What's the Best Photo Editing Software

Who makes the best photo editing software? Graphic designers will tell you it's Adobe, whose PhotoShop is the industry standard for image editing and manipulation. But PhotoShop is expensive, and it's suite of tools can be overwhelming for those who just need to crop and print digital photos. Fortunately, there's a full range of photo software available for all levels of expertise, including programs designed to organize your image collection.

The photo editing software included with digital cameras is sometimes only useful for moving photos onto your computer. A step up in bundled photo software may provide extremely basic editing and organizing tools. Either way, if you want to do anything more than basic color correction and file transfers, you should look for a program that's built to meet your needs.

Photo Manipulation
If you need extensive cropping, image repair and contrast and color adjustments, choose photo editing software that includes editing functions. These can be extremely involved and difficult for a novice user to master, but what you lose in ease of use, you gain in precise control.

Serious image editors should look for photo software with cropping, color correction, special-effects filters and image-format conversion. Adobe Photoshop is the best photo editing software for professional use because it is widely supported by printing companies and design firms. It provides precise control over every aspect of an image, but that precision comes with a professional-level price tag, and novice users may find themselves intimidated by its wide range of tools.

If you don't need that much control, look for simpler photo editing software that includes cropping, color adjustment and the ability to create JPEG images, which is the best format for publishing high-quality photos on the Web. Some photo editing software comes with specialized tools to optimize graphics for the Web and features that create buttons and automatically generate HTML. This is also the best photo editing software for restoring older photographs, although you will need a scanner to convert prints into digital photos.

If you've got a high-end digital camera, be sure that the program you choose offers support for the uncompressed RAW file format. You can't print or publish these images without first using photo editing software to convert them into JPEG format.

I Live to Paint
Vincent van Gogh once said, "I dream of painting, and then I paint my dream." If you dream of creating images, you'll need photo editing software with a suite of tools specialized for the task. Graphic artists, web designers and even conventional artists all use photo editing software to create images and to stylize text.

If you want to create images as well as manipulate them, it's important to know the key words to look for when you're shopping for photo editing software. At the very basic level, look for draw or paint tools. Many basic photo editing software packages contain poor versions of these tools that may not satisfy the advanced user. Corel Paint Shop Pro offers professional-level tools for image creation and an interface that intermediate users can master.

The ability to bend, shade and emboss text is a great bonus feature if you're making greeting cards, CD labels or flyers, and advanced photo editing software eliminates the need for a separate program to style text. However, it's important to note that programs built for photo editing aren't the best choice for freehand drawing or illustration. If you're starting with text or photographs, photo editing software will take your project to completion. If you need to draw, choose software designed for that purpose.

Photo Album Software
If you take a lot of photos but can never seem to find anything, photo album software that organizes and presents your images is the best choice for you. Some photo album software also includes basic editing capabilities that are useful if you only intend to crop photos, reduce red eye and adjust color. These functions are usually automatic, so you won't have any control over the results. You'll be able to improve upon a good picture, but you need editing functions that you can control to fix a bad one.

Photo album software includes easy, intuitive editing features that make it extremely friendly for the novice. If you need to manage projects such as slideshows, collages or setting up a photo album on the Web, this is the right place to start. These programs come packaged with predesigned templates that any user can customize to create great-looking scrapbooks or photo albums.

Technology Versus Creativity
Getting the right photo editing software is largely a matter of finding something with features that you can use. If you're not experienced at editing digital images, the advanced tools featured in Adobe Photoshop will be meaningless. If you're a creative designer looking for photo software that can create fine art, the tools packaged with a basic photo organizer will leave you feeling unsatisfied.

Be realistic about your needs and your level of technical savvy. More expensive software is only better if you need the advanced features and can reasonably use them.

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