Editing photos before uploading them to your favorite social media sites has become quite a norm these days. Photo editors help people make their images look better than they originally are by allowing them to alter the exposure, contrast, colors, and much more. This is a very important process in professional photography as well, as different cameras and lenses produce different kinds of images and sometimes there is a need to tweak things a little to make the most of your photos.
But not everyone can afford to buy a subscription of Photoshop or spend hundreds of dollars on Capture One Pro. Well, for those people, there are a number of free photo editing software available. These free editors are pretty good at what they do and are perfectly usable for moderate and even advanced photo editing needs. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the best free photo editing software you can use.
If you really love how Photoshop looks and feels but don’t want to spend so much money using it, then Photopea is the closest thing you will get to Photoshop for free. The software is almost an exact replica of Photoshop in terms of layout and design, giving you access to many of the tools to be found in Adobe’s offering. Some of these include the healing tool, stamp tool, and lasso tools.
Photopea can even open PSD files and save your new files in the PSD format. You should note that Photopea is an online image editor so you will need an internet connection to start using it. It’s a decent image editing software that takes mimicking other photo editors a little too seriously.
Polarr’s free version might be less powerful than its premium version, but that’s not to say that it’s not an excellent option for a free photo editing software. Polarr’s best thing is perhaps its beautiful interface. All the tools are laid out as colorful sliders on the right side of the screen, making them instantly recognizable because of the color-coding.
You can delve deeper into each tool to reveal more settings that can be adjusted to make your photos look much better than before. The quality of images you get out of Polarr is also very high, making them seem like they were created with a paid photo editor and not a free one. The tools are also easy to use and they all work quite quickly as well.
You can use Polarr on Android and iOS devices as well, helping you work on more devices but with the same familiar tools. To top it all off, the presets on offer are also pretty good and not overly dramatic like in many other free offerings.
One of the premier free photo editing software on the market is GIMP. This is a direct competitor to Photoshop and is so good that many people serious about their photography use it over Adobe’s offering. It lets you do a lot of what you can do with Photoshop, like working with layers, using masks and brushes, editing images’ exposure and contrast, and much more.
It does take some time to get used to GIMP’s interface and to explore all its tools, but once you get past that, it’s a stellar photo editor that you can use for free. To add to that, there’s a strong online community that backs GIMP as well so there’s always something new to learn. So, if you’re willing to put some work in, GIMP is a real contender for the best photo editing software, period.
Not to be confused with Microsoft’s Paint, Paint.NET is a very strong free photo editing software that is used by a large number of people around the world. One of the things that make people fall in love with it is the ease of use.
The interface is very good in terms of usability and understanding. Paint.NET incorporates a healthy collection of easy-to-use editing tools as well as more advanced processes like working in layers. Another great thing about Paint.NET is that you can use multiple plugins with it. These make the software much more powerful and turn it into something that can take on the big guns.
If you want something rather simple that can help you make quick and easy edits, then the free version of Photo Pos Pro might be worth a look. With it, you’ll be able to make most of the basic adjustments like exposure, contrast, color temperature, etc.
Another good thing about the software is that you can edit RAW files with it. While it’s a good free photo editing software, don’t expect it to give you anything advanced like layer control. For advanced features, you’d have to get the premium version.
If you want to edit RAW files for free, then Darktable is the best free photo editing software you can get. It’s packed with so many features that it actually gets a little confusing to use at times.
However, once you get accustomed to where everything is, you will find that the results you get with Darktable can go head-to-head with the likes of Lightroom. That’s a big deal when talking about software that is free to use. Darktable is designed by photographers to help others edit their RAW files easily and conveniently, without worrying about spending money.
7. Raw Therapee
Another free photo editing software that allows you to edit RAW files at a very high level is Raw Therapee. The software is easy to use and brings to you a lot of features you’d expect in a premium program. You will have access to many features like non-destructive editing and working with masks.
You can also reach out to the online community in case you run into any issues or need some guidance. This makes the software even more attractive, especially for users who are new to RAW editing and don’t yet understand the complexities of it. All in all, Raw Therapee is a great alternative to Lightroom if you are short on money.\
Yet another RAW developer available to those who are looking for free photo editing software, LightZone allows you to non-destructively edit your photos in a neat and easy to use interface. You will have plenty of tools and presets at your disposal to give your photos exactly the kind of look you want.
LightZone also supports pretty much all digital cameras on the market because it uses the dcraw library to read RAW files, which is quite a universal library. This makes LightZone a really strong RAW developer that will probably keep supporting new camera models in the future as well.
9. PhotoScape X
PhotoScape X has many useful tools other than those focused on editing the exposure, contrast, colors, and more. Such tools include the ability to cut out the background of an image, creating collages, combining multiple images, and even creating GIFs.
PhotoScape also allows you to work with brushes and different effects to make your photos more creative. The batch processing ability of the software means that you can work with multiple images and then export them all at once in order to save time. You can also use textures and overlays to turn your photos into creative artworks.
Overall, PhotoScape X is perfect for those users who just want something to help them boring photos into much more interesting ones even if it means losing a little image quality in the process.
If you want a more fun free photo editing software, then you can use InPixio. It gives you the ability to not only edit your photos but also turn them into postcards thanks to a large number of frame sand presets. It’s a simple and very easy-to-use software that lets you turn your memories into fun momentos in a very short amount of time. The filters are pretty good as well, giving photos a unique look instantly.
InPixio is not an advanced photo editor by any means, but it is a very good way to create fun photos to share with friends and family. And sometimes that is all you really need to do to make your memories last for a long time to come.
11. Apple Photos
Why even go looking for a free photo editing software when you have an Apple laptop with Photos built-in? Apple Photos is a very powerful image editing tool that can let you do everything from fixing light and shadows to adjusting the colors of photos.
The interface, like many things Apple, is very clean and easy to start using. You can use sliders to tweak your images in quite a lot of detail with each tool having multiple other editable options inside it. Apple Photos also manages your photo library on your computer to make it easy to find and access your images.
You can supercharge it with the addition of free or premium plugins if you want. That way, you can turn Photos into a RAW developer, an HDR editor, and more. With these kinds of options, Photos can really be a one-stop solution for all photo editing needs of not only beginners but also of expert photographers.
And finally, we have Microsoft’s answer to Apple Photos. Windows 10 Photos is a sleek, moderately powerful, and very easy-to-use photo editing program that comes pre-installed with Windows computers.
It’s an essential part of Windows 10 that not only helps you preview photos quickly but also gives you many tools to edit them if you choose to. You can crop photos and rotate them. You can alter the exposure, contrast, colors, clarity, and more. You can use one of the many filters if you’re in a hurry and want to add a little more visual interest to your photos. If you’re more into creative editing, you can also add 3D text to photos very easily. And if that’s not enough, you can even add 3D effects like rain to make your photos look more dynamic.
For artists with pen-enable devices, there’s also an option to draw directly on your photos to turn them into artworks. All of these capabilities make Windows 10 Photos a very viable solution to basic photo editing needs. It’s a shame that you can’t add plugins to add more capabilities to the software, otherwise you might not have needed to use anything else at all.
So, as you can see, there is a whole lot of variety when talking about free photo editing software to be used in 2021. All of these programs are very capable in their own ways, with some like GIMP even being able to take on the best premium options on the market these days. Since they’re all free, it’s a great idea to just download them to check them out.
Go over their features, work with their tools, and see which one fits your needs and your style of editing the best. If you are willing to spend some time testing some programs out, we guarantee you will find a free photo editing software that will fit your workflow and end the need to spend any money.