Windows 7 : Managing Pictures with Windows Live Photo Gallery (part 9) - Editing Pictures

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7. Editing Pictures

When you double-click an image in Photo Gallery, the application switches into a viewer mode, which is what you see when you open image files directly from the Windows shell. In this view, you'll often want to click the Fix button to display the application's image editing functions. This is a big change from Windows XP, which didn't typically offer much in the way of editing functionality beyond the very basic facilities of Windows Paint. Windows Live Photo Gallery is also a big improvement over the Windows Photo Gallery application with which Vista users are familiar.

When you preview an image and then click the Fix button in Photo Gallery, the display changes by replacing the Info pane with the Edit pane, providing a list of image editing features, as shown in Figure 34.

Figure 34. The editing features in Windows Live Photo Gallery enable you to perform several popular photo editing tasks.

The Photo Gallery image editing features are as follows:

  • Auto adjust: This tool evaluates the picture and performs a variety of changes based on the needs of the image. Basically, it's a best-guess estimate of what needs to be fixed, and although it's often a decent try, you'll want to carefully evaluate the changes before committing them to the file. In fact, be very careful, because it seems that Photo Gallery wants to auto-straighten every single photo it comes across for some reason. This includes photos that really don't need such an adjustment.


    Fortunately, Photo Gallery applies any changes you make to a copy of the original photo and archives the original photo on disk, at least by default. You can actually change this functionality so that the original versions of altered files are automatically moved to the Recycle Bin—via the application's Options dialog, which you can access via File => Options while Photo Gallery is in thumbnail view), but we recommend not doing so. Because of the compressed nature of JPEG images in particular, resaving digital photos can result in dramatic quality reduction. Be careful not to resave JPEG images too often; if you're going to edit a JPEG file, edit and save it once.

    If you don't like what Auto adjust does to your picture, click the Undo button at the bottom of the Info pane. If you've performed multiple operations, this button will invoke a pop-up menu that enables you to choose which operations to undo, or you can Undo All changes you've made.


    The Undo button provides multiple levels of undo, so if you commit a number of changes, you can access its pop-up menu, as shown in Figure 35, to undo specific changes or multiple changes all at once.

    Figure 35. Everyone makes mistakes.
  • Adjust exposure: Unlike Auto adjust, this doesn't provide a single-click solution. Instead, when you click this option, the Info pane expands to display slider controls for Brightness, Contrast, Shadows, and Highlights, as well as a Histogram, as shown in Figure 36. Move these individual sliders to the left and right to adjust these properties until you're happy with the results.

    Figure 36. The Adjust exposure option provides access to a number of sliders that enable you to fine-tune the picture's exposure.
  • Adjust color: This is also a little more involved. When you select this option, another new area expands in the Info pane, letting you use sliders to adjust the color temperature, tint, and saturation of the photo.

  • Straighten photo: This tool superimposes a grid over the photo, as shown in Figure 37, enabling you to rotate the photo using a slide until the photo is level.

  • Crop photo: This tool enables you to crop the current picture, to change its aspect ratio if needed or simply to edit out parts of the picture that are uninteresting. A Proportion drop-down box, shown in Figure 38, enables you to determine how you'd like the picture cropped. You can also use the Rotate frame tool to turn a horizontally aligned 16 × 9 photo into a vertically aligned 16 × 9 photo.

    Figure 37. Here, you can straighten your photo with a grid and slider.
    Figure 38. The Crop photo function provides a variety of ways to highlight the important parts of a picture.

    After you have picked a proportion, you can use the onscreen guide lines to select the portion of the image you'd like cropped. It will retain the aspect ratio as you increase or decrease the size of the selection box.

  • Adjust detail: When you click on Adjust detail in the Fix pane, you'll see a Sharpen slider appear, as shown in Figure 39. Sliding this bar to the right will increase the sharpness of the picture. This effect can be quite appealing, depending on the photo. Just be careful not to go too far with it, as oversharpened pictures tend to be a bit stark-looking.

    Figure 39. New to Windows Live Photo Gallery is an Adjust detail tool, which enables you to increase the sharpness of a photo.

    You can also use Adjust detail's Reduce noise tool to mitigate the effects of visual artifacts. Just click the Analyze button and Photo Gallery will check your photo and make the necessary adjustment. If it's not quite right, you can use the slider under the Analyze button to fine-tune things.

  • Fix red eye: Red-eye correction is one of the most often-needed features in any photo-editing package. Fortunately, the one in Photo Gallery works pretty well. Simply click this option and then draw a rectangle around each eye you want to correct in the current picture, as shown in Figure 40. When you release the mouse button, Photo Gallery attempts to remove the red eye. It's usually pretty successful, but you may need to try a few times to get it just right.

    Figure 40. Everyone appreciates a little red-eye removal.
  • Black and white effects: Photo Gallery also includes five black and white filters that enable you to filter the image with an orange, sepia tone, yellow, red, or cyan filter.


There are some handy keyboard shortcuts you can use while editing pictures with Photo Gallery. For example, you can zoom in on a picture by pressing Ctrl (or Alt) and the + key at the same time, and zoom out with Ctrl (or Alt) and the – key. Normally, when you're zoomed in, you can move around the picture using the small hand cursor. But in certain edit tasks, such as Crop Picture and Fix Red Eye, the cursor changes for other purposes, preventing you from navigating around a zoomed picture. To return temporarily to the hand icon in these edits, hold down the Alt key and move around with the mouse. Then, release the Alt key and the cursor will return to the way it was before. By the way, Ctrl+0 zooms the picture back to its default zoom level (that is, the picture fills the entire viewing area).
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