[SNAP!] Photo Editing Apps

Category: Photography

Photos rarely are rarely perfect straight out of the camera. That’s why Photoshop is one of the most successful apps ever. But Photoshop is overly expensive and complicated for casual photographers. Fortunately, there are many free and inexpensive alternatives that do most of the things Photoshop does. Here are a few of them for desktop and mobile platforms...

Desktop Photo Editors

GIMP is probably the closet thing to a Photoshop clone, and it’s free. This open-source program is supported by an army of volunteer geeks who also happen to be shutterbugs, and it’s been around for an incredible 20 years. There’s even a plug-in repository that provides specialized capabilities not found in Photoshop.

GIMP is not without its flaws, however. Many of its filters have not been updated in the 21st century, and the constant tinkering with code by many independent parties means it’s prone to glitches and even crashes. It's also not the most user-friendly tool for novices who just want to make a few simple tweaks to photos before printing or posting them. Nonetheless, if you need a full-power photo editor, you probably need GIMP.

Paint.NET is a simpler but powerful free alternative to Photoshop or GIMP. Don’t be misled by the name; this is not a clone of Microsoft’s crude Paint accessory found in Windows. It includes basic editing tools like layers, multiple undo layers, filters, plugins, and a 3D rotate/zoom function. Paint.NET is recommended for computers that are light on resources and photographers who need only basic editing features.

Photo editors - Desktop / Cloud / Mobile

IrfanView is named after its creator, Irfan Skiljan. IrfanView does image viewing, editing, file format conversion, and also serves as a media player for audio and video files. It supports many file types including BMP, GIF, JPEG, PNG, TIFF, camera RAW, non-image media files such as Flash, Ogg Vorbis, MPEG, MP3, MIDI, and text files. It supports TWAIN scanners and can take screenshots. Images can be cropped, resized, and rotated. Brightness, contrast, tint, and gamma levels can be adjusted manually or automatically. IrfanView sports a simple interface that enables you to do the most common functions easily. One minor gripe I have with IrfanView is that if you accidentally press the Esc key, the program closes immediately, without asking if you want to save the file that's open.

PhotoScape is even more beginner-oriented, and also free. But it includes features such as AW conversion, photo splitting and merging, animated GIF creation, and even an unusual but handy function that lets you print lined, graph or sheet music paper.

Pixlr is an ad-supported online photo editor and quick-filter app. The Editor mode is for significant tinkering with layers, filters, etc., while the Express mode applies quick fixes to red-eye, color and brightness, and other common glitches.

Among paid desktop apps, Serif PhotoPlus X8 is a leading choice of pros and advanced hobbyists. It’s available in a free-trial download; if you want to keep it, the price is $99.95. PhotoPlus is not for beginners, but for intermediate to advanced editors who know Photoshop it is a bargain.

Paintshop Pro X9 by Corel also costs about $100 for the full, registered version. Key features include Magic Fill, Brushes, Text/shape cutting, Colour Material palette, enhanced dialog boxes, and more. It’s designed mainly for photograph manipulation.

Mobile Photo Editors

You can’t do a lot of serious photo editing on the small screen of a smartphone. But these apps allow one-click applications for filters, blemish-removal, and special effects that can enhance or at least enliven photos taken by phones.

Snapseed for iPhone is one of the most popular photo editing apps used by Apple fans. Oddly enough, Snapseed is a Google product! So of course there is an Android version as well.
It includes a host of basic and advanced features such as exposure and color adjustments, sharpening, cropping and straightening; brush tools to make selective adjustments; a healing tool for removing small unwanted objects; and a generous selection of filters to convert photos to black and white, apply textures, add blur effects, and otherwise have fun with your photos.

Bonfire for Android is free, with in-app purchases of enhanced features. Its main draw is a huge collection of easily applied filters, including some unusual ones like Fancy, a filter that turns your photos into watercolor. It also has basic editing tools like skin smoothing and blemish removal.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop Express, both for Android, can be synced with the desktop Photoshop through the Adobe Creative Cloud. Lightroom provides one-touch adjustments, while Express includes basic but powerful editing functions like adding filters, cropping, and an auto-fix function. Both are recommended for serious photographers who use Photoshop and need a mobile add-in.

Airbrush is for selfie-takers. It specializes in quick fixes and edits of face and skin, including a blemish remover, teeth whitening, eye brightening, reshaping tools, and plenty of filters to make you look better, or at least weirder, to your friends and followers.

Pixlr, mentioned above, also offers a mobile version that lets you crop, rotate, and fine-tune any picture.

What's your favorite desktop, web or mobile app for photo editing? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below…

 
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Most recent comments on "[SNAP!] Photo Editing Apps"

Posted by:

Woodfrog
06 Sep 2016

You missed a good one and my favorite: PhotoFiltre.
Lots of features and EASY to use.


Posted by:

Will
06 Sep 2016

XnView, while primarily a viewer/organizer, includes serviceable editing capacity


Posted by:

Paul M.
06 Sep 2016

I've been using FastStone Image Viewer for a few years now. I find it to be relatively easy to use and it's free. It does the basic things I need to to - particularly cropping. (I'm far from the best photographer.)


Posted by:

Geo
06 Sep 2016

I vote for Faststone, then Paint.net in that order depending on what you need to accomplish at the time. (¯`·._.·ns¢ävË·._.·´¯)®


Posted by:

Mike
06 Sep 2016

Your gripe about Irfanview seems a bit unfair Bob. In the Options, Properties/Settings, Start/Exit options is a check box that will give you a warning if you inadvertently press Esc to close the program and another to warn if you try to close an image you have edited without having saved it. They have been there for years.


Posted by:

George Lawrence
06 Sep 2016

I am surprised that Windows Photo Gallery and Picasa were not mentioned. Your comments please.


Posted by:

jounes
06 Sep 2016

PixLR is great! https://pixlr.com/editor/


Posted by:

Nick Suite
06 Sep 2016

another great one is zoner photo studio. You can organize, and do some great edits. If you get the pro version, which is often a GOTD, you can get some cool plugins, such as the NIK collection (now free) to enhance your photos. Serif seems overpriced if it's competing with Photoshop Elements.


Posted by:

Ken Maltby
06 Sep 2016

Yes - as somebody else stated Picasa is one I've been using for years (not so much recently - so perhaps it's changed now). I would have expected it to be mentioned. It was easy to use and very thorough at finding ALL your photos wherever they might be


Posted by:

Charmaine
06 Sep 2016

Am I the only one here old enough to still be pining away for "Microsoft PictureIt!"? What a GREAT program! My altered fine art photography has made it into many very tough juried shows having used this program, and I won't even disclose which camera-phobic senior female relatives marveled at how much better MY photos of them were than those of anyone else. (grin)(Hey, it made them happy.) This program isn't set to run with anything newer than Windows XP, which has no support anymore. I have actually been looking for an affordable new desktop with XP that I can buy to use strictly offline with PictureIt! for my photo editing and art. Man, do I miss that program. Breaks my heart! (sniffle)


Posted by:

John Silberman
06 Sep 2016

I could never fiqure out Gimp, but it seems very capable. I always seem to resort to IfranView. It even works great on Linux via Wine.


Posted by:

TW
06 Sep 2016

TO George Lawrence,
Windows Photo Gallery hasn't been updated since 2012 and Microsoft is ending support in January 2017. Google dropped support for Picasa this past March, 2016 to concentrate on the newer Google Photos, which also wasn't mentioned in the Article above.

Bob, by the way, first paragraph, Photos rarely are rarely perfect straight out of the camera.

I think there is one to many Rarely included.


Posted by:

Lawrie
06 Sep 2016

Irfanview is one of the first programs I'll load - onto any new computer - I've been using it for years. It may be limited compared with Gimp, which I've never fully understood, but as a simple tool for resizing and resampling - so necessary nowadays when default settings on digital cameras and even on mobile phones produce multi megabyte sized files, it is probably impossible to beat. With some other v simple limited colour, brightness and contrast settings i can't see how anyone can do without it!


Posted by:

Karena
06 Sep 2016

In addition to editing, I used to use IrfanView under Windows (I know it will run on Linux w/WINE, but I haven't tried it) - and now GIMP (w/"David's Batch Processor") - to resize images that are at too high a resolution to email or post online.


Posted by:

Pat
06 Sep 2016

Faststone is my first stop for photo editing. It tackles 95% of my editing needs. I have been using it for many years and recommend it to anyone. I only use Photoshop for special services like making panoramas, lens correction and some filters. Photoshop may be the gold standard but I have always found it too complicated. Faststone lets me easily compare edits with the original before applying them. Very straightforward. I'll be interested to look at some that are mentioned here.


Posted by:

Gary H
07 Sep 2016

There is no Picassa anymore so if you have and like it hang on to it.

What's happening to Picasa?
Picasa is now retired.
After Picasa is retired:
Picasa should continue to work anywhere it's installed, and you don't need to take any action.
There won't be any more updates to Picasa.
Picasa will no longer be available for download.
https://support.google.com/picasa/answer/6383491?hl=en


Posted by:

Harold
07 Sep 2016

I prefer On1 Photo 10 (soon to be replaced by On1 Raw) as can be used as standalone or as a plug-in to Photoshop and Lightroom. Well designed interface, easy to use, and tackles almost anything you throw at it. Seamless integration with PS and LR and is a non-destructive editor.


Posted by:

John
07 Sep 2016

Great article - and as always a broad set of choices, with easy to understand evaluations.

How about one on video editors.


Posted by:

Keith
08 Sep 2016

Agreed. Such a shame about Google ending support for Picasa. It does so much, so easily. I give almost all photos the 'I'm feeling lucky treatment to improve them, light, contrast etc. And you can always undo it easily. Printing, emailing, renaming, conversion from ping to Jpg, slideshows, uploads, geotagging, change date, poster, collage, deduplicate, sort by size or name, face recognition, straighten. See www.silverhairs.co.uk/help4b.htm for lots more


Posted by:

Ryan James
13 Sep 2016

I just downloaded Pixir thanks to Bob. I love playing with it. It has such an extensive list of choices.
Thank you Bob!


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