Image Editing Software - An Introduction to Alternatives

Image Editing Software – An Introduction to Alternatives

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

Price: FREE!

PC or Mac

The Good

  • 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.

The Bad

  • Doesn’t work with RAW.
  • You can’t use multiple tags per image.
  • Editing options are limited.

Cool Bonus!

  • You can view your images on TiVo.



Price: FREE/$24.95 yr for Premium

PC or Mac

The Good

  • 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.

The Bad

  • Doesn’t work with RAW
  • No tagging system at all.
  • Editing options are limited.

Cool Bonus!

  • 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

Price: $99.99

PC or Mac

The Good

  • 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.

The Bad

  • 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.

Cool Bonus!

  • 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

Price $99.99


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.

The Good

  • 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.

The Bad

  • 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?

Read more from our Post Production category

Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

Some Older Comments

  • Francine September 5, 2013 03:28 pm

    These kind images can be found painted musically throughout the piece.
    The most common length of an event is 4 lengthy time.

  • Britneye Ladner June 22, 2011 01:38 am

    Thanks for the info. Very useful!

  • OrganizePictures August 27, 2009 03:02 am

    As of the latest version, Picasa supports multiple tags and they actually get saved to the IPTC metadata. And it does also support batch image resizing. So it has become pretty useful and still FREE. I'm still not sure about support for RAW format.

  • Ana April 14, 2009 04:11 am

    Just like Julie, I've been using Photoshop 7 for about 5 years... if something works, why change it?

    Though I've seen a lot of positive feedback on Gimp... I guess I will have to give it a shot as my curiosity has been sparked :-)

  • Sparky February 20, 2009 01:25 pm

    GIMP for me, too, and FSpot. And Picasa is now available for Linux -- easy to learn and great for fast, simple touchups..

  • Lisa Etinger January 1, 2009 08:21 am

    Hello, I am looking for photography software that can take the image out of the photo and put it on another background or banner. I have Photo Shop and Paint Pro and do allot of photos of my dogs only. I would love to be able to extract the dog in a photo and place it on a banner with out everything else in the photo. I have tried edit/crop but nothing is that percise. thank you so much, Lisa

  • Pamela December 16, 2008 10:21 pm

    All my images are edited in Picnik Premium. It is so simple to use and I really like it. I have a small on location biz so I am not the typical picnik user I suppose (I am supposed to be using photoshop, aren't i? LOL) I don't do much editing at all. I use i-photo if I ever need the healing brush as picnik's isn't quite as good. Then picnik, I will use unsharp mask, boost or convert to BW and curve and sometime vignette or frame. That's all I do post processing. You are welcome to check my photos out
    I have CS2 on my desktop, but I usually open it, look at it for a few mins, look some more with a confused look and close it out! But, I have seen some great LAB tutorials with it if only the tuturial made sense to me!

  • Joe Marfice December 5, 2008 06:14 am

    What a terrible article! As others have noted, the failures include:

    1) Picasa does support RAW.
    2) GIMP is missing.
    3) is missing.

    And, as for the organization, there's only two sections:
    Free Image Editing Applications
    Intermediate Image Editing Applications

    Gimp is free, but advanced. Photoshop is neither free nor intermediate.

    Please, do ten minutes of research next time, instead of just listing the programs you have on your own hard drive.

  • Pamela July 18, 2008 02:01 am

    picnik, but I am going to check out gimp, can't get my head around PS and too busy with a life of chaos around me!

  • coover July 1, 2008 02:05 pm

    I can't believe no one mentioned photoparamour -- maybe because it's in French but you can get an English version.

  • Conor May 6, 2008 09:05 am

    Come on, no GIMP? I don't care if the ancient version you tried "didn't seem quite there", the fact remains that it is one of the leading PS alternatives, and the fact that you didn't include it based on personal opinion smacks of a bad, biased article.

  • Evan March 16, 2008 04:53 am


  • pst March 14, 2008 03:40 am

    GIMP rules !

  • Ian March 5, 2008 01:09 pm

    I use Picture Window Pro It costs $89.95 at I didn't want to spend hundreds on CS3 and was looking for an equally powerful but affordable alternative. A good summary of PWP benefits can be found at

  • andotyjazz March 5, 2008 10:24 am

    Sorry for the typo error. It should have been 'Would really appreciate IF IT WILL BE ADDED.' Thanks again!

  • andotyjazz March 5, 2008 10:14 am

    I will definitely agree to all GIMP users... "Where's the GIMP?"

    Would really appreciate it much if I'll be added. Thanks in advance DPS.

  • Isaac March 5, 2008 10:05 am

    OK. The GIMP. Duh. No idea how that got left out...
    But IrfanView also deserves a mention! It does batch processing, RAW support and much more. Its all I use :D

  • Gonzo March 5, 2008 04:57 am

    Gimp indeed (with UFRaw), along with F-Spot.

    Adobe Lightroom is great. Too bad it doesn't work under Linux.

  • busybee March 4, 2008 11:04 pm

    I use mac and only use iphoto to edit my photo, the only software I found is photoshop cs3 and it is really expensive plus I don't need all the functions. What is the best alternative?

  • Simon March 4, 2008 01:46 pm

    Picasa is NOT available for Mac.

  • Greedo McWibble March 4, 2008 01:45 pm

    Worst product comparison ever. industry-standard apps omitted, and factual inaccuracies in the descriptions of the apps that got included. Rubbish.

  • Simon March 4, 2008 01:38 pm

    No Lightroom? No Iphoto? No The GIMP?

    And Picasa edits RAW quite happily for me.

  • Fushia March 4, 2008 03:35 am

    If your talking about photo software, then the gimp has to be included And how about Nikon's Capture NX? it's just not for Nikon cameras.

  • brian March 3, 2008 03:20 am

    You only listed 2 free alternatives. You listed the two least favored (which have ads attached), I have to ponder why? I find no answer in your article.

    One of the best is theGIMP. theGIMP - the Graphic Image Manipulator Program - has a long history of 'open source' development and rivals Adobe Photoshop on many levels. I have been using it since pre-version 1.0 This program is reference numerous times in other comments.

    The next is Irfanview. Irfanview is not 'open source' but is free and has batch editing capabilities such as editing IPTC, comments, and resizing.

    Both of these alternatives run on all platforms including legacy hardware. Both of these have RAW capabilities. I use them both extensively on all my projects.

  • khayts March 3, 2008 02:04 am

    I use Picasa in combination with Adobe Elements much like Rose mentioned above.

    Picasa is a great tool for quick and simple editing that gives me the ability to see the potential outcomes I can create without spending too much time doing it. If I like where it is going then I pull the photo into Adobe Elements and do the final editing there.

    Picasa works great as a simple photo organizer also. The assignment of photos to albums, or multiple albums, is a breeze. I usually save my RAW files into a directory according to year. Then use Picasa to organize and present the photos how I want to see them (whether into albums or other directories - never really copying or touching my original RAW files). They use a method of "labeling" your files to associate them to an album.

    Some things about Picasa that I have learned:
    - It DOES allow you to edit RAW files (mine being NEF)
    - The edits are not applied to the actual file but saved as external .ini files (Picasa applies the .ini information to the photo - so if you loose the .ini file by copying or moving files you loose your edits)
    - Certain edits or modifications do not export with the file (i.e. sharpness)

    I find that adobe elements does the majority of what I have needed to do. I do not do much in terms of extreme modifications to my photos (mainly outdoor and wildlife shots). Just my style.

    After reading some of the posts above I am going to look into gimp. It sounds like it has a lot of followers and die hard enthusiasts (i.e. that list a lot of great things that it can do).

    Thanks for the posts and the article. If it was not for the article... there would not be so many lively posts :)

  • kristarella March 2, 2008 09:37 pm

    Sadly Raw Therapee is not available for mac yet :(

    Would still love a decent guide to Ufraw :)

  • Phil March 2, 2008 08:53 pm

    I use ACDSee Pro2, I have been using ASDSee both pro1 and 2 and Photo Editor for more than 2 years and find them an excellent editing and organising program to use. A very simple full screen editing interface and a very wide and comprehensive range of editing tools. They also have a very good support network, both in community and specific technical problem solving. I thoroughly recommend them.
    Phil T.

  • Jad March 2, 2008 05:02 pm

    I uses gimp with UfRaw and RawThearaby

  • Mark March 2, 2008 03:14 am

    Now, wait... I've been using a RAW-capable version of Picasa for over a year now! It's not as tweakable as dedicated RAW editors (by a mile), but I have to say, I can tweak away for an hour in UFRAW or Lightzone, and what I end up with is surprisingly close to what I can do in Picasa in 30 seconds. :-) Picasa has a lot of hidden power up its sleeve, if you give it some thought.

    As far as dedicated RAW editors, my new fave is Raw Therapee! (aka RawTherapee) I haven't used Adobe's software, as I use a Linux-based operating system, so I can't compare it to that. But Raw Therapee is heavy on options, yet the controls respond very intuitively. I never feel like I have to quit and start over on a n image like I do with some other editors.

    Raw Therapee is available on Linux, Windows and maybe Mac (I haven't checked). Picasa is also available for Windows and Linux, and a Mac version is supposed to be in the works.

  • jeffegg2 March 2, 2008 01:30 am

    Disappointed that not a mention about Gimp or UFRaw! I used to be a Photoshop vers 7 user, just tired of paying for each upgrade. Now I use Gimp totally free and not shareware junk, or abandonware! Gimp is fully supported and continually growing!! I am with Gimp for life!!

  • Anonymous March 1, 2008 02:01 am

    Lol how can you even post crap like this.
    The first entry is already wrong. Picasa
    DOES NOT EXIST FOR MAC .. only an app that
    allows to export files to Picasa Albums online.

    Gimp doesn't get mentioned too .. lol.

  • Craig March 1, 2008 12:24 am

    Photoscape ( its free it works with RAW. Its got a lot of really good features.

  • Giles February 29, 2008 02:27 pm

    No one has mentioned FastStone ( It's free, fast, and has the best photo comparison tool, period (and I've tried Picasa, Elements, Photoshop, the GIMP, and Irfanview). FastStone is my tool of choice for quickly weeding through the hundreds of digital photos of the same thing that my family and I seem to accumulate. The editing tools are relatively basic, but cover 95% of normal needs (a GREAT lossless cropping tool, by the way). No organization tools, but at least it has a powerful file renamer.

  • Paul P February 29, 2008 01:21 pm

    Why has no one mentioned Nikon Capture NX. I am just learning it but I love it so far.

  • Rob February 29, 2008 11:25 am

    I see there are just as many biased Editing Program supporters out there as there are biased Camera Brand supporters. I love it.
    Here's my 2 cents worth. I don't like messing around with my images alot. It either gets deleted or I just need to crop it, add a touch more contrast or brightness etc. Now and then I want a caption or a frame or an artistic effect.
    I use Picasa for basic filing and sending images to mates as it automatically resizes files so "said mates" don't put a flea in my air about the size. I have Photoshop Elements 3 but find myself going back to my FREE "PhotoCleaner" and "PhotoFiltre". Photocleaner always asks if I want to buy the package when I'm done with it but I just say no and i can keep the "tryout" version. It's cool.
    If your images from the camera are pretty close to what you want and you don't want to spend the day at the computer trying to make an average picture look acceptable, try those two sites. Like I said, you can frame, caption, saturate, hue, levels, and heaps's all there and bloody easy and time saving compared to PS. Cheers people.

  • kristarella February 29, 2008 10:36 am

    Hmm, I wonder where all those comments that I got emails about and replied to have gone...

  • kristarella February 29, 2008 10:28 am

    @jimothy - heh, totally. Some people might want to cast their vote for GIMP, but most just don't read the other comments.

    @David - Thanks for mentioning Seashore, I forgot that one existed!

    @charmarie - I agree about the learning curve. I used to use Corel PSP too (not X2, it was before that), but I don't remember the learning curve being any larger than Photoshop or any other image editing software.

    @laura c - I'm not really familiar with Picasa for editing, but if it coverts your raw images to jpeg and doesn't keep the raw file somewhere then yes, it will affect things. It just means that Picasa has applied it's own raw conversion stuff to it before you've had a chance to white balance and colour adjust and all that.
    For tweaking portraits GIMP and Photoshop are both capable. GIMP has a couple of sharpening tools, so does photoshop. They both have healing and cloning tools. If you want to be really thorough you can try demos of all of them, but I know it's time consuming to learn where everything is and then figure out if you can do what you want in every single program.
    If you do want to go Mac there's also Acorn and Pixelmator, which might be worth giving a go - they're newer on the scene.
    Perhaps these two tutorials on photo retouching for Photoshop and GIMP might help you see the tools in action and decide. (I think all the stuff in the Photoshop tutorial can be done in GIMP, the tools might have different names though.)

    @Jono - version 2.4 has improved the usability a fair bit I think. The menus make a lot more sense. Let us not forget that no one is paid to produce the GIMP so its development curve might be a bit slower than Adobe's.

  • Rick February 29, 2008 10:28 am

    Gimp, Gimp, and Gimp.....

  • Jeff Plum February 29, 2008 09:38 am

    Bibble is great for developing RAW images.

  • David February 29, 2008 07:05 am

    1. Picasa is not available for mac

    2. Gimp is missing! =)

    3. Seashore (gimp for mac) is missing!

  • jimothy February 29, 2008 06:41 am

    But what about GIMP? Just kidding. Seriously, how many people need to post that?

    At this time, there are 85 occurrences of "GIMP" (not including my own post). 11 people point out that Picasa does open RAW files.

    First, read comments. Second, post, if you have something new to say.

  • DaveP February 29, 2008 01:49 am

    lol @ Ernie

    "I am sure you will find CS3 to be well worth the cost, providing you give yourself time to learn it."

    Anybody care to make a guess as to why you didn't like GIMP or found it shocking that it is being compared to Photoshop? Give yourself time to learn it (as you recommended above regarding Photoshop) and you will find that is extreemly powerfull and has earned the right to be compared to Photoshop. I'd even go as far as to modify your quote above to apply to GIMP:

    "I am sure you will find GIMP to be well worth the cost, even if you don't give yourself time to learn it." After all, it's free.

  • Atropos February 28, 2008 05:49 pm

    Just a quick glance and the comments tells me that this was beaten to death...but NO GIMP???!!! :O:O

  • Phil February 28, 2008 02:05 pm

    I too love and use GIMP. However for me it does have one major weakness and that is it's limited color depth.

    As far as I'm aware, the standard version of GIMP "only" supports 8 bits per color channel (red, green and blue), which allows 256 * 256 * 256 = 16,777,216 possible colors (8 bits allows 256 colors; i.e.2 the power of 8).

    Most modern DSLRs record much, much more than this (e.g. The Pentax K10D records 12 bits per color channel when shooting in RAW i.e. 4096 * 4096 * 4096 = 68,719,476,736 possible colors!). So when you edit your photo in GIMP you loose all of this extra color depth.

    Normally 8 bits is fine, but some times, such as when "dogging and burning" to bringing out the details in dark shadowy areas of a photo, you really need the extra colors to maintain smooth color gradients.

    I think photoshop supports 16 bits per color channel.

  • bac February 28, 2008 12:00 pm

    Another program that wasn't mentioned is Krita (

    The interface is a bit better and has similar features to Photoshop. It still has room to grow but very useable at this time.

  • Elisa February 28, 2008 10:37 am

    I used to use Photoshop as my main image editor, but lately Photoshop Lightroom has become my favorite. Its elegant design and functionality, combined with the ease of use is superior to any programs I've had a chance to try (quite a few, that is)

  • kristarella February 28, 2008 10:01 am

    I suppose that true, I don't really think GIMP and PS CS3 are comparable. I think what's more shocking to most of the readers here is that GIMP isn't in a list that includes Picasa, Corel and Photoshop.

    For many users GIMP would be more than sufficient for editing their photos (I think the latest version is quite comparable to a slightly older version of photoshop in terms of features, plus a few added bonuses).


  • Ernie Hatt February 28, 2008 09:49 am

    Snobbery really has nothing to do with, maybe I am too used to Photoshop,The shocking really came from the thought of comparing the two. I am sure you will find CS3 to be well worth the cost, providing you give yourself time to learn it. Ernie

  • kristarella February 28, 2008 09:16 am

    I hope that your snobbery is well founded Ernie.

    GIMP is actually a very powerful program. The word "shocking" when comparing GIMP to Photoshop should only be used to describe Photoshop's prices.

    Perhaps if you're accustomed to using Photoshop then you might have trouble finding some of GIMP's features, but they are there.
    I'm considering buying CS3 because I'm getting to a point where there are things I want to do that I can't in GIMP, but for the price of Photoshop... it bloody well better have some damn good features.

  • Ernie Hatt February 28, 2008 08:56 am

    How on earth anyone can compare The Gimp with Photoshop, I do not know, I have tried it in Linux, shocking, no wonder it wasn't mentioned. Photshop CS3 and lightroom for me, though I find the latter has a tendancey to wan't to take over the computer, always seems to pp up when not needed. Ernie

  • Mike O. February 28, 2008 08:03 am

    I'll echo GIMP. Sad to not see it on the list, it's all I use...

    And thanks for everybody for posting the apps they use for RAW. Imma have to look into these :)

  • kristarella February 28, 2008 07:27 am

    Pete - I watched a friend sort his photos through the demo of Aperture that he'd downloaded and was planning on buying. It was very cool and the ability to adjust things (colour, levels etc) was really good too.
    Not sure about it's learning curve, but I think it's definitely worth checking out the demo (full version for 30 days) at least.

    Favera - I sort of agree with you, apart from saving 3 copies of the photo - I thought it saved 2 and only one if you don't edit it. I thought it was damn annoying that iPhoto considers 90deg rotation as "modified" especially when it automatically does it right out of the camera. HD is why I don't keep all my photos on my mac, but otherwise iPhoto is pretty sweet. I'd rather it duplicate the photo when I change colours etc - I might not like my edits later and I can go back.

  • Terry February 28, 2008 07:18 am

    Ditto on GIMP. Ditto on F-Spot, though I had trouble with it.
    + Paint Shop Pro (but recommend GIMP instead)

    And as for Picasa ... I won't take issue with its inclusion, but I used it for RAW in a pinch once, and it was ... passable. It reads NEF files from my D40, anyway.

  • bob February 28, 2008 06:31 am

    I defiantly agree, the gimp should be mentioned here. I use it almost all the time when i edit my photos. They also work with (I think) all operating systems.

  • Anton Piatek February 28, 2008 05:57 am

    I cant recommend Bibble Strongly enough - an excellent RAW workflow program

  • Favera February 28, 2008 03:18 am

    As mentioned above, I don't think you can run Picasa on Mac. I actually read somewhere that Google decided not to make a version of Picasa for Mac because they think that i-photo is great. I don't know how true that is, but I just think that Picasa is much better than i-photo. One example of it is that i-photo makes 3 duplicates of the same photo while Picasa doesn't. So if you have 1000s of photos, the HD fills up pretty quickly.

    For this reason I don't use i-photo. Love Aperture so far.

  • Arashi February 28, 2008 03:14 am

    Like many others responding I am a GIMP user. How strange that it isn't mentioned, especially since the author went in to free program options. I love GIMP and it has fulfilled 90% of my photo needs. Except for raw processing. For that, I have Lightroom.

  • Beau February 28, 2008 02:56 am

    I would say that Lightroom should get a mention too. Its ideal for situations where you need to organize and process a large number of photos, and gives you the ability to "sync" color correction, crop, White balance etc... between photos.

  • ben February 28, 2008 01:59 am

    Picassa has never had problems viewing raw files from my old rebel or my 30d.

  • charmarie February 28, 2008 01:59 am

    I am a Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 user all the way, however with the review of the text tool being cumbersome and the learning curve being steep are false. The text tool is much easier than in CS2 and CS3 (I have used them all). The learning curve is simple, X2 does not have all the unnecessary tools that Photoshop has it also has HDR and much better RAW support which I see were not mentioned in the review.

    It is one of the best consumer photo editing programs on the market. I've been using Corel PSP since the beginning.

  • Pete February 28, 2008 01:28 am

    Has anyone tried out Aperture 2.0? I am interested in it, but don't want to drop the $$$ on it until I hear some real reviews.

  • juanvvc February 28, 2008 01:25 am

    Several wonderful free tools that are not mentioned:

    - Digikam is my main photo tool. You can organize, tag and perform (not so basic) edition on photos. It supports RAW, batch, curves and many filters but no layers. Roughly speaking, it is the free alternative to Adobe Elements. Only Linux, sorry.

    - Qtpfsgui+pfstools (Windows, Mac and Linux) is the free alternative to Photomatix to create and tone map HDRs. Unfortunately the Fattal algorithm (similar to the one used by Photomatix) is not so good. In the other hand, it supports many other alternative and original algorithms. The number of algorithms and parameters to tweak can overweigh the beginner.

    - Hugin+panotools+emblend (Windows, Mac and Linux) is superb for any kind of panoramas, projections and other special effects that involve several pictures. A bit tricky to master.

    - The Gimp, of course (Windows, Mac and Linux) Not as huge as Photoshop CS3 but enough for most amateurs and professionals. Its weird interface is its main drawback.

  • Fábio Pinheiro February 28, 2008 12:33 am

    Where are the "Gimp", and the "UFRaw"? These are two great softwares.

  • laura c February 28, 2008 12:07 am

    Ok, I am blown away. I am struggling with what to use to enhance my pictures. Currently I use Picasa and it does upload my RAW shots, but it says it saves them as JPEG. Does this affect things? I have been told the only software that enables RAW files is CS3. Obviously this is not true. Everyone responding seems to think GIMP is the best. I am mostly a portrait photographer if that is a consideration. I have been playing with the 30-day trial for Elements and I am considering going all out Mac. My question is, I love my shots so much better when I shot in RAW, I don't like to do too much editing but want to sharpen, lighten and whiten teeth, smooth skin, brighten eyes, etc. What is the best software for this basic stuff? Free or not.

  • Kim Siever February 27, 2008 10:52 pm

    Picasa can attach multiple tags (labels) to photos. Picasa is all I use at home.

  • eds February 27, 2008 09:54 pm

    Can't believe you wouldn't mention The GIMP. Great piece of software - I use it on Windows and Linux the whole time. So much so that I struggle with CS3 these days...

  • Christof February 27, 2008 08:43 pm

    Don't know it mentioned yet, but since when is Picasa for Macintosh? Can't find it...

  • Chandamama February 27, 2008 06:26 pm

    You forgot gimp and Also Picasa 2.1 supports RAW. Here is the URL

  • Arie Kraai February 27, 2008 06:18 pm

    The Gimp is great, but for most of the image editing I use digikam:

    And maybe most of all the fantastic versatile ImageMagick
    which is really amazing software!

  • icebox February 27, 2008 06:17 pm

    although mentioned 100 times. I want to mention that I use GiMP most of the time. I used since the 0.9 versions and as features comparison with photoshop (which i use since version 6) it's pretty on par (at least for my needs).

  • Jono February 27, 2008 05:51 pm

    I for one am glad they didn't mention the Gimp. After using Photoshop, Fireworks etc, I can confidently say that the Gimp is the worst-designed and hardest to use piece of software I have ever used. I truly can't understand why it's so popular. It's terrible.

  • magnoliasouth February 27, 2008 03:30 pm

    No Gimp?! Blasphemy! Also, Picasa does in fact support multiple tags per image. You can tag each image with as many tags as you like. Please correct this as your mistake is not a fair one, though I'm sure it was unintentional.

  • kristarella February 27, 2008 03:22 pm

    Thanks for the heads up on F spot, looks cool. I've been using digiKam on my linux machine as well, not for editing, just sorting.

    Heaps of people have given Ufraw the thumbs up - I think it's important to have this RAW support in the GIMP (FYI, the GIMP build from Wilber Loves Apple includes Ufraw). Anywho, I was wondering if you guys know of any good tutorials for Ufraw, or want to write one.
    I've seen the website, I've even turned the info on the website into a PDF for easier viewing. However, I still find it hard to read and understand. I find that I have more power over high res jpegs than RAW (despite pro and advanced amatures insisting we should use raw if we can) because I just can't use the raw tools properly.

  • Sitaram February 27, 2008 01:41 pm

    Damien says: (about GIMP) " just isn’t quite there yet in my own humble opinion."

    I'm not a professional, and I have never even seen the expensive software listed in your article, and I'd have bought your argument too... if you hadn't listed Picasa.

    Even the most uncharitable opinion of GIMP will still put it well ahead of Picasa in editing and finishing features.

    I'd have to agree with the one or two people who said this seems like bias.

  • Dan February 27, 2008 12:59 pm

    How can any article titled "Image Editing Software - An Introduction to Alternatives" not mention Gimp? Either there was a bias against an obvious alternative or really sloppy research on the part of the author. I find it hard to believe either of these choices is correct.

  • Free xbox 360 Game February 27, 2008 12:47 pm

    There's a new online image editing program which is a good photoshop substitute, It's called Aviary and its in beta at the moment but it's still really awesome. check it out

  • Kim S. February 27, 2008 12:34 pm

    @Devyn and James,

    read my first post. Lightroom was mentioned. its a nifty program!

  • Eric February 27, 2008 12:11 pm

    I'm very surprised that there was no review or mention of either Adobe Lightroom or even Aperture for Mac. These both seem like strong alternatives to both the free software and the heavy price tag of CS3.

  • Jayce February 27, 2008 11:53 am

    Lightroom, always, with an occasional dip into PSElements. I have tried a lot of others and decided I was happier without them.

  • Brett Dickson February 27, 2008 11:38 am

    Currently I use Silkypix for RAW processing and GIMP for image editing.

  • Ray February 27, 2008 11:16 am

    I agree withe a few of the others. Lightroom is great for post-editing and deserves a mention.

  • Kerri February 27, 2008 11:03 am

    Yes, Lightroom is an essential part of my toolkit. But, as I have a Nikon D40x, I also use Nikon's Capture NX. It's amazing. AND Photoshop CS3 extended, of course :)

  • kristarella February 27, 2008 10:52 am

    Good post, but there is A LOT more out there.

    Already mentioned in the comments: GIMP (which I use), Aperture, Lightroom.

    Also available on Mac: iPhoto (which I use for quick editing before slideshows etc), Pixelmator and Acorn – all of which are quite friendly, have a lot of features (maybe not as much as GIMP, definitely not as many as PS) and are a lot cheaper than Corel and Adobe.

    Haven't used Windows for a long time, so not ure what's available for that. :)

  • NikonnooB February 27, 2008 10:50 am

    Mac users may also want to check out Graphic Converter:

    This ($34.95 / 29.95€) program imports and exports dozens of formats, has powerful editing tools, and a bunch of helpful workflow tools as well.

    I think you may find it a great alternative. Of course, you can download a free trial version, just to check it out.

  • Sybren February 27, 2008 10:46 am

    I use Bibble Pro ( ) for raw editing and most of my edits.

    For pixel-precise editing I use The Gimp ( ).

    Uploads to Flickr I do using a small Python script I hooked into Bibble, so I have a single-click upload there. It's written using the Python Flickr API ( ), for which I happen to be the maintainer.

  • Sybren February 27, 2008 10:43 am

    Any article about free image editing software is horribly incomplete without The Gimp!

  • M February 27, 2008 10:34 am

    Paint in Windows! ;)

  • Jason February 27, 2008 10:20 am

    Picasa actually does support RAW. There's a setting in the configuration menu that you have to check. I've used it with RAW, psd, and jpg. I did find that Picasa wouldn't download the RAW images from my camera. I had to move them from the card, and then it would catalog them. I use PS CS3 for all of the heavy lifting, then use Picasa for organizing jpg's and posting them to various social sites.

  • Devyn February 27, 2008 10:19 am

    I am a bit stunned at no mention of Lightroom (until the comment above). I use it for nearly everything, from managing my 40,000+ images to general adjustments. The tools for overall adjustments are pretty powerful, and on the rare occasion when I need more power, it automatically opens my image up in PS

  • John February 27, 2008 09:51 am

    Picasa does handle RAW files.

  • iamunique127 February 27, 2008 09:34 am

    I tried Lightroom and it didn't appeal to me. PS 7 was overwhelming.
    Admittedly, I am a neophyte and need something simple yet able.
    I've been learning Capture One 4 for Mac. I find it intuitive and capable of dealing with my raw files in a way I understand, but don't know if it is a "pixel editor".
    Will I still need PSE or CS3 for some work?

  • Cyler February 27, 2008 09:12 am

    I just started to use Lightroom, and have found that while I still will do some final tweaks in Photoshop CS3, I am doing MUCH less in Photoshop than I used to. Lightroom is an amazing program for creating a fluid work flow.

  • FFB February 27, 2008 09:08 am

    I'm loving Picasa so far. Still trying to get through editing my last vacation pics. My pictures look so much better so far with the simple editing I've done. I've tried to use GIMP but it's still a little foreign to me. Just a beginner here so I'm not ready to step up to PhotoShop.

  • Rodrigo February 27, 2008 08:57 am

    In linux we have Gimp and Pixel as editors, as well as Bibble and Lightzone as Elements-Like editing... among many others.

    Of course this software does suffer from some cons, but its the community that will help it grow and become more powerful. Its a pity they don't mention the REAL alternatives. All I see listed is the usual brands of commercial software we all know.

    I highly suggest trying this alternatives. They do have their learning/adaptation curve, but its worth trying it at least. Specially applications as Gimp & Ufraw which will get the job done in most cases. It's free... its good!

    The other commercial alternatives is excellent software, that I have tried myself and I would recommend trying them to anyone looking for cheaper alternatives.



  • Elliot February 27, 2008 08:33 am

    Actually, Picasa does support RAW for most cameras.

  • Rose February 27, 2008 08:08 am

    I love Picasa for photo organizing and the most basic editing corrections. It does handle RAW images, contrary to the post above.

    I use Photoshop for the more advanced edits.

  • BJ February 27, 2008 07:52 am

    Who did this research?

    1) Picasa DOES support RAW
    If you are going to list this as the FIRST con, maybe a bit of checking would have been nice?

    2) No GIMP. I mean, seriously, as a free tool it is very flexible. And receives not even a mention?!

    IMO, this makes the rest of the post rather suspect.

  • Bruce February 27, 2008 07:50 am

    I use Bibble for RAW conversion, levels, crop etc. GIMP for further editing, F-SPOT for upload to flickr.
    All on Linux.

  • Brad Patterson February 27, 2008 07:43 am

    I have to echo everyone else's comments about the Gimp. When I first tried to use it, I found it very difficult and cumbersome. But the more I use it, the more I find out what an amazingly powerful program it is! (As a side note, I have not spent any real time in Photoshop; so it doesn't matter to me whether I have a "steep" learning curve in Gimp or in Photoshop).

    A few of the other great things about gimp:
    1) There are a HUGE number of good tutorials available on the internet, including this great video podcast:
    2) Surprisingly, there is are lots of good books available on it; and can be found at most local libraries.
    3) Lots of good free plugins and extension
    4) Open source, so you are not tied to any particular OS.
    5) Gimp has a large user base, is under constant development by the open source community.
    6) Lots of forums, user groups, and even flickr groups dedicated to Gimp.
    7) Lots of the tutorials or how-to's that I read in magazines for Photoshop will translate into Gimp w/o too much trouble.

  • James February 27, 2008 07:37 am

    I'm surprised no one's mentioned Adobe Lightroom. Unlike Photoshop, it's designed to match your post-processing needs and workflow.

  • Damien Franco February 27, 2008 07:18 am

    Admittedly, when I first used GIMP it was very much in the developmental stages (it is open source after all). I think that it is great that there are more people out there creating plugins and brushes for the software, however it still feels like an unfinished product to me. I think the future for GIMP will be interesting to follow as the software grows. In fact, it is possible that it could morph into the greatest image editing software program out there, it just isn't quite there yet in my own humble opinion.

  • zetson February 27, 2008 07:17 am

    Some weeks ago I had a though decision: Paint Shop Pro X2 or Photoshop CS3? I had the impression that both application were very similar. But after going through some photoshop tutorials I discovered that there were differences. The one thing that made me go for Photoshop was LAB mode. This isn't very important, but I was so 50/50 regarding these to programs that it was enough in favor of PS.

  • Liamdc2 February 27, 2008 07:10 am

    GIMP is brilliant. CS3 with elements is excellent and very pretty. But opensource software is a great revelation and something I strongly support.

  • murfam February 27, 2008 07:02 am

    I currently use Adobe CS2. I first started using photoshop (photoshop/5) about 10 or 12 years ago when I got my first computer. There are certainly simpler applications out there but I love the choices that it gives me. I trained as a painter at Mass. Art years ago and now find that my digital camera and the programs in CS2 allow me the same freedom and control that I used to get with oil and canvas.

  • Hetal February 27, 2008 06:59 am

    Paint.NET is also another free alternative to Photoshop

    Also, Picasa supports multiple tags (keywords as they call it)

  • George L Smyth February 27, 2008 06:56 am

    No question that Gimp is a great piece of software, but saying that it is on a par with the full version of Photoshop just is not accurate. Photoshop CS3, simply put, has numerous capabilities that Gimp simply does not have. This is not a slam on Gimp, as it is about $650 less than CS3 and will serve for a majority of serious users, but just a statement of fact.

  • Adam February 27, 2008 06:53 am

    Chalk up another one for Gimp.

    But if your Mac related you have also got Pixelmator. Unlike Gimp it is not free, but unlike Photoshop it is not out of the reach of most. It is not a photo specific application as it can't work with Raw files but the UI is just stunning.

  • Nicole February 27, 2008 06:51 am

    What Chris Homan said, Picasa isn't on the Mac yet. Though there's word that it might be later in the year.

  • Cliff February 27, 2008 06:44 am

    Like Chris Homan said Picasa is not available for Mac. Also, picasa does work with RAW files. Played with one last night (Nikon NEF file)
    "New! Version 2.7 with better RAW support."

    According to their help page they have supported RAW for over 2 years

    Next, there is no mention that picnik is web-based editing of files. Meaning the images are editing via web browser.

    Also, Photoshop Elements 6 - there is no Mac version (as of today). They are still on version 4 for Mac.

    This is a poor blog entry. If you are going to post information, make sure it is correct.

  • Philip Mercier February 27, 2008 06:34 am also didnt get a mention its like gimp but has less of a learning curve. and its free very powerful and awesome check it out .......

  • Derek Newland February 27, 2008 06:29 am

    I'm with NormMonkey. GIMP + ufRAW is great.

  • Grant February 27, 2008 06:28 am

    GIMP and RawStudio here...

  • John February 27, 2008 06:28 am

    I'm not even sure I can take an article labeled "an introduction to alternatives" seriously when they don't so much as mention the Gimp, which is a leading alternative to photoshop...

  • Christine February 27, 2008 06:12 am

    I have to agree with the others in the fact that I am shocked to see GIMP not even getting a mention! :(

    I'm fairly new to photography post-processing and tried PS CS and Elements as well as Corel.

    I am finding that GIMP can do most everything that PS can do. There are tons of plugins, an active community, and lots of tutorials. And best of all it is free.

    I can even use PS tutorials, adjust for my GIMP menus, and follow along easily enough. I'm only limited by my own general post-processing experience.

  • Nacho February 27, 2008 06:10 am

    If you work in Linux you should also try Krita.

  • Julie February 27, 2008 06:03 am

    I've been using Photoshop 7 for about 5 years now.

  • John February 27, 2008 06:02 am

    I use Digikam and Gimp, both are free and great.

  • przemas February 27, 2008 05:54 am

    How about a RawTherapee ?
    Gimp, F-spot, Picasa, LightZone (for linux user 85 day trial). And many many others good tools :)

  • Kim S. February 27, 2008 05:52 am

    Ahh you missed the best tool for 95% of photos! Adobe Lightroom! When quick editing is needed for multiple photos this is the best for Mac and pc. Other than that, Sometimes, I do initial raw editing with Nikon NX as it handles .NEF (Nikon raw) very well. But, any image I want to really treat nicely gets Photoshop.

    My current research is on colorspace. I’ve been playing with ProPhoto rgb, but when viewing on a monitor outside of the editing software the image looks different. Plus, im under the impression most printers (home or lab) can only handle sRGB. This is more confusing than a dark room!

  • Chris Homan February 27, 2008 05:47 am

    Picasa is not available for Mac.

  • Tony February 27, 2008 05:25 am

    mmm...picasa opens up my canon raw files...

  • Melissa February 27, 2008 05:00 am

    I use gimp too and I love it! Plus its totally free.

  • Riccardo February 27, 2008 04:42 am

    Paint.Net needs a mention too!

  • N.P. February 27, 2008 04:39 am

    Anothe GIMP user here - very surprising that it didn't warrant mention. I also use UFRaw for converting RAW files (when I bother to shoot that way).

    It should also be noted that the latest version if Picasa can open RAW files. I don't personally use it though, so I don't know what kind of functionality it offers for editing.

  • Eliot February 27, 2008 03:52 am

    yeah what about the GIMP?! Free, powerful, just as good as Photoshop? Something is amiss here. :)

  • Michelle Potter February 27, 2008 03:50 am

    I just have to join in expressing my dismay that the GIMP was not mentioned. GIMP is an awesome, powerful program. It's free, AND IT WORKS ON LINUX! (Obviously, since it was written for Linux.) Even on my Windows box, where Photoshop is also installed, I use GIMP all the time.

  • João Almeida February 27, 2008 03:46 am

    Gimp, Gimp, Gimp!!!

    Cons of Gimp
    Nothing that I have seen

    I could think in no proper support for CMYK, but other than that it's a quite complete tool.

  • ABM February 27, 2008 03:34 am

    I use Aperture for cropping and exposure correction. I like how easy it is to use and having non-destructive cropping rocks. I use Photoshop for everything else, though, like cross-processing and localized edits.fixes to the photo.

  • Wulf February 27, 2008 03:28 am

    Yep - this write up should definitely include The Gimp, which is a popular choice on the forums for the combination of power (on a par with the full version of Photoshop) and price (free!). It is also open source and available on Windows, Mac and Linux.

  • his4ever February 27, 2008 03:16 am

    Gimp all the way!! I love the gimp and I just discovered a whole community in Deveant Art that are making plugins and brushes for gimp. Too cool!

    Pros of Gimp:
    It's free
    It does lots of stuff and I think it does a great job

    Cons of Gimp
    Nothing that I have seen

  • Kaerast February 27, 2008 03:05 am

    Another vote for Gimp and F-Spot. I've also been playing around with LightZone recently, it's limited in what it can do but does it well.

    For HDRs, either Photomatix Pro or qtpfsgui. Photomatix isn't free, and can produce unrealistic results but qtpfsgui is very slow and you sometimes want unrealistic results.

  • Rodrigo February 27, 2008 03:04 am

    I use Picasa to get my shots quickly organized, but when it comes to editing, I use Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 1.3 and Adobe Photoshop CS3. No one does it better than Photoshop...

  • Glen February 27, 2008 02:56 am

    I've used PhotoImpact for years and find it powerful and reasonably-priced. Interestingly, its now owned by Corel which also includes Paint Shop Pro among its products.

    Have toyed with the Gimp every now and then (like very much some of the effect possibilities) but am defeated by its very unfriendly cropping-to-size.

  • Mike February 27, 2008 02:53 am

    What about Adobe Photoshop Lightroom that just came out? The application is targeted towards professional photographs that want a lot of control but don't need all the fancy stuff that a full blown Photoshop application has. The Lightroom interface is very intuitive and makes professional image editing easier. In addition, Lightroom has fantastic tagging and image organization support. The cost for Lightroom is high ($300) but affordable for enough for the determined photo amateur.

  • geotography February 27, 2008 02:52 am

    Your piece was timely for me and much appreciated.

  • maleficarum February 27, 2008 02:45 am

    How come no mention of GIMP??
    I love this program; great for work because you don't have to worry about installing pirated software on the company network :)

  • Imran February 27, 2008 02:34 am

    CS3, PE6, and Picasa.

  • Jill February 27, 2008 02:27 am

    I'm not a beginner, but I'm no pro either. My desire to improve my photography basically began when I had my daughter about 6 years ago and began scrapbooking...I wanted better pictures to record her life. Up to this point, I had Photoshop Elements 4. Honestly, I used it very little because it was SUPER slow on my computer (partially the fault of my computer, but also the program as I have heard others complain about it's speed) and I would just end up getting frustrated with it. So, I ended up using Picasa A LOT and I actually LOVE it. For a FREE software, it has SO much to offer a ametuer like me.

    However, I recently purchased a new Dell laptop and upgraded to PSE6 because of the good reviews I had heard about it and although I haven't really dug into it too deeply yet, I have to say that I am liking it MUCH better than 4 and think that I will be using it a lot more...maybe even more than Picasa.

    I have thought about upgrading to CS3 - the only reason I have thought about it is because most of the actions out there do not work in elements, but at this point, I don't really feel that reason alone constitutes spending several hundred more dollars.

  • F28Photo February 27, 2008 02:15 am

    Mainly Gimp for editing, and sometimes XnView for some quick modifications and viewing (also free)

  • Wayne February 27, 2008 02:07 am

    I second the GIMP, with F-Spot for tagging and organizing.

  • tom February 27, 2008 02:04 am

    Picasa can tag with keywords, can't it? I don't use it, but i think it can.

    That said, I've been totally unable to find a decent tagging program for the PC. I've tried so many alternatives, from the freeware mini ones to buying Picajet, to Picasa, to even buying Lightroom.. but none of them work well.

    I want a simple, fast way to tag all my photos, why is that so hard? Some tiny application with smart grouping (like roboimport) and with quick, NON AWKWARD text input, with del.ici.ous style autocomplete, suggestions and tag clouds.

  • Adrian Leyva February 27, 2008 01:57 am

    There is also i-photo for macs which is about $80. I use this program a lot. It does everything from raw to simply enhancing the color. Also aperture is a good program I use, it's about $99 but it makes you do a tons of things.

  • Speed February 27, 2008 01:35 am

    Don't forget Windows Live Photo Gallery for Vista and Windows XP. It's free, it's fast, it works with RAW files and includes an amazing stitcher.

    Combine that with (also free and open source to boot) and you have a rich set of options and features larger than most people need.

    Did I mention that they're both free?

  • MikMik February 27, 2008 01:26 am

    As others have said, what about The GIMP?
    I think Paint .Net is also a free image manipulation software.
    And I wouldn't say Picasa is an Image Editing software. In my opinion it is an Image Organizing software. Its editing capabilities are very limited. You can do just some basic adjustments and some (cool) effects, but no serious editing.

  • NormMonkey February 27, 2008 01:12 am

    I use the Gimp along with UFRaw for 99% of my photo work.

  • xait February 27, 2008 01:11 am

    why didn't you mention The Gimp and F-Spot, both of them great programs, both of them free (as in beer/as in freedom). Gimp is even regarded as the standard image editor in Linux world. Both F-Spot and Gimp come preinstalled with Ubuntu and many other Linux distributions

  • Navneeth February 27, 2008 01:01 am

    The GIMP doesn't even get a mention?! :O

  • Timmermann February 27, 2008 12:48 am

    I think, you forgot Gimp ( - it should be relatively wide spread, i think..