As family historians, we love images, don’t we?

And whether it is a screenshot from our computer, a photograph of our great grandparents or a downloaded image of a census record, sooner or later every genealogist will come across some image that would look better with a few minor edits.

The current price of Photoshop is enough to make a person cringe and even the home version, Photoshop Elements isn’t exactly cheap. And we would so much rather spend our available funds on our research than on expensive software. So what is a genealogist to do? Great news! Use the IrfanView program for Windows to do some simple image editing free!

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Compatible with Windows 9x, ME, NT, 2000, XP, 2003 , 2008, Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8



IrfanView Rescues Census Images

Some of the census images we download are tilted, have a lot of unnecessary black border and simply are just not great to look at.


Rotate the Image

First, to rotate the image slightly, choose Image from the file menu and then Custom Fine Rotation and try various options until the new image appears straight. Click on OK to apply the changes.

Free Image Editing


Crop the Image

Next crop out the extra background that isn’t needed. If you were going to print this image the way it is, you’d blow your budget on black ink! Use your mouse to draw a rectangle around just the portion of the image that you want to keep and select Edit from the menu and then Crop Selection.


That’s looking a little better but the shadowy area around the reference box is still a little dark and doesn’t look very nice, especially if you were going to use this image in a family history story or on your blog. What would be much better would be if we could just paint that area white to match the background. To do this, choose Edit from the file menu and then Display Paint Dialogue.

Clean Up the Image

Now select the eye dropper icon about midway down the paint dialogue box and click somewhere on your image that is white. Next, select the paintbrush icon from the paint dialogue box and using the paint brush, carefully paint the background area white. If your brush is too wide or too narrow, increase the width by adjusting the number of pixels (px). If you make a mistake, hold down the CONTROL key and press ‘Z’ to undo what you last did and try again.



Save the Image

My census image is now looking much better and I’m ready to save it. Choose File from the menu and then Save As and navigate to the place you want to save your image. IrfanView is able to save in many popular image file formats including JPG, PNG, GIF and TIFF. Each of these formats has its own pros and cons and I might do a future post about those but for now, I’m going to save my image in JPG since that is the format that it was in originally. I want to save it with the highest quality available. As my father used to tell me “We’ve got lots of taking off tools, but not very many putting on tools.” and the same is true in image editing. It is easy to re-size an image smaller but if you try to make a small image larger, the result will be grainy and hard to see.

Final Image

I could still have used the painting tools further to clean up the edges of the document but it certain looks much better now that it did before. There was no cost to me at all for the software and in total, it took me about two or three minutes to clean up this image.

Free Image Editing


What’s not to like?

Do you have a favourite free software program to use for genealogy? Leave your comments below.

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    • I don’t have the exact steps but I believe this is possible. I have seen others that have done it in this software. I typically upload my photos to roots magic and put a caption on it from within the software.


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