The Best Free Photo Editing Software To Try Right Now

If you are just starting out with photo editing, or can’t cough up the big bucks for the likes of adobe photoshop, then don’t worry. There is a ton of feature-rich photo editing software out there. Surprisingly some are even powerful enough to rival the giant itself. Read on the discover the best free photo editing software available right now.

For some, a feature-rich photo editing program like Photoshop may be complete overkill for your needs. If all you need to do is make some basic lighting adjustments and apply a filter to a photograph to upload to your social media account, then, by all means, save your money and use the free software instead.

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you what the best free photo editing software for you will be. Although, the most powerful and feature-rich, by a long shot, is GIMP. Although, the decision of what works best for you and your needs is totally in your hands. I have however compiled a list of everything you should take a look at when it comes to the best free photo editing software.

To help guide you we will look at briefly each piece of software, and a few pros and cons that you can expect from them. Nonetheless, It is still advisable to download or use online each one and see how you feel about them. After all, they are free!

1. What to look for in free photo editing software

Firstly, when looking for a new photo editor you should consider your skill and confidence level. Despite the fundamentals of photo editing remaining the same across all photo editing platforms. For some, it may be better to learn these fundamentals on a basic editor without the distraction of unnecessary tools.

Secondly, you should take into consideration your needs. Ask yourself, what do I need this software to do for me? If the answer is a simple colour or light adjustment then it won’t be necessary to use something too advanced. On the other hand, if you are looking to make use of multiple layers, advanced selection tools, and have the option to export in several formats, then more advanced software will be the better option.

Lastly, and something you may not have considered is image quality and file type. Some of these free softwares can be limiting in their image size and resolution. But for those of you intending to use your images for social media, this won’t be an issue. However, those of you wanting to print your images will need software that can handle larger file sizes and different export formats.

Keeping these points in mind, let’s take a look at our options.

1. GIMP

GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) has long been the leading pack of free photo editing software packages. The open-source software is run, supported, updated, and maintained by a global community of software developers. People who do it for the love, and not for profit. To point out, any time you find an open-source program run by these kinds of people, you know you’re onto something special, and GIMP is no exception.

Packed with features, for the most part, GIMP has the potential to rival adobes photoshop. Unless you are seriously advanced in the craft of photo manipulation this piece of software will absolutely be enough for you, it even supports plugins. This means that if you can’t find the tool you need in the original downloaded version, you can install the tool later. Furthermore, some official adobe plugins are also supported..

Much like adobe photoshop, GIMP can use multiple layers. An absolute must for fine editing and using a non-destructive process to your images. GIMP also supports any file size, meaning it is a perfect program to use if you plan on printing your images. Lastly, it also supports over 40 export formats. This is perfect for people wanting to use their images for a wide variety of uses such as websites, animations, prints, and so on.

Pros

  • Extensive range of advanced tools
  • Plug-in feature
  • No adverts
  • Lots of updates
  • Layers

Cons

  • Complexity
  • Confusing for beginners
  • Not available for tablets
  • May suffer from bugs
  • Not available on tablets

2. Ashampoo Photo Optimiser

Ashampoo Photo Optimiser focuses more on the speed of processing and batch processing. By using a clever algorithm the software detects faults in the images such as uneven horizon lines, unbalanced image temperature, warped perspectives, and so on. Following this, after it has identified these errors in the images it proceeds to do what it deems best. However, as you can imagine, simply hitting auto edit on several images has the potential to be problematic. Despite this, some styles of photography are reported to process better than others. So it’s worth downloading the software and running a few batches to see if it can save you time.

Although the software is primarily aimed at batch processing it does offer tools to edit photos individually with the use of sliders. Surprisingly though, these individual adjustments can’t be made across multiple images.

If you’ve just returned from a holiday and have 600 photos on a memory card, and the thought of editing these individually is turning your stomach, then give this program a go. It might be your perfect new tool.

Pros

  • Time-saving 
  • Batch processing
  • Multiple export types
  • Intuitive interface
  • Manual controls 

Cons

  • Limited functionality
  • Windows only
  • Hit and miss optimisation
  • No layers
  • Limited export file types

3. Canva

Canva is a fantastic free photo editing software for designers. It offers extensive templates for most things you can think of that require some kind of graphic product. But that’s where it fails to be a great piece of photo editing software, but that’s ok because it’s not trying to be.

The reason why you would choose to use Canva would be for its graphic products. Furthermore Canva, can and does offer a good platform to edit your photos if you are only looking to make some basic adjustments.

Canva also comes with some cloud storage in its basic package so you can store your photographs online. Although 1GB won’t get you far. The choice of 8,000 templates more than makes up for it. You can always download these and store them on your local drive, so it’s not a huge issue.

Pros

  • Limited functionality
  • Limited cloud storage
  • No layers
  • Few export options

Cons

  • Limited functionality
  • Limited cloud storage
  • No layers
  • Few export options 

4. Fotor

Fotor, like Ashampoo, focuses on speedy batch editing. So, unfortunately, you’ll find no high-end editing tools here. The edge it tries to take over Ashampoo is adding a graphic design maker to the mix. However, the quality of the graphics are questionable. It might be better to stick with Canva for your graphics. Although, it is still early days for the company and the graphics may improve, so it is certainly worth watching this space.

The free photo editing software, albeit a basic one, is pleasant to use and offers some high-quality filters. When using this software, just don’t expect to be editing on multiple layers with advanced tools. Furthermore, there will be no clone stamping done here.

Fotor certainly has its place. For those of you who aren’t particularly interested in spending hours on end carefully editing each individual photograph from your weekend in the Scottish highlands, then this piece of software may be for you. If speed is what you’re looking for then it is certainly worth using this along with Ashampoo to see which gives you the best results and then keep your preferred option for the future.

Pros

  • High-quality filters
  • Popular tools made simple
  • Batch processing
  • High resolution 

Cons

  • Limited functionality
  • Poor Graphics 
  • No Layers
  • Few export options

5. Photo Pos Pro

Photo Pos Pro is somewhat of a halfway house between the more advanced free photo editing software packages like GIMP and the more basic filter focused software. In fact, the program itself gives you the option of choosing either a beginner or advanced options menu, the Latter giving users a decent range of advanced tools similar to those you will find in the likes of Photoshop. While the former reduced the user’s options for a more filter focused array of tools.

The layout of this software is clean and intuitive, but only if you’re a Windows user, as It follows a very traditional windows design. Unfortunately, there is no option for Mac users.

The real limitation of this software lays in its export paywall. Unless you’re willing to upgrade to the paid version you will be limited to exporting files at a maximum of 1,024x 1024 pixels. Totally acceptable for posting on social media, but nowhere near acceptable for print.

Pros

  • Suitable for beginners and experts
  • Good range of advanced tools
  • Attractive user interface
  • Uses Layers
  • Wide range of export Formats

Cons

  • Windows only
  • Small image resolution exporting
  • No cloud storage
  • No cross-platform

6. Paint.net

Paint.net is as it suggests, is a little like Microsofts early paint editor. But by user interface only. Unlike paint, the software itself is actually very advanced and capable of manipulating images to a high standard. Furthermore, like GIMP paint.net is open-source software, meaning it is managed by a community of software developers from around the world. 

Again, like so many of these free editors, this is also only available for Windows. Which seems peculiar as Apple have a real grasp on the creative demographics these days. 

If you are a windows user, then this software is definitely worth checking out. Just don’t be put off by its basic appearance. It is far from a basic editor. The range of controls are fewer than the likes of GIMP but really, unless you are diving deep into photo manipulation this program will more than likely meet your needs time and time again

Pros

  • Advanced toolset
  • Plugin Support
  • Layers and filters 
  • Intuitive interface for Windows users 

Cons

  • Unattractive design
  • Fewer options than GIMP
  • Windows only
  • Not compatible on tablet

7. Photoscape

Photoscape is another basic photo editor. Without any real unique selling point, it isn’t the strongest contender in the group. If you are looking for a no-frills photo editor then this could be for you.

Despite its simplicity, it does have a few good features. Its RAW conversion tool is useful and its gif animator can be good fun.

Like other basic editors, it doesn’t support layered editing. Furthermore, I t has only a few compatible file types, and is only supported on the Windows operating system. Despite this, if filters are your thing then check it out, as you may find some you like. Lastly, It’s always worth looking around at different filters as each piece of software offers different effects.

Pros

  • RAW file conversion
  • GIF animator
  • Batch Production
  • Nice Filters

Cons

  • Unintuitive user interface
  • Limited functionality
  • No Layers
  • Windows only

8. Pixlr X

Pixlr X is the next generation of editors from Pixlr, its predecessor being the Pixlr editor. Luckily, as with most next-generation products, designers can understand what works and what doesn’t and build on that to improve the product or service. And that’s exactly what’s happened here. While still being a long way off the likes of Photoshop or Lightroom there are still some similarities between this free online editor and the more sophisticated adobe products.

The best feature of the Pixlr X editor has to be its ability to support multi-layer editing. A feature you’ll be hard pushed to find in online editors. Further features include its templates which can be customised to fit all kinds of social media posts. Furthermore, its intuitive and sleek design helps in creating a seamless user experience.

On the downside, the editor only supports images up to 3,840 pixels in size. Meaning it’s no good for prints, but then again, It is clearly aimed for use with social media.

It’s a free online photo editor that will take up no space on your disk, if you’re just going to post on social media then check it out.

Pros

  • Browser-based
  • Intuitive design
  • Social Media Templates
  • Layers
  • Stock images

Cons

  • Limited file types
  • Limited file size
  • 2 file types only
  • Limited functionality

9. Adobe photoshop express

Adobe offers a trimmed-down version of their world-leading photo manipulation software, albeit a very basic offering indeed. Unfortunately, you will find no advanced tools, nor will you find a piece of software that can work with file types other than JPEG images. Which, considering all other offerings in this list can use at least 2, is a bit of a letdown. It can’t even work with files above 16MB. But the bad news doesn’t stop there. Regretfully, there is no option to use layers.

This is of course a free piece of software, so, understandably, adobe doesn’t want to go pouring features into it that might deter people from signing up for a photoshop subscription. On the bright side, it is a capable photo editor which offers its users all the necessities in a gorgeously designed interface. Something you would expect from a world-class software company.

Furthermore, the software is offered in app format, meaning people can enjoy using it on their phones and tablets.

Despite its limitations, it certainly is worth checking out if you’re looking for a basic photo editor.

Pros

  • Available in-app format
  • Great design
  • Strong selection of Adobe filters
  • Browser-based

Cons

  • JPEG only
  • No Layers
  • No advanced tools
  • Requires Flash
  • 16MB file size limit

10. Pizap

Another browser-based photo editor, Pizap is available in both HTML5 and flash editions. This means it is suitable for any device, including phones and tablets. Furthermore, It utilises sliders, opposed to icons, for ease of use on these devices.

Pizap is by no means an advanced editor. It does however offer the basics necessary to create results. Your images will look far better for having used this software than neglecting the post-editing stage of your photography altogether.

It is also possible to work with images across a multitude of platforms, downloading them directly into the browser from places like Facebook, or your google drive. It even allows you to download stock images to work with. However, the large majority are locked behind a paywall. And once you’re done you can also upload them directly back to your google drive or dropbox.

Unfortunately, if you want to download high-resolution images you will need to pay for a premium subscription. But for use with social media and other online uses this photo editor is more than capable of doing the job.

Pros

  • Stock images
  • Well designed interface
  • Browser-based
  • Works on tablets/ phones
  • Social media templates

Cons

  • Features locked behind a paywall
  • Very small max resolution 
  • Limited functionality
  • No unique features 

11. Conclusion

The software you decide to choose will be entirely based on your own needs. If you want something with all the bells and whistles then the clear winner will be GIMP. On the other hand, if you would prefer to make some simple adjustments, and or like the sound of editing your images in batches, then one of the other options on this list will be more suited to your preferences.

Those leaning more towards the latter it would be best to have a play around with all of them to see which one you prefer. They’re free, so you have nothing to lose by doing so.

Most importantly though is that you do use some kind of editing software with your photos. Too often do photographers neglect this stage of photography and let their work suffer for it. The power of making some simple light and colour adjustments has the power to completely transform an image.

If you are new to photo manipulation, do not worry. Mastering the basics is so easy, I guarantee you will have it down to fine art in no time at all. And I hope you can find the right editor from this list to start you on your journey. And for those advanced readers, head straight for gimp.

what do you think of the list? Have any of your favourite photo editors been missed from the list? If so let us know in the comment section below!

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David Davis
David Davishttps://shuttergang.com
Hi, My name is Dave, and I am passionate about photography. I am currently travelling to document the world's most interesting people and places. I have started this blog to share these incredible sights and experiences with you, including all the knowledge I gain as a photographer/videographer along the way. If you share a passion for street, documentary, and travel photography, join the mailing list and stay up to date with the latest posts and resources direct from the field.

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