How to choose image editor that is right for you

Titanium Pen had left suggestion in my Skribit widget “Any graphics programs? Maybe GIMP?”.

GIMP or not, there is one critical difference between image editors and rest of software. Usually choosing software but what it can do is right way. However with graphics programs you have to choose by what you need to do.

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Photo by :petra:

Overhyped

When talking about image editing Photoshop instantly comes up. Extremely functional, extremely known. With piracy rate through the roof – rather famous poll puts it at 58% pirated among photographers. I suspect that if you add wannabe designers it would be even higher.

gimp_icon GIMP gained ground under talks about being “like Photoshop but free”.

So is there life beyond Photoshop?

Professional

Having awesome and expensive editor doesn’t make you good at using it. It is not magic. I had seen some designers (more like claiming to be such) produce absolutely horrible images – that sadly burned in my mind forever.

I think for professionals choice of image editor is about industry standard. They won’t simply default to most expensive solution, by the time they are at professional level choice would be obvious:

  • by nature of their work;
  • needs of their customers;
  • preferences of their colleagues.

Occasional

Sometimes you just need to get something done with image. Without skill and experience this can easily become frustrating. This shaped class of image editors that don’t provide super fancy functions but are very solid at basic ones:

  • easy to use interface;
  • history of actions with good rollback;
  • polished user experience for most basic tasks.

Paint.Net I think it is safe to say that Paint.NET is one of the best examples in this class. It is what Microsoft Paint that comes with Windows should be – easy to use and functional image editor.

Screenshot

Taking screenshots is rather specific task that is often discarded. In reality good experience for taking and processing screenshots cannot be provided without some dedication on software part:

  • multiply screenshot modes;
  • correct interaction with operating system;
  • extensive cropping and highlighting functions.

FSCapture It is easy to snap full screen, but it’s hard to get exactly what is needed and present it in easy to grasp way. There are numerous screenshot utilities (and quite different at their logic as well). Personally I recommend old free version of FSCapture – it is quite powerful, while easy to use and portable.

Home photo

Not much personal experience here, I hadn’t owned camera in years (lazy to buy one). But I know that ease of digital photography created niche for software for organizing and tweaking photo collections. Without being image editor by definition such software can help to:

  • compose, publish and share albums;
  • do basic color correction;
  • fix usual photo defects (red eyes, etc).

IrfanView There are many solutions here but basically some lean towards image viewing (I use IrfanView) and some towards collection managing (I use none but Picasa comes up especially often in requests from users).

Overall

You can’t choose image editor by quantifying price and number of functions.

Clear evaluation of tasks you are going to perform is first and most important step to choosing one you will be content with.

Do you work with images often? What are your tasks and your choice of software?

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11 Comments

  • Rarst #

    @Jonny Yeah, Picasa has a lot of fans it seems. I like IrfanView for image viewing (like open, look, close) but don't really use rest of functions it has. It has some problems working with very large images (scans mostly) so after few hiccups I mostly stopped trying to do different stuff with it. No ultimate editor for me either. :)
  • Jonny #

    Picasa for viewing albums / collections. Irfanview for dealing with screencaptures or single images. Gadwin print screen for errrr screen prints. I LOVE Picasa for home made pic organizing, I can't find anything better.
  • Rarst #

    @Peter Your needs seem quite specialized so it makes sense that one product doesn't cover it. I guess it's only easy to choose single product if your editing falls into single function box. Maybe some day some one will get it and make cool modular product in which we will get exactly set of functions we need. Thanks for sharing! :) From these comments I was reminded about more image editors than I had seen in last year.
  • Peter #

    I am painting over some images, therefore I use several image editors. First I edit my image with light, contrast, color etc,(gimp, irfan, ashampoo photo comander, picasa) when I like the image I use ex. TwistedBrush Open Studio, Project Dogwaffle to paint/decorate. One program alone will not satisfied my needs
  • Rarst #

    @Margaret Hadn't used that one. I remember Corel graphic products were much more known and talked about in the past. I guess Adobe won marketing war. :)
  • Margaret #

    I'm a Paint Shop Pro user and have been since 7.0. Now that Corel owns it, they have made it more and more a photo editing software. That's OK as they left the graphics creation tools intact, they just don't seem to be developing them in PSP, but rather in Corel Draw and Corel Paint. I don't own either of those although I do have Photoshop and use it very sparingly. I also have GIMP and find it's not as easy for me to use as PSP is.
  • Titanium Pen #

    Wow, I can't believe you put my name in your post. :) I can't really use GIMP. But I can make good models with Blender.
  • Rarst #

    @Titanium Pen Why not? :) You made suggestion, it's only proper that readers know where it came from. I should get to Blender some day. Have bit of experience with 3d models (aerospace industry), but that work hadn't stick. I am terrible with raster image editors so learning Inkscape bit by bit. Vectors are easier to control. :)
  • The DataRat #

    "Having awesome and expensive editor doesn’t make you good at using it" Which is why I use Paint Shop Pro. Does much of what Photo Shop can do, without the extremely steep learning curve. Margaret covered the rest: Corel has been evolving PSP toward photo-editing, yet all the old graphic tools are still there (albeit in a sometimes much-modified interface). Photo Shop is often more sophisticated than most users are willing to take time to master. Paint Shop Pro hits at the right level of technical sophistication and price for the overwhelming majority of us. The DataRat .
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