This post looking at Image Editing Software Alternatives was written by former wedding and portrait photographer Damien Franco from Your Photo Tips.
Which image editing software program is right for you? Is it the one you use, or the one you’re thinking of purchasing?
Maybe you use multiple programs, like myself, for different tasks.
One thing I’ve learned over my years as a professional photographer, is that no one image editing software program is created equal. They’re like snowflakes (or pictures), each unique and able to serve different purposes for different people. This in no way means that all professional photographers need “pro” image editing software!
First you need to examine what your specific needs are from editing software. If you do stock, wedding, sports, or any other work that requires tons of images then your biggest needs are probably workflow and batch processing.
If you work in portraits or fine art photography you’re likely wanting full editing professional tools. Or maybe you just want something quick, easy, and cheap!
We’re going to take a look at a few programs that will help you get your work done efficiently and productively. These aren’t the best of the best, more like the best for the job (in my sometimes humble opinion).
Free Image Editing Applications
In the “free” category we have Picasa and Picnik. Both are really easy to use with simple editing capabilities. They are great for beginners. If you just need to spice up your family’s pictures or do photography for fun I highly recommend using either of these.
Picasa by Google
PC or Mac
- It’s super easy to use, which is good because most people who use it aren’t going to be professionals or even advanced amateurs.
- It will auto update albums when new photos are introduced into the folders.
- You can move and rename pictures inside Picassa.
- Create posters, collages, screensavers, slideshows, burn CDs.
- Doesn’t work with RAW.
- You can’t use multiple tags per image.
- Editing options are limited.
- You can view your images on TiVo.
Price: FREE/$24.95 yr for Premium
PC or Mac
- Great for quick edits like red eye removal, exposure, and saturation.
- Fast, simple, and intuitive. You really can just start using it.
- Has some really fun effects.
- Doesn’t work with RAW
- No tagging system at all.
- Editing options are limited.
- Integrated for Flickr, Facebook, Picassa Web Albums, Photobucket, Webshots! If you use social media this may be for you.
Intermediate Image Editing Applications
Making the jump towards the middle I really only recommend a couple of programs.
Adobe Photoshop Elements 6 is a complete photo management and editing package. It really covers all of the basic needs anyone could really need for editing software. Note that I said basic needs. Here’s the deal. If you take many photographs you need to be able to archive, locate, edit, print, and send images out. Elements covers all of these wonderfully. I mostly recommend this program for amateur photographers, although, portrait photographers will love the photomege feature. Adobe is slated to put out the Macintosh version late March 2008. Here’s the breakdown:
Adobe Photoshop Elements 6
PC or Mac
- Organize- import, tag, sort.
- Nobody does tagging better than Adobe.
- Easy to use with great tutorials for newbies.
- Three ways to edit: Quick fix, full editing, and guided editing (runs you through a checklist of common editing sequences).
- Includes layers
- Creative scrapbook pages, cards, CD/DVD labels, themes, text effects, etc…
- Flash slideshows are very popular for studio websites.
- Advanced editing tools will handle most jobs.
- RAW support.
- Batch processing.
- Using Elements 6 is essentially using two programs at once. The Editor and Organizer will, at times, conflict with each other when using the Create and Share features. This has something to do with the features being on both programs, I assume. It’s a nuisance that most people can work around.
- Photomerge does three really great things to photographs. You can use photomerge to create a “perfect” group photo, stitch images together to create a panorama, or have fun by copying facial features from one image to the other. I remember spending countless hours, during the holiday rush at the studio, “swapping kids heads” because they wouldn’t sit still for the family portrait. I would have paid hundreds for this image editing software program back then.
While there are plenty of other software options in the same price range as Elements, I can only really only recommend one other.
Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2
This editing and graphics software picks up where Elements left off with editing power. It’s much closer to what you’ll get with Photoshop but be forewarned the learning curve can be steep, especially if you are already an Adobe user.
- Editing features are professional quality.
- Batching is more extensive, great for photographers that take many images like stock or wedding photographers.
- Tons of special effects and graphics enhancements.
- Organization is efficient and quite easy.
- Learning Center uses laymen’s terms.
- Steep learning curve.
- Text tool is cumbersome and difficult to master.
- Uses traditional drop down menus instead of task tabs. I find this slows me down considerably, however, a more consistent user may not.
Adobe Photoshop CS3
Photoshop is what most professionals in the digital imaging age would call the grand daddy of them all. I really couldn’t disagree with anyone at that. If you can’t do it in photoshop, you probably just can’t do it. If your needs exceed the editing power and control of the programs listed above, then it is in fact time to pony up the dough ($649.00) for Photoshop CS3.
The truth is, not everyone needs Photoshop CS3. I’ve been shooting digital for years and learned photoshop because I had to. Most photographers these days don’t need, or want, the total control that CS3 has to offer. If you find yourself overwhelmed by your editing software or not using many of the features, consider moving to something more automated and streamlined. Typically, you’ll know when, or if, it’s time to upgrade to something more robust. The key is to find what works best for you.
It will keep you out of the digital dark room, and out using your camera instead!
What image editing software program are you using now?