Manipulating your photos takes a bit of patience and the
right software. But what software is right for you? If you’re the average
person with a cheap digital camera, then
something like Photoshop will be overkill for your needs.
Sometimes, you find that little piece of software that
packs a lot into a small space. When it comes to working with graphics –
and photos – that software is IrfanView.
While billed as an image viewer, IrfanView has some pretty good tools for
working with photos.
IrfanView started life as a fast, flexible, and compact
Windows graphics viewer. It did that job remarkably well – IrfanView can
display a couple of dozen common (and not so common) image formats. As
IrfanView got older, its developer added a number of useful features to it.
One of these features is support for plugins which extend IrfanView’s
capabilities. These additional capabilities include the ability to view even
more image formats, to transfer files using FTP, burn slideshows to a CD, play
various media files, and even use some Photoshop plugins.
Thanks to the array of plugins, IrfanView is one of the
best image applications around. And it does a good job at basic photo
That’s pretty simple. Just go to the IrfanView Web site
and download the installer.
Once it’s on your hard drive – < s a few seconds, the installer weighs in at just over a
megabyte – double-click the
installer and follow the prompts. The installation is lightening fast.
Then, download the plugins. There are four archives
available; I’d suggest getting them all. To install them, just extract the
archives the IrfanView plugins folder:
C: \ Program Files \ IrfanView \ Plugins.
you’re ready to go.
While IrfanView’s selection of image editing tools is
limited when compared to Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro, you’ll find most (if not
all) of the functions that you need including:
Rotating and straightening
Working with thumbnails and creating Web albums
Enhancing photos with effects
There’s always a photo that contains something or someone
that you don’t want in it. Or, you’ve scanned a picture and there’s too much of
a border. Cropping enables you to cut out those elements, and still have a
Load up a photo in IrfanView by selecting File > Open and then choosing a photo that’s on your hard drive. Then, use your mouse to
select the portion of the photo that you want to keep. From there, select Edit > Crop selection. The offending bits vanish. Don’t forget to save your changes,
The only drawback to this function is that you can only
select a square. You can’t do fancy, freehand selections.
If you’ve ever downloaded a photo off of a digital camera, you’ll have probably
noticed that it’s quite large. Sometimes, you want your photo to be small. When?
For example, when you want to send it by email, or post it to your family Web
site, or transfer it to your cell phone or PDA.
To shrink a photo, select Image > Resize/Resample.
You have a number of options for resizing your photos.
First, you can change the height and width by specifying a
particular number of pixels or a percentage of the photo’s original size. If
you go this route (and it’s the easiest way to do the job), the make sure that
aspect ratio option is checked. When you change one dimension,
that option ensures that the other dimension is proportionally changed so that
the image doesn’t appear distorted.
If you plan to use the photo as desktop wallpaper, you can
select one of a dozen standard screen resolutions. The available resolutions
range (measured in pixels) from 640×480 to 1920×1080.
Finally, you can shrink the photo by 50% by clicking the Half button.
Just as some photos contain superfluous detail that you
want to cut out, sometimes, a photo is a bit off kilter. Or it comes to you
rotated in a strange way; you either have to twist your head or your monitor around to view it properly.
If you just need to flip an image around, select Image > Rotate Left or Image
> Rotate Right. This will turn the photo at 90 degree
On the other hand, if you need finer control then select Image > Custom/Fine
Rotation. This enables you to rotate the image at an angle
ranging from -360 degrees to 360 degrees. You can make the rotation as fine as
Most of use have folders full of images on our hard
drives. It can be difficult to open a particular file in IrfanView if you don’t
remember the exact name of a file. Thumbnails, little snapshots of those
To view thumbnails, select File > Thumbnails. The
thumbnail viewer opens. From there, navigate to the folder that contains the
images that you want to view. The thumbnails appear in the window. Just
double-click on an image to open it in an IrfanView window for editing.
So, what can you do with thumbnails? How about turn them
into an album that you can post on the Web. To do that, highlight the images
that you want to add to the album and then select File > Save selected
files as HTML. IrfanView will copy the original photos, the
thumbnails, and a set of Web pages to a directory on your hard drive (by
C: \ temp). To view the album, just open the file Thumbnails.html in a
Remember when I recommended that you download and install
all of IrfanView’s plugins? Well, I had a good reason for that. And not just to
fill up your hard drive with useless software. Some of the plugins can add
interesting effects to your photographs.
To use the filters, select Image > Effects > Effects Browser.
IrfanView has 36 effects that range from the useful to the whimsical to some
that will leave you scratching your head wondering why they exist.
Some of the more useful effects are Blur (which lets you
soften a photo), Sharpen (which eliminates some distortion), Sepia (to give
your photos an old-fashioned feel), and Oil Paint (which makes a photo look
like an oil painting).
You have fine control with these effects. The Effects
Browser window includes a slider that enables you to control the degree to
which the effect is applied to the photo. There’s also a real time preview that
lets you see the result of applying the effect before you commit to it. When
you’re ready, just click Apply to original image.
If all that wasn’t enough, IrfanView has a number of other
features too. It does a decent job of reducing red eye, you can adjust colors or convert a photo to grayscale, and even take snapshot of your screen.
IrfanView also has some very basic paint functions. You can draw using a
paintbrush; erase bits of an image; add arrows, lines, or text; and even fill
areas with color. Not bad for such a little program.
One function that I’ve found useful is IrfanView’s ability
to convert images in other formats. You can save individual images in different
formats, or do the job in bulk. The process is fast, and it generally produces
After spending a little while with IrfanView, you’ll
discover that it’s more than just an image viewer. It’s also a great tool for
manipulating photos, or just about any other image. While you won’t be able to
do a lot of detailed photo cleanup with IrfanView, it’s more than up to the
task of doing all the basic photo editing that you need.