Ever since Steve Jobs slapped a camera onto the iPhone, everyone has become a budding photographer. Before, you had to buy a roll of film and carefully take your shots (so you didn’t waste any), then take it to the shop to be developed (which would take days). Fast forward to today, when you can just snap away to your heart’s content, delete the ones you want, and not have to wait to see your creations.
But just because you have a camera, it doesn’t necessarily follow that you are automatically a great photographer. Any half-wit can point and press a button. While some photos are works of art, others need some editing — or a LOT of editing — and I’m not just talking about slapping on an Instagram filter. What you need is a good image editing app.
Oh, what a coincidence. I’ve found 10 for you!
As usual, when it comes to name recognition, Google leads the way with their Picasa service. Their Web Albums service is now merged with Google Plus, but the desktop software lives on for the moment. Although Google hasn’t said anything about discontinuing it anytime soon, if their little brother has now been lumped into Google Plus, then it doesn’t bode well for big brother’s future survival prospects.
What I really like about Picasa, apart from the usual image editing tools, is being able to easily measure photos and fit them onto an A4 page to see the actual size. Borders are also easy to apply and size, as well as direct sharing in Gmail, adding a watermark, and if you have to, apply a silly Instagram-style filter.
Just like Picasa, Irfanview is an oldie but also a firm favorite among my journalistic friends and colleagues. I personally use SnagIt, but since SnagIt costs $50 many people who don’t need to do a lot of image editing can make do with Irfanview which is completely free. Plus you could argue that Irfanview offers heaps more features than SnagIt.
Which makes me ask myself: Why the hell did I pay $50 for SnagIt? Temporary insanity?
The top feature that I like is batch conversions. You can rename a huge number of files in seconds, as well as resize them. That alone makes it my best friend. You can also scan directly from a flatbed scanner, make screenshots, set a wallpaper, and install plugins to extend the features even more.
Even though they are surrounded by free rivals, TechSmith seem to think that SnagIt is worth $50. (I was utterly mad — can I get a refund?) But in its defense, the screenshots are 100% perfect, and the program has never failed me once in five years. One thing that does tick me off though is that once you buy it, you are not entitled to free upgrades. An upgrade costs $25!
The current version is tightly integrated with all other TechSmith products, such as Camtasia and Jing. You can also upload to Google Drive and Microsoft Office, record your screen, and edit your screencast by trimming out the parts you don’t need. Blur sensitive details, highlight important parts, and annotate the screenshot.
At first glance, you would be forgiven for thinking that this was Windows Explorer, as it does bear some similarity with its yellow folder tree-like structure. However, this image editing app boasts some impressive features, and once again, it’s completely gratis.
As well as covering all of the usual image formats, FastStone also covers a wide range of RAW image formats from all of the major camera manufacturers. You can then crop and resize your images, as well as apply the usual filters (red-eye removal, color adjustments), flatbed scanner support, ability to edit EXIF data, batch processing to rename and resize quickly, a portable version, and a huge amount more.
The venerable Paint.NET seems to be the crowd-pleaser, being installed on pretty much everyone’s PC. Starting life as a Microsoft product, it is now being compared to Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft Photo Editor, and GIMP. It prides itself on being “immediately intuitive and quickly learnable”, making this an ideal candidate for newbies.
Images open in their own individual tabs and you have an unlimited history, so you can undo and redo image alterations as much as you want (disk space permitting). You also have Photoshop-like tools such as the Magic Wand feature, the Clone Stamp feature, and layers.
And if you get stuck, you just need to consult the forum where someone will probably be glad to help out.
GIMP is a popular program for anyone wanting to have Photoshop-like features but with a slightly easier learning curve. (Check out our GIMP walkthrough and tips.) But unlike Photoshop, GIMP is free of charge and open source. It is also cross-platform and comes with a portable version that you can throw on your USB stick.
It is also an ancient program — nearly 20 years old but shows no sign of slowing down or aging.
What is really great about GIMP, though, is the army of plugins and scripts which make it better and more useful. From the GIMP extensions pack for Windows, to 3D screenshots, to turning photos into comic book images. There’s a huge amount to choose from.
Photos is the new photo viewing and editing app for OS X and comes free with the Yosemite operating system. If you are still using Mavericks, then you will be stuck on the previous incarnation, iPhoto (which is also a very good photo editor). Both are backed up by iCloud Photo Library, meaning that your photo collections are available on all your OS X and iOS devices.
You can connect your camera to have your photos imported, drag a photo directly into Photos with your mouse, and also take advantage of the editing and sharing options. One click enhances the colors of the photo and then you can share it via the following means :
PhotoScape is another photo editor which relies on the Windows Explorer design. Rather than look tired and boring, it gives some users a sense of familiarity.
PhotoScape offers a GIF maker, where you string up several photos to make a final one. You can also print passport photos, lined, graphed and music paper, and online face recognition. There is also a version of Photoscape for OS X if the before-mentioned Photos fails to take your fancy.
XnView MP supports over 500 file formats, with all the usual suspects (JPG, PNG, GIF) as well as some lesser-known ones such as Amiga IFF, Amstrad CPC, and Kodak RAW. Cross-platform for Windows, OS X, and Linux, you can also do batch conversion tasks and use the program under various translated languages.
Ratings, color labels, and categories ensure that your photos remain completely organized. The OCD in you will applaud at such tidiness and precision.
Zoner has a free edition and a paid edition. When you download it for the first time, you are immediately put on one month of Pro. After the 30 days are up, if you choose not to pay for Pro, then you are switched to the free version.
The Pro version costs a staggering $89. At that price point, you would have to be head-over-heels in love with it to justify a purchase. After all, the professional Lightroom 6 is just a little more at $149.
Zoner has extras such as photo frames and templates, a script to view PS and EPS files, and several extras for RAW file formats. Other features include camera photo imports, batch renaming, batch re-organizing, 50 different editing tools, and more.
So which photo editor do you use to make your snaps sparkle? Or do you think, in the era of cloud editors, that the desktop editors are entering the realms of computing history?
Image Credit: Sanitaryum