Free Yourself from Photoshop
Photoshop is without doubt the most well known and respected photo editing software. It is one of the few software packages that have been made a common verb. If a photo is thought to have been edited to make an individual look more attractive it is often described as being “Photoshopped”.
However, Photoshop is a premium photo editing tool. Photoshop Elements currently retails at around £50 ($66) and the full version costs around £500 ($575). For the professional photographer this is not a high price to pay for such a powerful piece of software. For the average hobby photographer there are several free alternatives which do a fantastic job.
GIMP – GNU Image Manipulation Program
GIMP is an open source program that was originally built for Linux operating systems but has now been ported to Windows. It is a comprehensive photo editing suite which can handle most file types including RAW image types for the digital SLR owners. There really is not a lot that you can do in Photoshop that cannot be done with GIMP. Download GIMP for Windows here: www.gimp.org
Irfanview is a graphic view which comes with some basic editing features. It’s main advantage over other photo editors is that it is very quick to load making it ideal for quick crops and resizing jobs. It offers some advanced features such as batch conversions, various effects including Sharpen and Blur. It can read most file types including RAW and Photoshop files. It is free to use for non-commercial users. Download Irfanview here: www.irfanview.com/main_download_engl.htm
Not to be confused with Paint, the WIndows graphics editor. Confusingly Paint.NET is hosted on www.getpaint.net. It offers some advanced features such as layers, red eye removal, blurring and sharpening plus resizing, rotating and zooming. In 2010 Lifehacker said that “Paint.NET is just about perfect …” in its list of essential Windows downloads and PC World described it as “Impressive” in a list of the top 100 products of 2007.
Pixia is another free graphics editor for Windows. It was designed primarily as a graphics editor for animators but many of the features can be used for photo editing too. It supports most file formats including Photoshop files. It was build by a Japanese company but English language support is increasing. If you are looking for an application to edit photos and draw graphics then this is a good choice. More for those looking to create adverts and other image based work. Download the English version of Pixia here: www.ne.jp/asahi/mighty/knight/download.html
Picnik is a collaborative project with Flickr. It offers a range of advanced features such as layers and special effects and also makes simple edits very easy. It offers real time editing to speed up cropping, rotating and resizing images. It is also a browser based tool so there is nothing to install. To get started you just go to www.picnik.com/app You can install it into Chrome too. They have an active community on Facebook (7,152,369 fans) which is great for getting quick advice and support.
Like Picnik, Splashup is also a browser based photo editing tool. Splashup was previously called Fauxto. The main advantage of using Spashup is that it integrates with popular photo sharing websites such as Picasa, Flickr and Facebook so that you can upload your photos and edit them directly. To go direct visit www.splashup.com/splashup/ which will open a familiar looking photo editing screen where you can open any image, wither from your PC or from a photo sharing site, and start editing.
FotoFlexer is another online image editor which allows you to edit and add special effects to photos in a browser. Like Splashup it connects with the popular photo sharing sites to make your task of editing images much quicker. It provides all the standard editing options along with retouching, doodling and distortions. You can also add text to images. Visit fotoflexer.com to get started.
Adobe Photoshop Express
From the makers of Photoshop, Photoshop Express is another web based photo editor that is free to use. It does not provide layers but does provide all the standard features that the average user needs to edit images, such as cropping, resizing and colour adjustments. Also when you register (you need to sign up to use it) you get 2Gb of free photo storage and a personal gallery and profile page. It makes an ideal place to edit photos and share with friends and family. You can even store and stream videos from Photoshop Express, so can download videos from your camera and share with friends. The Photoshop Express online editor: www.photoshop.com/tools/expresseditor?wf=editor
As you can see there are several free photo editing options available. The browser based tools are great if you use shared PC’s although they are not as powerful as the desktop programs. GIMP is possibly the best of these for its range of features and the excellent support which is common in the Linux community. If you are familiar with Photoshop already then Photoshop Express is probably the first one for you to look at. The free storage and Adobe stamp make it a relatively safe place to store your images.