Photography is one of the most expensive hobbies in the world and it ain’t getting any cheaper. Once you have your camera, there’s an almost never-ending need to upgrade lenses, bags, tripods, filters – the list goes on. But luckily one area of photography doesn’t need to destroy your bank balance. Photography software can be mighty expensive, but did you know that there are excellent free alternatives to even the most costly of software? This list of free downloads is designed to introduce you to the fact that you do not have to spend a fortune on photography software.
Gimp – This software is the mother of all free photography software. It does almost everything that Adobe Photoshop does and it is completely open source. There’s even a version that mimics the look of Photoshop so you can get used to it without having a steep learning curve if you have transferred across from PS. This one is a must have.
RAW Therapee – This is a free program to manipulate your RAW images. It has many tools to enhance details, offer control over colour and exposure and offers several option to remove noise from your photos. It also offers batch processing and is well worth a try.
Photoscape – This free photo editing software has a smaller list of option than a program like GIMP, but is still worthwhile checking out for folks who may only need to do a few things to their photos. Some of those options include resizing, brightness and color adjustment, white balance, backlight correction, frames, balloons, mosaic mode, adding text, drawing pictures, cropping, filters, red eye removal and clone stamping.
Helicon – This is full image editing software that allows you to make almost any adjustment to an image that you could think of. It has a step by step workflow feature that will guide you through the whole process.
FastStone – This image software is more designed to be an organiser, but also has a few basic image editing capabilities such as red eye removal, brightness and contrast. Most useful if you're not looking for a fully optioned piece of editing software, but still want the basics while giving you a convenient way to manage your collections.
ClearskinFX – As the name suggests, this is retouching software that is particularly useful for portrait photographers. Touch up skin tones and blemishes. It smooths the skin of the object while preserving all the details and crispness of hair, eyes or background. Best of all, it's free.
Picassa – This is a great piece of free software from Google (who liked it so much, they purchased the company!). It is fantastic for organising, tagging, geo-tagging, adding notes and sharing your photos online. It also allows you to make collages and movies of your images as well as backing up your collection in case the unthinkable happens. It also has a function to blog your photos at Blogger.com as well as upload your movies to Youtube. My one small criticism of this software is that it only allows you to upload your images to the Picassa website when I would prefer to use Flickr.
Photozig – This is photo organising software. It allows you to create albums, share images, add music to slide shows and generally share your image collection in new and funky ways.
Light Artist – This program lets you add realistic lighting effects to your images that you may not have been able to capture with the camera. You can modify the light color, add multiple light sources, change the surface qualities of the image and add various ambient illumination effects.
Hugin Panorama Photo Stitcher – As the name suggests, this free software lets you stitch several photographs together to make a panorama. With Hugin you can assemble a mosaic of photographs into a complete immersive panorama, stitch any series of overlapping pictures and much more.
7Zip – If you ever send images electronically by email or whatever, then you know how long it can take just to upload them. This great little program zips up your files so that they aren’t so big and cumbersome to send. This is great when you have to email more than just a couple of images. It also obviously works with zipping up other programs too!
Picnik – This is an incredible and (remarkably) free online image editing tool. Incredibly simple to use, you can simply upload a photo from your computer and then use any number of familiar photo manipulation techniques from simple cropping and rotation through to altering the color and temperature of your shots. If you don’t like downloading large files such as GIMP, then this is definitely going to become one of your favourite sites.
Firefox (with addons for photogs) – If you’re not using Firefox as your default browser, then you should switch as soon as possible. If you’re even remotely interested in photography then you should switch yesterday! Firefox is a photographer’s dream as far as internet browsers go. With so many plugins and addons for photographers it is nothing short of awesome. Here are a few Firefox addons you should download after you get the browser:
- Cooliris – is an incredible way to view photos on the web. So intuitive and easy to use that you will spend hours looking through your old shots as well as exploring other people’s work too.
- Image Zoom – just as the name suggests, allows you to zoom in on images on the web!
- Flickr Sidebar – lets you search and interact with Flickr from a sidebar in your browser. Very hand and a great time saver.
- Auto Slideshow – lets you go straight into a slide show of all of the images on a webpage with a single click. Great for browsing photographer’s websites not to mention Flickr sets and collections.
- ResizeR – just as the name suggests, you can resize images straight from your web browser.
- Picnik – makes importing images into the online Picnik service easier and even more streamlined.
Irfanview – This is a very fast and light graphic viewer for windows that many photographers use because it is not as heavy as other larger programs and therefore runs faster. It has most of the main options of many other graphic manipulation programs too. Some of the more useful ones include
- Support for Adobe Photoshop Filters
- Batch conversion (with image processing)
- Change color depth
- Scan (batch scan) support
- Effects (Sharpen, Blur, Adobe 8BF, Filter Factory, Filters Unlimited, etc.)
- Lossless JPG rotation
- Many hotkeys
- Many PlugIns
This one is worth checking out if you want a basic program that runs really fast!
Faststone Image Resizer – This is another small and fast program that can do a lot of the common tasks that photographers want. According to the developers it is “intended to enable users to convert, rename, resize, crop, rotate, change color depth, add text and watermarks to images in a quick and easy batch mode. Drag and Drop mouse operation is well supported.”