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IrfanView offers a one-stop-shop for making quick adjustments to photos. It also houses a little-known secret: its large plugins library. With the right plugins, or filters (what’s a filter? A Quick Guide to Photoshop Filters and What They Do A Quick Guide to Photoshop Filters and What They Do Photoshop comes with a few dozen filters of its own and these are more than enough for amateurs and hobbyists. Here's a quick guide to what they do. Read More ), IrfanView can do for free what other programs charge money for.

We covered how to use IrfanView View, Resize, & Manipulate Image Files With Classic Utility IrfanView [Windows] View, Resize, & Manipulate Image Files With Classic Utility IrfanView [Windows] We all work with image files, all the time; be they graphics for the Web, corporate images for work, or just holiday snaps. These days there are more digital images than ever before. Windows comes... Read More in the past. This article focuses on some of its most useful plugins — and how they can improve your photos. Specifically, it improves some of the most common photography problems: Poorly detail shots, overexposed pictures caused by bright light, and photos with contrast and brightness issues.

How to Get IrfanView’s Plugins?

While users can install each plugin individually (6 IrfanView plugins 6 Cool IrfanView Plugins To Enhance This Simple Image Editor 6 Cool IrfanView Plugins To Enhance This Simple Image Editor Read More ,) an easy method of installing (almost) all at the same time exists.

First, you must install IrfanView, if you haven’t already. For both 32-bit and 64-bit users, I recommend using the 32-bit installation. If you own a 32-bit computer, you cannot install 64-bit software.

Second, download the 32-bit IrfanView plugins installer and execute the installer. It should automatically detect IrfanView’s location on your system and copy the plugins there. If it does not, you will need to manually point it to the installation directory.

3 IrfanView Plugins to Improve Your Photos

1. Poor Detail Shots: Use the AltaLux Plugin

The Altalux plugin allows users to bring out a lot of hidden details in most photos. For example, here’s a shot of my dog, Cubby, without any filters applied:

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cubby would rather be a forest than a street

As you can see, the ground is paved with blacktop. Some grit and texture are visible, but the human eye doesn’t pick up much more than that. With the filter applied, a great deal more details pop out. Here’s what the filter looks like with its settings turned up to max:

cubby forest with altalux plugin applied

Of course, AltaLux looks great when its settings aren’t cranked up to the max. To run the filter (after installing it,) open the desired image with IrfanView. You can also launch the program and drag-and-drop a picture onto it.

Once, you’ve loaded the picture, first navigate to Image in the menu bar at the top. Second, select Effects, toward the bottom of the context menu.

irfanview altalux usage

Last, choose AltaLux effect… (Plugin). This launches AltaLux.

2016-06-04_17h57_29

The AltaLux interface offers a minimal amount of clutter. Users can set Scale and Intensity (on the right side) by sliding them up or down. The default settings tend to be good enough though.

altalux plugin usage ui

And that’s it! The plugin is easy to use.

2. Harry’s Plugins

Harry’s Plugins isn’t a single filter, but an array. While all of them offer good functionality, my favorite use is for darkening overexposed pictures.

Here’s an example of an overexposed photo:

before-expose-filter-applied

After applying Harry’s Overexpose filter, here’s what it looks like:

expose-filter-applied-to-photo

As you can see, the background light is less harsh. And the overall picture’s composition is more palatable.

To run Harry’s Filter, go to Image > Adobe 8BF Plugins > Harry’s Filters.

harrys filters demonstration

The Harry’s Filters interface looks like this:

harrys-filters

To change filters, click on the FX drop-down menu. From the drop-down menu, choose Expose. Once it’s selected, you can change the parameters of the filter by adjusting Brightness. Once finished, hit the Save button.

playing-with-harrys-filters

There are quite a few more filters inside of Harry’s Filters. I encourage you to check them out.

3. Filter Sandbox

Other than Harry’s Filters, users can also access the Filter Sandbox plugin. Like Harry’s Filters, the Sandbox plugins offer a range of filters. The majority of these filters only add Instagram-like effects. However, it also includes four “automatic” plugins that genuinely improve the quality of a photograph with just a few mouse-clicks.

To get started with Filter Sandbox navigate to Image > Effects > Filter Sandbox… (Plugin).

filter-sandbox-example-irfanview

You should see the Filter Sandbox menu. The first four entries offer automatic adjustment of images.

filter-sandbox-example

Each of the filters’ settings can be tweaked by clicking on the Parameters option, located at the menubar. To filter an image, just click on the appropriate filter and choose Start from the bottom of the screen. You can then close the Filter Sandbox interface and save the image. The interface also offers an easy-to-access Undo option.

Here’s an example of a kind of underexposed, muddy-looking image:

triby-before-applying-filters

Here’s what it looks like after applying four different automatic filters, with the default settings:

triby after using all auto filters

As you can see, the photo looks sharper, cleaner, and suffers from zero loss in quality. Overall, the four automatic filters offer a lot of improvement.

Other IrfanView Plugins

Other than sprucing up old photos, the IrfanView plugins cover a very wide range of features, including Optical Character Recognition (3 OCR tools tested What's The Best Free OCR or ICR Program For Manuscript Transcription? What's The Best Free OCR or ICR Program For Manuscript Transcription? I'm looking for a free Optical Character Recognition (OCR) or Intelligent Character Recognition (ICR) program to scan my old manuscripts from images or photographs so I can convert them into Microsoft Word files. Read More ,) a method for running multiple filters simultaneously, and more. Although some free filters, such as Google’s Nik Collection How to Get Started with Google's Free Nik Plugins for Photography How to Get Started with Google's Free Nik Plugins for Photography Google made its Nik Collection plug-ins completely free. The plugins work with photo editing software, such as Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. Here's how to get started. Read More plugins offer a wider range of features, nothing beats IrfanView’s plugins library in terms of simplicity and effectiveness.

What’s the Best IrfanView Plugin for Photos?

The best plugin for IrfanView is AltaLux. It’s great, easy-to-use, and worth a lot of money — even though it’s completely free. Another option is to take better pictures 6 Easy Tips For Taking Photos That Don't Require Photoshop Fixes 6 Easy Tips For Taking Photos That Don't Require Photoshop Fixes Read More so you don’t need filters.

Anyone else love fixing up old photos? Let us know what filters you are using!

  1. fcd76218
    June 21, 2016 at 7:26 pm

    "With the filter applied, a great deal more details pop out."
    But the text gets lost in the blacktop detail. :-)
    Just yanking your chain a little bit, Kannon. I'm sure it is a great plugin, especially when not used to specifically illustrate a point. I used IrfanView for many years until I moved from Windows to Linux. It was definitely easier to use than GIMP.

    • Kannon Yamada
      June 24, 2016 at 3:39 am

      Ah! I didn't notice that until you pointed it out.

      Hopefully Irfan ports IrfanView to Linux. It's such a great image utility, it would be a shame if it never became open source.

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