In the not so distant past it was necessary for a photographer to have a solid understanding of photographic principles to avoid burning excessive amounts of film on bad photographs. Processing photographs generally meant sending the roll of film to a processing lab. For those who had the resources, a darkroom with chemicals, enlargers, and cropping equipment set the photographer back several paychecks. Digital photography has not only made photography easier with immediate review, but processing has become a breeze. Unfortunately, the cost associated with post production has limited many photographers from reaching their potential. No longer is cost a factor in digital photo processing. This article covers three fully functional and free photo processing applications.
GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP)
The GNU Image Manipulation Program, affectionately known as GIMP, is by far my favorite open source photo retouching application. GIMP is very similar to other high-end applications, but without the price tag. GIMP is practically without boundaries and available for Linux, Windows, and MacOS.The application allows the user to apply layers, masks, filters, curves, levels, and has just about everything found in it’s wealthy and pompous cousin. When you launch GIMP for the first time you will be pleasantly surprised by the familiar desktop. GIMP has free-floating tool boxes featuring all the expected tools found in standard professional applications. For those who wish to be more creative beyond the boundaries of the application tools, there are plenty of resources on the Internet where filters, brushes, textures, and scripts can be downloaded for free.
By now you have probably become quite skeptical as how such an application such as GIMP can be free…there must be a catch, right? Wrong. GIMP is a user-supported application, which means it was developed by users who have volunteered to create the application for the very reasons why people refuse to spend hundreds to purchase similar commercial applications. The GIMP developers do accept monetary donations, but contribution is strictly voluntary.
Another open source application is the digiKam application. This application comes in two parts; the image handling application and the ShowFoto image manipulation application. DigiKam offers a variety of tools to organize your workflow from creating albums to uploading to the Internet. In addition to handling just about any format you can throw at it, digiKam also has built-in codecs for a wide variety of RAW images. ShowFoto is less complex than GIMP, but it is by no means a limited application. Although ShowFoto does not have complex tools, like layers and masks, the application is great for making quick edits to your digital photographs. The application comes loaded with the necessary tools to adjust levels, curves, red-eye, resizing, perspective, horizon correction, and more. This beauty behind this application lies with the speed and efficiency in which effortless corrections can be made. Like GIMP, digiKam is an open source application and is absolutely free for download and use.
Picasa is a free application offered by Google. Although Picasa is not an open source application, it has many features designed for those who are more interested in making simple and quick adjustments to their photographs. With Picasa, you can make quick adjustments to the brightness, color, and red-eye with a single click. The greatest strength of this application lies with Picasa’s ability to automatically catalog digital photographs. Picasa immediately looks to the native directory for additional photographs and adds them to the catalog quickly. Picasa works in conjunction with Google’s online photo repository, however, a Google account is necessary before photos can be uploaded; another free service offered by Google.
There are many commercial applications on the market that are designed to do the very things you can do for free by using open source and free applications, such as GIMP, digiKam, and Picasa. If you are attracted to shiny boxes and popular commercial applications, then by all means, support the commercial applications. There are many excellent commercial products on the market at your disposal. However, if you are more interested in saving your hard-earned money for a new lens, then give the above applications a shot. Please remember, open source applications are free, but there are still costs associated with maintaining web servers and overhead costs, so please contribute if you find the applications useful.