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Editing Photos in Vista

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.

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 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