Have a digital camera and plenty of photos? Want some help with editing and managing them all? We've rounded up ten downloads that will let you take control of your photos. Whether you're looking for a top-of-the-line photo editor, a great photo manager, or nifty utilities to handle tasks such as finding duplicates, we have just the thing. And every program is free--not only to download but also to use.
(If you're ready to grab several of these freebies, see our "10 Great Digital Photography Downloads" collection.)
Face it: Sometimes your pictures turn out less than perfect, and you have to adjust their color, remove red-eye, or alter the dimensions. Photo editors can do all of those things and more. Even if you're a professional photographer, your pictures still could use the occasional touch-up--and the following tools are certainly up to the task.
The gold standard for photo editing software is Photoshop, but you have to lay out plenty of gold if you want to use it. Instead, try the free, open-source GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program), an exceptionally powerful photo editing application with many Photoshop-like features, but without the Photoshop price.
You'll be surprised at all the power this program packs, including effects, filters, masks, and layers. Though many of its features are designed for advanced users, it has all of the basics as well, such as the much-needed red-eye removal tool. Be prepared for what may be a somewhat difficult learning curve--the high-end features require a fair amount of time to master, and the layout is a bit eccentric.
Once you get beyond that, though, you'll find a program that offers professional-level photo editing but doesn't cost a penny. And it isn't just for tweaking photos: You can use it for creating illustrations and other graphics from scratch, too.
Download GIMP | Price: Free
Photo Pos Pro
If you don't need all of the power of GIMP but you still want plenty of photo editing tools, give Photo Pos Pro a whirl. This freeware was once a for-pay product, and like GIMP, it's quite capable--but unlike GIMP, it's also easy to use. It sports a straightforward, simple interface that entails no learning curve. Your photo takes up most of the main screen; arrayed around it are a wide assortment of editing tools, each with its own icon. To see what an icon does, you can hover your mouse over it to bring up a balloon tip explaining its function. In many cases, though, you won't even need to do that, because the icons are generally self-explanatory.
Name an editing tool, and Photo Pos Pro most likely has it. The program offers red-eye reduction, of course, as well as automated tools for sharpening or blurring images, making pictures warmer or cooler, and adding frames and special effects. You'll also find drawing tools, and if you're comfortable with working in layers, you can do that as well.
Note that when you install the program, it attempts to set your home page to mystart.com. If you don't want that to happen, make sure to uncheck the box next to that item. Also, the installation process takes quite some time.
Download Photo Pos Pro | Price: Free
Google's Picasa is the single best free program for photo management, editing, and sharing. It has just about every function you can imagine. If you want a comprehensive photo application, this is the one to grab--it can manage your photos, display on Google Maps where they were taken, perform sophisticated editing tasks, and help you share your photos.
At its most basic level, Picasa is a photo manager and viewer. Run the program and then scroll through your folders, and you'll see thumbnails of all your images. You can also tell it to show photos only in a certain date range. If you want to see just photos of faces, choose the Faces filter toward the top of the screen, and Picasa will try to find only that type of photo in the folder; the feature doesn't always work properly, and it will likely bring up a few pictures without faces, but it's a good first cut.
Viewing photos is only the beginning. You'll also find solid editing tools for cropping, eliminating red-eye, changing the contrast, retouching, and more. The tools are exceedingly easy to use--far easier than the functions in competing programs. Picasa even has an "I'm feeling lucky" button that performs cleanup automatically.
In addition, Picasa lets you create CDs full of photos, as well as photo collages, screensavers, and posters. It can upload your files to Google's Web albums photo site, or publish your photos to your Blogger blog. It also can geotag photos, adding information to them for identifying where they were taken; afterward it can display on Google Maps where those geotagged photos were captured, and show such information right inside the program.
Picasa does have a few faults. First, it can take quite some time to scan your system for photos, so be prepared to wait until it finishes. Fortunately, it scans in the background, so you can get on with other work in the meantime. (Even so, unlike many other photo tools, upon launch it doesn't let you immediately work on your photos.) Second, the interface can be daunting and confusing, so you should expect to do a bit of learning. Once you put in the time, however, you'll find the program to be a spectacular photo editor and manager.
Note that when you install Picasa, it tries to make Google your default search engine. If you don't want it to do that, uncheck the box next to that option. Also during installation, Picasa will set your system to send anonymous information about your surfing habits to Google; uncheck the appropriate box if you don't want that to happen, either.
Download Picasa 3 | Price: Free
XnView is an excellent, free editing tool that performs double-duty as a superb image viewer. For starters, it has all of the basic editing functions you expect, including tools for resizing, cropping, correcting red-eye, flipping, and rotating. And that's just the beginning: You can also adjust brightness, contrast, and gamma, convert color photos to grayscale, and add watermarks.
Useful too is XnView's ability to convert file formats. You can convert files in a batch, and you can even perform automatic editing on photos--such as adding a watermark or cropping--as you convert them. Though this editor is not as powerful as GIMP, it is far simpler to use, and particularly convenient for quick photo tweaks.
Download XnView | Price: Free