bit of orienting to get it working.  I know, I know, Photoshop.  Anybody who is anybody...  Frankly, I don't have the time.  My needs are simple and I want something I can open and run without requiring weeks of study.  FastStone ably meets that criteria, and it includes very intuitive photo editing tools as well.

FastStone Image Viewer

FastStone's date option for naming folders uses a year/year-month-day format which is actually better than Windows.  Putting the year first in the folder name keeps them all in true chronological order.  Grouping each year's folders is also a welcome option.  If desired, you can also download photos into any specified folder.

Not every BirdCam photo will be useful.  The first chore is to delete the bad ones, the blanks, blurs and butt shots.  Here, FastStone really shines.  You can quickly scroll through a new batch in full screen and delete the rejects.  While in full screen, touch the mouse pointer to the four edges of the image.  Quick menus will open.  To delete, you can use the delete button at the top of the screen or the Delete key on your keyboard.

Don't delete them all, however, since you may be able to fix the marginal shots with FastStone's editing tools.  Here is the original Chickadee photo as it came from the camera:

This was late in the day, the subject was in the shade and it was somewhat back-lit.  This shot could have ended up in the trash bin, but I decided to use it to experiment with FastStone's editing tools.  First, always make a copy for editing.  Never edit or alter the original photo.  Second, if you are looking for expertise in photo editing, this is not the place.  I think I was able to salvage the shot, however, on my first go-around with the tools.  Here is what I did:
  • I removed as much of the blue as possible
  • I added a smidgen of red and a smidgen of green
  • I boosted the contrast to make the Chickadee stand out more
  • I increased the saturation just a speck
  • I fussed a bit with highlights and shading
  • I sharpened the image just a little
Note that "fuss," "boost," "speck" and "smidgen" are technical photo terms.  The result was the first photo above.  If you don't like the results, you can undo them all or you can undo each element as you go.  When you edit a copy of the photo, you can easily compare it with the original to see if it really has been improved.

FastStone also has a tool for cropping photos:

Chestnut-backed Chickadee

One other trick is to add the species name or other information to the photo's file name.  This makes it easy to find specific birds or other categories of pictures.  You can also tag the best shots with FastStone and limit the photo browser to only the tagged ones.

Keeping up with two BirdCams will be a handful.  Using this new software, FastStone Image Viewer, should help get the job done.