Getting RAW support in Photo Gallery & Windows 7 (…and a contest!)

Over on Inside Windows Live, Brad Weed announced today the release of the new Microsoft Camera Codec Pack. This enables the ability to natively render supported RAW photo file formats in Windows 7 (Windows Explorer) and in Windows Live Photo Gallery. Being that I’m someone who shoots a lot of photos and manages them with Photo Gallery, I thought I’d blog about the process of getting RAW support with the Microsoft Camera Codec Pack.

First off – you’re going to need the QFE2 update for Windows Live Essentials 2011 for the Microsoft Codec Pack to work correctly with Windows Live Photo Gallery. To install that update, head on over to download.live.com and run the Windows Live installer. It will update Windows Live Essentials if you don’t have QFE2 installed. And if you do have it installed, it will tell you there’s nothing to update. If you don’t use Photo Gallery, you can view RAW files from within Windows Explorer by installing the Microsoft Codec Pack separately by itself via the Microsoft Download Center. However you need to have QFE2 installed for Windows Live Essentials to ensure the RAW photo support functions correctly.

With QFE2 installed, Windows Live Photo Gallery will detect if you have photos in any of the supported RAW photo file formats and will alert you that a codec pack is available for download. You’ll of course want to choose to download and install!

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One thing to note is that if you have any third party RAW photo codecs installed from manufacturers such as Nikon or Canon, Photo Gallery won’t prompt you to install the Microsoft Camera Codec Pack.

Once the Microsoft Camera Codec Pack is installed, you can view your RAW photos in Photo Gallery and also in Windows Explorer. When you also import RAW photos off your camera, you will also see them displayed in the Import Photos and Videos wizard where can choose which ones you want to import (see below screenshot).

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When you double click on a RAW photo in Photo Gallery and want to edit it, Photo Gallery will alert you that you need to make a JPEG copy of the photo. You will need to make a JPEG or JPEG-XR (also known as HD Photo) copy in order to edit the photo. This includes being able to fix red-eye, make color and other image adjustments.

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You can think of RAW photos are sort of like the “negatives” of your photos where you can always go back to the original but make as many copies as you want with various edits and tweaks.

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For me – I often make a copy of a photo and add the black and white effect allowing me to create a black and white photo. But because I have the RAW photo which is in color, I can always go back to a color photo if I want! I also like to adjust the coloring of my photos as well. Again, it’s great to be able to go back to the original and have that option (although Photo Gallery allows you to revert any changes you make the JPEG copy too!).

With RAW files in Photo Gallery you can still add people tags, geotags, captions and descriptive tags to those photos. And this data is preserved when you make a JPEG copy too!

Overall, it’s great having this functionality in Photo Gallery and makes managing photos even better on your Windows 7 PC!

To celebrate the release of the Microsoft Camera Codec Pack, we’re giving away 10 free Nikon/D5000 DSLR cameras! The contest objective is to submit a photo essay that showcases before and after photos that map to theme of the contest which is “summer fun”. You will need to also include a short paragraph explaining how Windows (and Photo Gallery!) has improved your photography. We’re giving 10 extra points for contest entries that use the Microsoft Camera Codec Pack that displays the RAW original and then edited photo from Photo Gallery in their submissions! Click here for contest rules. You can submit your entries here!