All things history and genealogy.

All things history and genealogy.

Tag: photoscape

Photoscape image editing software is a gem for the genealogist.

Photoscape image editing software is the one photo imaging and editing program I use most often in relation to my genealogy research.

Photoscape Logo
I spent my career life creating, altering or designing images, graphics, documents, etc. However, I have found that using the professional level software packages I once used for editing these images for genealogy to be like flying a million dollar airplane to shop at the cross-town supermarket – totally unnecessary and a waste of space and resources.

Working with images for genealogy is necessary to adjust for exposure problems, crop, flip, rotate and deskew images. These are fairly basic functions, but I was frustrated time and again when trying to find a simple, effective, efficient program that has a small footprint and uses the minimum of system resources.

The free program I eventually settled on and have come to love is ‘Photoscape‘. Photoscape is for use with Windows, while the recently Photoscape X is for use on the Mac OS X.

I am not familiar with all the features Photoscape has available, but I do know that the ones I routinely use are only a small percentage of the whole.

Elmer and Ethel Gummeson
Elmer and Ethel Gummeson

The functions I have found invaluable are in the ‘Editor’ section and are:

  • MOST IMPORTANT are the ‘Undo’ and ‘Redo’ for obvious reasons.
  • Rotate 90 degrees, either counter-clockwise or clockwise
  • Rotate freely
  • Flip horizontally or vertically

Home Tab

  • Contrast Enhancement – to increase depth and contrast.
  • Deepen – a less harsh method of increasing depth and contrast without losing as much in the midtones.
  • Brighten – to adjust for underexposure.
Ethel Mary Alexzena Ward
Ethel Mary Alexzena Ward
Elmer Gummeson
Elmer Gummeson
  • Darken – to adjust for overexposure.
  • Decolor – to ‘wash out’ colors for a more vintage muted look.
  • White Balance – helps remove color casts by returning what should be whites to the original white while adjusting all other colors and tones the same degree.
  • Sepia – Monotone vintage look.
  • Grayscale
  • Sharpen – To adjust for small amounts of blur and lack of contrast.
  • Bloom – an all-in-one adjustment function for varying levels of brightness and contrast while also setting desired levels of ‘blur’.
  • Backlight – Adjusts shadowed images as if a backlight had been used in taking the image.

Crop Tab

  • Crop Freely
  • Crop Round Image

Tools Tab

  • Red Eye Correction
  • Mole Removal

With any of these adjustments, it is important to not go too far ahead so you can ‘undo’ or ‘redo’. In some cases, such as ‘Bloom’, ‘Contrast’, ‘Brighten’ and ‘Darken’ – a small adjustment goes a long way.

The way Photoscape works best for me is for altering images as I’m putting them into the database. I especially like to use ‘primary images’ as much as possible for each person. In cases where their image is only available among a group, I use this software to crop it out, make the necessary adjustments, save it under a new name (very important to not save over original image) and attach to that person. I find that this method is quick and seemless – especially if you have a long monitor that allows you to resize and view both in one window, or if you have a dual monitor setup.

This Photoscape software also has a safeguard that has saved me more than a few times. Every image that is altered is saved in its original state to an ‘Originals’ folder within the main folder. Just be careful. If you reopen and work on the image more than once, each successive altered image becomes the new ‘original’. If you want to differentiate between these originals, be sure to either rename or number them.

Photoscape image editing software┬áis an essential part of my genealogy ‘toolkit’ and I’m sure that you will find it as useful as I have.

My Ideal Setup for Genealogy Research

Over fifteen years of genealogy research, I have added to, adjusted and tweaked my setup until I have achieved what I believe to be the ideal setup for genealogy research.

In the Beginning


When I started, I had only an early personal computer operating Windows 94 and Microsoft Office, a basic scanner, small black and white printer, and for media I used floppies and a zip drive.

There were a lot of negatives about operating in those early years. Although the internet was beginning to open doors for researchers, there was not much data transcribed for online access, even if it was free. This meant a good portion of my research had to be done the old fashioned way using ‘snail mail’, the telephone and the fax machine. The internet helped me locate the resources and organizations to whom I should correspond and what specifically was available to be accessed.

I used the original free Ancestry Family Tree software that was available prior to taking over Family Tree Maker. Although I had tried Family Tree Maker, I hadn’t like it at all because it was primitive and the interface was rather unattractive and ‘clunky’. Had decided to work with and improve the original Ancestry Family Tree software, I’d probably still be using it.

Learning and Adapting

During the years following until about seven years ago, I operated with the same equipment, becoming much more proficient and knowledgeable. The software, however, was another matter. I was never happy with Family Tree Maker and after doing some research, I switched to RootsMagic. I loved the smooth interface, reports, charts, source cataloging, and data entry features including the flexibility handling unorthodox formats for dates, etc.

By this time, I had become very dissatisfied with the image editing quality in Windows software. I had long been considering switching to a Mac, and soon after moving to British Columbia, my Windows computer crashed and I took the opportunity to switch. I immediately realized how much better the Mac was for working with documents and images, but there was one huge drawback – there was no Mac version of RootsMagic.

I diligently researched all Mac software available and wasted a lot of money trying several. The first one I tried was the Mac version of Family Tree Maker. I didn’t like it any better than the Windows version. In order to continue with my genealogy research and input, I tried two virtual environments, Parallels, VMWare and VirtualBox,  so I could operate RootsMagic on the Mac. Parallels caused a lot of performance issues on the computer, ranging in severity from system slowdowns to outright crashes. VMWare was only slightly better. I finally tried and liked VirtualBox and although it wasn’t as smooth and seamless as I like, I continued using it. (RootsMagic has since released a Mac version that I have never tried.)

Stumbling Along

During the next couple of years, I tried Mac Family Tree, Reunion, MyBlood and Legacy. While using all of these, I missed RootsMagic horribly and ended up purchasing a NetBook so I could operate RootsMagic on the required Windows operating system.

Then I heard about Heredis, a new software that operated on a Mac. I purchased it because the free trial would only allow working with a small, limited quantity of individuals, leaving lots of areas in my database of 115,000+ individuals where I was unable to assess its suitability. I loved this software, but there was one huge drawback I couldn’t live with. It did not provide the flexibility and variety of date formats I needed. I’m a stickler for observing the ‘record dates exactly as they appear in the original source and only use the calculated date for the sort’ camp. My husband’s ancestry is deeply rooted in the Welsh Quaker culture and therefore I frequently find, use and interpret the Quaker date formats like ‘3d mo. 17 1682’. In Heredis, this had to be translated to a more standard date format and left a great deal of room for error.

I installed RootsMagic once again, and I still use it today. I use the Mac for the more intricate and detailed image editing and everything outside my genealogy pursuits. I would still love for RootsMagic to release a Mac version, but after years of requesting they do so, I’ve given up.

Another issue I’ve experienced through the years is ensuring the security, storage and portability of data. I tried everything up to and including CDs, DVDs, and flash/thumb drives. All of these options have notoriously short shelf lives and are vulnerable to malfunction, corruption and damage. Instead, I invested in an external hard drive a couple of years ago and it has worked out very well. I still keep my files on my computers and back up frequently to the external hard drive. This drive is easily ejected and inserted for portability and is not nearly as vulnerable as the other storage media choices.

The result is, unless RootsMagic is ever offered in a Mac version, I feel I have the best system possible for my genealogy research, data input, graphic and image editing, file storage and backup, and portability of data.

computer cubicleMy Ideal Setup

Mac computer

  • Its resident image editing software is much more intuitive and gives higher quality results, especially when trying to improve poor images.

Windows notebook computer

  • RootsMagic software requires Windows.
  • For portability when traveling or away from home.
  • Photoscape free software for backup image editing. Although not as good quality, it’s a great backup when away from the Mac or travelling.
  • Sticky Notes is great for quick saving of notes and ‘cut and paste’ of data.
  • Wordpad for working with and quick editing of longer strings of text before inputting into software.

External Storage

  • 1T external hard drive for backup and secure storage of genealogy data and files.
  • CDs for portable storage and mailing of data and files.
  • Flash/thumb drives for immediate, short term, portable storage of files and data.

High Resolution Smart Phone or Digital Camera

  • To take high resolution digital images of publications pages and documents in libraries and archives, especially where there are restrictions on photocopying and scanning.


  • RootsMagic (is now available for the Mac)
  • iPhoto and Preview
  • Grab
  • RootsMagic (paid)
  • Photoscape (free)
  • Sticky Notes (free with Windows)
  • Wordpad (free with Windows)
  • Snipping Tool

photo credit: archie4oz via photopin cc