Editing your digital photos

Editing your digital photos

Red eye? Camera shake? Too dark? Learn how to undo these common camera errors using digital editing in your PC’s powerful digital darkroom. You can even rescue precious old family prints

Photos help preserve special moments in our lives, but it’s surprising how often they go wrong. Perhaps you’ve got a wedding snapshot that’s glaringly ruined by red eye, or a whole album of photos from your once-in-a-lifetime trip where you forgot to switch on the flash. Possibly you have a shoebox of unique old family prints that are now faded and torn.

These issues – and more – can be solved in just a few minutes on your PC. Your computer is a powerful digital darkroom – use it to put right all kinds of photographic wrongs. Best of all, you can do heaps of photo editing on it using the free software that's already installed.

Transfer photos to PC

If your photos aren’t already stored on your computer, then this is your first job. Either copy over your digital pictures (from a camera, disk or memory card, for instance), or create digital versions of old photographs by running prints through a scanner.

Scanning can be a slow process, but it's the best way to keep your print-only memories safe. Photographic paper can fade or get damaged - digital copies that are safely backed up should last a lifetime.

If you’re in the market for a new scanner, why not get the best of all worlds with the Advent AWP10 wireless all-in-one inkjet printer and scanner?

Save space by combining your printer and scanner in one convenient package with our AWP10 all-in-one wireless printer

For more tips on buying a scanner, check our buyer's guide. And if you’re looking to upgrade your digital camera, we’ve got a buyer’s guide for that too.

1. Storing digital photos

Panasonic’s pocket Lumix DMC-SZ1 costs under £100, yet offers great photos and a generous 10x optical zoom

Most digital cameras store images on a memory card. One way to access your images from that card is to use a card reader. Many PCs and printers have these built in. Don’t worry if yours doesn't – external readers simply plug into a USB port. They’re cheap to buy, too – our own CR312 Memory Card Reader is under £14.

Once you have a reader, pop your memory card into the correct-sized slot. A window should appear on your screen with a list of all the files on the card. Simply click and drag your chosen pics into a folder on your computer.

Alternatively, you can connect your camera to your PC using the USB cable that came with it. The process is the same: a pop-up window will appear from which you can transfer your photos to your PC.

2. Free software

Not seeing a pop-up window? No problem. Import the files directly onto your computer using software such as Microsoft's Windows Photo Gallery. This method gives you additional control over your pictures. The images will automatically be grouped by date and time, with each group stored in a separate folder. Your latest holiday snaps, for instance, will be filed separately from cousin Fred’s wedding. You can specify a name for each folder at this stage, making it a simple way to organise your pictures.

3. Windows Photo Gallery

You can use Windows Photo Gallery to automatically import images into different folders, according to when they were taken

Now boot up Windows Photo Gallery. It comes pre-installed on most Advent computers, but it’s also free to download as part of Windows Essentials 2012.

It’s a well-featured program for editing your pictures. Even damaged photos can be quickly and easily repaired. The program has an auto-adjust feature that works with just a single click of the mouse, quickly mopping up common imperfections, such as overblown brightness or wonky composition.

If you want more control over the process, you can even adjust individual elements such as colour, exposure and noise levels. You can also eliminate red eye, simply by clicking and dragging over the relevant part of the photo.

Other features include the simple, yet handy, option of rotating pictures that have been saved the wrong way round. Imperfections on the edges of photos are easily corrected – just use the crop tool to chop off the edges of your image.

Even small imperfections in awkward places can be fixed using the retouch tool. Find out more about how to use Windows Photo Gallery in our How To guide. 

4. Other software options

The red-eye reduction tool in Windows Photo Gallery makes light work of smartening up your pictures

For more precise control, try PixBuilder Studio. It’s free, but it has many features common to expensive photo editing software. It's more advanced than Windows Photo Gallery, but the extra tools make it well worth a look, once you’re up and running.

Of course, there's only so much you can expect from a free program, but you don't have to spend hundreds to get a fully featured photo-editing package. Serif PhotoPlus X5 (£39.97, Currys) offers scratch and blemish removers and one-click uploads to Facebook and Flickr.

For advanced video-editing functionality as well as Photoshop-style tools, check out Adobe Photoshop Elements and Premier Elements 11 (£99.99, Currys).

5. Paid for software

Paid-for software provides more powerful – and easier to use – tools for fixing photos, both old and new

Whatever software you choose, all let you get creative using effects. Simple changes will switch a colour photo to black & white or sepia, while more advanced tools let you create montages that sum up a holiday or special event.

Online tools, such as those from Pixmania, allow you to showcase your photos in myriad ways. Follow our own step-by-step guides to creating photo books, greetings cards and calendars.