Microsoft's free Windows Live Photo Gallery has several built-in tools that help you make the most of your digital snaps. Here, we walk you through how to use its panorama and AutoCollage features.

Step 1. Take a series of photos from a single vantage point, turning the camera slightly so that each shot overlaps the one preceding it. Transfer the photos to your PC, then fire up Windows Live Photo Gallery. Select the images you want to combine, then choose Panorama from the Create menu.

Photo Gallery step 1

Photo editor reviews

Step 2. The software will do the hard work for you, stitching the photos together. Photo Gallery will prompt you to name your panorama. Enter a title for your image and change the save location if necessary. Your shot will be displayed in Photo Gallery, where you can use the Crop tool to neaten up the edges.

Photo Gallery step 2

Group test: What's the best professional image-editing software?

Step 3. A number of plug-ins let you add more tools to the Create menu, including AutoCollage, which lets you combine interesting photos into a blended collage. To download a plug-in, click Create, More tools, ‘Download more photo tools’. The Plug-ins gallery will open in your browser. Click on a tool and choose Download now.

Photo Gallery step 3

How to fuse photos in Windows Live Photo Gallery 2011

Step 4. Run the setup file to install AutoCollage, then restart Photo Gallery. Select the images you want to appear in the collage. Click Create, More tools, ‘Add to AutoCollage’. In the AutoCollage window, click Create. The resulting collage can then be shared via email or saved to your PC.

Photo Gallery step 4