Sunday, 20 November 2016

Windows 10 - the 'improved' Photos application - beware!

Windows 10 introduced automatic and non-optional updates for all but business users (who were permitted to at least decide the most convenient time to update). The idea was to keep all Windows 10 users synchronised - and therefore ensure that (for example) everybody had the latest security updates, with nobody lagging behind.

This does mean that if you go away on holiday for a couple of weeks and leave your laptop behind, or take it but keep it in Flight Mode, then there will be a backlog of updates to face on your return. All of which must be installed. No choosing.

Each major update seems to include some new stuff that Microsoft wants to try out on the public. It can be a completely new idea, or a rethink of an existing application or service.

The latest big update has changed the look and operation of the standard Windows 10 photo-editing application, Photos. I always shoot JPEGs, and never shoot RAW, and so I can use this app for all my routine, straightforward photo editing (which means I use it a lot). Of course, I have other photo-editing apps for special things; but I reckon at least 90% of my shots can be dealt with using the relatively simple (and quick) Photos app.

So any changes Microsoft make to it matter to me. I don't mind if they make the app nicer or faster to use. But the latest update is not, in my view, a wonderful improvement. They have meddled to no good purpose.

Of course this may simply be that the app's layout is so different from the old version, and I'm struggling a bit to get used to the changes. And that in a couple of weeks I'll find the new version just as good, if not better, and have no further complaint to make. Well, maybe.

But the new layout directly contributed to a mistake I made today, ruining a perfectly good picture of myself next to friend Jo at a restaurant. I saved this shot with an unwanted rosy colour cast.

Once that Save button is hit, the original shot is gone beyond recall. My emergency efforts to get back to something resembling the original shot were not completely successful. Adding the rosiness, and whatever else that 'look' required, seemed to have permanently altered the shot. Apart from gaining an odd luminous pink colour, it seemed tonally distressed. I certainly couldn't recover the original shot by simply adding a little green to counter the rosiness.

Well, anyway, I'll take you through it all.

Once you have popped some shots into a convenient folder you have created on the Windows Desktop, clicking on any of them automatically opens up the Photos application. Here's a grab shot I took through the front windscreen of Jo's car, to show you how Photos will display it:

The wording on the side of the red car says:


And there's a picture of a sausage on a fork. It's a weak joke, barely worth a shot, but let's go with it.

The top right edge of the app screen has a string of icons for various operations. I choose the one for Edit, and now get this display:

Immediately I see that the 'serious' editing options have been tidied away into the background. To be sure, there's a big grey Crop and Rotate button at the top (that's good), but the rest of them are hidden behind a smaller button with Adjust on it (that's not good at all). Most of the available operations you can see are under the heads Enhance your photo (another big button, with a twee magic wand icon on it) and Select a filter (a series of buttons, each with a different colour-effect).

I call this kind of redesign Dumbing-Down. It's pandering to ignorant people with poor taste who can't be bothered to learn the most basic things about photography. Giving a picture a rosy tint is not my idea of good taste, any more than using a very pink glass filter was in film-camera days. Nor are some of the other filter options, which include such oddly-named and off-colour variations as Sunscreen, Sahara, Arctic and Burlesque. Using any one of them amounts to messing-around with a decent picture, and such child's toy-box things will make any serious photographer shudder. Why is this rubbish not hidden away out of sight, like it used to be?

This is what the Rouge filter does:

I will despise and revile you, if you think that is an improvement on the original picture. And it's the effect I inadvertently applied.

But let me show you what the 'serious' controls now look like. Hitting the Adjust button reveals this:

I don't mind what I see here. It's the same mostly-useful things as before, just rearranged. The Crop and Rotate button is still there. And there's a stack of simple, easy-to-use sliders, the immediately-visible ones being Light (they mean 'Exposure'), Colour (they mean 'Tint'), Warmth (they mean 'Colour Temperature') and Clarity (they mean 'Contrast'). If you scroll down, you reveal an additional slider for Vignette (a way of darkening all four corners of the shot, to create a period look - not terribly useful), and buttons for Spot Fix (to remove unwanted blemishes by clever cloning) and Red Eye (to restore black pupils in people's eyes when using flash has made them red). The new less-technical names for these functions are not a bad thing in themselves, and there's still a useful range of basic editing operations here. But why hide it?

I click on the Crop and Rotate button:

A grid is now superimposed on the shot, to help get the tilt and framing right. In the original picture, the car is somewhat nose-down, and I have tilted it up by two degrees, by dragging that little white blob on the right of the shot upwards with the touchpad pointer on my laptop. But it's another retrograde redesign. It doesn't work as smoothly as the equivalent tool on the previous version of the app. It'll do, but it isn't slick.

Cropping is done by dragging any of the white blobs at each corner of the shot inwards until the framing is right for the type of composition wanted:

Clicking Finished on the lower right fixes these adjustments.

I next return to the Adjust display, wanting to brighten up the picture by dragging the Light slider to the right:

And then, satisfied, I hit the dark blue Save button, and that's that. Next shot.

Now to that picture of Jo and me. I'd got to the point of wanting to save all of my careful adjustments. Here's the previous shot in the sequence, which shows what the 'real' colours would have been like:

Now disaster! The next thing I did was hit the Rouge filter button by mistake, as I was moving the pointer towards the Save button. And then hitting Save before I could stop myself. I would have got something like this:

You can imagine my feelings! The original decent shot gone forever. And this washed-out, lurid pink candyfloss abomination in its place. Ugh!

The actual picture in question was this one. It was too good to junk. So I tried very hard to restore it to what it had been. You see it below as it became after I'd first tried the various unsophisticated tweaks available in the Photos application:

Not too bad; but bigger guns were needed. Such as the Curves tool in Nikon Capture NX2. Eventually I improved the picture to this:

This result took quite a time to achieve, and it still wasn't quite as it was. But much nicer than the Rouge version!

I'm really concerned about those horrible colour filters being adjacent to the Save button, so that if you did as I did, and selected one by mistake, you would easily and irrevocably spoil a good shot. It's a design mistake.

Microsoft! Bad!


  1. Lucy, I am tempted to let my true feelings gush out on this subject but they may run longer than the blog post!

    I woke to find that my tablet email had been changed beyond recognition, garish like a child's game with a broad stripe of a headache inducing orange and only half the number of mails per page. It would seem that we are at the mercy of any idiot the company choses to employ, we think we have chosen a product and worked out how to use it then time after time it gets changed, usually for the worst.

    Microsoft is no better than Apple who just stopped supporting their serious photo program and now when images are loaded up pops their dumber than dumb basic toy program! Took me a day of online searches before I was instructed to delve into the program code myself to stop it but the dumb program cannot be deleted from the system and very few would have known how to stop their old images getting sucked into the new dumb program loosing all their old settings and albums!!

    As for putting mysterious and random buttons close together! This seems to be so stupid it could never happen but the converse is true. Google must think it a hoot to have delete and correct message within a fraction of a millimetre of a send button.

    I am years past my renew computer date for desktop and laptop but find myself being driven further away from using what I have and certainly not tempted by any of the replacements or the software running on them.

    The days of buying a working system with software which will not change have long gone. The subscription systems which are taking over carry all the faults you have mentioned and if anyone does a basic calculation you will eventually pay a fortune and be locked in until the end of time.

    Brave new world!

  2. You could investigate the two Nikon programs I use for my 'serious' editing operations: Nikon View NX2 and Nikon Capture NX2, both still available for download on the official Nikon UK website (you'll need to delve to find them) and yet no longer being developed (so that they will never now change/mutate).


    1. I did briefly try the earlier version which came when I bought a Nikon camera. They worked but not in a way which made sense to my poor brain. Perhaps I should give the newer versions a go. Someone let me try the adobe photo program and I hated the work methods of that one even more!


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