Do you want to edit photos like a pro, but either don't know how to edit your photos or just don't have the time or money to invest in a professional photo editing suite? Have no fear, because it's likely that everything you really need is already available to you at the touch of a mouse.
It's important to use the right tool. In most cases, there's no point in cracking open that big digital photo editing program you have on your hard drive. Just as there are more options for word processing than Microsoft Word, there are other photo editing options besides Adobe Photoshop. The program might be great for putting the finishing touches on a poster you're making for the local theater group, but is it the right tool for simple photo editing work like cropping and rotating? Sometimes there are easier, faster ways.
Editing Software May Be Right In Front of You
If you're a Windows user, Microsoft already includes a program called Paint. Paint is more than just a simple painting program. It's a great way to edit photos you've taken with your digital camera. Want to rotate a picture? Crop it? Resize it? No problem. Paint has you covered.
Mac users who want to perform simple tasks without having to deal with expensive photo editing programs are in luck as well. There are two good options installed by default that let you edit photos. The first is actually designed to be the default image viewer, called Preview. Like Paint, it can help you with your photo editing. It's able to perform basic tasks like Paint, but also lets you annotate your images as well as perform basic image corrections such as gamma, saturation, contrast, brightness and sharpness.
Apple also includes a copy of iPhoto with all new Macs. While iPhoto is intended to be a photo cataloging application, it has features many digital photo editing programs would envy. With iPhoto, you can convert images to black and white or sepia. You can use more advanced photo-editing tools to adjust color levels, and iPhoto even includes other effects such as matte and fade tools.
If one of these programs doesn't suit your needs, there are those such as Paint.NET for Windows, which attempts to be a Photoshop clone, and in many areas succeeds admirably. You can also try GIMP, another free application, available for Linux, Windows and, if you're willing to do a little work, for Mac as well. Mac users have a good option in Seashore, a native way to edit photos without having to shell out a ton of cash.
Specialty Photo Editing Programs
Beyond these programs are tools designed for a single purpose. One example of this is a free application for Macs called ResizeIt. This is a useful tool that provides a simple way to edit your photos by drag and drop. Set ResizeIt to your preferred settings and by simply dragging a photo onto ResizeIt, you can scale your image and convert it to a different format.
Another great tool for editing photos is ImageMagick. It is more of a photo manipulation tool than a photo editing program, but it's incredibly powerful. The only drawback is that it often runs without a graphic interface. This means you need to use the Terminal to run it. But if you want to edit photos in large quantities, ImageMagick is fantastic.
Other Photo Editing Options
There are literally dozens of online tools just waiting to be run from inside your browser. A couple of popular examples of this are Picnik and FotoFlexer. In fact, the world of online photo editing tools has become so popular that Adobe has even come out with a free, scaled-down version of its flagship program called Adobe Photoshop Express.
Each of these Web-based programs runs on a combination of Flash and Flex, and will run in any modern Web browser. In many ways, the only difference between these programs and desktop applications is the need to upload your image first. After that, you can edit photos just as if you were running a desktop application.
You can perform basic editing, but you can also add effects, decorate your pictures, create animations, distort your pictures and more. Plus, if you're new to the world of photo editing, no need to worry. Most online tools have good help sections for new users.
Don't be afraid to use more than one tool. It's very common -- and recommended -- to use each tool to its purpose. Want to perform simple tasks? Use a simple program. Want to edit photos using a program with more complex tools? Then one of the more powerful programs might be useful. Regardless of the tool you choose, remember this: It doesn't have to cost a bundle and it should be fun.
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