People are taking photographs more and more these days, in no small part to the fact that their mobile devices such as phones and tablets now have very good quality camera’s built into them. For a lot of people though, there is a need to edit photographs, allowing you to perform things such as layers, or take objects out of the picture or simply change the colours to make them more vibrant, or even just black and white.
There are a wealth of options out there today, but this article looks at the five best free photo editing software programs that are out there today. Each one has been used extensively by myself, and each one has a reason why it has been used more or less than the other programs.
For many people, the holy-ground of photo editing and manipulation is the PhotoShop program. An expensive and complete package that many professionals use. However, there are other programs that professionals and nonprofessionals alike use which do the job without the overkill of PhotoShop. Some are simple to use, others very similar to PhotoShop, but all are free to use and do the job more than adequately.
No photo editing list would be complete without GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) on the list, and for a good reason too. GIMP 2,8 is used by professional photographers more and more because of it’s free nature, it’s feature-packed options and the fact that it does things that PhotoShop doesn’t do, and with the addition of free-add-on’s, it forever getting better and more customisable.
To a lot of people the idea of a free program that is as good as PhotoShop is quite absurd, however GIMP is that program. As of GIMP 2.8, it now features a single-window mode, which means that it’s even more accessible to people without much knowledge of such packages, and it looks great too!
Feature-wise we’re talking major league programming here, with an infinitely customisable interface, rich photo-enhancing capabilities, multiple layers, advanced digital retouching, hardware-support for almost any device imaginable, a huge range of file formats that it can deal with and it’s available across Windows, Linux, Mac Operating Systems and more.
It’s a great program, with a lot to offer, although for many it has a lot of features that the average person will just never use (just like PhotoShop). GIMP has a high learning curve, and is ideal for people with a bit of a background in photo manipulation programs. It can’t be faulted, and it is updated on a regular basis meaning it always has the newest features fast.
Although a little known program, PhotoFiltre is the go-to photo manipulation program for myself. It is available in a number of versions, catering for all levels of ability. Even the most basic version of PhotoFiltre though (version 6) is an absolute beast when it comes to helping you with your photo editing.
PhotoFiltre can be thought of as PhotoShop without all the crap that you don’t need, put nicely into a well designed package that allows you to edit photos quickly and effectively. It’s fast, well supported and will have your photo’s looking better after just a few minutes of use.
As for it’s features, PhotoFiltre is now slouch, as it has all that you need to edit your photos, with a great range of filters, selection tools, retouching tools, various brushes and paints to edit photos and the ability to add additional plug-in’s to the program to the things that you need. The more advanced versions also have layer support.
PhotoFiltre really is a great program, and one which deserves to be used a lot more by people. It’s available for Windows in various versions from the basic free-version, a more advanced free version and a paid versions, and there is also a Linux version which is currently in the works. Each of them is ideal for anyone interested in working with photographs and making them look even better.
Unlike GIMP and PhotoFiltre, Pixlr Editor is a browser based photo editor that runs quite happily on any machine as long as your browser supports it. Pixlr Editor is quickly becoming my second-most go-to photo editor, as being in a browser, it’s quick to access and simple to use.
Compared to the previous offerings, Pixlr Editor is on a similar standing on what you can achieve with it, and as it’s browser based, it keeps getting updated itself, and you can edit your photos no matter what machine you are on, even if it normally struggles with photo editing software.
Pixlr Editor features a host of great editing features, with a great array of filters (including Vignette without having to add a plugin or add-on as you have to in some other programs), colour adjustments, layers and a wide selection of touch-up tools. There are not as many file options as in other editing programs, however the most common file formats are supported.
Pixlr Editor is quick and easy to use, and has some good quality features that are simple to use and give a good result. While it may not be as customisable as the others, it’s great to use when you want something done quickly and want a good result.
Where Paint.Net excels is it’s ability to be a middle ground for all of the above programs that have been mentioned. Paint.Net is like a combination of everything you love about GIMP, PhotoShop, Paint, PhotoFiltre and Pixlr Editor, lovingly packaged and quite simple to use.
Paint.Net has a great selection of tools to enable your photo’s to be edited quickly and simply. The designers of Paint.Net have tried to make the fasted photo editing software available, and to some extent, Paint.Net does feel fast, however, it’s all about preference, and for some reason I’ve never really got-on with Paint.Net as much as other software, that said, it’s a great program with a lot to offer.
Google has this wonderful offering, a simple yet powerful photo editing software program that has some great results. Although it doesn’t have all the features of a GIMP 2.8 or PhotoFiltre 6, it does have some nice filters and simple cropping effects that allow you to make an effective looking picture very quickly.
Picasa 3.9 concentrates on the most popular filters, such as fading or colourising photo’s and adding vignette effects to them. As a stand alone program, Picasa will load in all the photos on your PC, thankfully there is the ability to hide any photo’s or albums that you do not wish to have in your editing list.
As mentioned, this is meant to be a quick fix for photographs, with minimal cropping tools, you won’t be able to copy and paste or crop to your hearts content, or even resize your photograph easily, however you will be able to get good results and send them quickly to a new folder or to Google+.
Picasa 3.9 is a good alternative program to have on your PC, and although not used as the main photo editing software on my PC, it is there for times when I want something done quickly and differently.
There is no one piece of photo editing software that everyone is going to like. Some people have different preferences for different programs mentioned in this list, while others will only ever use one piece of software.
If I was to recommend one of these photo editing programs, it would be PhotoFiltre. It is the easiest to use, and gives the best results, and once you’ve added all the plugin’s, it becomes a very powerful piece of software that you’ll find yourself using daily.