The problem

Let's say you're watching the video a friend (or enemy) just posted on YouTube, and the expression on her cat's face is just priceless. You want to capture that forever, but how? Or maybe you saw a picture of the coolest hamstermobile ever on Kia's website, but it's embedded in an Adobe Flash® presentation and you can't use any of your usual tricks to save the picture. Frustrated yet? Want to know how to save that image to your hard drive? Here are several solutions that will work on computers running Windows software.

A Solution for Newer Operating Systems

The Snipping Tool(128890)
Credit: author

Grabbing an image with the Snipping Tool

Windows 7 machines and some versions of Windows Vista include a Snipping Tool. You can use this handy feature to cut a window or rectangular area off your screen. You can either pause a video at the "sweet spot" or click the "New" button just before the critical moment occurs. Here: watch a video of me capturing an image of some guy riding a bicycle. 

Using the Snipping Tool to grab a frame from a movie

Start the Snipping Tool software and capture a small, random rectangle on your screen. You should arrange your screen so you can see both the video and the snipping tool window and the browser window, and they don't overlap. Resize either or both as needed.

Now, start the video running. When you see the image you want to save, click the "New" button on the Snipping Tool. This freezes the video so you can capture the rectangular area you want to save. When you have what you want, use the Save feature to write the file to disk.

The Every Windows Computer Can Do This Solution

Use the Print Screen Key(128888)
Credit: Stannered / wikimedia commons

Using Print Screen

This one's probably the clumsiest method, but if you have any version of the Windows Operating system at all it will work. When you press the Print Screen key,  everything displayed on your screen at that exact moment is saved as an image and copied to your computer's clipboard. 

You can pause a video at the critical moment before pressing the key, or just punch the key when the video hits the right spot. With a little practice you can learn how to account for any time lag there might be between key-click and capture, usually less than a second.


Modifying a screen capture

The Paint Program
Credit: author

Cropping a screen capture in Paint

Paint is a fairly crude graphics software, but it's not hard to use. So, immediately after pressing the print screen key, start the Paint program from your program menu (see above). It will open with a blank "canvas." Now:

  1. Paste the screen grab from the clipboard into paint. You can either choose "Paste" from the program's "Edit" menu, or just type Control-V.
  2. Use the marquee tool (it looks like a box made with a dashed line) to ourline the section you want to save. Keep trying until you get the part you want.
  3. Cut the "good" portion out of the full screen grab by choosing "Cut" from the "Edit" menu or typing Control-X
  4. Choose "New" from the "File" menu. Don't bother saving the full-screen image. 
  5. Paste the cropped image into the new, blank canvas with the "Paste" command or Control-V.
  6. Save the file.

You've got it: you're done!

Adobe Flash® Presentations

The same tools and procedures can be use to capture still images from an Adobe Flash presentation, whether animated or still. 


Software Solutions

There are many commercial, shareware and freeware programs that allow for screen grabs. The better ones allow you to edit your screen grab and even make videos on-screen. For this presentation, I used a copy of a program names SnagIt to capture all the images and make the video.