With digital cameras becoming the norm for the everyday photographer, photograph editing programs and applications have become the new darkrooms. Adobe Photoshop is the field’s Google, now synonymous with photo editing software and its use across the Internet. Unfortunately, Adobe Photoshop is not synonymous with affordability; for a full version of the program, expect to pay about $700. If you don’t have that kind of cash lying around, join the club, then check out one some of these free or reasonably priced alternatives.
Google’s photo album organization software, Picasa, is available for free for both Mac & PC, and has become a popular service for photo storage and sharing, since it is integrated with the rest of Google’s online application suite, including Gmail and Blogger. The photo editing suite has all the basic tools needed by the casual photographer: red eye reduction, color enhancement, cropping, image sharpening, and the like. By using Google Earth together with Picasa, you can even tag your pictures to the places on the globe where you took them. It’s a user-friendly, light program focused more on album organization, but has enough tools for beginners to be able to tinker with their photos a bit.
Consider this program Photoshop light. From the makers of the leading name in photo manipulation technology, Adobe, Photoshop Elements is a suite of basic photo manipulation and editing tools, available for $79, which is still a bit expensive, but far more reasonable than putting down for the main program. It has the same tools as Picasa, including facial recognition software that can tag people in your pictures based on other photos of them already in your albums. For your money, you’re getting the support of the makers of the leader of the pack, which means constant advice, tips and suggestions as you alter the photos in your collection.
Gimp is gaining recognition as a legitimate rival to Photoshop itself, in terms of depth and breadth of tools available for use. Some professional photograph editors have even turned to it, and it’s no small wonder: this software for both PC and Mac is completely free of charge. In addition to the simple editing tools of other applications geared toward beginners, Gimp throws in more options for color manipulation and more precise touch up controls. You can also use it to create great panorama photos by combining multiple pictures into one large one, though getting the picture just how you want it is going to take some time investment and a willingness to learn a little bit about more advanced photo editing techniques. It’s not for beginners, but it’s one of the richest and most versatile free applications for photography on the Internet.
This one is for the Apple fans out there. Pixelmator only works with Macs, and has several integrated features with a lot of other Apple products, like the iPhone or the iPod Touch. It’s got a little more color manipulation options than the average application, and supports layer-based editing, which helps to explain its $59 price tag. One comforting thing to note: the software supports over 100 still image file formats, which means no worrying about trying to find an obscure file converter somewhere in the corner of the Internet just to touch up one of your pictures.
Products like Photoshop Elements or Photoshop itself. It’s a browser application that acts as an organizer and grants the most basic of editing tools, like cropping and red-eye reduction. There are explanations for how to use every tool embedded in the application, so it’s a nice resource if you’re a first timer to the digital photography scene.
Picnik was recently acquired by Google, which means it is now integrated with Picasa. It basically acts as the photo editing software to Picasa’s photo organization suite. It’s a fine standalone program, though, as it allows the user to import photos directly from social media websites and search engines. It’s a basic photo editing suite, with mostly preset effects that can be added to photos, with some sliders for manual control of lighting and color saturation. More effects can be had by purchasing Picnik Premium, which, according to the free program, costs as little as $2.08 per month.
Pixlr is another browser-based photo editing application, similar to Photoshop Express Online. It’s a little more advanced, with a healthy set of options for layer-based editing. Despite the advanced tools, it’s a quality resource for novices, as it has user-friendly drop down menus and a robust FAQ reference guide that explains in detail what each tool does and how it can best be used in practice. It’s a solid learning tool for those interested in making a hobby out of photo manipulation, but doesn’t offer much in the way of photo album organization. Still, for a price of $0, you can’t complain about much.