I take lots of photos and have figured out how to transfer them to my PC, but when I email them to people, they complain the files are too big. I also want to edit and clean them up sometimes too. What’s the easiest way to edit photos on a Windows PC?
Shortcuts: Install | Viewing Images | Basics | Contrast & Color | Resize
A quick glance at the Microsoft Store app will reveal that there are hundreds of matches for “photo editor”, most of which seem to be very focused on one task. Mirroring your key image, adding a decorative frame, playing with filters, lots of these features seem to be stuck in mini-apps, but actual photo editors that don’t cost a ton of money like Photoshop? It’s not always immediately obvious what choices you have in that category. But it turns out that Microsoft has a great solution for basic photo editing that’s been a part of Windows and is now relegated to an optional download: Microsoft Photos.
With Microsoft Photos you can crop, resize, adjust color, contrast, even apply preset color filters to attain just the effect you want, and it’s all surprisingly easy. Even better, the program makes it easy to save an edited copy and hard to overwrite your original, so you can experiment and learn all the features without worrying that you’re going to ruin or delete your originals. Of course, you do need to install it, but let me show you some of the great capabilities of Microsoft Photos…
HOW TO INSTALL MICROSOFT PHOTOS
I have an image I need to work on to prep it for an email message, one that came off my iPhone. As a result, it’s big, both in file size and in its dimensions, far bigger than I need. How can I tell? Hovering over the image shows the size, at least:
2.94MB is a really big file. Identifying the dimensions is a bit more tricky, so we’ll just defer that for a moment. Suffice to say, for email and text messaging, your images should almost always be well under 1MB. To open up the image in Microsoft Photos, simply right-click and choose “Open With…” from the menu:
Oops, since it’s not showing up, I can tell that this particular PC doesn’t yet have Microsoft Photos installed. It’s an easy fix, however, just go to the Microsoft Store app and search for “Microsoft photos” and download it. Since it’s free, there’s no hassle with payment or verification. Once installed, that same “Open with…” reveals an additional choice:
Choose “Photos” from the context menu.
VIEWING IMAGES IN MICROSOFT PHOTOS
Photos has a lot of power, but it’s somewhat hidden since it seems Microsoft wants you to mostly think of it as a photo viewer. This is obvious when you first launch it with an image:
In this instance, I had someone come and perform basic maintenance on my garage, that’s the less than glamorous subject of this particular photo. Still, it’s interesting in that it could do with some tweaks and changes, cropping, and so on.
Notice along the bottom the gallery shortcut view, offering tiny thumbnails of all the images in this particular folder. The arrow keys will let you move “side to side” to view all of the images, making it a nice photo viewer. What we’re interested in are the buttons along the very top, however. Let’s look at them a bit closer:
Left to right, those icons are Edit, Rotate, Delete, Favorite and the “•••” to access a few more choices. You can also zoom in and out with the controls on the right side. There’s a lot of power hidden behind that benign Edit button! Click or tap on it…
BASICS OF EDITING A PHOTO IN MICROSOFT PHOTOS
Once you click on the Edit button, the display changes:
Now the top toolbar has completely different icons. The left portion lets you zoom in and out, then the center icons are Crop, Adjust, Auto Filters, and Draw. This is the crop view, so you can click and drag any of the thicker portions of the photo frame to get rid of extraneous content, and you can use the slider along the bottom to rotate the image if it’s not quite right. A common use for this is if you find the horizon line on your landscape is off; you can easily fix it with a tiny rotation adjustment!
I’m going to crop this image a bit to make the repair guy a bit more central to the composition:
Notice how some of the photograph is now dimmer. I can save the new, cropped image at this point by clicking on “Save as copy” but I can also keep editing by clicking on the Adjust button to tweak the colors, contrast, saturation, etc.
ADJUSTING CONTRAST, COLOR, AND SATURATION
Click on the Adjust icon and the image again changes and a lot of sliders appear:
You can see that I’ve tweaked the Saturation, Warmth and added some Vignette effect on the image. Hopefully it’s looking a bit better. If you’re not comfortable using the sliders, no worries, click on the third icon along the top, the pen, and you can get to the preset filters:
Maybe “Dramatic Cool”? Ahhh…. maybe not. Anyway, you can experiment and try things out to your heart’s content.
RESIZE YOUR IMAGE BEFORE SAVING
Before saving the image, however, I want to actually shrink things down a bit. That’s easily done by right-clicking on the image to bring up the context menu:
The Resize option is really well done because you don’t have to be a tech expert to understand how to proceed:
And now, finally, we can see the actual dimensions of the original image: 3516 x 2361. Why is it 1.9MB instead of 2.9MB? Because as we applied some of the filters and transformations, Microsoft Photos has been able to compress the image, even without changing its size. But since I’m going to be emailing this photo, I’ll choose “Best for emails and messages“, shrinking it about 50% and dropping the file down to < 1MB. Indeed, I now have saved two variations of the original image and you can see the relative sizes:
The original image direct from the iPhone is 3,019KB (3.0MB), the filtered, cropped, and tweaked image is 1.89MB, and the resized image is down to 366KB, a savings of almost 90% in filesize! Definitely worth the few minutes, and the fact that the image looks better? That’s just a bonus. Now, go have fun with Microsoft Photos!
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