After announcing the 2017 Project 52 and hearing from friends that are interested in playing along, there are some that are new to photography. Photography can become an expensive hobby if you fall in love quickly and aren’t sure how to try new things without buying. And while the point of the weekly challenge is to learn more about cameras, what we can do with them and push ourselves creatively, with digital photography you also have the option to edit images afterwards. So I wanted to share with you some mentionable finds also known as free photo editing tools.
I’m partial to Lightroom now. I had used Photoshop for years to edit my photos and it just wasn’t smart at all. It has too much power. And after learning more about Lightroom, I wonder why I waited so long. And even though as an Adobe product it is much more affordable than their other tools, sometimes we just don’t want to or can’t spend the money right now. But there are some free, web-based photo editors that are fairly easy to use, offer different types of tools and filters and let you download to your computer or even share from the editor. I even have some example photos. :)Aviary
Aviary is my favorite. Not only is it by Adobe, but it’s also available within Flickr; if you upload your image to Flickr, you can edit it there and just save it back to your photostream. But I also like it because it’s relatively simple. Aviary offers a robust toolbar so that you can tweak and change your image as you please, from sharpening to saturation to removing blemishes, but you have complete control. There some enhancement, effect and fun frame/sticker/meme options available too, but the Adjustments Tool is the one I think is best. You can elevate your image without overdoing it.
The drawback is the editor resizes your image. I uploaded an image that was 5760 x 3840 pixels at 240 ppi and when I saved my edited image from Aviary it was 1024 x 683 pixels at 72 ppi. Keep in mind that 72 ppi is for web-use, so while it’s not the end of the world, you’d want to be careful if you were to ever print it. Also, this was the smallest size conversion of the tools I tested.
PicMonkey does have a paid option, and a free trial if you wanted to try all of the bells and whistles, but you can also edit single images for free. You don’t have access to all of the effect filters, but there are still some available as well as access to all of the Basic Edits. The basic toolbar offers, well, the most basic edits (thus the name), but there are beautifying effects that do not cost extra. PicMonkey offers many of the same “fun” edits like frames, text and graphics, but the Textures are different – you can jazz up the background with starbursts and space… it’s quite cool. Not something I’d use often, but it was a good find!
This editor also resizes images when you save. Again, I had my original size mentioned above and when I saved my edited image to my computer PicMonkey resized it to 3318 x 2217 pixels at 72 ppi. So not really good for editing images you want to print, but it saves at bigger dimensions than Aviary. You can also share your edited image directly to social media, Flickr, Tumblr or in an email.
I hadn’t heard of Befunky before, but it has a photo editor, a collage maker and even a designing tool. Like PicMonkey it has the option to upgrade to gain access to all of the different effect filters, but the basics are free. The “edit” toolbar features many of the essential edits you’d want like resizing, exposure and sharpening, but it also includes some blurring and other tools to experiment with. I was pleasantly surprised to see how well the sharpening and contrast adjustments worked without overdoing it, so this is one definitely try – and with easy access to tutorials so you can learn about the adjustment tools before you use them is a very nice touch.
And no surprise, this editor also resized my original image but not as much as Aviary or PicMonkey. My original width was 5760 pixels and Befunky took it down to 4000; the final specs were 4000 x 2666 at 72 ppi when I downloaded the image. Saving is made easy with options to download to your computer or to a dropbox, and social sharing capabilities too.
I had heard of Pixlr but never used it before. And I don’t think I’ll use it again. The tool itself is fine and edits I was able to make were great, but I found the user experience to be a bit more difficult. The toolbar is laid out much like Photoshop’s and even has cloning tool and spot healer, but it proved to be too much for me. (Which is ironic considering I used Photoshop for years.) So if there’s a lot of editing to do on an image, Pixlr may be the right tool for you. It does have simple adjustments available in a menu so you can easily tweak exposure, contrast and even curves, but this one took me a bit longer to find my way around.
Like Befunky, Pixlr resized my image down to 4000 x 2667 pixels at 72 ppi. It appears to only have the option to save to your computer (or print), but that’s really all I’d want.
Free Photo Editor Examples
I actually used the four tools mentioned above. I uploaded the same image for all of them and without having an idea of what I wanted the final image to look like, I used the most basic toolbars. I did not use effects or filters, that’s not a look that I really care for any more (although in 2009 when I was first starting out, I loved it) – I kept it simple and clean.
Now you may ask why I have a picture of a pineapple. Well the truth is that my Kroger sometimes has them on sale for 99 cents and when they do, I buy one. I had never bought a fresh pineapple until this year, but I love it. And this is one that I bought just a few weeks ago. I was so excited about it I decided to use it as a subject and play with some directional lighting. So that is why I have a picture of a pineapple.
This is the original, straight out of camera (SOOC) image:
The Aviary edit is my favorite, but I’ve been drawn more to images that aren’t as vibrant lately – I used the fading tool. My next favorite is the photo with Befunky. It’s super sharp, has great contrast and saturation. My PicMonkey image is fine. I don’t really like my edited image with Pixlr, but it also took me a bit longer to find my away around the tool… I may have gotten frustrated.
And honestly, if you’re looking for a free photo editing tool, try them all out to see which one you like best. Each offers a different platform and user experience – that might impact you more than the actual editing tools they feature.
I did take my original image and edit it in Lightroom too. I’m still learning my way around Lightroom and have found some presets that I really liked (some are free, some I paid for), but 90% of the time I end up teasing the presets until I get the look I’m wanting. But this is my Lightroom edit:
So experiment. Try different tools – I bet there are more out there than these four. Upgrade if you love them. Talk to other photographers to see what types of editing software they prefer. Get a free trial of Lightroom even. But I encourage you to try things yourself and talk to people before you invest – because it adds up quickly. After doing this for 10 years, I know. ;)
And a final plug: If you’re looking for a photography project for 2017, please join our 2017 Project 52! A new prompt each week to keep us learning and experimenting while we get to know new people.