Shadows of trees on a frozen snow covered lake.

Photo Editing Software

=== by Bob Sutherland ===

I recently attended a community camera club meeting where I was asked to suggest some photo editing software. The club members were already familiar with the names of some of the big, famous, expensive, difficult-to-learn photo editing programs so I tried a different approach. Here is a list of some free programs and shareware programs that can be used for photo editing.

  1. Preview

    Preview is a program that is factory installed on all Macintosh computers. It has been a part of the Macintosh operating system for many years. The main intent of the program is to allow people using Macintosh computers to view many different types of files such as drawings, paintings, photographs, word processing and PDF documents.

    If you open a photograph file with Preview and then search through all of the menus you will discover that the program has some basic photo editing capabilities. One interesting item in the Tools menu is Show Inspector. It lists the answers to all of the technical questions about the camera settings for a particular photo that other photographers might ask you at a camera club meeting.

  2. XnView MP

    XnView MP is a shareware program that you can download and try for free on your computer. The program developer depends on donations from home users and the sale of software licenses to business users to support the future development of the program.

    The original program was created over two decades ago to allow people using Windows computers to open, view and change the file type of drawing, painting and picture files.

    The modern version of the program now runs on Windows, Macintosh and Linux computers. The program has some basic photo editing capabilities. The Macintosh version of XnView MP has a Properties item in the Edit menu that lists all of the technical details about a photo that only a camera club enthusiast would want to know.

  3. IrfanView (pronounced "Ear-fan-View")

    IrfanView is a shareware program that you can download and try for free on your computer. The program developer depends on donations from home users and the sale of software licenses to business users to support the future development of the program.

    IrfanView and XnView have been in competition with each other from day one. The two shareware programs were developed at the same time in history for exactly the same purpose. A decade ago the IranView program had some photo editing capabilities similar to XnView. Although I do not have a Windows computer to download IrfanView on today the program screenshots on its website suggest the program has at least a basic set of photo editing capabilities.

    If you have a Windows computer and download IrfanView make sure you also download the full package of plug-ins. Choose the 64 bit versions of IrfanView and plug-ins.

  4. GraphicConverter

    There are German, French and English language versions of the website. Sometimes finding your way to the English version is a bit tricky.

    The history and original purpose of GraphicConverter is exactly the same as IrfanView and XnView except that GraphicConverter was created for Macintosh computers rather than Windows computers. It is a shareware program that you can download and try for free on your computer before deciding to buy a license.

    The modern version of GraphicConverter is far more complex than any program I have mentioned so far. You will likely have to refer to the user manual, tutorials or other sources of information to learn how to use some of its photo editing capabilities. The good news is that sometimes you can do things with GraphicConverter that you cannot do with other programs.

  5. GIMP = GNU Image Manipulation Program

    GIMP is a drawing, illustration and photo editing program that was originally developed on Linux computers. Free download versions of the program are now available for Linux, Windows and Macintosh computers.

    GIMP is a big, complex program like Photoshop. I am still attempting to learn how to use it.

Financial Warning ~ Your money may be in danger!

Despite what the IrfanView website says do not send the program author cash in an envelope by post office mail. Scanning devices can see the money in the envelope and it will be stolen. Do not send the program author a cheque. All of the shareware program authors in this list live in European countries. Their bank fees for cashing a foreign cheque from Canada or the United States are so high that they cannot afford to cash your cheque. Your only intelligent option to send any of them money is to pay with your credit card using the online ecommerce store attached to their website. If you have never done that before get help. Find someone who has experience shopping over the Internet. You will receive your software registration license codes by email. You will then have to follow the instructions received in the email to install the software registration license codes in your copy of the shareware program.

Software Testing

For all of the above programs (except IrfanView) I tested the photo editing capabilities of the software using a few photographs taken with my camera. Photo A is a small replica of one of my test photos. My main objective when composing this shot was simply that I wanted many different objects and colours in the photo including something bright red. The camera's unprocessed RAW file type created a relatively dark photo. I made many duplicate copies of the downloaded photo file from the camera before I started playing around with the software programs. Sometimes I totally messed up in an unrecoverable way while experimenting with various menu items and potential workflows in a photo editing program. I would then have to start all over again with a fresh copy of the original photo.

With each of the photo editing programs I found one or more menu commands that allowed me to brighten and improve the colours in the photo (e.g. look for menu items such as levels, curves, exposure, brightness, enhance, adjust colour). I was able to crop (i.e. cut off) part of the top and right side of the test photo. I was able to resize (i.e. shrink) the remaining part of the photo to about one third of its original size. In all cases the final photo I was able to create with each of these shareware or free photo editing programs was of comparable quality to Photo Z.

Photo A
Photo A ~ This is a small replica of one of my test photos downloaded from my camera. It includes many different coloured objects on a bookshelf but the overall photo is relatively dark.
Photo Z
Photo Z ~ This photo was created using an expensive, professional photo editing program. With each of the above listed shareware and free programs I was able to create a final photo that was very similar and comparable to this one.