The three best free photo editing programs

Taking photos without editing them is kind of like cooking without salt. You can still eat it, but some of the flavor is lost.

When you consider how easy it is to add a little “kick” to your photos in the computer, there’s really no reason not to. Including price...

Photoshop has become very affordable at just $10 a month through (and that includes Lightroom, too). But you don’t need such a powerful program to do most of the edits you need. Lightroom will cover your photo-editing needs, plus photo organization, for a one-time fee of $150.

If you have a Mac, iPhoto will cover the very basics for you -- and you don’t need to pay anything extra for that.

Or, if you’re using a PC, you could download one of the free photo-editing programs available on the Web. Here are three of the best options out there to get you started:

  1. is a free, downloadable program that works with Windows. You can do a lot with this program, including color correction, cropping, rotating, and applying special effects. It’s not as powerful as Photoshop, but it covers all of the basics. It also has an active forum with online tutorials and fellow users who answer questions, should you need help. Download at
  2. Photoscape is a less-complicated option, stripped down to the basics. You won’t be able to use layers... but if you’re looking for something simple, you’ll find it here.
  3. GIMP is the best-known free photo-editing software. Designed to work like Photoshop, GIMP is a very powerful tool... and might feel complicated if you’re looking for simplicity. But, on the other hand, it’s free and prides itself on ease of use.

All of that said, I still think Lightroom is your best option. $150 is a steal for what you get. I rely on Lightroom for all of my photo organization, keywording, sorting, cataloging, viewing, showcasing, and 95% of my photo-editing. It’s smooth, sleek, easy, and just right.

I do spend about 5% of my time in Photoshop, because I’m one of those photographers who like to make people levitate.

But if all you need is to add that extra “kick” to your photos to make them look polished and professional, then Lightroom -- or any of the above programs -- will have you covered.

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