Saturday, 04 October 2008

The best free photo editing software

Most digital cameras come with free software to allow editing of digital photos. Most of these are extremely limited in what you can do. For a simple, easy-to-use photo editor have a look at Picasa2 - a totally free product available from Google.

The free offerings from Kodak and Adobe allow for pictures to be cropped and rotated, correction of colour balance, bightness and contrast and little else. Picasa has some additional features. Pictures can be straightened - anything from 0 to 360 degrees. Straightening a picture is simply controlled using a single lever.

Picassa allows for pictures to be converted to black and white, sepia, soft focus, tint, soft focus, filtered black and white, and focal balck and white. All very useful functions. The tuning option makes provision for fill light to be added, highlights and shadows may be accentuated and the colour temperature adjucted.

Of course there are a number of even simpler adjustments that can be applied automatically. Redeye makes it simple to elimitate the annoying red eyes common with flash photography. I'm feeling lucky allows Picasa to make the decisions. Auto-contrast, auto-colour and the fill light lever complete the offerings of the editor. Use the collage function to create a collage of your photos.

To start, Picasa2 will search your computer for all pictures. Picasa creates a gallery that is quick and easy to navigate through. Information about the camera used and date are maintained and a facility to add additional albums and sort by category is included. Finally, it is easy to share photos, upload them to the web and to upload a slide-show for your web-site.

I have been using PaintShop Pro for many years. It is still one of the best photo editors available on the market. It is not a free product but allows for complete professional editing of photos and graphics of any kind.

Gimp is an open source product that can do everything that PaintShop Pro can do - perhaps even more - for free. For professional work, Gimp is highly recommended. My own experience with the product is limited. For my purposes, Picasa is usually enough. But if you need to seriously touch up a picture, airbrush a face, change the perspective or almost anything else then Gimp is the answer.

Picasa is great for the layman and for enhancing and cropping your pictures with great ease. Gimp is a professional graphics editor offering much more functionality. Picasa allows you to become familiar with all its features within a few minutes. A very cleverly designed application that can be used by anyone from a professional to an amature.

Expect to spend a couple of hours exploring Gimp's rich array of features and learning how to use the product. Once mastered, you will be able to produce truly professional pictures.

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