Photo editing software can be an expensive purchase. But if subscription programs are not within your budget, there is plenty of free photo editing software out there that will still give you great results.
The good news is you don’t have to purchase Adobe Lightroom. Amazing things can be done with free software that’s available.
So let’s run down some of the best free photo editing options out there.
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The first option is the ever-popular GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program).
It is a powerful open-source program, which offers many of the same features as Adobe Photoshop. In fact, we also recommend it in our best Photoshop alternatives list. The interface is a little more cumbersome than Adobe products, but it does allow you to create some awesome images.
The program allows the use of many different plugins. One of these is the recent addition of the RAW Editor Plugins (UFRaw or RawTherapee), so you can now edit RAW images. The additions of plugins are fairly seamless.
GIMP is still the best and most comprehensive free image editing software available. It also comes with a great list of tutorials to help you get started.
Paint.NET is another free photo editing software program. Not to be confused with the Microsoft Paint program (although it has a similar interface), it is less powerful than GIMP, but still offers the user a lot of editing options.
There is a large range of plugins available for Paint.NET. It doesn’t offer the image editing power of GIMP, so takes up less memory on your computer: great if you don’t have the latest PC.
Paint.NET comes complete with filters and the ability to edit in layers, similar to Photoshop. It also lets you adjust hue, contrast, brightness, curves, saturation and many more options also found in Photoshop.
Paint.NET is a great starting point for fledgling image editors. The program is much less complicated than GIMP and Photoshop.
Photoscape is another free and powerful image editing program. It is primarily designed for photo editing, so is not the best option for digital artists.
Photoscape is designed with beginners in mind. It comes equipped with options for batch editing, creating panoramas, the ability to edit RAW files and to create GIFs. The program encourages the user to randomly experiment with features and explore different looks.
The interface is very different from the typical design of other free photo editing software, which is perhaps its downfall. Any users who have experience with GIMP or Adobe will find this program challenging to use. But if you are a complete beginner without any editing experience, it should be fairly simple.
It is not as powerful and Photoshop, but for beginners who want a simple, easy to use the program, this is a great option.
Irfanview is primarily known as image viewing software, but it can also be used for editing and organizing large amounts of photos.
It can handle large files easily and allows basic edits plus many advanced image manipulations. The program has been around a while so the editing features are numerous, plus you can batch edit images too.
For those with a little more experience–or a huge library of images–this is a great program for editing and organizing images.
Fotor is a free photo editing software that is available on a host of platforms (online, mobile apps, and downloadable desktop software). The program has been designed for photographers as well as marketing professionals who want to create graphic designs out of images.
It has lots of great retouching features and is really handy if you want to edit photos on the go (using their web app). It has many one-click filters that make editing quick and simple. So if you’re an amateur photographer with little editing experience, this should suit your needs.
6. Photoshop Express
Photoshop Express is a mini version of the Photoshop desktop program. You can make many of the same edits as the regular program, including noise reduction.
If you like to edit photos from your smartphone or tablet, Photoshop Express is one of the best options available. It also works on your browser, so you can edit images from pretty much any device.
Using Photoshop Express on a tablet offers users one of the most comprehensive editing options available. For smartphone photographers, this app offers you a lot of flexibility and power that other programs do not.
Related Article: Best apps for photographers
Pixlr is a more recent and comprehensive addition to the range of free editing software programs.
I experimented with the online version via my desktop computer. There are lots of presets that are quick and easy to use: there are layer capabilities and you can adjust items like contrast, brightness, and saturation, just as you would in Lightroom.
The one drawback is that if you shoot in RAW, this program will not accept the files. I had to convert them jpegs before I could begin editing. Other than this drawback, the program is an awesome alternative to expensive editing options out there. It’s probably one of the best free image editing software available and definitely worth a try.
There is also an added bonus for Dropbox users: Pixlr allows you to edit photos directly from your Dropbox, with no time-consuming downloading or transferring of files. You can fully edit your images in the cloud.
So Which Is the Best Free Photo Editing Software for You?
Free photo editing software doesn’t mean you have to compromise on your retouching options. There are many programs out there to meet most kinds of photographic needs.
Before you download, consider what you want the software to do for you. Once you know, there is bound to be one among the 7 we’ve listed that will work for you.
Perhaps you are looking for an alternative to Adobe products because of the steep learning curve of Photoshop? In that case, please do check out our in-depth-article on Lightroom vs. Photoshop. Hint: you don’t need Photoshop for most photography edits!
Which is your favorite? Or are there any we haven’t listed? Tell us in the comments below.
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