which one should I get?

This first topic is for those that don’t have a photo editing program and are wondering which one to get.

If you already have a program (even if you don’t know how to use it) please add a comment below this Lesson topic. I will not demonstrate all of these programs but if you use it, I’ll cover it. So please let me know!

introduction to editing

So… you have a camera and have taken approximately 12,700 photos 🙂 . You’ve picked out your favourites but they don’t seem to “pop” like the ones you see online from other photographers. Fun Fact: most of those images don’t come straight out of the camera (s.o.o.c. for short). Most often, they have been edited, at least in a minor way. And, editing photos is an important part of the artistic process. It’s part of the process just like exposure, light, composition etc.

Ok, so, you head online and set out to buy an editing program. You’ve heard a lot about Photoshop… but then you see the price tag 🙁

If you already have Photoshop, I have you covered in this lesson. If you don’t, let’s take a look at the alternatives. Note: If you don’t already have it I don’t recommend you rush out and get Photoshop just yet. Try some of the other cheaper or free alternatives first. They may just be all you ever need.


Let’s take a look at a few of the most popular free photo editing programs.

If you own an Apple computer, your Mac comes installed with iPhoto. If you are a Windows 7(+) user, your computer came loaded with Windows Live Photo Gallery. Both programs give you some flexibility to crop, edit and correct photos. You can also perform some pretty neat enhancements.

Picmonkey (picmonkey.com) is a very cool image editor that has both a free and a paid version. It is browser-based and anyone with internet access can use it. Picmonkey does offer a great deal of features and filters for free but you have to pay for upgrading to a “Royale” account in order to use some of the more advanced ones. However, the tools and abilities that this app has built in for free can provide a lot of editing options. It’s great for a quick edit to upload to social media and also has really great backgrounds, borders and templates for creatively presenting your photos. I personally often use Picmonkey for my fun (non work) photo editing.

Google’s Picasa  (picasa.google.com) is an easy-to-use, free downloadable program that offers a good mix of photo enhancement tools and photo management options. There are five tabs: basic fixes, fine tuning, “fun and useful image processing,” “more fun and useful image processing,” and “even more fun and useful image processing.” In the basic tab, you have options like cropping, straightening, red-eye reduction, and other auto corrections. The fine tuning allows you to adjust the fill light, highlights, shadows, and color temperature manually. The fun effect tabs are mostly just that: fun effects. Picasa is available for both PC and Mac. Picasa certainly has some major limitations but is worth a look to see if it suits your needs.

If you feel like getting a more in-depth program, consider GIMP (gimp.org) which has professional-level photo editing tools. While that sounds great, be aware you’ll need to spend some time learning how to use them. If ease of use is what you’re looking for, you may want to consider something else. But GIMP will deliver editing tools pretty equivalent to Adobe’s Photoshop.

Pixlr (Pixlr.com) is a web-based editor, meaning you don’t have to download any programs. This has its advantages and disadvantages but if you’re the type of person who is almost always online, this might be a good choice for you. Pixlr has basic tools like cropping, red-eye reduction, and a spot healing brushes well as options to lighten the overall photo, adjust color and contrast, etc. as well as several preset fun effects. My personal experience with Pixlr is that unless you have a fast internet connection it can be frustratingly slow.

medium priced

Photoshop Elements (adobe.com/au/products/photoshop-elements) offers many editing features beyond what you’d find in most free software. It does much of what GIMP will do but is much easier to use. It will probably deliver everything you need and may be a wise investment. Photoshop Elements has a free 30 day trial and if you don’t already have an editing program, my suggestion would be to download the trail and use it for this Lesson. Then you can decide if you want to keep it.

Corel Paint Shop Pro (www.corel.com)  is divided into three main workspaces: Manage (a file manager), Adjust (cropping, straightening, red-eye reduction, makeover, and cloning, colour balance, brightness and contrast, and fill light) , and Edit (advanced editing). Paint Shop Pro also has a free 30 day trial and is around the same price as Photoshop Elements. If you have the time, download and trial both of them.

professional solutions

If you are planning to make money (now or eventually) with your photography you should consider Adobe’s Photoshop and/or Lightroom (adobe.com). many people ask me should I get Lightroom or Photoshop but that is really hard to answer. While there is some overlap, there are very major differences. They are different tools designed for different purposes. Which program you choose to use depends on what you are looking to do. Or you can also use Lightroom and Photoshop together. Many professional photographers use both Photoshop and Lightroom.

Lightroom is an image management and photo editing tool in one. It is iPhoto on steroids. Lightroom helps organize your thousands, or even tens of thousands of photos, in a neat and clean system. Organising and editing hundreds of images becomes a hassle with Photoshop, but with Lightroom the process becomes far more streamlined. Lightroom is also a fairly powerful image editor and can probably cater to your editing needs 75-80% of the time without the need to go to Photoshop or other editing program.

Photoshop. For over 20 years Photoshop has been an essential tool for professional photographers. It is filled with image editing tools, and  creative effects. It is designed for users with a high degree of expertise (it has a very large learning curve) and those who make a living with their photography. If you just need to adjust images and enhance them before making prints or sharing them online, then it may very well be overkill.

I’m not going to go into the pros and cons of Photoshop vs Lightroom here but if you’re interested check out this post by my friends over at Photography Concentrate.


There are many factors when it comes to choosing an editing program. When it comes down to it, a lot of the factors are a matter of personal taste. The most important factor when it comes to choosing a software program is your level of comfort with it. If you can’t use it, you won’t use it.

So, simply I cannot tell you which one to get, but can recommend that you at least have a look at the free options and download a trial of the paid programs and then make a decision.

Please go to the comments below and let me know which program (s) you will be using for this Lesson so I can make sure you are looked after with the tutorials.




  1. Hi Robyn,
    I have Photoshop Elements version 8, so was hoping to learn how to use that!! I also have Picasa on my computer, which I occasionally use for the quick fix. But eventually I hope to be able to use Elements for my editing.
    Regards, Natasha

  2. We will certainly be using Elements in this course Natasha. Although the version I use is 12. There are not major differences though so we should be fine. Just let me know if you have difficulties where your version has differences – happy to help at any time.

  3. Getting along well with Photoshop CC, still using iPhoto/Aperture for organisation although I have Lightroom but we just don’t get along for some reason.

  4. Glad you’re enjoying Photoshop Siobhan. Lightroom is good but if you’re comfortable with iPhoto/Aperture there’s no reason to change for now.

  5. I have Photoshop – absolutely no idea how to drive it, but I have it!!

  6. Don’t worry Melissa once you have been through this class you will know enough basics to get by. And then its just a matter of practice. This class will not teach you everything (it’s almost impossible to know EVERYTHING about Photoshop but it’s a great start. Enjoy!

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