Getting Acquainted with Irfanview
I use four different image-editors for various tasks, but prefer one particular program for
opening, cropping, and resizing photos. Irfanview is completely free from
www.pcdon.com. As you download it, click YES when asked if you want it to be the default program for opening your bitmap images (JPG, BMP, TIF, etc.). Then, whenever a photo's filename or icon is double-clicked, it will open in Irfanview.
Since digital photos tend to be fairly large, they may not fit completely in the Irfanview window. Click the toolbar "minus sign" to reduce the view size. Each click makes the view 10 percent smaller.
To make the photo physically smaller in size, click Image>Resize/Resample. Here you'll find many options, such as HALF, which makes the photo 1/4 its original size (half as high and half as wide). Or you can reduce it by a chosen percentage, say, 75% to make it 3/4 of the original. You can also designate an exact height or width in pixels or inches.
This is also where you choose the DPI (dots per inch) for the image resolution. 300 DPI works well for images to be output on an inkjet printer. However, if the image will just be viewed on a screen, 96 DPI is fine for most LCD (liquid crystal display) monitors with 72 DPI being suitable for older CRT (cathode ray tube) monitors.
Now you may want to "crop" the photo, i.e. select the important area, and eliminate the extraneous background which can quickly empty your expensive inkjet cartridges.
With your left mouse-button held down, use the arrow pointer to draw a box around the area you want to keep. Release the mouse-button to fix the dashed outline in place. Finally, click the toolbar scissors followed by clicking the "clipboard paste" icon to complete the cropping.
Then go to File>Save As and name it — you can keep the existing name, or type a new one. In the "Save as Type" field, choose JPG for any picture you plan to email or post on a Web site. In fact, JPG has become the most popular format for snapshots and family photos. More about the other formats later.
Irfanview (free from www.irfanview.com)
doesn't have the huge arsenal of editing tools found in programs like PhotoShop or PaintShopPro, but it does have some useful ones.
If a photo is too dark or too light or needs some color correction, click on Image>Enhance Colors. Here you'll find sliding scales for increasing or decreasing Brightness and Contrast, along with scales for adding and subtracting RGB colors. You'll also see two reduced images — one to show the original coloring and one to show the changes taking place as you edit.
If, after clicking OK, you're not pleased with the end result, use Edit>Undo to revert to the original image.
You'll find several other useful options under Image, such as Rotate, Flip, Sharpen, and Convert to Negative or Convert to Gray Scale. Under Image>Effects you'll find some avant-garde treatments such as Emboss, Oil Paint, and Explosion.
If you plan on doing a lot of edits on a particular image, I'd recommend saving it as a BMP, rather than as a JPG, while you edit. Re-edits on a JPG tend to diminish resolution quality with each subsequent Save. BMPs, conversely, maintain resolution quality with multiple Saves. Save the picture as a JPG when you're sure you will do no more editing on it, and keep the BMP version on hand, just in case.
If file size is a major consideration, a JPG can have its byte count adjusted with a slide bar which appears when doing File>Save As>(filename).JPG. Experiment to see how small you can make a JPG and still maintain a presentable final result.
In addition to manipulating JPG options, the physical size of a picture obviously affects its final byte count. If you have trouble emailing, say, an 8x10-inch image, how about reducing it to 4x6 — or something in between? Use cropping and/or resizing to get the size and aspect ratio you want.
As for printing, if you're using a "photo printer" dedicated to outputting standard sizes such as 3x5 or 4x6, crop and resize before you print. Otherwise you can waste a lot of ink printing out acres of, say, the grass and sky which surround a tiny subject in the middle of the picture.
Using Irfanview with Your Scanner
Irfanview also works beautifully with desktop scanners. Use File>Select Twain Source to make your PC communicate with your scanner, and File>Acquire to do the scanning.
Using Your "PrintScreen" Key
To capture something seen on your Desktop, press PrtScr (the PrintScreen key), followed by opening Irfanview and clicking the Paste Icon. Then you can crop the picture and go to File>Save As, to preserve the image and give it a name, along with using any of the editing steps explained above.