Free Photo Software Resources
by Peter Zack
The intent of this section is to offer a resource of freeware editing tools for your photos. There are plenty of great free software packages available on the internet. Maybe you are a casual hobby shooter or just can’t rationalize spending $300 to $1000+ just to show a sharper image to Grandma. Well I hope here we can offer you some great choices to edit your photos and produce some great results…for free!
Many of these will replicate the effects available in Photoshop and similar programs. Some might be used in combination. Like using Raw Therapee to convert your images from RAW to JPEG or TIFF before editing them in something like GIMP or Paint.net. We would appreciate hearing from you on these or others you have found. I will update the page anytime someone sends me a link and details (via the contact us page) about the software.
I would also suggest that it’s worth making a donation to the package of your choice. People that have created this software have provided a great service and continue to offer support and upgrades. Over the years, we’ve seen other sites close down because the effort to keep the software current is not worth the return. Some offer an upgrade version for a small fee but the free version works well and will give you an idea of if you’ll use the software before a donation or purchase.
Some descriptions are off the providers’ web sites.
A word of caution: I have used a number of these and have about a dozen currently loaded. Not all have been tested by ETL for review, but all have been downloaded and checked to be safe. However, we cannot assume any responsibility for software or hardware conflicts with any of the following programs. It is always recommended that you use good quality antivirus and spyware software to protect your computer when downloading any internet based software or programs.
Just click on the orange name of the freeware program to go directly to the site for that program.
If you have used one we’ve missed, please e-mail it to us and we’ll add it to the list!
Sumo: I don’t consider this a serious editor although it does a decent job. But you are on vacation and need a way to do some basic edits at your sisters place to leave some photos with her. This is perfect. No downloads and the computer doesn’t need to be very powerful. Worthwhile remembering.
Paint.net: A very good editor that can replicate much of what Photoshop can do. The forums section offers extra plugins, advice and tutorials. An easy program to navigate and learn. It’s not huge and doesn’t require the most powerful computer to operate well.
GIMP: Another very good editing program with a loyal following of users. The interface is a little more difficult to navigate than Paint.net but they offer a down loadable user manual which is not offered by most freeware programs.
Irfanview: Batch processing, slide shows, lots of supported formats including camera support, Jpegs, Gif’s, TIFFS and just about everything else. Multimedia player and you can create your own slide shows that can be burned to CD with music. Lots of plugins and it also will take many Adobe plugins. A great package that includes a forum and FAQ help section.
RawStudio: Mac and Linux users. Rawstudio is an open-source program to read and manipulate RAW images from most digital cameras. Rawstudio will convert your RAW files into JPEG, PNG or TIF. Does things like; batch processing, cropping, straighten, batch processing, various post-shot controls like white balance, saturation and exposure compensation and more.
Lightbox: This is a good easy to use editing program and if you like the free version, There is a “Pro” version at a very reasonable cost. Good features, tutorials and a forum for help and answers to your questions. Well worth checking out.
Picasa: Windows, Linux and Mac users. A good but basic editor. Best feature is web album host to put your images in an album to share with others. Also does image retouching, watermarks, screen capture, slide show movies.
XnView: Windows, Mac and Linux. Good basic editor. Cropping, levels, filters, contrast, batch editing.
DigiKam: This software could fall under the next heading as well. It’s an editor, image manager, image tag/exif editor. It seems to do just about everything and well worth checking out. Supports just about every Camera RAW format. The interface is intuitive and it has many similarities to Lightroom to Adobe. Lots of plugins.
VirtualPhotographer: and VirtualStudio. Add effects to images with one click and editing in many formats. Add frames, watermarks and full editing ablity. VP can also be used as a photshop plugin.
ShiftN: Simile application to straighten or correct lines in an image. It will help adjust the typical shot of a building where the lines converge as you look up.
Photoscape: Photoscape is a fun and easy photo editing software that enables you to fix and enhance photos. Some of its key features: viewer, editor, batch editor, photo merging/splitting, create animated GIFs, RAW converter and face search.
Artweaver: Artweaver lets you paint creatively with the help of a huge range of painting tools. You can create sketches from photos or just experiment with colors. For professional users, Artweaver offers layers, group layers and support for the PSD file format. It is also possible to load and run Photoshop compatible filters (only Artweaver Plus). Artweaver is available in two versions. A Artweaver Free version for free and a Artweaver Plus version with costs which has more features than the free version.
PhotoPlus: This Windows-only program provides, beyond the standard image editing tools, paintbrushes and airbrushes, clone tools, and layers, so you can add effects without affecting your original image.
Pixia: The original Japanese Edition was created and developed by the author, Isao Maruoka, but has also been aggressively raised by its fans, which makes this software to be quite unique and different from other tools. Apart with the original Japanese, it is available in a number of languages, amongst others English, Polish, Spanish, German or French.
VicMan’s Photo Editor: It’s a versatile image editor with an intuitive interface and a wide variety of features. This powerful application is user friendly, offering simple image editing, high productivity and easy customization. Now you don’t have to fork out hundreds of dollars for a quality image editor. This award-winning application is freely downloadable and comes with a wide range of essential features for both novice users and professional designers. With VCW VicMan’s Photo Editor you can refine your digital photos, draw artwork naturally and effortlessly, producing superb graphics for the web.
Ultimate Paint: Ultimate Paint is a full-featured 32-bit Windows graphics program for image creation, viewing and manipulation. You can download different versions, see what extras UP gives you compared to other paint programs, take a look at its cool plug-in effects, register the trial version and browse the tutorials. In the latest trial version all basic functionality can be used without limitations. In addition they have also introduced a new freeware version.
Xtreme Photo Designer: Edit and share photos, retouch, design, optimize, distort, add perspective effects, crop, etc.
PhotoFiltre: While Photofiltre is miles away from the professional oriented Adobe Photoshop, it’s an excellent free alternative. The program contains all the essential tools and options to edit and optimize pictures. It loads up very quickly and changes can be instantly previewed. Novice photographers or graphic designers can use it to cut their teeth on image editing before going on to more complex applications. –Cyril Roger.
Pixlr: This editor looks and feels similar to Photoshop, but with the difference that everything happens online. Similar to Photoshop, it offers layers, brushes, curves, etc., not to mention an impressive array of adjustments and filters. Despite how feature-packed it is, it’s fast, although up/downloading of images will only move as fast as your connection will allow. One last benefit is that it doesn’t require registration to use it. There is also an add-on for Firefox and Chrome, Pixlr Grabber, that when installed lets you right-click on any image on a webpage and edit it in Pixlr.
Pixlr Express: For those who are not comfortable with the Photoshop-like controls of the standard Pixlr, there is the more basic Express version that offers a set of simpler controls and options for basic image manipulation.
Picnik: An online photo editor with simple options such as auto-fix, rotate, crop, resize, sharpen or red-eye fix. If you want more advanced editing options you’ll have to upgrade to the Premium version for a monthly fee.
BATCH EDITING, MANAGEMENT AND RAW DEVELOPERS
Image Resizer Powertoy for Windows This is a great and simple add on for Window XP,Vista and Win 7 users. It’s actually just a DLL file addition to Windows Explorer, not a stand alone program. It allows a fast and easy resizing of a photo to share on web sites and emails. It allows you to right-click on one or more image files in Windows Explorer to resize them. A must have tool for anyone. See the site for an explanation.
Raw Therapee: Freeware raw developer. Offers batch processing and a lot of nice features that are comparable to what is offered in the full version of Silkypix and Adobe Camera RAW.
Stepoks RAW Importer 1.0: Wide compatibility with common cameras RAW formats include: Canon RAW CR2,CRW;Kodak RAW DCR; Adobe Digital Negative DNG; Konica Minolta MRW; Nikon NEF; Olympus ORF; Fujifilm RAF; Leica RAW, Contax RAW, Casio RAW; Sony SRF. Best quality result interpolated by AHD algorithm and full control of exposure, dynamic, color, white balance, focus in 16bit channel space (48bit color). Powerful batch convert RAW files.
Scarab Darkroom Seems to be a very similar program to Lightroom and currently there is a freeware beta version with a pro version to follow. Supports numerous camera RAW files from almost every manufacturer.
Raw Photo Processor (RPP): A Raw converter for Mac OS X (10.4 or 10.5 only), supporting almost all available digital Raw formats. Some basic features as well: 4-channel white balance, linear and compressed exposure compensations, saturation, brightness and contrast, highlights recovery, local contrast, monochrome mode and more.
Fotobounce: This seems to have some cool ways to organize and find particular photos. From the web site: Identify and tag family & friends, Built in face recognition, Organize your photos into albums, Facebook and Flickr integration, View photos from your mobile device , Easy-to-use drag & drop interface. This is not exactly freeware in that you have to subscribe to other linked services to get it.
Dup Detector: Copy your images too many times? Hard drive so full you want to hit the format button? This finds duplicate and near duplicate images by opening and reading image pixel data. The program is easy to use, just specify the path and start the scan. You can specify a match % that is required to consider the image a duplicate and preview all found dups side by side with an option to delete either one.
Kigosoft: Help you to batch convert image file formats from one to another. You may add files from different folders to converting list, set the options of target format, scale parameters, watermark parameters. Then you click the “convert” button, it will convert those files in converting list as the options you set, automatically.
Ufraw: A utility to read and manipulate raw images from digital cameras. It can be used on its own or as a Gimp plug-in. UFRaw supports color management work flow based on Little CMS, allowing the user to apply ICC color profiles. All the essential (and some non-essential) information and control over the raw conversion, with the hope that one could resolve all the exposure and white balance issues during the raw conversion. The advantage is that one can make full use of the raw data.
IMAGE AND CAMERA UTILITIES
PhotoMe: This tool is used to show and edit the meta data of image files. It’s possible to analyze and modify Exif and IPTC-NAA data as well as analyze ICC profiles.
Opanda: IExif 2.3 is a professional EXIF viewer in Windows / IE / Firefox, It is the best choice to view EXIF / GPS / IPTC for photographer, shutterbug, photo editor and so on. Also check the site for a few other utilities. I have downloaded the PhotoFilter 1.0 and have used it a little. Features 150 Hoya, Kodak and Cokin filters.
GeoSetter: Setting geo data by using embedded Google Maps to insert location information into the EXIF of your images or by entering known values for coordinates and altitude directly. Shows existing geo coordinates and tracks on embedded Google Maps.
StarZen: This utility enables you to easily test your digital camera for dead and hot pixels.
Pcinspector: Recover files from hard drives and memory cards. You will notice a number of different, other software applications to maintain your PC.
Bulk Rename Utility: allows you to easily rename files and entire folders based upon extremely flexible criteria. Add date/time stamps, replace numbers, insert text, convert case, add auto-numbers, process folders and sub-folders plus more.
FastStone: A number of very good tools here for downloading. 1) A full-featured screen capture tool 2) An image browser, converter and editor that supports all major graphic formats including BMP, JPEG, JPEG 2000, GIF, PNG, PCX, TIFF, WMF, ICO and TGA. 3) An image viewer that supports all major graphic formats. Its intuitive layout lets you view images in a variety of ways. 4) An image converter / resizer intended to convert, rename, resize, crop, rotate, change color depth, add text and add a watermark to images in a quick and easy BATCH mode.
SharpControl: The sharpening process can be adjusted over simple number based parameters. The effect can be added to the whole picture or to specific selected areas as well, while a preview keeps you always up-to-date. There are a number of software bundles on the site to check out as well.
Noiseware: Noise removal that is about the best available. It is in a freeware version and also a Pro version or plugin available to purchase for Photoshop.
Neat Image: An image filter to reduce noise and grain in photographic images produced by digital cameras and scanners. Neat Image is indispensable in low-light (indoors, night, no-flash, astro) and high-speed (sport, action, children) photography. I use this myself and it does work well. In my opinion all noise programs have limits and it’s a balance between reducing noise and a sharper image. Can be used stand alone or as a plugin with Photoshop and Aperture. for both Mac OSX and Windows.
NDNoise: A Java-based freeware program that enables the removal of noise in digital images. It works on standard image files like JPEG, GIF, PNG, etc. and allows batch processing of images. Because it is JAVA based it works on any computing platform, though only as a standalone program, not as a plugin.
HDR (HIGH DYNAMIC RANGE) SOFTWARE
Dynamic-Photo HDR: Technically not a ‘freeware’ program, there is a basic version available on the site to try. It leaves a small watermark that is easily cloned out. If you like HDR adjusting, this is a great program and you’ll upgrade for a small fee.
Photomatix: Another HDR program with a freeware version that leaves a watermark on the finished image.
Qtpfsgui: Yeah I can’t figure out how to pronounce it either. But seems to do a nice job. Linux, Windows and Mac OS X. Create an HDR file from a set of images (formats: JPEG, TIFF 8bit and 16bit, RAW) of the same scene taken at different exposure setting.
Enfuse: Image blending software that will blend a bracketed set of shots to create an image with an apparent higher dynamic range (but not true HDR). It might be more intuitive than HDR and easier to get realistic looking images out of it. It has a nice alignment droplet that will allow you to blend images that aren’t from a tripod.
PhotoAcute Studio: Enhance photos with more details and less noise, with higher dynamic range and less chromatic aberrations. It is a software program that processes sets of photographs taken in continuous mode. It utilizes superresolution algorithms to convert a sequence of images into a single high-resolution and low-noise picture, that could only be taken with much better camera.
PANORAMA IMAGE CREATORS
Hugin: Cross-platform panoramic imaging tool chain based on Panorama Tools. With Hugin you can assemble a mosaic of photographs into a complete immersive panorama, stitch any series of overlapping pictures and much more.
Microsoft Image Composite Editor (ICE): is an advanced panoramic image stitcher. Given a set of overlapping photographs of a scene shot from a single camera location, the application creates a high-resolution panorama that seamlessly combines the original images.
Autostitch: takes a step forward in panoramic image stitching by automatically recognizing matching images. This allows entire panoramas to be constructed with no user input whatsoever. Autostitch is incredibly simple to use! Just select a set of photos, and Autostitch does the rest.
IMAGE STACKING DEVELOPERS
You may find this page informative for images and background with image stacking.
DeepSkyStacker: DeepSkyStackeris for astrophotographers that simplifies all the pre-processing steps of deep sky pictures. Automatic registration of a set of pictures. Automatic detection of stars using all the picture area. Automatic determination of Darks, Flats and Offsets to be applied to the pictures using ISO speed and exposure time. Too many features to list here. Have a look at the site.
CombineZP: Go to the install link at the top of the page. Used mostly for Macro shooting to increase the DOF of the shot. If you take several images with various focus points of a subject, you can combine the shots to have most or all of the subject in sharp focus. CombineZ5 Does a very similar job to Helicon Focus (below) but is free, just a little tougher to learn.
HeliconSoft: This site actually has several software applications. Probably the easiest to use stacking program, Helicon Focus. Only problem is the software is on a 30 day trial then you have to buy it. (From the site): Image editing software, that creates one completely focused image from several partially focused images by combining the focused areas. The program is designed for macrophotography, microphotography and landscape photography to cope with the shallow depth-of-field problem.
RotAndStack: Used take to many astronomy images and merge them. This process is used mainly on dark images to remove the noise level. It works with jpg (and png) and it’s reasonably simple. With this program you can for instance set your camera on a tripod, take a bunch of 30 second exposures of the night sky (more time will lead to star trails) and stack them to enhance the contrast.
AstroStack 3 Light edition v3.3: More astro-photography stacking software. Trail version and a paid version. Online PDF manual.
Auto-Montage Essentials: Got a microscope and a camera? This is for you. There’s a basic version that can be down loaded as a trial and a Pro version that you must pay for. The trial might be fun but it seems the paid version is gonna cost a small bundle.
FREEWARE PHOTOSHOP PLUGINS
VirtualPhotographer: includes over 50 presets that automatically apply combination’s of film grain, color modification, B/W, soft focus, high contrast and many artistic effects to achieve the same professional-looking images that used to take hours of photo editing.
BW-Plus: A single Photoshop compatible plug-in filter for quickly turning your colour images into greyscale, but with the added option of using a coloured optical lens filter as you would in traditional B&W photography. The different colours will change the tonal range during the greyscale conversion : for example, a red filter will lighten the red, magenta and yellow areas plus darken the green, blue and cyan in the photo.
Pointwise Shape-Adaptive: Noise reduction filters for grayscale and color image denoising, JPEG deblocking and deringing.
Chromacute: ChromAcute beta removes chromatic aberrations (color fringing) from your digital photos. It is a free plugin for Adobe Photoshop CS, CS2 and CS3.
Yousendit: Maybe you have a large group of pictures you need to send to a customer? This could be a much better solution than trying to email them. There is a free version that allows you to send files up to 100 MB with a 1 GB monthly download limit. From the site: Send unlimited 2GB files and folders. Send files to anyone with advanced options like password protection and certified delivery. Receive files with branded Dropbox. Receive files as large as 2GB each with a customized Dropbox complete with your branding. Track who has downloaded your files. Advanced file delivery tracking so you know who has downloaded each file and when.
Eraser: You might be selling a camera and including a card to get it sold or a hard drive. Did you know that even a formatted card or hard drive still has files that can be restored with recovery software? There may be sensitive or personal info you don’t want shared. Use this tool to make sure the card or hard drive is completely clean.
Cheers and good shooting (or should I say editing!) – Peter Zack