Downloading and Installing Windows Live Photo Gallery
Windows Live Photo Gallery for Windows 7 (WLPG) is one of several programs now available for free download from the Windows Live Website. It offers an extensive set of photo-editing actions that will satisfy nearly all ordinary photo users without having to buy a potentially expensive photo-editing application from a third party.
Simply select the Download link and follow the instructions provided. Click Run and supply administrative credentials if requested. The installer also enables you to add additional free programs such as Windows Mail, Writer, Movie Maker, and others. Select the desired program or programs, and then click Install. It takes several minutes to install WLPG and other related applications before you are prompted to sign up for a Windows Live ID. This step is optional, and merely helps you to create photo albums and share them with friends and family. You may also be asked if you want to install additional software that enables you to view certain file types such as RAW files. Click Download to install this software or Cancel to ignore the message.
It should be noted that you can also obtain free third-party programs such as Google Picasa and IrfanView, which perform much of the same functions as WLPG. Your choice of which program to use is entirely up to you, because while each program has a similar set of features, each performs a few actions that the others do not offer. Some individuals pay for programs such as Adobe Photoshop Elements that perform much more picture editing tasks such as selecting portions of images to apply edits to. However, most snap-shooters do not require these additional editing features and can save their money by installing a free program such as WLPG.
The Windows Live Photo Gallery Home Page
When you open WLPG, it displays thumbnails of all the images it finds in the default My Pictures folder. You can select additional photo locations from the list that appears at the top left corner of the page. Options on the left side also enable you to display only those photos that adhere to a specific criterion such as the year in which they were taken, or a tag, which is a descriptive keyword that enables you to locate photos with common attributes, such as an individual in the photograph. You can also type a file or folder name into the search box at the top right corner of the window and WLPG will locate all images containing that filename. Double-click any thumbnail to display a full-sized preview of that image, from which you can perform actions associated with WLPG.
The menu at the top of the window enables you to perform all actions associated with WLPG. We will explore these options in this picture story. In addition, the Extras menu option enables you to download additional photo tools from the Windows Live Photo & Video Blog website or to open an image with any other available photo applications.
Importing Pictures into Windows Live Photo Gallery
WLPG enables you to import photos from any camera or scanner. Ensure that the camera or scanner is connected to the computer with its USB cord, or that the memory card is inserted, and then select File > Import from a camera or scanner. Select the required device and then click Import. The photos are placed in a new subfolder under your default Pictures folder, and can be viewed in the main interface by selecting the folder. You can modify the defaults used for importing photos by choosing File > Options. Select the Import tab of the WLPG Options dialog box and modify the available options as desired.
RAW pictures might not be visible in the WLPG interface by default. You might be able to view these pictures by downloading a piece of software called a codec, When WLPG starts, click Download and you will automatically be taken to the camera manufacturer’s website. Follow the instructions provided. After the installation is complete (you might have to restart your computer), the RAW pictures should appear in WLPG.
Assigning Tags and Categories
Freed from the constraints of buying and processing film, your photo collection is going to grow much faster than ever before. Searching for photos of interest can become time consuming and daunting. WLPG enables you to assign descriptive tags (keywords and categories that simplify the process of locating photos).
WLPG uses two types of tags: people tags and descriptive tags. People tags are special enough that we use a separate page to describe what you can do with them. Descriptive tags identify any object in the photo. Double-click a thumbnail to display the photo, select Add descriptive tags, and type the name of the desired tag. If an appropriate tag is provided (as shown), simply select it. WLPG adds the tag to a list visible from the main thumbnail page. You can view all images tagged with this keyword by selecting it from the list on the left side of the home page (scroll this list to locate the section titled Descriptive tags).
You can also add a caption by clicking Add caption. Type an appropriate description or title for the photo and press Enter. Captions merely provide descriptive information and do not appear in the list on the main page of WLPG.
Using People Tags
We all take many photos of family members, friends, acquaintances, and other people. WLPG simplifies the process of tagging individuals by name so that you can locate them later. In fact, when you double-click a thumbnail image of people, WLPG even recognizes faces in the photo and prompts you to enter the names of the individuals. As shown, click each face in turn and enter the person's name. If the person has previously been tagged, the name is available and you can simply select it from a list. If the person is not looking directly at the camera, he or she might not be recognized. If so, simply click Tag someone, drag to select the face, and enter or select the person's name. It's that simple.
Later, simply select the individual by name from the People Tags list and WLPG will display thumbnails of all photos you have tagged with that person's name.
Rating Your Photos
Sometimes you might want to make enlargements of photos to hang on your wall or enter into a photo contest. Many more are simply ones you might want to share with close friends or family, and others might be some you can't bear to delete but aren't really good for much other than remembering where you were on a certain day. WLPG uses star ratings to help you distinguish these photos and locate them later.
Select the number of stars you wish to assign to the image from Information > Rating. To locate the images later, select the desired number of stars on the home page of WLPG. You can choose to locate images with only the given number of stars or all photos with more or fewer stars as well. You can also highlight one or more folders in the folder list and display only starred images from the selected folders.
If you have a large number of images (as nearly all of us do) and want to assign tags, ratings, or other properties to them, performing these actions on a one-to-one basis can consume a lot of time. Further, the default files that cameras assign are very non-descriptive (think IMG_1234, for example). WLPG enables you to perform batch operations including renaming, tagging, and so on.
To perform a batch renaming operation, select all the desired images (Hint: Press Ctrl+A to select all images in a folder), right-click, and then choose Rename from the pop-up menu. WLPG uses the name you supplied plus a bracketed sequence number as a new file name.
In a similar way, you can add tags, ratings, or captions. From the menu bar of the WLPG home page, click Info to display a list of image properties. Select the images and perform the desired action from those we have described in previous pages of this photo story.
Viewing a Slide Show
WLPG enables you to view a slide show of all images in the selected folder or of all selected images. Click the slide show icon at the bottom of the page. In a few seconds, the screen clears and the images are displayed sequentially in full-screen mode. Press Esc to halt the slide show view and return to the WLPG home page. You can also start the slide show from an image view or by clicking Slide Show in the menu bar.
Note that options in WLPG for viewing slide shows are very limited. You can also view slide shows of your images from Windows Media Center, included by default with Home Premium and more expensive editions of Windows 7.
Fixing Your Photos
WLPG provides a comprehensive range of options for fixing common problems with your photos. Select a photo and click Fix to obtain a series of options as shown here. We will discuss each of these options in the pages to follow.
When you click Back to Gallery after performing any of these adjustments, WLPG automatically saves your changes. If you do not want to save these changes, click Fix again, and then click Revert at the bottom of the menu on the right side of the interface. Then click Revert again in the message box that appears to confirm.
It is recommended that you make a copy of any photo to which you plan to make extensive modifications. This way, should you "mess up," you have the copy to fall back on. With the photo displayed in the editor window, choose File > Make a copy. By default, WLPG creates a file name appended with a designated number such as (2). You can change this if you want in the Make a Copy dialog box. Then click Save to make your copy.
Auto Adjust and Correcting Exposure
For a quick and simple image correction, click Auto Adjust. WLPG attempts to adjust the brightness, contrast, and color of your photo. WLPG displays a histogram of your photo, which is simply a graph of the frequency of various brightness levels from black (on the left side of the graph) to pure white (on the white side). In the photo shown, Auto Adjust has moved the black point to the right to darken an otherwise overexposed image.
Auto Adjust also opens the Adjust Exposure panel (which you can also open from the main Edit menu by selecting Adjust Exposure). You have the following four sliders that enable you to correct exposure problems:
- Brightness--Adjust to modify the overall exposure of your image. As you move the slider, the histogram will reflect the changes in brightness.
- Contrast--Adjusts the overall contrast of your image.
- Shadows--Adjusts the detail (brightness and contrast) of the shadows without affecting midtones or bright areas.
- Highlights--Adjusts the detail of the highlight areas without affecting shadows or midtones.
You can also adjust the white-and-black points of your image by moving the pointers along the bottom of the histogram. For best results, adjust these pointers near the edges of the displayed histogram graph without cutting off (clipping) any of the non-zero histogram values.
Click Adjust Color from the Fix menu to adjust the following components of your image's color:
- Color Temperature--Different light sources have a different color temperature. For example, pictures taken under incandescent lights indoors have a low color temperature (they are yellowish in overall color), while pictures taken under cloudy or shady conditions have a high color temperature (they are bluish in overall color). The image shown was captured using an incorrect color temperature setting on the camera and has been corrected by lowering the color temperature slider to remove the yellowish color cast.
- Tint--Enables you to remove other color casts in your image. For example, a photo taken under fluorescent lighting tends to be greenish. Move the slider to the right to remove this color cast.
- Saturation--Enables you to adjust the overall intensity of color in your image. Move to the right to punch-up otherwise drab colors and to the left to decrease the intensity of a vivid photo.
Straightening and Cropping Photos
We expect our horizons to be perfectly level, especially when water is involved. If your lake or ocean appears to be flowing uphill or downhill, click Straighten Photo to display a grid of horizontal and vertical lines as shown. Move the slider until the horizon lines up with the grid lines.
To crop your photo, click this option. WLPG displays a bounding box that you can adjust to crop out unwanted parts of your image. Drag the corners of the box to obtain the desired crop. If you want to print your photo to a specific size (for example, 8x10), select Proportion and choose the desired size. WLPG will crop your image according to the aspect ratio you have selected. Click Rotate Frame to crop the image to portrait (vertical) orientation. Then click Apply to apply your crop.
Sharpening and Noise Reduction
The very nature of digital-image capture results in images that are slightly soft when viewed at high magnification. In addition, digital noise can occur, especially in dark areas of images shot at high ISO. To fix these problems, select Adjust Detail. WLPG displays the image at 100% magnification, enabling you to see the effect of these actions properly. Drag the Sharpen slider to the right to sharpen the image. Note that halos and other undesirable artifacts can appear if you over sharpen the image. To apply a noise-reduction algorithm, click Analyze. After a few seconds, WLPG automatically moves the slider to where it thinks it provides the best noise reduction. If you desire, you can move the slider to another position.
For either of these actions, you can click and drag within the photo to see their effects in other parts of the image. Applying noise reduction tends to cause a slight loss in sharpness, so you might want to increase the sharpening after reducing noise.
Fixing Red Eye
When you take a flash picture of a person, the light from the flash is frequently reflected from the blood vessels in the retina, producing a red appearance in the eye. To remove the red, select "Fix red eye." Use the slider at the bottom right of the interface to zoom in on the eyes, then drag the mouse pointer across the eye to be corrected. Note that the mouse pointer appears as a crosshair. When you release the mouse button, WLPG automatically removes the red. Then repeat for the other eye.
Creating a Black-and-White Image
Converting color images to black and white has once again become popular. Click "Black and white effects" to proceed. WLPG offers four options that differ in the color filtration applied before conversion to black and white, plus a sepia-toned and a blue-toned version. Click through the options to choose one that you like. The sepia-toned version is especially valuable for creating an old-time look for your image.
Creating Panoramic Photos
Often a scene is too wide to take in completely with your camera and you might want to create a panorama that includes all that you saw when you were there. By taking several photos of different parts of the scene, you can stitch these images together in WLPG. Begin by taking photos that overlap significantly across the scene to be captured, preferably with your camera on a tripod. Use manual settings for exposure and focus if possible, so that these settings do not vary from one image to the next.
When you have downloaded your photos to your computer, select the photos to be stitched into a panorama in WLPG and then select Make > Create Panoramic Photo. A message box charts the progress of stitching the photos together and then you are prompted to save the photo. Click Save and WLPG displays your panoramic image in a new window, from which you can perform other editing options. In nearly all cases, you will end up with some black at the top and bottom of parts of the image. Simply crop these out as discussed on a previous page. It's as easy as that.
Note that the Make menu also enables you to burn CDs and DVDs or to create a blog post. The latter requires Writer and is beyond the scope of this picture story.
Sharing Your Photos with Others
WLPG enables you to publish your photos online in one of several types of galleries. Select the photos you want to publish, and then click Publish from the menu bar to access the following options:
- Online album--Enables you to create an album and choose an upload size. You can publish your photos to an existing album by selecting it or to a new album by typing the name of the album you want to create.
- Group album--Enables you to share your images with a group that appears in Windows Live Messenger. You can choose an existing group or create a new one, which is defined within a groups.live.com Web address.
- Event album--Similar to a group album, you can create an event for publishing your images. The event is defined by a title, date, time, and location.
- Publish on Flickr--Takes you to your Flickr account list so that you can select the desired account. You can then choose to add the selected photos to an existing photo set or place them in a new photo set. If you haven't published to Flickr previously, WLPG asks you for authorization, which signs you in to a Yahoo ID account.
For any of these publication options, you can choose the desired image size (large images take more time to upload or for others to view on their computers, while smaller sizes are faster but have less information), and you can also set permissions that determine who is allowed to view your images on an album-by-album basis. By selecting the More Services option, you can also upload your images to any of a large number of image-sharing services available on the Web. A plug-in is also available for sharing your images on Facebook (refer to this site for details).
WLPG also simplifies the process of emailing your photos. Select the pictures you want to send and then click E-mail from the menu bar. The dialog box that appears enables you to choose from several photo sizes and estimates the size of the attachments that will be created. Click Attach and your email program will open a new message with the photos already resized and attached. Simply complete and send the email message.
To access online albums, you must sign in with a Hotmail account (see signin.jpg). Once you've signed in, you receive the "Select an album" page (see album.jpg), from which you can upload images to the default Everyone (public) album or create your own album by typing in the space provided. When your photos have been uploaded, click View Album to see them in slide show format. The image is displayed together with any caption you've added from the Info menu of WLPG, as already described.
Printing Your Photos
WLPG simplifies the process of printing your photos to any available printer on your computer or network. You can choose the paper size, quality, and paper type. The quality and paper type options depend on those supported by your printer. Click Options in the bottom-right corner to choose sharpening for printing and showing options that are compatible with your printer.