Photo Editing Software

Category: Photography , Software

I take a lot of pictures with my digital camera, but the photo editing software that came with the camera is pretty lame. I looked into Adobe Photoshop but WOW it's expensive! Are there some good photo editors that are more affordable?

PhotoShopping Around For Alternatives

Adobe's Photoshop has established itself as the incontestable standard of image editing software. For professionals and consumers alike, its exceptional performance, seamless integration with other Adobe graphics and multimedia applications, as well as the proliferation of available effects plug-ins that infinitely increase its versatility, make for quite an irresistible package... that is, until you catch a glimpse of the accompanying price tag.

Adobe's upcoming releases of Photoshop, dubbed CS3 and CS3 Extended, will run users US$649 and US$999, respectively, for non-upgrade versions, and if you require only relatively basic editing features and file format conversion, then this is, to say the least, overkill. Even the company's stripped-down version of the application, aptly named Photoshop Elements, which targets, as they put it, the "casual photographer," costs US$99.99.

But there are a number of image editing programs available that incorporate essential functionality, such as the ability to crop, rotate, and resize images, as well as do color adjustment, while still maintaining a modest price, thus allowing users to continue "casually photographing" without an added financial burden.

Resize, Colorize and Emphasize - On a Budget

image editing One of the most popular low cost (or, in this case, no cost) image editors is GIMP. Originally developed for UNIX, GIMP (short for GNU Image Manipulation Program) is an open-source application, supporting Linux, Windows and Macintosh platforms, and includes all of the necessary tools for transforming, retouching, or otherwise editing photographs. Customizable brushes and patterns complement its built-in drawing capabilities, and its proprietary plug-in architecture supports an ever-growing number of filters and effects, which currently stands at over 100.

Though you certainly can't argue with GIMP's price, there are many other freeware and shareware image editors that offer, to varying degrees, the necessary tools and effects to manipulate your photos in most any way imaginable. Some of the perennial favorites among critics are definitely worth looking into. Of particular note are IrfanView, Serif's PhotoPlus 6, and J-T-L Development's Ultimate Paint.

image edit - colorize If you have purchased a new Macintosh computer or Apple's Mac OS X operating system in recent years, then you already have a handy little photo editor at your disposal. iPhoto is included in Apple's iLife suite of "digital lifestyle applications," which retails for $79.00 for a single user license. But chances are, if you have a Mac that isn't completely outdated, you already have the program. iPhoto, mainly used for its image organization and sharing features (storing up to 250,000 of your pictures), also includes some useful editing functions, such as the ability to crop, rotate, and resize images, as well as color enhancement and adjustment, photo retouching, red-eye removal tool, and a handful of preset effects.

Perhaps the most cost effective solution for the Mac OS, however, is Lemkesoft's GraphicConverter, which boasts file import compatibility with an astounding 200 different file formats and will export roughly 80, reason enough to spend the US$35 asking price. GraphicConverter includes the standard array of editing and drawing tools, but also incorporates an impressive variety of filters and effects for further image enhancement and alteration. To add to its versatility, the program employs a plug-in architecture compatible with Adobe Photoshop, which enables users to implement the literally hundreds of free and purchasable Photoshop plug-ins available from a staggering number of developers. The program offers full TWAIN support for scanning photos and negatives, and, in addition to its recent Universal Binary releases for both PPC and Intel-based Macs, Lemkesoft is one of the few software companies that continues development for Macintosh's Classic (pre-OS X) environment.

The availability of such inexpensive image editing applications proves that there is, in fact, life beyond Photoshop. Consumer friendly and equally useful for professional quality work, these editors, although lacking in certain features that you could only gain by handing over hundreds of dollars to Adobe (if you were to need them at all), provide more-than-sufficient means of photo manipulation without the bulk (in size as well as cost) of their larger competitor.

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Most recent comments on "Photo Editing Software"

(See all 24 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

John P.
26 Apr 2007

Editor's comment about PSP is right on the money. It has been my experience that when a quality software company is swallowed up by a bigger fish, the product immediately begins a long slow death. Such is the case with JASC. I used PSP for many years and jumped on every upgrade issued including the 1st one after Corel appeared on the scene. 3-4 paragraphs is not enough to describe the issues that PSP now suffers from. Suffice it to say that the last decent PSP upgrade was version 9.0. All recent upgrades are buggy and dissappointing. I have said goodbye to a longtime friend.

Posted by:

Paula Darrall
26 Apr 2007

We use Vicmans photo editor at school along with some freebie plug - ins. This has now become an excellent freeware package.

Posted by:

John Allan
26 Apr 2007

Dealing with Corel is not a problem in the UK, where there's a different distributor; so I use Paint Shop Pro for complicated stuff. But the trouble is, it's become such a complex programme, there's a sharp learning curve which rules it out for quick and easy jobs. I also use Serif Photoplus (they're an annoying company who keep trying to sell you stuff, but their software is wonderful and startlingly cheap) and for quick, easy fixes I either do it in Serif PagePlus (a DTP program, but you can do your graphics editing quickly and simoply there, then click "Export as graphic" when you're done) or in Polyview, an old, dependable, unassuming but startlingly powerful program I've depended on for years.

Posted by:

Ed Gold
26 Apr 2007

I know the price tag for Photoshop is steep, but once you have the program, you can enjoy a lifetime of learning and exploring its capabilites. You can start with the simple functions, like cropping, rotating,etc. that are really simple to use, but then you can gradually, at your own speed, add to your ability to use more advanced features. It can be a wonderful hobby, and there are limitless tutorials, many free, that are available on the Internet.

EDITOR'S NOTE: And a lifetime of upgrades to pay for, too?

Posted by:

Doug Schores
26 Apr 2007

I have used a number of photo editing software programs in the past and have found Picasa does a nice job and is free.

Posted by:

26 Apr 2007

I own Adobe Photoshop but rarely use it. It's way too complicated for most tasks. If you have hours and hours of free time to learn this program, then go for it. If you want to edit and be done with it, look elsewhere. I've been using an old version of Microsoft's Picture it Express and it edits photos better and faster than Photoshop any day. If you really must use Photoshop, buy an old version on Ebay for $20. It's 95% the same program.

Posted by:

26 Apr 2007

Picasa looks great on screen and it does not write over the original picture files so you do not lose them. But when I print an edited version that looks great on screen it does not look good in print. If you are only organizing for viewing pictures on screen then go with Picasa. If you are printing, look elswhere.

Posted by:

26 Apr 2007

I've used Alchemy Mindworks products for years and have been extremely pleased with them. And WHOA!, the prices are so right! Here's a link:

Posted by:

27 Apr 2007

Lots of tools for photo editing, any cool and easy to use tools for video editing?

EDITOR'S NOTE: I like Vegas Movie Sudio, not free but very easy to use.

Posted by:

28 Apr 2007

There's another very good photo editing program called Paint.NET ( It's a free download and quite an impressive little package.

I have to agree too with the mentions of Google's Picasa. Another very nice little program, probably best for those who don't want to spend much time editing their photo's.

Posted by:

Bob Dozz
05 May 2007

Personally I use a program named "Fast Stone" I own a copy of Photoshop as well as about 15 other editors. But when it comes to fast and easy I use fast stone. It is a full screen editor and hides the tool bars till the curser goes over them. It has a very short learning curve. I have no interest in this program I just read about in one of my newsletters. In an average month I edit about 400 photos. No pro just family and church stuff. I'm 68 years old and it was easy to learn this editor.

Posted by:

15 May 2007

Bob, I would like to add my name to the list of users of PICASA.For a freebie, most people are amazed at what the programme can do. we have also got forums to help with most problems if the occasion arrises.

Posted by:

11 Jan 2008

I would like to my name in the list of useres of PICASA and i like to add my photos ok .

Posted by:

28 Nov 2008

Choices are nice, but there are so many times in computer land when you just want someone to tell you which one they like best. I'm there. I've looked at all the programs you mentioned in your article. Bob, can I just ask you what you use? Many thanks in advance.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Actually, I use one that's not mentioned in the article: PaintShop Pro from Corel. But IrfanView is free and does a lot, go with that if you don't want to spend any money.

Posted by:

10 Feb 2009

ive been using adobe photoshop for years. I actually learned when i was 15 so its not that difficult. But as the years went on i discovered new tools off and on. COnsidering ive been basically self taught

Posted by:

24 Mar 2009

i'm looking for an easy photo editing program for my macbook pro. I've had photo deluxe in the past on my xp pc and loved it. I also have photoshop but didn't really learn to use it. Is there an easy program for mac that does more than iphoto 9?

Posted by:

04 Sep 2009

I like Picasa because it allows me to straighten seascape photos that come out crooked and it has other good features.But what annoys me is that when I open it, photos are loaded automatically- even those already in an album. I would uninstall it if I could find a better program.

Posted by:

11 Dec 2009

Hi Bob,
Good post, as always. My favorite and free photo-editor is a program called Photoscape - it does a fantastic job in viewing and editing pictures, combining them into anything you like before printing. It's very user-friendly, and has got automated menu items that actually result in many same effects that Photoshop offers, but without having to go through very difficult processes. And, also quite important, it not only does not overwrite pictures by default, it also keeps the originals in a backup folder once you choose to overwrite them. Try it, and you'll love it.

Posted by:

21 Dec 2009

Yep Bob, I also use Paint Shop Pro. Actually, Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 Ultimate. With a snappy name like that, it is destined for greatness.

Posted by:

23 Jan 2010

The photo editing program that I use most is ACDsee Photo Manager. It costs about $50.

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