Monday, March 18, 2013

Photo Tutorial: Adding text to your photos

I sometimes get asked how I add text to my photos, so I decided to create a mini tutorial describing exactly how I accomplish one of my favorite aspects of the photo-taking-blog-writing process.

The software: There are a few different options, but I've been a fan of Picassa for some time now, primarily because it is an entirely free download from Google that allows you to store, edit and add text to your photos. While more powerful programs like Aperture, Photoshop Elements, or Lightroom have much more sophisticated filters and actions than Picassa, they do not have a text editing option - and they cost anywhere from $80-$150! This fact continually baffles me. There's also the option of using a pen tablet that allows you to write directly on your photos, but those are more of a financial investment as well, and require you to have good handwriting (which I, sadly, do not).

To appease my starving-artist budget, I instead edit my photos on my phone using much cheaper apps like PhotoToaster and Snapseed, and then upload them to my computer for a final dose of text in Picassa.

The process:
1.) Download Picassa if you haven't already, then let the program search your computer to find and store all your photos. If you're like me and have a bajillion pictures in your computer, take this opportunity to invest in an external hard drive and move the majority of your pics off your computer and into your ext. hard drive. This will free up a ton of memory and make your computer work much faster.

2.) Select the folder in which your picture is stored from Picassa's left hand menu, then double click on the thumbnail of the photo you wish to edit. For the purpose of this tutorial, I picked this shot I took of myself on the beach (c'mon, summer! hurry up!!!)

3.) You'll see a variety of different editing options to the left of your picture - click "Text".

4.) At this point, you have three major decisions to make - font style, size and color. Luckily, Picassa allows you to use as many different styles/sizes/colors as you wish in any one picture. For now though, pick one - you can always change it later. Put your cursor on the spot at which you want your text to appear and start typing.

The font will change in real time as you scroll through the options on the left, as will the color as you click on the circles next to the "T"s. You can choose to have your text outlined in one color (the "T" on the right) and filled in with another (the "T" on the left), or the text can be one thin line - play around with the options and you'll find which one works best for the project at hand.

If you want to change the size or the angle of your text, cursor over the grey text box - moving the red button on the dial that appears will allow you to rotate, enlarge, and/or shrink the entire text in question.

4a.) Adding new fonts to the bank is also possible. I follow some font boards on Pinterest that alert me to new and fun designs; when I see one I think will work for a particular project (it's usually from dafont or 1001 Free Fonts) I download it, add it to my computer's Font Book (it's in your Applications folder), and then find it on the drop down menu in Picassa as shown below.

5.) Once you're done and happy with your text addition, click the "Apply" button on the left. You can make changes after you've clicked this button, but your edits will be removed if you leave this page to go back to the library without first clicking "Apply." I've made this mistake a few times before and it's very frustrating.

6.) This new image is now stored in your Picassa library, but if you want to do anything else with it (upload it to your blog, for example), you will need to export it to your computer. Do this by clicking the "Export" button at the very bottom of the screen; the image will then be saved as a JPEG in a separate folder that you can name and specify. This is also where you can add a watermark to your image if you so choose.

7.) Enjoy! With hundreds of fonts, colors and even some fun Wingdings (do people still use those?) the possibilities are endless. Add the recipe to your food photo, a funny caption to the bachelorette party photo, or add your own obnoxious i can haz whatever words to that stupid cat photo meme that won't seem to go away.

All instructions, opinions and photographs are my own. Further questions? Leave a comment below or send an email to

Friday, March 15, 2013

365/Photo-a-day - March part 1

palm trees - pineapple smoothie to-be - urban herb garden - saturday morning - healthy snack
week of yoga day #2 - sunday morning drive - 12th floor rehearsal hall - Jersey sky - J's b-day
snowy Jersey - snowy foot photo - sunset - more snowy Jersey - a crisp day in NYC

Month #3 and I'm still going strong on this project. For reasons personal, professional and financial, I spent the first half of March amidst a lot of trees, fresh produce and asanas (yoga poses) - not at all a bad way to wait out these (hopefully) final weeks of winter!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Slice of the Week - Key Lime Pie

I  mentioned this before, but I recently had the wonderful opportunity to take a vacation and visit some friends, family and theme park animatronics in Florida. So fun. So relaxing. So necessary.

One afternoon, I found myself with some free time in the seaside community of Vero Beach. This meant two things: 1.) I was to take a long walk on the beach. 2.) I was to take myself out to an unnecessarily long lunch. Why? Because those two things don't exist in New York. Yes, we have beaches and yes, we have restaurants, but when was the last time you had five hours to kill? 

I digress.

I ended up willing away the hours at the aptly named Mulligan's Beach House Bar and Grill. It was wonderful. I had an Adirondack chair all to myself, and save for a nice old couple from Michigan, a retired bussinessman from Ohio and some seagulls, I barely saw anyone. The service was was a bit unorganized and slow, but it resulted in an extra glass of Pinot Grigio for me, so I'm really not going to complain. 

After a mahi mahi BLT on toasted French bread with crispy sweet potato fries and two glasses of wine, I received my accidental complimentary third glass and ordered a slice of Key Lime Pie. Because when in Rome, ya know? According to Wikipedia, Key limes are grown in the Florida Keys, have thiner rinds than the Persian limes more commonly found in American grocery stores, and are known for their tart flavor and intense aroma. According to a Travel Channel show I once saw, Key limes are lighter in color, and as a result any Key lime pie that has an electric green hue has been altered with food dye. According to the inebriated businessman from Ohio, the winds whipping off the Atlantic ocean beat up against the thin rinds of limes when they're on the tree, but that's what gives them their tart flavor. I took all this information with a grain of salt (and that third glass of wine) and dug into my pie.

It was tart and filling and sweet and creamy and not electric green and I could taste the ocean and all those wind-beaten limes. Really, any time I'm eating pie while simultaneously running my bare feet through warm sand and softly gazing at waves crashing in the ocean is a good time. But it was a very good slice of pie ;)

Sunday, March 3, 2013

365/Photo-a-day - February Wrap-Up

view from 10,000 feet - Cooper Square - clouds in Astoria - rooftops in Hogsmeade
staircase at the MoMA - Disneyworld! - a random closet that looked like it would lead to Narnia
beautiful day at the beach - palm trees
a swanky ride to work - mmm bagel - this is what happens when I work from home - MoMA artwork

February was an odd month, picture-wise. The first three weeks, I was working long hours in a dark theater in a cold and slushy city - good photo ops were hard to come by. During the last week, however, I put myself on a plane and jetted off to a much (much) needed vacation to the sunny themeparkland known as Florida. Over the course of five days, I took over a dozen 365-worthy pictures. And while I told myself in January that as long as I ended up with one picture for every day of the month it would count towards my project, I didn't want to just assume that I'd fill up the month of February with pictures from one vacation - that wasn't quite in the spirit of the game. So instead, I forced myself to do something that is often difficult - I made myself choose. I was in Florida for five days, so I picked the five best pictures (and one extra to start off the month of March...a girl's gotta break some rules!) to count towards the month. It was an interesting mini-challenge. It forced me to search for photographable moments even while immersed in the freezing cold of downtown New York, and it caused me to look at the collection I created in Florida with an even more focused eye than normal. 

February By the Numbers
*Food photos: 5
*Actions shots: 3 (falling snow, a flying airplane and a moving car)
*Photos with people/animals: 3
*Pictures of my feet: 2 (week #2 saw a lot of yoga and not much else)
*Overdramatic photos with clouds: 9