Windows 11 deep dive: Checking out the new Photos app
Windows 11 has been available for close to a year now, and it recently received its first major update with the Windows 11 2022 Update, or version 22H2. Both of these updates bring major changes to the table, and many of the included apps have also been redesigned, some more than others. That includes the Photos app.
While the changes aren’t major, the Photos app in Windows 11 has received a bit of a facelift and some new features, and we’re going to go through all the details here. Later this year, Microsoft is also going to be rolling out a very big update to the Photos app with much more significant changes. For now, though, this is only available in preview for Windows Insiders enrolled in the Dev channel.
Photos home page and sections
When you launch the Photos app, it won’t immediately look very different from the Windows 10 version. In fact, most of the content here isn’t new — only the UI has been tweaked slightly. You start off on the Collection page, which shows you every picture stored on your PC and OneDrive (if you have a Microsoft account connected). These are shown in chronological order, and you can see a timeline on the right side of the app window. At the top, there’s a set of AI-based photo groups, which are based on themes, dates, or places.
In the top left corner of the app, there are other views you can choose from.
- Albums lets you view albums you created yourself, as well as any albums the Photos app creates automatically based on dates, locations, and so on.
- The People tab uses AI to recognize people (if you enable it) in your pictures and groups all the pictures of the same person together.
- The Folders tab lets you see folders on your device or OneDrive, so you can browse your pictures in a more traditional way.
There’s also the video editor, but we’ll get to that later. Next to the different tabs is a search bar, letting you search for people, places, or things in your pictures to find them more easily.
Finally, over on the right corner are a few more options. The New button lets you start a video project or create a video automatically based on the images you choose, import a backup video project, or create a new album. There’s an Import button to add images to your library, specifically from external devices, and the ellipsis button has some additional options like accessing the app settings or starting a slideshow of the images in your current view.
Viewing images in the Windows 11 Photos app
The image viewer in the Windows 11 Photos app is where most of the changes are if you’re already familiar with the Windows 10 app. As you’d expect, opening an image takes up the entire app window, but now, you have a button near the top right corner that lets you make that image fullscreen. Of course, that’s far from the biggest change.
Near the top and aligned at the center, there’s the new toolbar where you can find common options. Here, you can zoom in and out, rotate, edit, or draw on an image. You can also delete it, add it to your favorites, or view information about the photo, such as when and where it was taken, what camera was used, and so on.
The ellipsis button gives you many more options, like printing, copying the image to the clipboard, resizing, setting an image as a desktop background, and more. You can also make more “advanced” edits like adding 3D animations or text to an image, which turns it into more of a video.
A big feature that’s revealed in this menu, however, is support for extensions. You’ll be able to download extensions from the Microsoft Store to enhance the image editing capabilities of the Photos app. It’s not clear yet what these extensions might be, but we may have a better idea soon.
That’s not all that’s new, either. Near the bottom of the picture, there’s a carousel showing more pictures from your library. The pictures shown here are the same ones you’d see in the grid view before opening an image, and you can easily switch between different images this way.
Another thing you can do is select multiple images and view them all on a single screen. This can be useful for choosing your favorite pictures from a group, especially if some of the pictures look similar to each other. You can easily delete images or add them to your favorites this way, but you can’t take any other actions when viewing multiple images at once.
Editing images in the Windows 11 Photos app
The image editing experience is also the same in the Windows 11 Photos app compared to Windows 10. Aside from the UI tweaks we see everywhere else on Windows 11, this is exactly the same. Of course, there’s the potential for new tools to be added with extensions, but we don’t know what that will look like yet. Many of the editing tools are available in different places, so we’ll go over them separately.
When you click the Edit image button in the toolbar mentioned above, you get three sets of option near the top of the app window, aligned at the center. The first set is for cropping or rotating the image. You can choose from different aspect ratios or a custom one, straighten the picture, rotate it, or flip it.
The second set of options includes a variety of filters, as well as the ability to automatically enhance your picture. This will adjust the brightness, contrast, and sharpness, and you can choose the intensity of enhancements to make it look the way you want to. The filters apply different color effects to the image, and you can also adjust their intensity to your liking. Finally, there’s the “adjustments” set, where you can manually adjust the brightness and saturation of the image. You can also increase or decrease the clarity or add a vignette.
If you want to draw on one of your images, you have to click the Draw button when using the image viewer. You can choose whether you want your doodles to resemble a ballpoint point, a pencil, or a calligraphy pen, and each option lets you choose from a variety of colors. You can also adjust the thickness of the pen. Of course, there’s also an eraser if you need it.
3D effects and animations
Another way you can edit photos (and videos) is by adding 3D objects, animations, or animated text. This turns your photo into more of a short video. To get started, click the ellipsis button in the image viewer, then go over to Edit more and choose what you want to add. If you choose Add 3D effects, you can add animations like rain or fire to the picture, as well as 3D objects. If you choose to add animated text, you can add text in different layouts, create a zoom or pan effect, and apply filters to the image.
The video editor in Windows 11 Photos
Finally, let’s take a look at the video editor in the Windows 11 Photos app. Again, this is something that hasn’t really changed from Windows 10 aside from overall UI tweaks. You’ll see rounded corners and new icons, but nothing has changed aside from that. When you switch to the video editor tab, you can create a new video project or see your recent ones.
Once you open a project, you can add images and videos to its library, and from there, you can add them to the “storyboard”, or the timeline of the video. You can choose how long still images should appear, and for videos, you can trim them or increase their playback speed.
Just like with the image editor, you can add 3D effects, motion, text, and more to individual objects on the storyboard. In videos, you can even attach 3D effects to a specific point on the video so it stays in the same place as you move around. You can also create animated title cards and add them at different points in the video.
In the top right corner, you can also add background music to the video. You can choose from a selection of included music styles, or you can add custom audio such as your own music or narration for the video.
The ellipsis menu also has some additional options, like adding a theme to the video, which includes music, effects, and title card/text styles. If you’ve already created title cards and text effects, this will also apply to them. You can also change the aspect ratio of the video, though you can only choose between 16:9 and 4:3 here.
Once you’ve added everything you wanted and made all the edits, you can export the final video using the Finish video button near the top right corner. You can choose to export at 540p, 720p, or 1080p, depending on the quality and file size you’re aiming for.
To round things out, let’s take a quick look at the app’s settings. You can access these using the ellipsis menu. There are some noteworthy settings here, such as the ability to disable viewing pictures from your OneDrive cloud storage. You can also choose to see pictures from all your OneDrive folders, or only the default Pictures folder.
Other options include viewing duplicate images as a single file, enabling or disabling people recognition in Photos, enabling or disabling automatic albums, or changing how the mouse wheel works. One option available here that won’t work is changing what the app tile displays because Windows 11 no longer has tiles. This is a holdover from Windows 10, and it should be removed at some point in the future.
That’s about all you need to know about the Photos app in Windows 11. There isn’t a lot that’s changed with the Windows 11 update, but the changes that are there are welcome ones. The new toolbar and the ability to view multiple images at once are certainly welcome. We have yet to see what extensions can add to the app’s capabilities, but the potential is exciting as well. As we’ve mentioned, there are even bigger changes on the way, and we’ll be sure to update this article as soon as they’re available.
Want to check out these and other Windows 11 features? We have a list of all the PCs that will support the Windows 11 upgrade, and you may also want to check the system requirements. And if you want to get the new version of the Photos app that’s coming soon, check out our guide to get the Windows 11 2022 Update, as you’re probably going to need it if you want the new features.