The Citizen Journalist’s Toolkit: Part 1
In the modern media environment, any intelligent, active citizen can provide effective journalism with enough hard work and the right set of free-and-cheap tools. In The Citizen Journalist’s Toolkit, we highlight the free/inexpensive softwares and services that can be used to create legitimate, useful news media. This time, we bring you a collection of free photojournalism tools.
Flickr is perhaps the most popular photo-sharing site outside of Facebook, and this status is certainly earned. Flickr actually posseses a fairly deep array of features, including tagging, geotagging, web and desktop uploaders, easy-to-use organization, and a good number of third-party apps, including online photo editing through Picnik. Flickr is free for users who upload up to 300 MB per month, though it only allows said users to view their 200 most recent uploads. A “Flickr Pro” account costs $25 per year, and allows for unlimited uploads and photo viewing.
Unsurprisingly, Google’s answer to Flickr is a strong alternative. Unlike Flickr, Picasa is both a desktop application and a web-based photo sharing service (“Picasa Web Albums”). Picasa offers features that Flickr does not, such as photo editing tools, desktop file organization, and cool-but-creepy facial recognition software. Picasa is totally free, and comes with the advantage/disadvantage of being linked into Google Accounts.
Canon Hack Development Kit
The CHDK (as it is popularly known) is one of the coolest things you can do with a commercial point-and-shoot digital camera. Essentially, the Canon Hack Development Kit is an open-source firmware that can be installed on many models of consumer-lever Canon cameras. It vastly expands the capacities of the camera to include features such as shooting in Camera RAW format, zebra mode, USB remote functionality, fully manual exposure, and bracketing (shooting over- and under-exposed duplicates of the same photo to ensure a properly exposed photo). The CHDK is temporary and does not remove the camera’s original firmware, so it can be easily removed at any time. If your camera can do all of this, why shouldn’t it?
GIMP (short for GNU Image Manipulation Program) is a heavy hitter in the world of open source software. While it lacks the completely bug-free programming of its for-pay equivalent, Adobe Photoshop, GIMP is a remarkably functional competitor, and does not cost a dime (the current, standard version of Photoshop costs $699). GIMP has recently added its most glaringly omitted feature, the lasso tool, and functions very similarly to Photoshop, so converts need not worry about a steep learning curve.
What if you, like many tech savvy folks, no longer carry a digital camera, using your iPhone to snap photos? While not quite as powerful as its 99 cent equivalent Camera+
, free app Camera Awesome significantly beefs up the iPhone’s built-in camera. While a cell phone camera will never match the image quality of a camera with an actually lens, Camera Awesome adds shooting overlays (like a rule-of-thirds grid) and a number of useful post-processing filters.
(also available in Apple’s App Store)