ILovePhotos and Picasa: Free programs to keep your photos organized

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It's hard to imagine the degree to which the internet and personal computers have changed photography. Once upon a time (about ten years ago), hard copy photos were treasured keepsakes. They were irreplaceable, and families would often come together or fall apart over the distribution of favorite snapshots.

In my house, this was a particularly difficult thing. After my parents died, some of my relatives descended upon my family's collection of old pictures and, under the pretense of "making copies," began to abscond with original photos. I managed to hold onto a few keepsakes, but many of my originals have become lost to the fleet fingers of fellow family historians.

A couple of years ago, following my sister Susan's lead, I began to scan in all of my family papers, including birth certificates, pictures, wedding announcements, and anything else that I could get my hands on. I used high resolution scans, made multiple CD copies, and did everything in my power to ensure that my siblings would be able to access our shared family history. This, however, led me to bump heads with another problem: I suddenly found myself awash in tons of pictures and documents without any clear way of organizing them. After all, while school photos could clearly be organized under individual names, they also belonged in a file marked "school photos." When I got into group pictures, things got even worse, as these could easily belong under dozens of different headings.

One method was to make numerous copies of each picture, placing them under each heading. However, it took a lot of time, a lot of space, and didn't make it any easier for me to distribute photos. This was partially fixed when I got high-speed internet access, which allowed me to e-mail pictures all over the place. Even so, the dozens of pictures that I was getting from family and friends left me in a bizarre position. A few years earlier, I hadn't had enough family photos, but I now had thousands. Archiving them in a reasonably understandable manner would take me years.

My friend Alex introduced me to the wonders of Google's Picasa, an outstanding program that allows me to manipulate whole batches of photos, organize all the pictures on my computer, print to the Internet, and quickly send photos out. In short, Picasa's made it possible for me to easily organize the total mess of digital photographs that was clogging up my computer.

Recently, ILovePhotos has developed the next level of photo archiving. Employing a facial recognition program, it will automatically organize your photos based on who is in them. You can then easily archive them, send them off to friends and family, and find them in a pinch. Unfortunately, it's only available for Macs right now, but I have high hopes that they'll come out with a PC version!

Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. He still has a few shoeboxes full of pictures.

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