For all you graphic designers and professional photographers out there, Photoshop may seem like the obvious choice. But for the rest of us who simply want to touch up our images, organize them, apply filters, or remove anything unwanted from the photo, there are plenty of alternatives that aren’t as daunting. Try some of Tony Hakim’s photographers’ favourite photo editing programs.
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4
Compatible with: Mac OS X 10.6.8 or later, Windows Vista or later
Price: $150 for standalone version
While not a perfect alternative to Photoshop, Lightroom was created as a RAW workflow tool for those who don’t need to slice and dice their images too much. An advantage of Lightroom is that it covers many of Photoshop’s weaker points. Lightroom allows you to not only organize and tag your photos, but to apply quick fixes and enhancements. Furthermore, after processing your image, adjusting exposure and removing noise, you can apply these same adjustments to a number of other images.
Compatible with: Mac OS X, Windows XP or later, Linux
For a program that will cost you absolutely nothing, GIMP is certainly worth experimenting with. It works as a simple paint program, as well as being able to re-touch photos, render images, and convert image formats. It includes a variety of features, including filters, brush tools, text tools, layers, distortion, colour-correction tools, cropping, resizing, and effects options. While GIMP doesn’t support RAW files, and isn’t as polished as Photoshop, it still has an arsenal of tools for free.
ACD Systems ACDSee Pro 6 and ACDSee Photo Editor
Compatible with: Mac OS X and Windows XP SP3 or later
Price: $60 for ACDSee Pro 6; $30 for Photo Editor 6
While ACDSee Photo Editor doesn’t include the organization tools that Lightroom does, it does provide you with a decent Photoshop alternative for a fraction of the price. ACDSee Pro 6 offers a number of features, including RAW processing, image tagging and organizational tools, and exposure/colour enhancements.
However, if you do feel like you need more Photoshop-like features, Photo Editor 6 provides you with layer-based, pixel-level edits. ACDSee doesn’t offer features such as facial recognition and geotagging that Lightroom does, but it does offer RAW format support.
Compatible with: Mac OS X 10.7 or later
At its low price of $30, Pixelmator is an ideal program for Mac users or beginners due to its user-friendliness, but still includes a huge variety of features. Pixelmator can do anything from basic photo editing to semi-advanced editing, such as colour correction, brushes, layers, masks, filters, text tools, and many more. Similar to GIMP, it supports PSD files, so you can still work on projects after putting them through Photoshop.
Corel PaintShop Pro X5
Compatible with: Windows XP SP3 or later
Price: $60 for basic; $70 for ultimate edition
One of the more popular programs for Windows based computers is Corel PaintShop Pro X5. It’s perfect for graphic artists, and can create vector graphics. It also includes a range of tools, including layers, filters, one-click HDR, retouch tools, and RAW-format support. Corel is also compatible with many of Photoshop’s own brush tools. The ultimate edition for $10 more than the basic version includes Nik Color Efx Pro 3.0 filters and additional enhancement tools for portrait photographers.