How to edit photos and videos for free in Windows 10


Microsoft Photos is a significant improvement over the old Windows Photo Gallery program.

A free one-stop-shop for editing images and video


Microsoft Photos is the built-in solution for viewing, cataloguing and editing your photos and videos that comes with Windows 10. But is this jack-of-all-trades app really all you need? 

Keep in mind you'll need the latest version of Windows 10 to access all these features.

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A brand new look

Photos is the default picture and video viewer for Windows 10 and lifts the bar on its predecessor, Windows Photo Gallery, with an impressive array of free image and video editing tools. For images, these range from simple filters and slideshows to more technical changes, such as exposure adjustment and spot fix. For video, it even goes as far as pre-made 3D special effects.

The Photos main menu is split into Collections, Albums, People and Folders.

  • Collections displays your media in a date-based timeline, similar to Apple Memories or Google Photos.
  • Albums contains any albums you've personally created.
  • Folders finds image files on your computer or Microsoft's OneDrive cloud storage that aren't yet in any of the other sections.
  • People is a little different. You can still access photos from here, but only if the app has recognised a recurring face and allotted that person their own individual photo stream. Face detection is automatic – you can't tag photos yourself. This automation would be handy, but we found it identified less than half of the photos of people we imported and struggled to identify people if there were fewer than 10 or so photos of them in a collection.

Editing images and photos

Once you open an image, click Edit and create to edit the image, draw on it, or make a slideshow.

If you want to edit the image, the various tools are split into two tabs: Enhance and Adjust. 

Enhance

This contains mostly Instagram-style filters, as well as an auto-enhance option. You can adjust the intensity of the auto-enhance changes by moving the slider left or right.

Adjust 

This tab includes Light, Colour, Clarity, Vignette, Red eye and Spot Fix. 

  • Light and Colour are both drop-down menus with their own sub-categories, but can also function as a one-slider-fix-all, like the auto-enhance slider. Once you open the Light sub-menu, you can individually adjust Contrast, Exposure, Highlights, and Shadows. The Colour sub-menu reveals Tint and Warmth sliders.
  • The Clarity function might be called 'sharpness' in other programs. Cranking it up will make individual pixels pop more, while dropping it down introduces a soft blur.
  • Vignette lightens or darkens the corners of an image. You can increase the opacity by dragging the slider left or right, but you can't alter how far into the picture the effect goes.
  • Red eye is a manual tool to fix the dreaded red eye. Click on an offending pupil and it should be fixed, unless the unwanted effect is too severe.
  • Spot fix is an exciting inclusion, found in the likes of Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. It might not work as well as those in the professional Adobe suite, but it's a welcome inclusion in a free app. The spot you target to be fixed will be removed and filled based on the surrounding area. For example, click on a leaf sitting on a lawn and you should be left with nothing but grass. You can also use it to disappear an angry pimple on an otherwise great selfie. 

Creating a slideshow

Select multiple images by mousing over them and clicking the top right box. Once you have several selected, right click on one and choose Slideshow. Your selected photos will silently cycle in full-screen mode.

If you want to add music, titles, writing or anything else, read the video editing features further on.

Drawing by hand

From the Edit and create drop-down menu, select Draw for free-hand scribbling over an image. Choose between Ballpoint pen, Pencil, and Calligraphy pen for different effects. You can adjust the width of all three and choose from thirty colour options. But for some reason, drawing is not included in the Edit view.

Saving changes

Once you've edited an image, you can Save or Save a copy from within the editing screen. Save will replace the original image, so make sure you like the changes you've made. Save a copy will create a separate file in the same folder, keeping the original filename with an added number on the end.

Unlike the familiar 'Save as' Windows feature, you can't choose a new file location or enter a new filename when saving an edited image. You need to go to the folder where the file is saved and move or rename it manually. Strangely, you can still Save as if you have an image open, but aren't in the editing screen, by right-clicking or clicking the ... icon on the top left.  

Video editing

Microsoft Photos has a wide range of video editing options wrapped in a refreshingly simple package. Your creations might not win any Oscars, but the features should cover the needs of most people.

You can combine multiple video clips into one rearrangeable storyboard, trim each clip from either side, add background music, set up a stylised title and even add pre-made 3D special effects.

Getting started

When you first select your video or clips to edit – via Collections, Albums, People or Folders – you are presented with an auto-generated video. Each clip is trimmed down, a backing track is applied and, depending on whether you choose Automatic video with music or Custom video with music, there may also be a filter and intro title applied.

This initial generated video is more foundation than finished product. The auto-generated edits can be changed or built on.

If you want to make a picture slideshow with music, text and other editing options, use the same process but select still images instead of video files.

Video editing features

While you're editing, the Project library on the top-left will display each unedited clip you've imported into the project. To the right is your full video with all edits applied, and at the bottom is the Storyboard, with each individual clip in its edited state and in the order in which they appear in your video.

You can edit the video as a whole using the options at the top of the app, or edit clips individually by right clicking on them. 

  • Trim displays the clip with a progress bar. Slide the bar right or left from either end to adjust the start and end points without deleting footage.
  • Filters are easy to play with. Right click on a clip to choose one and switch if you don't like it.
  • Text offers nine animated font styles that can be applied to a single clip. You can also choose from six alignment options, but you can't place text outside these pre-defined areas.
  • Motion lets you zoom in, zoom out, tilt or pan your clip.
  • 3D effects let you add explosions, bubbles, confetti, butterflies and more. These effects can be inserted anywhere on the clip, and can even be anchored so they stay relative to an object while the camera is moving.
  • Volume adjusts the volume of an individual clip, but unfortunately there's no way to take the sound file from one video and extend it over multiple clips on your storyboard, unless you add it as a background music track to the whole edited video.

The verdict

Microsoft Photos for Windows 10 is an impressive step forward for free Windows software. Its array of editing options for both images and video should be enough for the majority of users. There are free and low-cost third-party programs available that can give you an impressive array of photo editing and video production tools, but few give you both in one package. And, of course, they can't compete with the convenience of being built right into Windows.

It's well worth giving Photos a go for your photo and video management. It has a lot to offer and you can't argue with the price.

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