Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

Official blog for the Windows Live Digital Memories Experience team

July, 2006

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    Editing Photos in Vista

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    Ever take a photo that was too dark? Are those cute photos of your niece ruined by a nasty case of red-eye? Do you believe like I do that Paint is a cumbersome tool to crop in? Then you are going to love the Photo Gallery in Windows Vista.

    Vista has incorporated a bunch of easy to use, high quality, and extremely fast photo correction tools into the Photo Gallery. I’m going to walk you through what each of them does so that you can make your photos pop.

    All of the editing tools in Vista are located in the Gallery Viewer. You can get to this by double clicking on a photo in either the Vista Photo Gallery or from any folder. The various fix tools are all located on a pane which you can open up by clicking the “Fix” button in the command bar.

    The Vista Photo Gallery has controls to adjust exposure, color, crop region and red-eye.  Each of the individual controls are accessed by clicking on the corresponding button in the fix pane. The Photo Gallery also has an “Auto Adjust” feature, which as the name implies, automatically find the best exposure and color settings for the photo.

    Auto Adjust
    Auto Adjust crunches a bunch of numbers to figure out the best positions for the exposure and color sliders. Then, it moves the sliders to those positions. One of goals in designing it this way was to create a “teaching moment”.  Rather than just make the changes and ask “OK?”, we decided to show you what the changes were on the other sliders, so you could learn how to edit your pictures better on your own.

    I find that Auto Adjust is the most useful when a photo has an off color cast such as that from an incandescent bulb. I also think it works great on outdoor photos. Try it on photos from the beach or photos in the snow.

    Exposure
    Clicking Adjust Exposure brings up two sliders to adjust brightness and contrast. These sliders function like those knobs that TV’s used to have. Brightness adjusts all of the pixels evenly, making them brighter or darker, while the contrast slider adjusts pixels relative to each other. Moving the contrast slider all the way down will result in a very gray, low contrast image. Moving it all the way up will make things rather vivid. Generally, only small adjustments in contrast are needed to make your photos look great.

    Adjust Color
    The Color Temperature and Color Tint sliders work together to get the overall color of the image correct. The Color Temperature slider can be used to make a photo with warm tones (reddish) appear cooler (bluish) and vice versa. Often a photo shot with incandescent lighting may appear to be too warm or yellowish. Backing the color temperature down a couple notches will reduce the warmth in the photo. Likewise, a photo shot in the snow might appear too blue, or cool. In that case, simply warm the image up by moving the Color Temperature slider up. The Tint slider can be used to adjust green and red casts in images.

    The last slider is the Saturation slider, which adjusts the intensity of the colors. On most snapshot-type pictures, you can just leave this one alone. Feel free to play around with it though, as it can be used to create some interesting effects.  For example, move the slider all the way down and you’ve got yourself a black and white photo.

    Crop Picture
    This is the tool to use if you want to adjust the composition of your photo. The crop tool has several built in aspect ratios for cropping. This can be handy when you go to print, as most photo printing services, including Windows’ own Photo Printing Wizard, will “crop to fit”, meaning if the photo has the wrong width to length ratio, they will chop off a piece of the photo to make it fill the whole print.  If you want to control how this happens, crop the picture yourself to the appropriate aspect ratio for a 4” x 3” print, an 8” x 10” print or whatever you’re printing to. It’s also useful for cropping images that you want to use as desktop backgrounds in Vista. The 4x3 (800 x 600, 1024x768) and 16x9 (1600x900) crop ratios are typical ratios of today’s monitors.

    Unlike the other tasks, crop requires you to press the “Apply” button when you are all done selecting what you want to be cropped.

    Red-Eye
    Red-eye occurs in pictures when the flash bounces off the retina in the eye.  Red-eye reduction on a camera will flash a light briefly before the “real” flash to get the iris to close, but even that doesn’t always work.  That’s why we have red-eye removal in the Gallery.

    To use this tool, simply drag a box around the red-eye and let go. If you are zoomed in, panning is enabled by pressing the “alt” key and dragging the mouse. It’s helpful to zoom and pan when fixing red-eyes to make accurate selections.

    Everything you do in the Vista Photo Gallery is undoable, so feel free to experiment. If you click the little arrow next to the “Undo” button you will see your 10 most recent actions. If you want to undo several things at once you can just click on the action you want to undo to. You can also undo everything by clicking the “Undo All” option.

    The Vista Photo Gallery saves changes when you navigate to the next photo or close the Vista Photo Gallery.  But don’t fear that your photos are being overwritten.  Vista keeps a backup of the original so you can always go back to the beginning. That is what the “Revert” button on the undo menu is all about. But we’ll save that for another blog entry.

    John Thornton – Program Manager

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    Managing Edits in the Windows Vista Photo Gallery

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    Windows Vista includes a number of new editing features that were not in previous versions of Windows.  You can read about them in this previous post.

     

    One of the problems we saw with Windows XP is that users often create multiple copies of their photos when they edit.  Often this is done to preserve the original copy, much like the way a negative works in film photography.  As a result, multiple copies of the same photo end up all over the hard drive.  Many users combat this with complex naming strategies or folder hierarchies.  Other users don’t keep backups and just save over the originals, losing pieces of the image they may someday want.

     

    In the Windows Vista Photo Gallery we solve these issues by creating a copy of the image the first time you edit it in the Photo Gallery.  We do this automatically so you don’t have to worry about saving an original copy yourself.  If you have been playing with Windows Vista you probably have noticed the Revert button becomes enabled after edits are saved from the Photo Gallery.

     

    Anytime in the future you can get back to the original photo by “reverting” the file.  To do this:

    • Open the file in the Gallery Viewer
    • Click the “Fix” button on the command menu
    • Click the “Revert” button, which is located at the bottom of the fix pane.  It’s part of the Undo menu.
    • The revert button prompts you to confirm you want to do this.  Reverting is one action the Windows Vista Photo Gallery can’t undo.

    If you do want to keep 2 copies of image you can use the “Make a Copy...” task under the file menu to create a copy of an image.  You can edit and revert those files separately.  This is useful for certain edits like cropping and de-saturating which may result in images that you want multiple copies of.

     

    A nice aspect of this feature is that it freed us up to auto-save your changes without explicitly asking you whether you want to over-write the previous version.  If you change your mind, you can always get back to the original. This makes the workflow for fixing photos much quicker.

     

    You do have some control over how Windows Vista manages the original images which are created.  Click File->Options to get to the options dialog.  One the first tab there is a section entitled “Original Images”.  Here you can tell Windows Vista how long it should keep your originals around.  You might decide for disk space reasons that you really don’t want to keep originals older than 6 months.

     

    If you are using the Windows Vista Backup utility it will automatically backup your originals if you select the option to backup photographs and images.  If you are using a 3rd party backup program you should make sure that the original images directory is included in the list of items to back up.  By default the originals are stored in the AppData folder under each user folder.  The path on my Beta 2 machine is: c:\Users\john\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Original Images. It is possible to open that directory and view your images.  Keep in mind though you shouldn’t alter these files as they are the originals.

     

    - John Thornton (Program Manager)

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    Windows Media Photo Blog

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    We’ve added a link in our sidebar to Bill Crow’s Windows Media Photo blog. In his own words:

    The purpose of this blog is to provide information and updates on Windows Media Photo, answer questions, provide technical assistance and stimulate open conversation.  I expect there will be a wide range of topics ranging from technical details for developers to far more general discussions about photos, color, workflows and best practices for photographers and photo enthusiasts.

     

    Windows Media Photo is a new still image file format, introduced with Windows Vista and available for cross-platform adoption.  Windows Media Photo supports a wide range of pixel formats, including high dynamic range, wide gamut formats in fixed or floating point, up to 32 bits per pixel.  It provides native support for RGB, grey, CMYK and n-Channel, including planar or interleaved alpha channels.  The advanced compression technology offers the option for either lossless or very high quality lossy compression.  Windows Media Photo supports all current metadata standards and formats, and provides excellent performance, enabling efficient use in embedded applications. 

     We encourage you to check it out for more information on this new imaging file format.

    - pixblog

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    Known Windows Photo Gallery Issues in Beta 2

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    Thank you all for using the Windows Photo Gallery and for helping us make it better!  I’d like to list some of the known issues in the Photo Gallery in this post, so if you happen to see any of them, rest assured that we’re still working on getting them resolved for the final product.

     

    Some Adobe RGB images may have unusual colors – there are some cameras that tag images as Adobe RGB without actually embedding an Adobe RGB profile.  When we encounter such a file, since we can’t get the color profile from the file itself, we’ll check the system’s color profile directory.  If the correct profile is not installed, the colors may appear incorrect.  To fix this issue, you can download and install the Adobe RGB profile for free from Adobe’s website (http://www.adobe.com/digitalimag/adobergb.html).

     

    Certain types of metadata in JPEG images may be lost – The JPEG specification calls for metadata to be stored in 64KB blocks known as APPn blocks.  For metadata elements greater than 64KB multiple 64KB APPn blocks of the same type are used to store the entire metadata element.  Windows Vista does not support processing multiple APPn blocks of the same type at this time, so single metadata elements in JPEG images that are greater than 64KB may be lost when a file is updated or re-written.  The most common case of this occurs when large color profiles are embedded in an image file.  There is no workaround for this issue at this time.  Note that any metadata element less than 64KB in size is not affected by this issue.  While this issue is fairly uncommon, we recommend that you keep a backup of your photos.

     

    Makernote metadata field is offsetCamera manufacturers embed device-specific, proprietary information in a metadata field known as the Makernote field.  Some manufacturers' Makernote information is dependent on the location of the Makernote field within the file.  When the user acquires or tags images using Windows Vista the Makernote field can be moved within the file.  This is allowed by the EXIF specification.  For some manufacturers' Makernotes, this change in location of the Makernote field invalidates the offsets that are location dependent.  When Windows Vista moves the Makernote field, it will also write out (in the file) the offset by which the data was moved so that new and updated applications will be able to access all of the information in the Makernote field.  This offset is not written out in Beta 2.  Makernotes will continue to be moved in the shipping version of Vista.

     

    Visual artifacts in the Viewer when using S3 Deltachrome graphics card – you may see visual artifacts when panning your photos in the Viewer if you’re using an S3 Deltachrome graphics card.  Your photo is not corrupted; this is a known issue with the graphics card driver and we are working with S3 on a fix.

     

    The ‘Burn’ button does nothing – clicking the burn button either on the Taskbar or from the Gallery does nothing when there is no disc inserted in the drive.  We are working on a fix for this issue.

     

    Burned disc takes a while to eject after pressing the eject button – when writing to a disc using the UDF format, the session closes automatically on eject.  The delay you may experience between pressing eject and actually have the disc eject is because the session is being closed.  We have recently added messaging notifying users that the session is being closed to help clarify the delay.

     

    Images may appear distorted while running the Slideshow on widescreen monitors – some images will appear “stretched out” when viewing a slideshow on a widescreen monitor.  This is an issue that we’ve fixed in recent builds.

     

    Slideshow alters screen resolution – some of the rich Slideshow themes in Windows Vista require more resources from your graphics card.  In order to enable a good viewing experience across a wide set of hardware, we scale down the resolution based on graphics processor resources.  This change in resolution lasts for the duration of the Slideshow and returns to your original settings once you have exited the Slideshow.

     

    RAW files don’t show up – currently, there aren’t any RAW codecs available for Windows Vista.  We are actively working with camera manufacturers to get these codecs developed and released.  Codecs will be available for download from camera manufacturer websites when released.

     

    Online Print Wizard doesn’t have any service providers – we are continuing to work with multiple service providers so that there will be many options available when the final product ships.  Some beta providers should be listed before August.  Watch this blog for announcements when they launch.

     

    Thanks again for using the Windows Photo Gallery and submitting such great feedback!  As we become aware of issues we’ll be sure to post them here, so keep checking back for updates.

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    More Photo Scavenger Hunting

    There was quite a bit of interest some time back when I posted about Pixie Hunt, our cameraphone-based photo scavenger hunt. As hoped, we ran it at the Where 2.0 conference, and by reports, a good time was had by all.

    Since then, I’ve heard about a few other cameraphone-based scavenger hunts that I thought people might be interested in.  None of them have the real-time communication feature of Pixie Hunt (i.e., I can see what pictures other people are taking as they take them), but they each have some unique appeal:

    • MSN and Sprint teamed up to offer Obey.  Each week, they send out an SMS with the week’s objective.  When you find an object that meets the description, you take a picture and e-mail it from your cameraphone.  Points are awarded based on task difficulty.
    • Starbucks Summer Pursuit is similar to Obey, except the tasks are presented as clues and they use “intelligent image recognition” to judge your responses. Please leave a comment if you’ve tried it and have info on how good the image recognition is. [via Mopocket]
    • Mobile Assassins offers a fun twist on the Assassins game I used to play in high school.  Your assignment is sent via MMS, then you reply via MMS with a picture of the person’s face to “take them down”.  All in good fun.
    • The Go Game offers a “corporate team building” version of the mobile photo scavenger hunt.  They plant clues, assign missions, and even conspire with ice cream vendors.  Your job is to take the pictures and send them back to HQ.

    There are lots more out there, but of the ones I found, these did the best job of taking advantage of the phone part of the cameraphone.  If you know of others, please post them to the comments section. 

    - Jordan Schwartz

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