Photo Editing Apps and Software for Family History

Every where we go, we are snapping pictures. Whether you are interested in capturing your current family history or want to preserve the past through pictures, photo editing apps and software are a must! Read more to learn what software and apps are out there for the active genealogist who loves to take pictures.

A Gems reader recently asked if we have any suggestions on photo editing software and apps for family history. Our Genealogy Gems team members are each active in their personal family history and are quite savvy when it comes to some of the best photo editing apps and software out there.

Lisa Louise Cooke’s Favorite Photo Editing Software and Apps

Lisa shares:
I think one of the best photo editing software programs out there is Adobe Photoshop Elements, the consumer version of the high-powered Photoshop CS/CC software. On my mobile device, Photoshop Express is my go-to photo editing app which I discuss in Chapter 8 of my book Mobile Genealogy. In fact, I use the app far more for the photos I’m actively taking with my iPhone 6 Plus than the software on my computer.
 
With our link you can get Adobe Photoshop Elements & Premiere Elements 14 (the video editing software) bundled and on sale, and support our free podcast at the same time.
 

Adobe Photoshop Elements is an ideal editor for entry-level photographers, image editors and hobbyists. You’ll find most of the features of the more expensive professional version, but with fewer and simpler options. It allows you to create, edit, organize, and share your images to social media sites. Use the built-in Guides to quickly accomplish your goals.

Adobe’s Photoshop Express app can be downloaded to your mobile device for free from Google Play (for Android) or the Apple Store (for iPhones.)

In her book Mobile Genealogy: How to Use Your Tablet and Smartphone for Family History Research, Lisa explains how the Blemish tool can be used to restore old family photos.

Using the Photo Express Photo Editing App for Photo Restoration

If you want to restore old family photos, this app is now also capable of doing a lovely job with the new Blemish Removal tool. The app allows you to access your photos straight from Dropbox, as well as Adobe Creative Cloud, and Facebook. You can copy the old photos you want to edit to a dedicated folder in Dropbox. Remember, always leave your master digital photos where they are on your computer, and make sure your computer is backed up. (The Genealogy Gems Podcast uses and recommends Backblaze.)

How to add photos to Adobe Photoshop Express:

  1. On the computer where your photos are stored, go into Dropbox (either your Dropbox desktop application, or sign in to your account at www.dropbox.com)
  2. Create a folder called “Photos for Editing”
  3. Save copies of the photos you want to edit into the folder you created, leaving the originals where they are on your hard drive
  4. On your tablet, tap the Adobe Photoshop Express app
  5. Tap Dropbox. (See the chapter on File Sharing and Storage for more information on Dropbox)
  6. Tap the “Photos for Editing” folder
  7. Tap the photo you want to edit
  8. The photo is now on your screen and ready to edit and embellish
  9. When editing is complete, tap Close, then Save

Photo Editing Apps

Above is a photo of Lisa’s great-grandfather. On the left is the original scan, and on the right is restoration with the Blemish Removal tool (the icon looks like a band-aid.) After the touch up, Lisa applied the Dream filter which provided a bit more clarity and softened the rough spots in the background. Dream is one of the many free “Looks” available in the app, in addition to “Premium Looks” filters that you can purchase. She loves the fact that if she finds a certain combination of filters is working well, she can save it under “My Looks.” This saves time in the future because with one tap, you can apply your own special mix.

Amie’s Favorite Photo Editing Software and Apps

Amie says:

“One of my favorite photo editing tools is Pixlr Express. It is easy to use without having to read through the ‘instructions.’ It is a web-based tool or a mobile app. It makes correcting and enhancing my old photos a breeze.”

Using Pixlr Express

Pixlr Express is a web-based tool and a mobile app. Resize, rotate, filter, correct, and even add borders and text. Pixlr Express is free to use, which is always a plus. On your laptop, simply go to www.pixlr.com/express. Click on Browse.

photo_editing_pixlr

Choose the photo you wish to edit. The example below is a cute little picture of Amie’s dad in the fourth grade.

photo_editing_before_1

It could use some more color definition, maybe a new border to clean up the edges, and a caption on the front so that when shared, others will know who it is. To begin doing these edits, first click Adjustment.

photo_editing_before_2

From the icons that pop-up, choose Auto Fix. It really looks great with just the click of one button! Add a fun border if you wish and click Type to add the text you want. Here’s the finished product in less than 3 minutes:

photo_editing_before_3Don’t you just love it!

Enlisting the Help of Others

In some cases, our old photos are in seriously bad shape. We could pay to have a professional doctor it up, but I enlist the help of others at one of my favorite Facebook groups. Photo Restoration Free Service group on Facebook is dedicated to fixing images for free. Many of the people offering their talents are truly amazing. One man in particular caught my attention and gave me permission to use a before and after shot of his work. Thank you to Balazs and others who gave their permission for the before and after screenshot you see here.

photo_editing_

What are your favorite photo editing apps? Do you use a different app for your mobile device? We’d love to hear from you and what you are doing to make the most of your treasured family photos. Please leave a comment in the comment section below.

Sunny’s Tips for Restoration of Digital Documents

It’s not only the pictures of ancestors we sometimes need to restore, but it can also be those hard-to-read images of documents. When dealing with this problem, Sunny says:

“I do most editing on my laptop. This is where the nearest free software is and the default photo editor for Microsoft 2010. Most of the time, I just want to tweak the lighting: brighten up a scanned image or heighten the contrast in the image. To do this quickly, I open the image, then click Edit Pictures > Brightness and Contrast. In the Before/After images shown here, I just adjusted the midtones (+22) to make the gray areas lighter, then upped the contrast (+43).”

photo editing apps for documents

With so many photo editing apps available, it is hard to know what is going to work best for your needs. We hope that our experiences might help you to decide! We would love to see some of your before and after photos of a remarkable restoration. Will you share with us on our Facebook page? We’d love to hear from you!

More Gems on Photo Restoration and Preserving

“I Lost My Photos on My Phone!!” Here’s What You Need to Do

Tips for Digitizing Old Home Movies and Photographs

How to Use Google Image Search to Identify Old Photos on Smartphones and Tablets – Free Video

Genealogy Blogging Tips: Dictation App and More

Are you ready to start a genealogy blog (or improve one you already write)? Here’s a quick Q&A for you, prompted by questions by Genealogy Gems Genealogy BlogsPremium member Kevin:

Q: “I am ready to start writing a blog but my typing is slow. Is there a dictation app (iOS) or software (Windows) that I could use to dictate my first drafts of my blog posts?

A: If you go to www.genealogygems.com and scroll down and enter “Dragon software” into the Amazon box and click “Go” it will pull up a great dictation program that might be just what you are looking for. (Using our Amazon box supports the free podcast – thank you!)

Q: Which blog site do you use and why did you select it?

A: I use Word Press for my website and blog. They have a free version at wordpress.com.  Google also has Blogger which is free. I have a free series of videos on the Genealogy Gems YouTube channel about how to set it up. They are a few years old, but will give you the basic idea.

Q: Do you compose your blog posts directly on your site or do you type them in Word or some other word processing program then cut and paste them into your blog?

A: It’s best to compose them directly into a new post on Word Press or Blogger. Cutting and pasting out of Word will likely carry over unwanted formatting which can cause headaches.

 

Listen to the Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast by Lisa Louise Cooke. It’s a great series for learning the research ropes and well as refreshing your skills.

Ready to get inspired and tutored on genealogy blogging? Check out my FREE podcast series on how to start a genealogy blog. Click here to reach my Family History Made Easy podcast landing page, then start with episode 38 and continue through episode 42. You’ll learn step-by-step how-tos and you’ll be introduced to some inspiring blogs that WORK. We often hear about success stories from listeners who started a blog after hearing these episodes. (We’d love to hear YOUR success story, too!)

How to Use Google Lens

Elevenses with Lisa Episode 27

Original air date: 10/1/20
Join me for Elevenses with Lisa, the online video series where we take a break, visit and learn about genealogy and family history.

how to use google lens

Google Lens with Lisa Louise Cooke

What is Google Lens?

Google Lens is a free technology that Google says helps you ”search what you see.” It uses the latest in Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and artificial intelligence to accomplish tasks.

In this video and article we’ll discuss where you can get Google Lens and how to use it for a wide variety of tasks.

Hang on tight to your phone and let’s jump in!

Google Lens is in Google Photos

Google Lens is doing much of the work in Google Photos. It can detect the faces in your photos, and allow you to search by face. It can also detect objects and text, making it a super fast way to search the photos and images you store in Google Photos.

If you’re not interested in storing all of your photos on Google Photos, that’s OK. As a genealogist, you could still use it for more strategic purposes. You could use it just for family history photos and related genealogical images like documents and photos of tombstones. All of the content you add can then be quickly and easily searched for and found. It can even help you identify a known ancestor in other photos where you may not have recognized it was the same person.

We will talk about specific ways to use Google Lens in Google Photos. But first, let’s talk about all of the ways you can get your hands on Google Lens.

Where can I find Google Lens on my phone or tablet?

Google Lens is available on most mobile devices but not all. Some Samsung devices don’t currently support it. Here’s where you can find Google Lens.

Google Lens is built into Google PhotosDownload the Google Photos app to your phone. Pull up one of your photos and look for the Lens icon at the bottom of the screen. If it is there, your phone supports Google Lens.

Google Lens in the Google Search app – You will see the Lens icon in the search bar if your phone supports Google Lens.

The Google Lens app – On Android devices look for the Google Lens app in the Google Play app store.

Where can I find Google Lens on my computer?

Google Lens is primarily a mobile tool although Google Lens is built into the functionality of Google Photos. (It works behind the scenes – you won’t find a Google Lens icon.)

However, you can use your phone to user Google Lens to capture text and then send it to the Chrome browser on your desktop computer.

Using Lens in the Google Photos App

To use Google Lens on your photos in the Google Photos app, you’ll first need to give the app permission to receive the photos you take with your phone. You can then open the Google Photos app and select a photo. In this episode I used the example of a potted plant (Image A below).

Google Lens in the Google Photos app

(Image A) Google Lens in the Google Photos app

Tap the Google Lens icon at the bottom of the screen and you will receive search results that include the name of the plant, photo examples of the same plant, possible shopping options, and web pages providing more information about that plant.

Here’s another way you can use the Google Lens feature in the Google Photos app:

  1. Take a photo of a business card. (I used Google’s PhotoScan app to do this. The app does a great job of removing glare and other distortions that can occur when you photograph something with your phone. You can download the free Google PhotoScan app from your device’s app store.)
  2. Access the photo in the Google Photos app.
  3. Tap the Google Lens icon.
  4. Lens turns the information on the card into actionable buttons:
  • Add to contacts
  • Call now
  • search on the web
  • go to the website

 

Google Lens is in the Google Search app

On many mobile devices such as the iPhone (but not all devices) the Google Lens icon will appear in the search bar. If you’re not sure if you already have the Google Search app on your phone, go to the app store app on your phone and search for “Google Search.” You will see the app listed with a button that either says “Open” (because it is already on your phone) or “Install” (because it is not yet on your phone.)

You can also check to see if they app is on your phone by searching for “Google Search” in the search bar of your phone.

Here’s what the Google Search app looks like on a phone (Image B below):

The Google Wearch app

(Image B) Look for the Google Search app on your phone.

 

The Google Lens App

If you have an Android phone, search the Google Play store for the Google Lens app. Here’s what the app looks like (Image C below):

google lens app

(Image C) Android users with phone’s supporting Google Lens will find the app in the Google Play app store.

What Google Lens Can Do

Once you start using Google Lens the possibilities for its use can seem endless. Here’s a list of the kinds of things Google Lens can do:

  • Shopping
  • Identify Objects
  • Copy Text from printed materials or objects
  • Search for Text on printed material or objects
  • Solve math problems
  • Read text to you
  • Translate text

How to Use Google Lens to Read a Book

Before you buy that next history book or go through the trouble of requesting it through inter-library loan, why not let Google Lens determine if it is already available for free online? This next tip works really well for old books that are likely to be in the public domain or printed before 1924.

  1. Open the book to the title page
  2. Open the Google Search app on your phone
  3. Tap the Google Lens icon
  4. Hold your phone over the title page
  5. Tap the search button
  6. If the book is available on Google Books, the title will appear along with a blue “Read” button
  7. Tap the “Read” button to access, read and search the book on Google Books for free!
Learn more about Google with this book

(Image D) Point your phone’s camera or Google Lens at the QR code

Open the camera on your phone and point it at the QR code above (Image D)  to be taken to the book in the Genealogy Gems store.
Use coupon code LENS to get 20% off!

Resources

Premium Video & Handout: Solving Unidentified Photo Album Cases. (This video features using Google Photos.)
Book: The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox by Lisa Louise Cooke. (Includes search strategies, Google Photos, and Google Translate.)

Bonus Download exclusively for Premium Members: Download the show notes handout

Answers to Your Live Chat Questions

One of the advantages of tuning into the live broadcast of each Elevenses with Lisa show is participating in the Live Chat and asking your questions. 

From Rosalyn: Lisa are the old photos hanging on your wall the originals or copies? They are very nice.
Lisa’s Answer: I always put copies in frames when I hang them on the wall because light can fade originals. They are all my family.

From Jn Rollins: ​Does it do the same identification for birds?
Lisa’s Answer: I haven’t snapped a photo of a bird, but I’m sure it could. I used it on a photo of a bird, and it identified it perfectly.

From Susan: ​I have to download an app to get the lens icon?
Lisa’s Answer: If you have an Android phone, you may be able to download the free Google Lens app from your app store. Otherwise, you will find the icon in the Google Search app or the Google Photos app on supported devices.

From Patriva: ​Is Google Go the same as Google Search?
Lisa’s Answer: Google Go is a “lighter faster” search app. I think it may be geared more toward Samsung devices. I have a Samsung Tab and it doesn’t support Google Lens.

From Carrie: ​Does this work with the Google Chrome app?
Lisa’s Answer: The Chrome app doesn’t have the Google Lens icon.

From Jn Rollins: ​I installed Lens a while ago on my Android phone, but when I open Google search the lens icon doesn’t appear next to the microphone icon. How can I change that?
Lisa’s Answer: Some Android devices (like Samsung phones) don’t support Google Lens so you won’t see the icon. Check the app store to see if they offer the Google Lens app for your phone. However, I’m guessing it probably won’t be offered since it sounds like your phone doesn’t support Google Lens.

From Christine: ​I love this technology for speeding up research! But I have some reservations—what privacy are we giving away? How will Google use our search history?
Lisa’s Answer: I would not use Google Lens for anything I consider “sensitive.” Go to the privacy settings in your Google MyActivity to learn more.

From Lynnette: ​Can you put the text into Evernote easily?
Lisa’s Answer: Absolutely! Tap to copy the detected text, open an Evernote note, press your finger in the note and tap Paste to paste the text.

From Colleen: I see you are google searching. Does doing this with photos allow others to access my google photos when searching for an item? For example, the example you used with the purse?
Lisa’s Answer: To the best of my knowledge your photos are not searchable by others online. However, it is possible that Google uses the image internally to “train” the machine learning. Go to the privacy settings in your Google MyActivity to learn more.

From Christine: Lisa, can this be used to compare photos to determine if they are the same person? Thanks for sharing all your wisdom!
Lisa’s Answer: Yes! Watch my Premium membership video called Solving Unidentified Photo Album Cases.

From Caryl: ​Don’t know what a symbol is on a headstone? Now this would be oh so helpful!!
Lisa’s Answer: Yes, indeed!

From Susan: ​I quickly took a photo of the book cover, so now I can get your book! Is it better to buy directly from you or go to Amazon?
Lisa’s Answer: The book is available exclusively at my website: https://www.shopgenealogygems.com

From Debbie: Will FamilySearch’s app be independent, or will it work / integrate with Google?
Lisa’s Answer: FamilySearch would not be integrated. However, as handwriting technology is developed I’m sure you’ll find it in use in both places.

Please Leave a Comment or Question

I really want to hear from you. Did you enjoy this episode? Do you have a question? Please leave a comment on the video page at YouTube or call and leave a voice mail at (925) 272-4021 and I just may answer it on the show!

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