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The 10 Best Photo Editing Tools

Photo Editing Tool
1 Adobe Photoshop Elements – Mac, Windows The smartphone revolution in every part of the world has ensured that the human race takes more photographs than ever these days. And Adobe Photoshop Elements has been making photo editing easier for both entry-level as well as seasoned photographers for quite some time now.

The Photoshop Elements team makes sure that they keep updating the software from time to time. It allows you to not just edit your pictures to their best potential, but also organize them well, making use of the in-built content intelligence feature of the software. Elements has Artificial Intelligence which carries out a thorough analysis of your photographs and then gives you multiple options to make corrections, in a matter of just a few mouse clicks.

It automatically sorts the pictures by date, subject, people and places. Furthermore, it attaches smart tags to photos that have common themes among them, for instance, landmarks, sunsets, birthdays etc., ensuring that they can be easily found and you don’t have to do any organizing on your own. In fact, there is a feature to cut down on the photo editing time by automatic selection of the best shot for editing purposes, based on the quality of the image, subjects and faces.

Anyone who’s worked with Photoshop would know about the difficulty one has to sometimes face with regard to isolation of a specific subject in a photograph. That is no longer the case with Adobe Photoshop Elements. All you need to do is drag a box around the subject/s you wish to isolate, and the software will thereafter do the isolation for you. You can thereafter fine-tune the edges if you need.

Adobe Photoshop Elements serves as an ideal choice for newbies as it comes equipped with 49 guided elements features which take a step-by-step approach to make photo editing easier for you. Of course, you’re allowed to make any personal touches anytime and anywhere you want.

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2 Corel PaintShop Pro - Windows Counted amongst the best alternatives to the all-popular and omnipresent Photoshop, Corel Paintshop Pro is also a highly user-friendly image editor that offers a good variety of graphic design tools, advanced editing options and creative filters. While there is a standard PaintShop Pro version for Windows 10/8/7 available in the marketplace, you can also opt for a slightly more expensive PaintShop Ultimate which includes other important tools like Painter Essentials 5, Corel Aftershot 3 (for RAW photo editing) and Perfectly Clear 3 SE.

When you invest into PaintShop Pro, you will be provided with all the tools that photographers definitely need for proper editing of their pictures. It provides 86 creative filters that can be used for manipulating the images as much as you want. The application also offers a Retro Lab for application of vintage effects, various object selection tools, lens correction fixes, a graduated filter option, photo organizer, a fade correction tool and much more.

When it comes to graphic design, you can opt from many different drawing tools and brushes, make use of layers and incorporate text in any print you like. Geo-tagging support, a screenshot tool, dual monitor mode and texture presets are some of the PaintShop features that aren’t available in Photoshop.

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3 Adobe Lightroom CC – Windows, Mac, Cloud-based There is no photo enthusiast who doesn’t like an all-in-one photo solution. Adobe Lightroom CC is the most recent addition to the Adobe family of tools. It gives you easy access to each one of your high resolution images, on all your devices. This brand-new offering from Adobe makes a major shift from the conventional catalogue storage process to an intuitive cloud-based system. If you look closely, you’d observe that this tool’s interface looks much less like a high-end software, and more on the lines of a simple smart phone application, simply enhanced for the desktop environment.

Adobe Lightroom CC creates one single catalogue consisting of all your photographs, without the need of renaming them or having to put fancy keywords. You simply need to drag and drop the images, and let the Lightroom CC go about organizing them and auto attaching searchable keywords to them, so that you can easily find them later.

The photographs can be edited directly through the software, with the help of creative presets, or you can opt to make selective adjustments if you like. It features various adjustments for optics, color, light and fine details.

However, please be aware that Lightroom CC does lack a few of the commonly used individual editing controls such as complex colors and curve adjustments, which are particularly popular among the Photoshop enthusiasts. But the reasonable cost at which it comes (including Creative Cloud bundle, 1 TB cloud storage, Photoshop CC and Lightroom Classic), it’s too good a deal to be ignored!

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4 Fotor – Windows, Mac, Online This one’s a fun and free online photo editing tool that works particularly well when it comes to modifying the portraits before sharing any of them on the social media portals.

People who are into heavy photo editing particularly love both the free online as well as the desktop software offered by Fotor. Please note, the uploaded files can be a maximum of 8 MB, however, the photo editor does a good job at resizing the images if they are too bulky. The flash based interface of Fotor is pretty amazing, and its navigation is pretty straightforward owing to the cleverly-used icons and collapsible toolboxes.

Even the most lackluster images can be given a quick boost with the help of one-tap enhance tool of the software. On the other hand, if you’re after more granular adjustments, you can make use of various manual tools.

Unfortunately, the free version of the software doesn’t give you access to the options marked with green diamond, which are accessible only to the premium users. But please note that the free version of the software is still fairly impressive. The tools for editing and enhancing the portraits are liked by everyone, particularly the one about make-up and tooth whitening. If used cautiously, and with a certain degree of restraint, it can make a huge difference to the quality of portraits! The wrinkle-smoothing tool’s strength is alterable in terms of years, instead of an arbitrary 1 - 100 scale.

You can use some fun stickers as well, including a few practical options such as seasonal greetings, with each one being tweakable with opacity and custom colors. Once you’re done with all the editing, you can easily save your final work to the computer, take a printout or even send it to the Dropbox. The final image can even be exported to Google+, Pinterest, Tumblr, Twitter and/or Facebook. When it comes to social-media portraits, there are very few tools that come close to Fotor.

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5 Pixlr Editor – Mac, Windows, Online Another extensively used free online photo editing tool that comes with masks, layers and much more, Pixlr Editor is the only creative tool needed by any casual photographer. While a large majority of such free online photo editing tools are nothing more than simple Instagram-type affairs that don’t offer anything more than a set of filters, Pixlr Editor is quite different. As long as you have a working Internet connection and don’t mind installing a handful of plug-ins, this free online application is almost as robust as any of the free desktop-based photo editors out there.

As soon as you load up a photograph, you get immediate access to selection tools, clone stamps, masks, layers and everything else expected from a top-rated image editing tool. Although there is no batch editing feature, you are allowed to open multiple pictures simultaneously and edit them separately.

Pixlr Editor can be opened in any web browser that supports Flash. As you might be aware, this unfortunately rules out its usage on majority of the mobile devices. However, the developers are presently working on HTML 5 version, which might be available pretty soon. Pixlr Editor can be easily counted amongst the top three online photo editing tools in the market. In fact, many consider it the closest thing you can get to Photoshop, in a web-browser environment.

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6 GIMP – Windows, Mac, Linux Widely recognized and praised as one of the best open source alternatives to Adobe Photoshop, GIMP, although isn’t a very straightforward photo editing tool, has a good number of advanced editing tools that are available in Photoshop. Its name is actually a short form of GNU Image Manipulation Program, and it’s essentially a raster graphics editor created by volunteers from different parts of the world.

GIMP is a multi-platform photo editing tool which is compatible with Mac OS X, Linux and Windows. You can use it for editing and retouching of images, conversion between different picture formats, drawing images and much more. The main strength of this tool lies in Script-Fu, its scripting language, which can be utilized for automating repetitive tasks. You can do the scripting even through Tcl, Python and Perl, making use of an external interpreter.

Additionally, GIMP does an excellent job with various types of file formats, for instance, TIFF, GIF, PNG, JPEG, BMP and more. You can even import PDF files into the tool, apart from raw formats of different digital cameras.

GIMP does its job via a set of layers, each one having multiple channels. These layers are used for image editing with brushes, addition of filters and effects, and various other improvements. Path tools in particular stand out from all these different features, as you can create vectors with them, which can then be utilized in complex selections. With GIMP you can handle colors in many different ways, like hexadecimal format, watercolor formats, CMYK and RGB.

The software also offers Smart Tools, which although aren’t very easy to use, can come in pretty handy for expert users. For example, the clone tool helps in copying pixels; healing brush is used for correcting the color and tone of images, while the Dodge and Burn Tool is used for lightening (dodging) and burning (darkening) the pixels.

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7 Serif Affinity Photo 5 – Windows, Mac Another one of the new age and exciting photo editors for Windows and Mac OS X, Affinity Photo 5 can be purchased at a reasonably competitive price, making it a very good bargain compared to other well-known software such as PaintShop Pro and Photoshop.

Affinity Photo 5 can be termed as a considerably serious kit for photograph editing, as it offers various advanced editing tools. The software comes equipped with 57 customizable filter effects and offers a full-resolution real time previews for each one of them.

A good look at it would quickly make you realize that it’s one of the best photo editors when it comes to combining images as it offers adjustment layers, layer group tools, layer effects and a layer mask. With an inbuilt RAW processor, it’s also considered an excellent option for processing RAW images. Additionally, Affinity Photo 5 features a comprehensive set of retouching tools, including Liquefy, a macro tool for easy editing and recording of macros and over 120 brushes. Perhaps, the only thing lacking in their software is a good photo organizer.

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8 Pixelmator – Mac A photo editing tool exclusively for Mac, Pixelmator is based on a strategic combination of Mac OS X and open source technology. The software was developed by two Lithuanian brothers, and is extensively used by Mac users world-over. It offers several handy features, including over 40 tools for color correction, navigation, color management, pixel-accurate selection, GPU powered image processing, retouching, painting, selection and more. You get over 50 filters and 16 tools for the color correction alone.

Using Pixelmator, Mac users can easily paint, draw, sketch, edit photographs and add different shapes, apart from using 160+ effects. Hence, this tool is not just for photo processing and editing purposes, but for creation of logos, graphics etc. as well. Pixelmator works implementing a layer-based image editing method, wherein you can easily group and arrange different layers for easy processing.

The technology combination used consists of Open GL, Open CL (for parallel computing), a 64-bit architecture and Core Image for the Mac’s graphics card. The result is in the form of exceptionally quick image processing. On the whole, Pixelmator serves as a highly efficient Mac photo editing tool capable of delivering stunning results if used by a gifted artist.

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9 Macphun (Now Skylum) Luminar – Windows, Mac Available earlier as an exclusive photo editor for Mac environment, Luminar can now be used on the Windows 10/8/7 (64 bit only) as well. Developed by Macphun, a well-known name in the Mac tools industry, Luminar essentially combines a great deal of power with simplicity.

Mr. La Rue, the VP of Macphun is of the opinion that Aurora HDR and Luminar give users a novel means of expressing themselves using striking images, which can be created within a matter of few minutes. The software is available at a very reasonable price, and the company also offers discounts for new users, from time to time.

Macphun Luminar can be termed as an all-in-one photo editing tool which packs sharpness, contrast, layers, toning, luminosity mask, object removal, masking, dehaze, layer photo enhancement and B&W processing tools in one single product. There are over 40 filters available in the software, for instance, clarity, radiance, tone, vignette, grain, soft focus and more.

The real capability and beauty of this photo editing tool manifests through its presets, which can be instantly applied to portrait, travel, outdoor, dramatic and other types of photo categories. For instance, you can make use of the 60s black-and-white preset and give an instant retro feel to your photograph. Apart from all these, you also get a RAW processing filter which comes in pretty handy for application of filters to the RAW images.

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10 DxO Optics Pro – Windows, Mac If you’re looking for no-frills, high quality and clean photo editing tool, then you must definitely give DxO Optics Pro a try. What makes this photo editing tool so unique and efficient is that it automatically detects faults in your pictures, based on the camera type and lens you have used, and then makes appropriate adjustments to improve their quality, without you even having to lift a finger!

The user interface of Optics Pro is quite like Adobe Lightroom. In fact, you can even use it in the form of an excellent plug-in for the latter’s workflow, as DxO doesn’t provide the same amount of editing flexibility. Although you don’t get any brush tools, the customize mode of the software can be utilized for making appropriate adjustments to the exposure, color and contrast in case the automatic enhancement doesn’t meet your expectations. Please note, the software doesn’t help you with photo organization, however you can easily export your pictures to other photograph apps such as Flickr and Facebook, once you’re done and satisfied with your edits. You can even export the finished pictures to Lightroom or Photoshop, and continue working in those tools if you wish.

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When it comes to photo editing tools, their history can be traced back to more than 200 years when photographers used to paint, scrape, scratch, cut and paste things in order to get a more desired (or sometimes humorous) result. What once used to be an essentially physical skill mastered by a handful of people, retouching and editing photographs has evolved into a more accessible process, all thanks to the latest technological developments.

The importance of photo editing tools

Editing your photographs can make even the most ordinary of them to appear extraordinary! So, if you’ve taken any party photographs, special location pictures, family photographs or vacation images that were intended to make special memories, doing a bit of photo editing on them can make them look professional and more memorable.

Photo editing also helps businesses in improving the quality of their images and meet their objectives. For instance, if you’re in a real estate business or run a food catering service, mastering and using photo editing tools can help you create marketing material that can draw-in significantly more number of clients. Well-edited photographs are capable of intriguing and attracting business prospects, who’d otherwise head to the competition.

Please note, picture editing isn’t just about enhancement of images, restoring old photographs is also an integral part of this skill set or process. However, it is important to remember that different cultures have different image and preferences that must be kept in mind while doing any professional photo editing job.

Portraits can be edited not just for personal purposes, but also for commercial projects, for instance, fashion spreads seen in fashion magazines, fashion websites and fashion-based e-commerce portals. Efficient use of photo editing tools for such portraits can guarantee a significant increase in sales numbers.

Photo editing tools are extensively used by real estate development, brokerage and service firms as well, and wherein they improve the aesthetic appeal of their offerings by enhancing the images posted on different websites and listing services. Carrying out such editing helps them target the right client base and enables them to sell their inventory much faster.

On the other hand, photo editing of pictures related to special occasions like anniversaries, birthdays, graduation ceremonies, weddings etc. is nothing new and is commonly known to fill up those events’ memories with lot more colors and vibrancy. When you look at the edited photographs several years down the line, they would appear far more fun to look at, just because they were edited the right way.

There are many more things that can be accomplished with a good quality photo editing tool, including:
– Cropping
– Removal of unwanted backgrounds
– Color enhancement
– Changing of colors
– Photo cleaning
– Adjustment to the contrast and brightness of photographs
– Enhancement of looks by fixing hair, adding make-up etc.
– Sharpening of photos
– Conversion of black-and-white pictures to color photographs
– Removal or addition of a background detail
– Removal or addition of a person from/to a group photograph and other similar tasks
– Correction of colors
– Retouching of photographs
– Application of curves, artefacts, colors, contrast, levels, grains, noise etc. for picture enhancement

Different types of photo editing tools

Photo editing tools can be of all types, depending upon the platform they are meant for, whether they are free or not or are in the form of a desktop software or an online tool.

Online photo editing tools

Many a times you just aren’t keen to go through the trouble of downloading some program, only to give one or two photographs a quick boost. It’s for those occasions that you’d prefer an easy and quick to use online means of enhancing a few snaps. In such cases, online photo editing tools work as excellent alternatives.

People normally expect a browser-based photo editing tools to be nothing more than simple Instagram-style affairs, however, if you look closely, there are some very serious image enhancing web-based applications out there. In fact, some of them are so heavily packed with features that they can be compared to robust desktop photo editing tools, providing you with facilities like batch editing, masks and layers.

These online photo editors can be used in majority of the modern-day web browsers, though the ones based on flash won’t work on mobile browsers. Please note, you’d require an HTML 5 based photo editor if you’d like to enhance your photographs away from the desktop environment. Instead, you can also look for some free photo editing app for your particular device.

Photo editing tools for Mac

Photo editing has evolved into such a comprehensive process on iPad and iPhone as that’s the devices with which majority of people take and share photographs nowadays. However, many of them continue to maintain their primary libraries on their Macs. As Apple Mac computers have overall bigger computing power, larger storage and quicker processors, they continue to be considered the best devices for comprehensive and serious photo editing.

Although you can make use of a Mac’s built-in photo editing tool, which enables you to easily crop, remove unwanted blemishes, add filters, correct the white balance, adjust color and lighting, apart from a few other things, it can’t be termed as a robust photo editing application. Hence, if you’re looking for something more comprehensive to provide just the right finishing touch to your photographs, you must opt for the best third-party photo editing tools for Mac.

Photo editing tools for Windows

The past several decades have seen every new version of the Windows operating system introducing a whole lot of new features, offering new possibilities to the conventional PC users. Every new version of Windows makes the task of photo editing a little easier and considerably better. While you can make use of the inbuilt Windows tools to edit your photographs, there are a wide range of third party photo editing tools for Windows that can improve the quality of your pictures to almost pro-level!

If you’re keen on using a powerful photo editing tool that allows you to manipulate your photographs anyway you wish, however, don’t want to learn Adobe Photoshop, there are several Windows specific tools you can consider.

Free photo editing tools

Comprehensive photo editing tools such as Adobe Photoshop and others are meant for seasoned professionals. These tools can sometimes be very pricey. However, you don’t essentially need to spend a fortune to be able to get picture-perfect photographs that you so deserve! You can easily use some very efficient and free photo editing tools available on the Internet that can get the job done without digging a hole into your pocket! There are several different free photo editors available out there, right from the old school classics like GIMP to modern-day, high-end upstarts.

Final Word

There’s no limit to the effects that can be achieved with the use of the right photo editing tool. A boy next door can be made to look like a Hollywood celebrity! Simple landscapes can be brought to life using the colors of paradise! In fact, any event can be made to feel and look much more fun and vibrant using photo editing features. Check out every photo editing tool we’ve detailed above, take it for test-drive and then figure out the best one based on your needs.