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There are loads of photo editing programs available, but sometimes you’re in wonderment as to which one you should get your hands on. If you’re trying to figure this out or if you’re looking to explore new programs, you should check this essential list out after the jump.

Mass Editing

Aperture– Aperture allows you to import many photos at once and make lots of minor edits to them such as color balance, saturation, etc. The latest version is apparently being loved by many photographers right now and many are calling it a, “Lightroom killer.” The interface of this program is very simple and extremely straight forward.
Lightroom- My personal program of choice for shooting tethered with my Canon 5D Mk II connected to my Macbook. Lightroom allows you to do everything that Aperture does but it offers more support and in a much more timely fashion from Adobe (take a look at Aperture’s supported cameras here for proof). When I’m finished cataloging and organizing my images I can take them through the development window in Lightroom and just being the editing process. This is great for when I just need to make little touch ups.
Capture One– I used to use this program quite a bit. Capture One is the preferred choice for users of Phase One Digital cameras. It’s like Lightroom but the interface is different and lots more information can be displayed on the screen in one area than with Lightroom. For those of you that want to more advanced approach, I highly recommend Capture One.

Single Editing

GIMP– GIMP is essentially Photoshop but with different names for nearly every function. It also allows for editing of RAW photos through a plug-in which is nice for enthusiasts. I don’t use it simply because I personally hated the learning curve. I know lots of people that love it though.
Photoshop- Hands down the most used professional photo editing tool ever. It’s for good reason too. Photoshop allows for loads of editing abilities and the program has a very short learning curve as well. Nothing can really compete with it.
Photoshop Elements– Elements is my program of choice for a large number of reasons. As a photojournalist, events photographer, and concert photographer I don’t often need to make major manipulations to my photos. When I do, Photoshop Elements provides all the power I need and also does it without taking up the resources on my computer that Photoshop would. That’s a great change of heart.
Paint.Net- This program is like GIMP but doesn’t offer RAW support. Of all the programs here, it also has the cleanest and simplest interface.


Picasa– Picasa is from Google. It’s a photo editing and organizing software. It’s very powerful, simple and versatile. I don’t use it because I don’t like their Terms of Use. This website allows you to upload, edit and share your photos. It’s nice because it’s an even simpler version of Photoshop Elements. Anyone can pick this one up and it has the cleanest interface of the three web editing tools.
Picnik– Picnik works with Flickr. Targeted towards total beginners, you can do most of these things using something like Windows Photo Viewer.

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.

GIMP 2.8
Compatible with: Mac OS X, Windows XP or later, Linux
Price: Free
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.

Pixelmator 2.2
Compatible with: Mac OS X 10.7 or later
Price: $30
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.

Be safe, be classy, be an artist. Catie.

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