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By Lori Cunningham

Windows 7 provides a playground full of opportunities to learn and play with your digital media– your photos and videos. We’ve all seen those great short movies that some of our friends have created using their vacation photos and videos. How we wish we could do that too. But who has the time or interest to learn it all?

With the help of Windows 7 and Windows Live Essentials (free download), it is now easier than ever to upload your photos and videos, tag, label, and file them, fix or correct (photos), and even create a “movie” with them. I am a photo and video enthusiast and I have been waiting for years to “have the time” to create movies out of my photo/video memories. With Windows Live Movie Maker, this dream is quickly becoming a reality.

This article is the final part of a three part series reviewing some of the compelling reasons why you should consider Windows 7. The first article, “Windows 7 Review: Media Center,” reviews the benefits of Media Center and it’s potential to share pictures, movies, TV shows, and videos on computers and TVs throughout the house. The second part of the series, “Windows 7 Review: Useful Features” explains many features that make Windows 7 more efficient to find things and get things done more effectively. A copy of Windows 7 Premium was given to me by Microsoft to review as a result of the Windows 7 house party I threw on their behalf.
This article covers how you can use Windows 7 to upload photos and videos, organize them, and make them into slide shows and movies to share with others.

Uploading Your Photos: Videos & Videos

Uploading media onto my computer using Windows 7 was a “wow” experience for me. The process of uploading media from a camera or a media disk is similar to how it is in Vista. However, now there is a new option called “Import pictures and videos using Windows Live Photo Gallery.” ALWAYS use this option as it provides enhanced functionality. If you don’t see this option when uploading your photos or videos, this means that you did not first download and execute the free Windows Live Essentials package, as discussed in the “Windows 7 Review: Useful Features” article.

After you choose the “import pictures and videos using Windows Live Photo Gallery” option, you will receive the “Import Photos and Videos” screen above. Choose “Review, organize, and group items to import.” This option will provide you with a very helpful screen that allows you to select only those dates you choose to from your camera. I have a 60GB hard drive on my camcorder/camera. I like to keep my trip pics on the camera to show friends our latest trip. Now with Windows 7, I only download the pictures that I choose.

A short video that shows all of the steps in action:

Another thing to point out is that Windows 7 recognizes HD digital video formats. This is a HUGE benefit for those of us who were early adapters and purchased HD video camcorders. In the past, I had to use Sony proprietary based software to view my videos and I could not view them from Windows Explorer file folders. Now, I can easily view my video thumbnails, watch the video, and tag them as easily as I can my pictures.

Organize your Pictures and Videos

From this screen you can name the folders you want to import and add tags. For example, I named the first folder “5-1-2009 Mexican Weekend Cruise” and tagged the photos “cruise, vacation, Mexico, family, trip.” The import process allows you to choose name and tags for every date or “group” of pictures it finds on your camera/video camera. Once all the files are imported and deleted from my camera, I move all the new folders into my “2009″ folder for better organization.
Once you’ve downloaded your files, open up your pictures using Windows Live Photo Gallery to rename your pictures, add the Author (person shooting the pic/video), and any other descriptive tags. A neat new feature is being able to tag
people in the picture. In the picture below I clicked on the little boy’s head and the “Tag Someone” box appears with names I’ve used to tag other people in the past. Using tags will help you to easily find people in pictures using the search feature later. Tags are written to the photo picture, so even if you share them online or e-mail them to others, the tag will show up when a person hovers their mouse over the faces you tagged.

Windows Photo Gallery Live has many great features in its menu:

Fix – with one click you can “Auto Adjust” pictures – which adjusts light and contrast levels and corrects colors, straightens the picture. You can easily fix red eye and crop your picture. You can manually adjust colors, brightness, and contrast as well. Want to see the picture in a different light? Turn the photo into black and white, sepia, or a few other variations. This video shows how easy it is to adjust your pictures:

Publish– you can publish your pictures to your Microsoft Live account (if you have one), to Flickr, or YouTube easily.

E-mail– this is a great feature. Just select the photos you want to send and click on the E-mail tab. You will be asked what size you want the pics to be re-sized to (original size, large, medium, small, smaller) then the pics will be inserted into an e-mail for you, ready to send.

Print– printing couldn’t be any easier. Select the pictures you would like to print and click on the Print button. You can send them to be printed at SnapFish, Kodak, Shutterfly, CVS, or FujiFilm or you can print them at home with your own printer. With just a couple of clicks you can print 5×7’s, 8×10’s, 3.5×5’s, etc. of the same picture or several pictures together from your home printer.

Make – here you can make a Panoramic picture, movie (discussed later in this article), blog post, burn a DVD, burn a data CD. Interested in seeing how you can stitch together a Panoramic picture? Watch this quick video:

Want to make a quick DVD to show your latest vacation pics to your friends? Creating a DVD is almost effortless using Windows 7. Watch this video to see what you can produce:

Slide Show – a wonderful feature that instantly turns your pictures into a nice slide show. Just select which pictures you want and click on slide show – instantly your pictures are artistically shown in a beautiful slide show. Bored of the format of your slide show? No problem. There are 7 slide show themes to choose from. You can also make all the pictures black and white or sepia by checking them in the slide show options box. This is a great way to show friends your vacation pics or enjoy your children’s childhood pics.

You’re In the Movies!

Now it’s your turn to turn your beautiful pictures and videos into a brilliantly produced movie to impress your friends. With Movie Maker (part of the Windows Essentials Live download), turning your media into a movie is a snap. The Movie Maker is easily accessible from Windows Live Photo Gallery by clicking on the “Make” menu, as described just above and selecting “Make a Movie”.

Microsoft claims you can make a cool movie in under 30 seconds. Don’t believe it? (I do, I’ve done it). Watch this video and after a brief introduction, it will show you how to make your movie within the first 45 seconds of this video. The movie continues to show you how easy it is to customize your video once you have used the feature called “Auto Movie.” The video is nearly 6 minutes long – but I highly recommend watching it if you’re interested in making movies – Windows Live Movie Maker makes it incredibly easy to do – for novices and experts alike.

Making a movie is easy, just open the program, add your pictures and video, and click on “Auto Movie.” Movie Maker will than ask you if you’d like to add music to your movie and direct you to your “My Music” folders so you can select a song. Then Movie Maker will add transitions and a title slide for you to edit. In addition, it will ensure that the music you selected ends when your pictures/videos end. So you won’t have music lingering on well after your movie has ended.
Click on Edit to make any changes to your movie – you can change the music, add another song, change the transitions, make one of the pictures black and white or sepia, add text in between or on any of your pictures, shorten video clips, the list goes on. “Auto Movie” helps you to get started and will produce a great movie. Still, you have the option to tweak the movie and enhance it if you’re so inclined.

Furthermore, you can easily burn your movie to DVD. Movie Maker supports High Definition, so you can save your movie in 480, 720, and 1080 high-definition formats. You can also upload your video to YouTube, FaceBook, and other online sites to share with your friends and family.

Final Thoughts

I highly recommend Windows 7. The ease of use and enhanced functionality when working with pictures and videos is alone enough reason to upgrade. Windows 7 gives you a way to organize and create professional looking slide shows and movies showcasing your work, children,  and family activities. If you’ve never taken the time to learn how to work with your pictures on your computer, now is the time. If you’re like me and have thousands of pictures on your computer but have never made them into interesting creative movies and slide shows to share with friends and family, your time has come.

I took the time to write a three part Windows 7 Review series because I have used Windows 7 extensively have found it to be very beneficial in helping me to find programs and files more easily, work more effectively despite having 6 programs and 20 Internet Explorer windows open at one time, upload, organize, and showcase my pictures and videos, record TV shows, and share my media (photos, videos, movies, and music) around the house using Media Center.

I hope you enjoyed the WellConnectedMom.com’s series on Windows 7. If you missed the first two articles of my Windows 7 Review, you can easily click to see them here:

Windows 7 Review: Media Center,” reviews the benefits of Media Center and it’s potential to share pictures, movies, TV shows, and videos on computers and TVs throughout the house.

Windows 7 Review: Useful Features,” explains many features that makes Windows 7 more efficient to find things and get things done more effectively.

I am happy to say that there are even more neat features I didn’t get to in my reviews. Nonetheless, I covered most of the features that I have found to be the most useful. Please leave comments with your thoughts and if your using Windows 7 now, comment with the good things and the bad about your experience with Windows 7.

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