I will update this from time to time as new software becomes available. As with many things in life, you generally get what you pay for.
Image editors have moved on a lot in recent years and it is now difficult to get a free app that will meet your needs and be reliable when it comes to editing the large image files that we deal with.
I think if you are going to be taking photo consistently throughout the year, then spending a little money on a programme that will organise and edit them will be worth it.
After taking photos for some time, you will need to find a way to organise your ever-growing collection. You may also want to perform some basic editing – maybe just to brighten, sharpen or crop your shots. Whatever level of editing you want to do, there are many options available, both free and paid for.
While Photoshop and Lightroom are among the best photo organising and editing software applications available, they are often overkill for most users. Fortunately, there are many other and often free image management and editing applications available. Some are platform-specific but there are many that work on both Windows and Mac.
Photoscape – Highly Recommended
Photoscape is a free image editor available for both Windows and Mac. The user interface is laid out well with your image folders nested along the left side and the associated thumbnails just below that. Under that, there are options to add a photo as a favourite, overlay a grid and adjust the viewing size. Clicking an image thumbnail will open up that image in the main viewer.
Along the top, there are more options if you want to cut out a figure from a scene, batch edit photos, create collages, combine photos and much more. Finally, there is the option to resize and save your photo to another folder. There is a Pro version that you can buy that will unlock many more features. But to be honest, there’s more than enough in the free version to keep most photographers happy.
You can scroll through your photos using the arrows along the top and just to the right of these are some options to adjust colour, apply filters or frames or add shapes to the images, as well as many others.
Below this are the main tools where you can adjust the exposure, contrast, sharpness, colour and a host of other settings. There is no end of editing options available for whatever you want to do.
Photoscape does not organise your images into folders so you will have to do this yourself. If you want software that organises and edits your photo, then I suggest Cyberlink Photodirector below.
I highly recommend trying this out if you’re looking for a featureful, easy to use and free image editor. It’s the one I will be endorsing in my beginners‘ classes from now on. Download it here. This link is for users of Windows 10 and Mac. If you have an older version of Windows, there is a separate link on the same page.
Cyberlink Photodirector 11
I am including this ‘paid for” software here as I’ve had issues with some of the free software below. At the moment, Photodirector11 costs €69.99. This software is available for both Mac OS and Microsoft Windows.
At its core, it organises all of your photos into dated folders and allows you to edit them and finally output them to a variety of sources. There is a small learning curve but you will be able to grasp the basic functionality of it pretty quickly.
You can rate your photos and also tag them for easier management. There is face recognition included and I’ve found this works very well.
On the editing side, as well as the basic adjustments like improving exposure, contrast and colour, it has the ability to crop, remove red-eye, and spot removal. You can apply a tone curve or adjust the levels. It includes selective sharpening and lens corrections as well as many more features.
However, Photodirector can do so much more. There is a wide variety of presets for that one touch solution. Extensive face and body retouching tools allow you to get really creative and the software also supports working with layers. You can merge your photos into a slideshow set to background music and output them to a wide variety of sources.
I am very impressed with the programme and while some of the functionality takes a steeper learning curve, the basics of managing and applying improvements to your photos are very accessible. It’s definitely a piece of software I’d recommend.
There is a free 30 day trial of it here.
Picasa is primarily a photo organiser with some basic editing functionality built in. It’s available for Windows and Mac as free software. Download the Windows versions here – download. You can download the Mac version here – download.
It will search through your computer and find all the photos on it. To be honest, I found this annoying so I went into the preferences and selected specific folders for it to search through and monitor. After all, most of our photos will be in the “My Pictures” folder. It does not move your photos from their original location. Instead, it acts like a database that just catalogues their position. It will organise your photos by date, into albums with folder names you will recognise. You can drag and drop to arrange these albums or create new albums.
Picasa provides you with one-click fixes to improve your photos. You can apply various non-destructive edits – this means it doesn’t directly affect your original photo. So, that file is always kept safe. It also makes it easy to share your pictures – you can email, print, make gift CDs, instantly share your images and even post pictures to your own blog.
You can also make Web Albums using templates that are ready for use on your website or blog. Many of these features are only available if you log on with your Google account. However, you don’t need a Google account to use Picasa.
Google has since decided to retire Picasa in order to focus on a single photo service in Google Photos, an online-only photo app. But you can still download it from a variety of websites.
Another piece of
free software that I recommend you download is the Nik collection, also from Google. This suite includes a few different applications to help improve your photos. Nik does not organise your images and is purely for editing them.
Included in the suite is Silver Efex Pro, which converts your image to black and white. It comes with presets that will give your pictures a particular look. These help to achieve great results quickly. Within each of these presets, there are tools to improve brightness, contrast, amplify the whites and blacks and make further subtle or not so subtle edits.
There are filters that will emulate popular film types, add finishing adjustments like toners and borders to turn your image into great black-and-white pictures.
I have a short video tutorial about using Silver Efex Pro on my YouTube channel. Be sure to hit the subscribe button while you’re there!
Another application within the suite is Color Efex Pro. This also has a wide range of presets that give your images different looks. You can select one that inspires you and then use the sliders to further enhance it.
It’s always best to edit in a subtle way rather than going mad with the sliders. You can see here how I have used some of the filters to enhance a photo.
Other features in the suite include Analog Efex Pro. This is a little like Instagram and allows you to apply quirky effects and emulate the look of many old cameras.
I’d highly recommend that you download Nik Software. It was previously priced at nearly €150 but as of now,
it’s totally free. Visit the Nik Collection page and give it a try. My favourite tools and ones that I use constantly are Silver Efex Pro, Color Efex Pro and Viveza.
My only concern is that Google will abandon this project and stop updating the software in the future. Get it now before that happens.
Nik Software is no longer free.
Below are a few other free editing options that you may like to try. However, I haven’t used them much recently and cannot vouch for their usefulness.
Photo Pos Pro photo editor
For anyone starting off and looking for some software to edit their images, there is a free version of Photo Pos Pro photo editor. If you’re starting out, it may be just what you need. For Windows only. Get it here.
Fotor is a free online photo editor that’s ideal for giving your pictures a quick. If your needs are simple, its filters will meet your needs. Get it here.
Gimp. Windows and Mac
Probably the best free alternative to Photoshop, GIMP is an open-source application that’s available for Mac and PC. You get a lot of professional-level editing and retouching tools. Like Photoshop, there is a learning curve in order to get the best from it. Get it here.
Paint.NET from Microsoft features an intuitive interface that supports layers, special effects and many other tools. It is able to handle more advanced photo editing that you’d expect from Photoshop and other paid programs. Get it here.
If you do intend to do some editing then the Adobe subscription rates may be worth looking at. A subscription that gives you Photoshop and Lightroom costs about €146 a year. That works out at about €12 per month or €3 per week! See more here.
Ashampoo Photo Optimizer. Windows
Photo editing doesn’t have to be time-consuming. With Ashampoo Photo Optimizer 2019, all it takes is a single click to improve your photos significantly. Get it here.
If you’re using something else, feel free to leave a comment and tell us about it.