Microsoft Photos, the free photo
The Photos app is included with Windows 10, and it replaces the Windows Photo Gallery app. You can no longer download the older app, which added panorama stitching, collage, and sharpening tools. If you’ve got Windows 10, you don’t need to do anything to get the newer app. Like the Apple Photos app included with macOS, it’s just there.
Note that Windows still comes with Paint, which is more about one-at-a-time image resizing, drawing, and saving to different image formats. Starting with Windows 10 Creators Update, you also get Paint 3D, which offers easy 3D modeling, decoration, and sharing.
A Clear Interface
The interface for Photos is segmented into three main modes: Collection, Creations, and Folders.
A big change in Microsoft Photos’ interface is the use of horizontal sliders, instead of the circular dial controls used to adjust brightness and other options. The circular controls were innovative, but they did take some getting used to, whereas the sliders are completely familiar. Photos and its new sliders work fine on high-DPI
Viewing and Organizing Photos
Any images and videos in your Photos user folder and its subfolders (including Screenshots) show up in the Photos app. You can add any other folders on your system to view their contents in the Folders section, as well as enabling viewing of OneDrive cloud folders. Including OneDrive means that any photos shot on smartphones set up with auto-upload appear in your Collection view. The Photos app also includes an Import option that works with any storage device you plug into the computer. It supports raw camera files—a plus for those who take digital photos seriously.
One organizational highlight is that Microsoft Photos creates albums for you automatically, based on date groupings, just as Apple Photos does with its Memories. The difference is that with the Windows app you can edit the albums to taste. Apple doesn’t give you any input into which photos go in your Memories. Both Apple and Microsoft let you share your online galleries via links.
You can also create your own custom albums, and adding shots is a snap from within the album or from the Photo view. You get options to zoom, enhance, edit, and share individual photos as you work with them. You can also play a slideshow or draw on a photo. The drawing tool works with mouse, stylus, or finger, and the selection of tips and colors is decent. The eraser, however, is a bit blunt. It can only erase an entire stroke, rather than letting you touch up your drawing on a more granular pixel-by-pixel level.
The app is missing couple of the views I like to see in photo editing apps. For example, there’s no Map view of all your geotagged photos—which includes most mobile photos. You can, however, see a map location on individual photos’ File Info panels. This also reveals EXIF data and file dimensions. Photos also offers no way to rate photos with stars or apply keyword tags, though you can do both of those things in File Explorer.
The app’s Enhance tool is probably the first thing you want to try after hitting Edit. I find that it usually bumps up contrast and saturation, fixes white balance, and often does make for a better-looking
There are also 15 more filter effects to play with, and the strength of each is adjustable, too. Included are four black-and-white options, with different levels of contrast and sharpness. Applying one of these and then scaling back its strength lets just a smidge of color into your black-and-white shot—it’s an effective and interesting technique.
I am happy to see that the app lets you adjust not only exposure and contrast, but also highlights and shadows. Color editing is also an option, and I often use the Clarity slider (similar to that in Adobe Lightroom), which controls sharpness and black point.
Microsoft no longer
Once you’ve perfected your edits, you can either save a copy or overwrite the original. When just viewing, rather than editing an image, however, there’s no option to save the picture as a different file type or to a different location.
Given all the clip joining, trimming, titles, effects, and background music capacities, the video editing features in Photos are extensive enough to merit a separate app. But Microsoft keeps things simple with a single media editor and saves you the hassle of launching a separate program. Plus, many people will use it to join still photos to create video slideshows, complete with Ken Burns motion effects.
You get to the Photos app’s video-editing features via the Create Menu, which offers three options: Video Remix, Video Projects, and Album. With the Remix choice, you simply select videos and photos and the app
For hands-on video editing, you choose Video project from the Create menu; or you can select a few clips and photos and click Add to… and then New video from the top menu bar. Doing this also results in a precut video project. Clips appear in storyboard view, so you can drag and drop to reorder them. Trimming component clips
Purists will cringe, but mobile videographers will be delighted that you can produce videos in portrait orientation as well as standard 16:9 or 4:3 landscape. Even savvy phone users sometimes forget to rotate their handsets when shooting clips. A less automated but still prefab way to produce your video is to use a theme to filters, text styles, and soundtracks. The filters come in 11 flavors from
Text styles run the gamut from Classic to Electric and Boom. The last applies that nifty trick of using your video content as the filling of the letters. Other consumer video editing software like Adobe Premiere Elements and CyberLink PowerDirector only recently added this capability.
Microsoft showed 3D video effects at its Build conference last May, but those differed from what’s in the Fall Creators version of Photos. Instead of using 3D models you create in Paint 3D or get from remix3d.com (Microsoft’s online 3D object sharing site), you can choose from 42 prefab effects ranging from balloons to explosions to butterflies. These are fun, and the ability to anchor them to moving objects (for motion tracking) is impressive.
Motion tracking is also an option when you draw on top of videos. You do this from the individual clip view rather than the video project view, however. You get a choice of a ballpoint pen, pencil, or calligraphy pen. For when you mess up, there’s an eraser. For slideshows, there’s a full assortment of zooming and
Sharing and Output
Anything you do in Photos can be shared via the standard Windows 10 share icon at top right to any photo-accepting UWP app installed on your PC—Mail, Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp, Twitter, and so on. For photos and albums, you can get a link and have the recipient view them online via OneDrive—no account needed. For videos, you get three options before sharing: S, M, and L. The first is
You can print your photos via the standard Windows 10 printing utility. There’s no built-in photo printing service, though, and the Windows apps for Snapfish, PhotoAffections, and Walgreens didn’t offer share targets at the time of testing. Some big services like Shutterfly, Winkflash, York, and RitzPix don’t even offer apps. The situation contrasts markedly with Apple Photos on macOS, which offers photo, book, and poster printing right from within the app. Of course, a simple website visit can get your Windows photos printed with the services mentioned above. If you sync your photos to OneDrive, there are printing options from that service’s Photos view.
A final sharing option is to send an album to Sway. This is an online Office component that lets you build a storytelling website. With it, you can add titles and captions with lots of design choices. It also lets you add tweets and file downloads from Facebook and OneDrive, along with custom embed code.
Simple Photo and Video Editing
For simple viewing, tuning up, and sharing of digital photos and videos, the free Microsoft Photos is an excellent option. After using photo and video-editing programs loaded down with menus and panels and features, it can be a joy to use one that’s easy to use, clear, and has what you need for basic viewing and fixes. Of course, for really powerful photo organization, optimization, and effects, you need a full-featured application like one of our Editors’ Choices, Photoshop Elements, Lightroom, or Photoshop CC. And if you really want to go to town with your videos, get CyberLink PowerDirector, our enthusiast Editors’ Choice video editor, though it’s far more complex. For most users, most of the time, Microsoft Photos is a solid choice for managing, editing, and sharing photos and videos.