Windows Live Photo Gallery is Microsoft’s photo editing application that comes as part of the Windows Live Essentials download and I must admit that I really like it. It features everything that the average consumer needs, covering everything from tagging someone on a photo to basic editing features such as red eye removal. What I like about Photo Gallery is the fact that it doesn’t try to be Photoshop, it’s good as a basic photo management application, and doesn’t overly complicate things – you don’t need to be a professional photographer to find your way around or make your photos look great.
When you view a folder of photos, they’re presented in a grid view, with a slider adjusting the size of the thumbnail previews. You can view your pictures in a few different ways, as you’d expect from any decent photo management application. Photos can be viewed by folder, the date that it was taken or by person, using the “People Tags” feature which I’ll come to in a bit… The pictures in your library can also be rotated clockwise or anti-clockwise and you can even export selected photos, either to a DVD or Live Movie Maker.
If you select any photo, it’s displayed in the entire window, with a menu to the top and side. From here, you can utilise any of the editing tools available by selecting “Fix” from the menu bar at the top, which displays the editing tools on the right of the photo. At the top is an “Auto Adjust” feature that will automatically adjust exposure and colour for you. This is a great feature for the average user who takes a ‘point and click’ approach to photography and still wants good looking shots. If you’re more of a perfectionist, you can of course alter the colour and saturation yourself, amongst other things such as red eye removal.
Another feature I was pleasantly surprised to come across was “People Tags”. If you want to view your photos by person, you can tag people from your photos. Like many Live applications, Photo Gallery takes your contacts from your Windows Live account, and allows you to tag people from your contacts list, or manually type in the name of the person in the photo. When you have enough photos, it’s quite nice to browse via person rather than event. As much as I like this feature, it doesn’t feel quite as polished as some other applications such as iPhoto on the Mac, which comes with face recognition technology which works surprisingly well. Despite this, the feature is a welcome addition.
The final feature I came across was “Photo Stitch”, which allow you to ‘stitch’ together many photos to create a panoramic shot. It’s a nice feature to have, but not one that I’d use often, although I’m sure many people out there will appreciate its inclusion.
My overall opinion of Windows Live Photo Gallery was a very positive one and is a great addition to a standard Windows 7 installation. It’s not lacking features you’d expect to find in a basic photo editor, and it includes more advanced features that you wouldn’t find in many other free alternatives, such as people tagging and photo stitching. You may want to compare other alternatives, such as Google’s Picasa to decide which works better for you, but I recommend that you give Live Photo Gallery a try before rushing to a decision.