Photography can be a rather expensive hobby and once you have spent out on lenses, bags, tripods etc., there can be little money left in the kitty for software tools like photo editors. Thankfully, there are some very good free tools out there and in my software “kitbag”, I have the following:
- Image Browser
- Exif Editor
- Photo Editor
- RAW Tools
- Panorama Stitch Software
- HDR Creator
- Image Recovery Software
For this first article, I shall be looking at “FastStone Image Viewer”, my preferred image browser. To download and for more in-depth details, go to the FastStone website here.
FastStone Image Viewer:
FastStone Image Viewer is an image browser, converter and editor.
So why might you want to use FastStone Image Viewer when Windows already comes with the Windows Photo Gallery program? For a start, Windows Photo Gallery doesn’t auto-rotate images taken in portrait orientation, leaving you to either manually rotate each one or put up with the discomfort of twisting your head round all the time! Thankfully, there are no frustrations like this with FastStone Image Viewer. Also, Windows doesn’t come with native support for RAW camera files or Photoshop (.PSD) files built-in so any files in this format can’t be viewed in Windows Photo Gallery. FastStone Image Viewer has great file support and works with JPG, GIF, TIFF, PNG and PSD files amongst others. The RAW camera support is excellent and the program can open the following RAW images:
- Canon (CRW, CR2)
- Nikon (NEF)
- Pentax (PEF)
- Fuji (RAF)
- Minolta (MRW)
- Olympus (ORF)
- Sony (SRF, SR2, ARW)
- Panasonic (RW2)
- Adobe (DNG).
The main program screen is as you would expect, with a folder tree on the left and a file list on the right:
If your image has GPS location data, you can click on an icon for Google Earth. This will show you where your image was taken on a satellite map of the area. You can then upload your image to Google Earth or view images other people have taken there.
Double-click an image to view it full screen. The full screen viewer allows you to zoom right in on your image with just one click of the magnifying glass icon – very useful for checking whether your photo really is as sharp as you hoped.
In the full screen viewer there are 4 different fly-out menu panels offering useful shortcuts to all program features. This is designed to allow you to work directly on your image without having to exit the full screen viewer. Which menu panel you are presented with depends on which part of the screen you move the mouse to. For example, if you move the mouse to the top of the screen, that menu panel allows you to quickly select a different image to view without having to exit the full screen viewer. More usefully, it has a compare feature where you can compare up to 4 images side by side.
The following are screenshots for each fly-out menu panel:
Top menu panel:
This is very simple to operate, just adjust the sliders to see instant results in the preview area. The other adjustment tools work in exactly the same way and it is even possible to apply adjustments to selected areas of an image. Selection tools are however limited to rectangle, oval or freehand. The editing tools provided are certainly a very useful introduction to photo editing for beginners and even the more experienced could find these tools useful from time to time. However, these editing tools would be unlikely to replace the need for a dedicated image editor due to the lack of layers, layer masks and other more advanced features.
Other useful features included with FastStone Image Viewer are image watermarking, batch rename, batch convert and a slideshow builder. This includes various options such as how long to play each image, image transitions (there are a massive 156 different ones to choose from) and music tracks to play (you can even choose multiple tracks). I found it very easy to put together a nice slideshow in a matter of minutes.
Alternatively, another good image browser is Irfanview which can be downloaded here.
I hope you have found this article useful and if you have anything you want to add to the discussion or any questions, please let us know in the comments section below.