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How to Take Stills from Video

written by: Misty Faucheux•edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom•updated: 1/18/2011

You can use still images as thumbnails for your video or even as a CD cover. But, you first need to extract a still image from your video. Luckily for you, we teach you how to take stills from video in this video editing tutorial

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    Capturing a Still

    A camcorder allows you to capture all the action of an event or scene. Yet, sometimes you need a still image, especially if you want to use an image from your video as a CD cover or thumbnail. When you are using a camcorder, you can’t really carry around a regular still camera as well, or quickly switch to the still setting of your camcorder. So, you are faced with a question: how to take stills from video?

    While it may seem complicated, it’s actually quite easy. Nearly every type of video editing program now has a feature that allows you take a snapshot of a particular frame of video. You can even do this in a simple program like Windows Movie Maker.

    The first step is to scroll to the exact frame of the video that you want to capture. If your video is still on your digital camcorder, then you need to download it and open it in your video editing program. Once you find the frame that you want, then you can take a snapshot. This creates a digital still, just like a photograph.

    Most video editing programs have a Take Picture or Take Snapshot feature. For example, in Windows Movie Maker, it’s Take Picture while in ImageGrab, which is a free program, it’s Take Snapshot. The program will save the still to your hard drive, usually in 640 x 480 resolution.

    Every program is a little different, so read through your software manual. Or, do some online research to figure out how to take a still in your particular software program.

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    Screen Shot

    If you don’t have a software program with this capability, you can use the screen capture feature standard, which comes standard on every computer. This is commonly known as the Print Screen button. Windows 7 even has a special screen capture button specifically for this purpose.

    Just pause the video on the clip that you want to capture and expand the video so that it fits the entire screen. Then, hit the screen capture button, and save the image to your hard drive.

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    Clean Up Your Image

    Once you are done taking your picture, you will probably need to clean it up a bit. The resolution of the stills usually isn’t that great. So, you may have to sharpen your still a bit. Try adjusting the hue and saturation as well if the image looks a little washed out.

    Then, use the Save As option and save your video still in the highest resolution possible. This reduces compression, but it creates a large file. If you are planning on printing out your still, only create a 4 x 6 photo. Even with the changes that you made, the image quality is still not going to be good enough for an extremely large print size.