Photo Editing Software

Michael Cardenas

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Hi. I'm new to photography and don't know the first thing about editing software. Are there any good, free, editing softwares out there? I have a MacBook air incase compatibility is a factor. Thanks for your help in advance:icon_smile:.
 

Ysarex

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Hi. I'm new to photography and don't know the first thing about editing software. Are there any good, free, editing softwares out there? I have a MacBook air incase compatibility is a factor. Thanks for your help in advance:icon_smile:.
What do you want to edit; raw files from your camera or JPEG images from your camera? For free raw processing software use Darktable.
 

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Welcome Michael. I see that you've been a member for a while but perhaps not very active in photography. I have used GIMP for a while because it is freeware. They make a Mac version. It is modeled on Photoshop. Check it out here: GIMP Good luck with your photography and be sure to post some photos.
 

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I've never used GIMP or not at least to say yes or no, but I know so many people who have, that I trust, it's a really good free software.

I have always had Irfanview on every computer, it's minimal and I wouldn't call it photo editing is the same sense as the more advanced kinds, but it does things that are so easy and basic, for resizing, basic adjustments, quick, makes thumbnails, does renaming, batch resizing, just too many to list. I'd call it a photo utility and worth having.

Right now if you want to spend the minimal amount of money for some really good editing software, Affinity Pro seems to be the current best. Affinity Photo – Professional Image Editing Software They had a free trial. It works more like Lightroom, where you do the editing and export a new version, rather than editing the original. Non-destructive. You save the working version, and can re-open and work on it later. Last I looked it was $54 complete.

I have free CC Photoshop and Lightroom (because I get it as a gift each year) and I don't use that. I still use Elements. You can do almost anything in Elements that you can in Photoshop, maybe the features and actions aren't as many, but it's more like Photoshop Lite. :chuncky: And Lightroom is excellent if that's the way you work and like that.

What I'm getting at, is eventually you'll probably buy something, and Elements is not subscription, you own it. Affinity is a download. If GIMP does everything you need to do, then fine, be free. If you buy, and don't want to pay and pay, I suggest the other two, take your pick.
 

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Elements is a good recommendation. I presume it will run on your hardware?
 

Rickbb

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Free ones fall into 2 categories, easy and basic and ones that do anything and have steep learning curve, like Gimp. I’ve tried several times to master it and gave up. I use LightRoom now was easier to learn for me, more darkroom like work.

Decide what kind of editing you want to do, graphic arts type or darkroom type then pick your poison.
 

Ysarex

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I've never used GIMP or not at least to say yes or no, but I know so many people who have, that I trust, it's a really good free software.

I have always had Irfanview on every computer, it's minimal and I wouldn't call it photo editing is the same sense as the more advanced kinds, but it does things that are so easy and basic, for resizing, basic adjustments, quick, makes thumbnails, does renaming, batch resizing, just too many to list. I'd call it a photo utility and worth having.

Right now if you want to spend the minimal amount of money for some really good editing software, Affinity Pro seems to be the current best. Affinity Photo – Professional Image Editing Software They had a free trial. It works more like Lightroom, where you do the editing and export a new version, rather than editing the original. Non-destructive. You save the working version, and can re-open and work on it later. Last I looked it was $54 complete.
Affinity Photo is a good deal and right now it is $54.99. It often goes on sale and can be had for less. It's the best alternative to Photoshop if you don't want to pay Adobe's subscription cost. Affinity Photo is basically a Photoshop substitute. As such it's a raster or pixel editor and so not at all like Lightroom which is a parametric editor. Lightroom can work with RGB images but it's primarily designed to handle raw files. Lightroom is a parametric raw file processor.

Affinity Photo like Photoshop is primarily an RGB image editor and does it's best work with a 16 bit RGB or Lab image. To process a raw file Affinity Photo like Photoshop has to have the raw data converted first to RGB data. Photoshop incorporates a separate module that Adobe supplies called ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) to get the raw data conversion done and Affinity Photo is similar. AP supplies their Develop module to convert raw data so it can be further edited in Affinity Photo proper.

You noted non-destructive editing and that's an issue with Affinity Photo. First of all it's an issue with raster editors if you're working with raw files. If you choose to use a raster editor like PS or AP in a raw workflow then you're basically choosing to work between two apps and that will often add a destructive element into your workflow. PS partially solves the problem by passing what Adobe calls Smart Objects between the two apps, but it's only a partial solution. Still it makes PS the most potentially non-destructive raw workflow raster editor available. (Lightroom, as a parametric editor, is 100% non-destructive. So is The free raw processor Darktable).

AP unfortunately takes a different approach and in a raw workflow AP is forced destructive.

PAUSE for definitions: Non-destructive has two different meanings in the context of image editing. 1. Non-destructive can mean editing so as to never alter or overwrite your camera original image -- good idea. 2. Non-destructive can also mean editing with tools that allow you full discreet return access to any/all work done. If you decide for example the next morning to make a change you can do so without having to re-do any work already done.

In a raw workflow AP has a problem with definition two in the previous paragraph. To process a raw file using AP you first open the raw file in AP's Develop module. When you move the converted RGB image into AP proper the work that you did in the Develop module is discarded -- not saved. You can't save it and so if you want to return to the beginning of your editing process to make a change you'll have to start over from scratch with the raw file conversion. It's worth noting that AP is unique in this behavior -- other apps save your work.

You can get around AP's bad behavior by using another app to do the raw file conversion but that will still leave you with a two app solution that tends to introduce destructive elements into your raw workflow.
I have free CC Photoshop and Lightroom (because I get it as a gift each year) and I don't use that. I still use Elements. You can do almost anything in Elements that you can in Photoshop, maybe the features and actions aren't as many, but it's more like Photoshop Lite. :chuncky: And Lightroom is excellent if that's the way you work and like that.
Elements is a scaled back version of Photoshop. There are some critical differences especially in ACR dealing with raw files, and Elements inability to fully function in 16 bit.
What I'm getting at, is eventually you'll probably buy something, and Elements is not subscription, you own it. Affinity is a download. If GIMP does everything you need to do, then fine, be free. If you buy, and don't want to pay and pay, I suggest the other two, take your pick.
 

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Adobe Photoshop Elements is pretty good. It's not free but not too expensive either. iI you are shooting some video as well or just want to make slide show of still photos, you can get its companion software for video for a few more bucks: Adobe Premiere Elements
 

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I'm a newbie too. I downloaded free trial of Affinity today and actually am quite impressed for all that it can do. I'm going to buy it as it's reasonably priced. I've already played around with focus stacking and some light editing.
 

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You did not mention your camera, but the big camera manufactures offer free editing software that works well with their cameras. I shoot Nikon and NX Studio is a very capable app. Even my iphone comes with very easy to use, but very good editing software.
 

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Hi. I'm new to photography and don't know the first thing about editing software. Are there any good, free, editing softwares out there? I have a MacBook air incase compatibility is a factor. Thanks for your help in advance:icon_smile:.
Since you have a MacBook and depending on how much editing you are talking about, Photos should be on your machine and it will do quite a bit of basic editing and even some more advanced stuff as well.
 

JoeW

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Okay, multiple answers.

1. A lot depends upon your camera, what you shoot (RAW or Jpeg), what you intend to do with your files, who interacts with them (are you submitting them for stock? Exchanging them with Creative Directors? Submitting them for contests?). And yes, your computer matters some. Also, be clear, you're often comparing Apples (no pun intended) to Oranges. Some programs (Mac's Photo, Lightroom) also manage photo collections. Affinity Photo, Luminar, Photoshop and many others do not.

2. The "standard" (in terms of what Creative Directors use, what most professionals use) would be Adobe Creative Suite (ie: PhotoShop). For some, they just use Lightroom. Adobe has, by far, the most number of plug-ins and programs written by third parties to work with Photoshop, it's not even close. The most videos and tutorials available. If you are looking to do this as a business (not personal portraits or maybe real estate but doing corporate portraits, working with creative directors), you need to go the Adobe route (and no, Lightroom won't be sufficient then).

3. Me, I use Affinity Photo. You don't pay a monthly subscription ala Adobe--buy it and all upgrades come with it. I love it. Powerful, very capable, lots of good videos, mediocre text material (if that's how you learn). FWIW, you can integrate AP in to your Mac Photos program (so you upload all photos in to Photos and then, when editing, call in AP for those shots that require some special attention and do it all in Photos). As others have mentioned, it's nondestructive. That means it creates a copy of the file and you work from the copy, not the original. And AP was originally written for Mac--they have a Windows version but it's been my "general" experience that programs originally written for one platform often tend to perform better than an alternative. If you don't want to pay a monthly rental fee, I highly recommend you take a look at AP. One other plus--it has two other separate programs for Graphic Designers and Text Production so if you do websites, vectors, documents or books, then AP will integrate seamlessly with that work.

4. I am not a master of GIMP. It is free. It is open source software (and for some people that's a decider). Lots of resource materials out there. A bit clunky. And like Photoshop, it's a bit of a bear to learn (though frankly, most people once they've learned a program go "it was easy" and any program they never mastered tend to say "impossible to learn.") Out of all the freeware programs, this one has the most supporting material (videos, courses, text). I have no idea how well any Photoshop plug-ins work with GIMP.

There are plenty of other programs out there. It's really a function of what type of editing do you want to do. If you play with layers, you really need to look at AP or Adobe. If you're just looking to crop, lighten, maybe add some contrast or color, you've got a lot of options. The best photo editing software in 2022: get organized, get inspired, get creative!

5. Your camera body (especially Nikon and Canon) will make basic software that is often the best RAW conversion program (because it's designed for the RAW files of that camera brand) and usually does batch reviews and editing well. For instance, I rarely use the Nikon "Capture NX-D" except it's very useful for quickly loading 400 photos and then doing a quick scan as to what to keep and what to ditch. I can't comment on Canon's software--I use Nikon bodies. This software is free, download from the manufacturer's site and worth having as a backup if nothing else. Does very basic editing (light, crop, etc.).

6. Artificial Intelligence programs. We have entered the AI world and there are some AI programs out there you need to take a good, long, hard look at. They (based on what I know) aren't good enough to be a complete editor. But you need to consider having them to augment what you do use. Luminar gets great reviews--I don't have it so I'm just repeated what multiple people have told me. I'll just say you should look at it. I have Topaz Labs. I got it when 3 other photographers who's work I admire personally told me it was incredible. It's 3 separate programs. One is Gigapixel. It expands photos (adds pixels) so if you had to shoot something at ISO 64000 and want to blow it up or crop massively (for instance, I shot a snowy owl in complete darkness from a distance), I used Gigapixel to effectively make it look like I shot at ISO 2000. DeNoise is exactly what it sounds like--it removes noise. And Sharpen will sharpen up your photos (though I've found on the extreme ends it will add a lot of artifacts). I use one of these programs about 5% of the time when I edit--and they're indispensable, absolutely indispensable. They have saved a bunch of photos (where my DoF was too narrow and they expanded the DoF by adding focus). Or they turned a soft portrait into one that was sharper. My eyesight isn't as good as it used to be so there are sometimes for a professional portrait, the Sharpen program is a lifesaver.

And this isn't AI but while we're talking plug-ins and support programs (so you do basic edits in Program X like Lightroom or AP and then go to a second program because it doesn't something extraordinary), take a look at the Nik plug-ins. Extraordinary.

7. Last of all, there are some free editing programs (besides GIMP which has a steep learning curve) and the very basic programs by Nikon and Canon. They don't (IMO) hold a candle but the programs I've mentioned. But lots of people use them and they're free and if you're doing very basic edits (ie: not cloning, no layers, nothing sophisticated), then Bob's Your Uncle. Pixlr, Inpixio, Fotor, Darktable, Paint.net, and then some mobile apps (ie: only work on your phone) like Lightroom or Photoshop Express. Many of these also include ads (which is why they're "free").
 
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Ysarex

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Okay, multiple answers.

1. A lot depends upon your camera, what you shoot (RAW or Jpeg), what you intend to do with your files, who interacts with them (are you submitting them for stock? Exchanging them with Creative Directors? Submitting them for contests?). And yes, your computer matters some. Also, be clear, you're often comparing Apples (no pun intended) to Oranges. Some programs (Mac's Photo, Lightroom) also manage photo collections. Affinity Photo, Luminar, Photoshop and many others do not.

2. The "standard" (in terms of what Creative Directors use, what most professionals use) would be Adobe Creative Suite (ie: PhotoShop). For some, they just use Lightroom. Adobe has, by far, the most number of plug-ins and programs written by third parties to work with Photoshop, it's not even close. The most videos and tutorials available. If you are looking to do this as a business (not personal portraits or maybe real estate but doing corporate portraits, working with creative directors), you need to go the Adobe route (and no, Lightroom won't be sufficient then).

3. Me, I use Affinity Photo. You don't pay a monthly subscription ala Adobe--buy it and all upgrades come with it. I love it. Powerful, very capable, lots of good videos, mediocre text material (if that's how you learn). FWIW, you can integrate AP in to your Mac Photos program (so you upload all photos in to Photos and then, when editing, call in AP for those shots that require some special attention and do it all in Photos). As others have mentioned, it's nondestructive. That means it creates a copy of the file and you work from the copy, not the original. And AP was originally written for Mac--they have a Windows version but it's been my "general" experience that programs originally written for one platform often tend to perform better than an alternative. If you don't want to pay a monthly rental fee, I highly recommend you take a look at AP. One other plus--it has two other separate programs for Graphic Designers and Text Production so if you do websites, vectors, documents or books, then AP will integrate seamlessly with that work.
AP is good software at a very attractive price -- BUT.... If you're going to apply the term nondestructive to AP more clarification is in order. It's correct that AP's default is to save an .afphoto file and so not overwrite your original. That's one meaning of nondestructive. We also apply the term nondestructive to the software's editing process. Editing a photo is work and when you're finished with an edit you may decided the following day, month, year, etc. that you'd like to make a change to what you did. A 100% nondestructive editor will permit you to make that change without unnecessarily forcing you to re-do much or all of your work. In this regard AP doesn't compare well and in a raw work flow it's arguably the most destructive editor available. Editing an RGB image in AP can be done nondestructively to a degree depending on what you need to accomplish and Serif makes the claim AP is nondestructive in this limited manner.

A nondestructive editing process is more or less important to different people and the parameters can vary depending on what you're doing. I only process raw files and I want my editing to be 100% non-destructive. Given what I do AP is 100% destructive -- all work done in the Develop module is discarded when the image is converted. One option is to avoid AP's Develop module and use different software to convert raw files. Used this way AP is partially non-destructive but not 100%.
4. I am not a master of GIMP. It is free. It is open source software (and for some people that's a decider). Lots of resource materials out there. A bit clunky. And like Photoshop, it's a bit of a bear to learn (though frankly, most people once they've learned a program go "it was easy" and any program they never mastered tend to say "impossible to learn.") Out of all the freeware programs, this one has the most supporting material (videos, courses, text). I have no idea how well any Photoshop plug-ins work with GIMP.

There are plenty of other programs out there. It's really a function of what type of editing do you want to do. If you play with layers, you really need to look at AP or Adobe. If you're just looking to crop, lighten, maybe add some contrast or color, you've got a lot of options. The best photo editing software in 2022: get organized, get inspired, get creative!

5. Your camera body (especially Nikon and Canon) will make basic software that is often the best RAW conversion program (because it's designed for the RAW files of that camera brand) and usually does batch reviews and editing well. For instance, I rarely use the Nikon "Capture NX-D" except it's very useful for quickly loading 400 photos and then doing a quick scan as to what to keep and what to ditch. I can't comment on Canon's software--I use Nikon bodies. This software is free, download from the manufacturer's site and worth having as a backup if nothing else. Does very basic editing (light, crop, etc.).

6. Artificial Intelligence programs. We have entered the AI world and there are some AI programs out there you need to take a good, long, hard look at. They (based on what I know) aren't good enough to be a complete editor. But you need to consider having them to augment what you do use. Luminar gets great reviews--I don't have it so I'm just repeated what multiple people have told me. I'll just say you should look at it. I have Topaz Labs. I got it when 3 other photographers who's work I admire personally told me it was incredible. It's 3 separate programs. One is Gigapixel. It expands photos (adds pixels) so if you had to shoot something at ISO 64000 and want to blow it up or crop massively (for instance, I shot a snowy owl in complete darkness from a distance), I used Gigapixel to effectively make it look like I shot at ISO 2000. DeNoise is exactly what it sounds like--it removes noise. And Sharpen will sharpen up your photos (though I've found on the extreme ends it will add a lot of artifacts). I use one of these programs about 5% of the time when I edit--and they're indispensable, absolutely indispensable. They have saved a bunch of photos (where my DoF was too narrow and they expanded the DoF by adding focus). Or they turned a soft portrait into one that was sharper. My eyesight isn't as good as it used to be so there are sometimes for a professional portrait, the Sharpen program is a lifesaver.

And this isn't AI but while we're talking plug-ins and support programs (so you do basic edits in Program X like Lightroom or AP and then go to a second program because it doesn't something extraordinary), take a look at the Nik plug-ins. Extraordinary.

7. Last of all, there are some free editing programs (besides GIMP which has a steep learning curve) and the very basic programs by Nikon and Canon. They don't (IMO) hold a candle but the programs I've mentioned. But lots of people use them and they're free and if you're doing very basic edits (ie: not cloning, no layers, nothing sophisticated), then Bob's Your Uncle. Pixlr, Inpixio, Fotor, Darktable, Paint.net, and then some mobile apps (ie: only work on your phone) like Lightroom or Photoshop Express. Many of these also include ads (which is why they're "free").
 

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Elements is a good recommendation. I presume it will run on your hardware?
Yes, I like it because it's not subscription or CC, you can buy a download or get a disc at the store. Same either way, pay once it's your own. Limited to two computers. But since I update now and then, 2007 version on older computers, something else like 2014 on newer, and 2020 on my primary desktop and the newest laptop.

But I do understand the OP asked for free. I don't know a good free that I understand of use.

Affinity Pro I don't understand but I'll take your word for it, that it's not a true non-destructive. I know I can save the working files, without anything altering the original and I can export a new JPG from the archive version. But I don't understand how that's destructive. The original is never changed. OR if my brain is working, you mean the edited version is actually altered, so that's gone? Yeah, sounds right. I guess I could fill my computer with V1 to v15 and avoid that, but, you're right. It's not totally non-destructive editing except in the sense that the original is untouched.

Thanks for pointing that detail out for accuracy.
 

Ysarex

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Yes, I like it because it's not subscription or CC, you can buy a download or get a disc at the store. Same either way, pay once it's your own. Limited to two computers. But since I update now and then, 2007 version on older computers, something else like 2014 on newer, and 2020 on my primary desktop and the newest laptop.

But I do understand the OP asked for free. I don't know a good free that I understand of use.
Darktable is free and pretty good.
Affinity Pro I don't understand but I'll take your word for it, that it's not a true non-destructive. I know I can save the working files, without anything altering the original and I can export a new JPG from the archive version. But I don't understand how that's destructive.
That's not destructive. AP can be used as can all other software to work without altering or overwriting the camera original. That's one meaning of non-destructive as applied to photo editing. It's the 2nd meaning of non-destructive that's at issue with AP. Will the software edit your photos in such a way that once you've completed an edit you can decide to change your mind, go back and make an adjustment without having to re-do work unnecessarily -- this is where AP screws you.

Let's walk through an example: Open a raw file in AP and it will open in the Develop Persona. Make adjustments there to improve the appearance of your image. Now just to run a test set the white balance values to 5000K for temp and -5% for tint. When you're finished with all your adjustments click Develop and your image will be converted and transferred to the Photo Persona. You can do additional editing and when you're ready save your image as an .afphoto file -- do that. Close AP. Restart AP and open your saved .afphoto file. Assume it's the next morning and you're sober. Decide that you really want the white balance to be warmer by at least 800 degrees K. Make that change with the white balance tool in the Develop Persona. Add 800K to the 5000K you previously set. You can't. To set the white balance to 5800K you'll have to re-open the raw file. It won't re-open with the work you previously did saved and you'll have to do everything over again. You've just been destructively screwed by AP.

The original is never changed. OR if my brain is working, you mean the edited version is actually altered, so that's gone? Yeah, sounds right. I guess I could fill my computer with V1 to v15 and avoid that, but, you're right. It's not totally non-destructive editing except in the sense that the original is untouched.

Thanks for pointing that detail out for accuracy.
 

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