Windows Live Photo Gallery and Digital Frames–A Match Made In Heaven

This post may be a little late for the holiday season, but there’s always another one coming up. I’ve written before about Windows Live Photo Gallery and its promise when it was in Beta. It’s been out for several months now, and my opinion on it hasn’t changed – it’s an excellent photo organizing tool. It has some light editing capabilities, but I work frequently with RAW images, and I use Adobe Photoshop with Bridge for my picture processing tasks. However, once processing is complete, Live Photo Gallery takes over for tagging and organizing.

One of the things that I really like about the product is its integration with external applications and galleries. I store my photos in Windows Live and Facebook (for sharing with others) and in Flickr for both sharing and full size image storage. Live Photo Gallery makes this very easy. Once the pictures are tagged, you simply select the ones that you want to send (I also like to tag them with a destination/album name like “Flickr – 2009 General” so that I know what I’ve saved) and then click the relevant destination in the Share section on the tab.

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Once configured, for each selection, you’ll get a dialog box prompting you for the album and other metadata, and in the case of Facebook, for people. Remember that Windows Live and Facebook are tightly integrated,so that people you tag with Photo Gallery will automatically be reflected on Facebook. In the case of Facebook,the dialog looks something like below:

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This makes sharing photos online really easy to do. However, I have always found that digital frames were much more difficult. Being in technology, I of course have given digital frames to my parents, grandparents and in-laws. It’s a great way to get photos to them, but managing the content can be a bit of a nightmare. I have run across two major stumbling blocks doing this.

The first problem is the limited storage capacity of the frame itself. With cameras boasting higher and higher megapixel counts, their file sizes are increasing exponentially. Many older frames have storage capacities below 256 MB, which just doesn’t cut it. Even modern frames have a typical capacity of 1 GB and while that can be increased through expansion cards, it’s really only prolonging the inevitable.

The solution to this is to convert the images. Most frames are relatively low resolution, most being in the 640×480 or 800×600 range. If you’re counting, that’s 0.3 and 0.5 megapixels respectively. Converting the images to the native resolution of the frame will result in drastically lower storage requirements without any loss in displayed quality. The problem with this approach is that conversion software is a little above the heads of most casual users users, and it generates yet another group of pictures to manage.

The other problem is randomization. Believe it or not, most frames that I’ve encountered do not automatically randomize image play, leaving you to watch the same sequence over and over again. Since they’re usually sorted on filename, you’re often stuck watching things in chronological order. The way around the order is to get some sort of file renaming utility and rename all of the files before copying them over.

Those are the problems. However, Windows Live Photo Gallery supports plug ins for its destinations (Flickr, SkyDrive, Facebook, YouTube are all out of the box), and there is an excellent plug in written for digital frames written by Leo Lie. Essentially, it treats the frame, or any SD drive as a source such as Flickr, etc. Once you select the photos you want, you simply press the button, select whether or not you want the files resizes, and to what degree, and if you wish, it will randomize your photos for you. This solves the two problems (almost) in one fell swoop. If I tag the photos with the name of the frame, and I continue to be religious about tagging, very time grandma comes over, she can bring her SD card, I can erase it, and reload it. Simple.

You can get the plug in by clicking on my link above, or from within photo gallery, you can check out all of the available plug ins. It’s not obvious how, so I’m including a screenshot below. There is a scrollbar to the right of the Share section on the Home tab of the ribbon. At the bottom of that scrollbar is a drop down. Click it, and click Add a plug in, and you’ll be taken to the plug in gallery. There are several good ones.

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I should also mention that while I use this for all of my relatives. I recently purchased a Kodak Pulse wireless frame for my use at home. If you have wireless, it’s a very good way to go. With it, you can send pictures directly to it, you can use Kodak’s file share, and you can email pictures directly to it. However the real value here is that it integrates with Facebook so that any pictures you post to Facebook (configurable) will show up on the screen. Since Facebook stores low resolution pictures, this is perfect. I simply use the Windows Live Photo Gallery integration to send the pictures to Facebook, and I’m done. I’ll be going on a diving trip by myself (more on that later) in a few weeks, but the family will be able to see my pictures as I post them.

Now I just need to keep up with my tagging.

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