Friday, November 20, 2009

Free Photoshop alternatives for photographers.

While Adobe Photoshop is justifably the industry standard photo editing application it does come with a price tag to match. Like a lot of software there will be many users who only really use maybe 10% of what it can do and really can't justify its cost. I'm all for minimising costs when possible and there are some very practical alternatives to Photoshop that are completely free.

A quick google search will reveal the choices available for photo editing can be quite daunting in their sheer scale and variety. While it can be tempting to grab all the free stuff you can this can quickly lead to a lot of wasted time installing and playing around with multiple applications, many of which will probably become rarely used. When too much of your time is getting sucked up the quest for a free or cheap alternative starts becoming expensive!

So here are three free Photoshop replacements.

Irfanview is described as a graphic viewer which, while it isn't a full image editor, I think does it a great disservice as it does a lot more than that implies. It supports Photoshop filters and can be used for common basic adjustments that are often all that a photo requires. With plugins installed a host of extra features like IPTC editing are included. I like Irfanview for its simplicity and speed. I have it as my default application for image files to load into when clicked and often use it for batch processing and resizing. It is free for non-commercial use and only a US$12 donation is requested if you're getting serious with it! On its own though it doesn't replace Photoshop, so you need more editing power to complement its file management.

If you're on Windows you'll be familiar with the basic paint program that has featured in the accessories through its evolution. This is not that paint! Originally it was intended to replace the painting software that comes with windows and has gone way beyond that. You get a pretty full featured application that supports layers and has an active community developing tutorails, plugins etc, for free.

Of course I have to mention the the GIMP. You can't go past this software if you're a demanding user that wants an alternative to Photoshop. It is available on multiple operating systems and broadly speaking is a match for Photoshop just without the expense; it is free open source software. The catch for many people, is in getting to grips with it. I know when I first played with it (while experimenting with Linux at the same time, so possibly too much for me at once) I found it frustrating figuring out how to do things I knew I could have dome in moments back in photoshop. As I said if you're wasting a lot of time trying to get to grips with free sofware it isn't so free anymore. However investing time in getting to grips with the GIMP is definitly worth the effort if you plan to use it as long term alternative, which it is certainly capable of being.

I'm pleased to say I'm not the only person who must have found GIMP a bit of a steep climb at first because there is a hack that makes it a much more comfortable transition for users used to Photoshop. Gimpshop basically makes the user interface of GIMP much more friendly for anyone used to photo editing in Photoshop. If you're familiar with photoshop and want a fairly painless (saving hundreds of dollars helps with a little discomfort) transition Gimpshop is the way to go.

These are my presonal recommendations for use as photo editors. Paint and GIMP are also great for graphics work but there are others worth considering for this too. I've no doubt there are other extremely good alternatives for photo editing too that I haven't noticed or fully appreciated. One area I haven't touched on in this post is the increasingly good options available from web based editing applications. If you think I've missed something feel free to add suggestions in the comments.

1 comment:

Luis said...

I just do (sometimes) small things after shooting so GIMP is perfect, I am free fan user! Clone, crop, align and that's all :)