Archives for Photo Editing Software category

It has only been a few months since I updated my Adobe PhotoShop to CS4.  But the sneak peak not too long ago of CS5’s new Content Aware Fill feature is a temptation to upgrade once more.  Adobe PhotoShop CS5 is officially released tomorrow, April 12th.  To tempt us even more PhotoShop has given another look at one of the new features they have packed into the latest version.  This time it is Puppet Warp, a tool used for bending and twisting images with just a few steps.  Watch a video on this newest feature and see if you can resist upgrading tomorrow.

If you have ever shot in RAW format and done any post-processing work using Adobe PhotoShop you have probably noticed and experimented with the sliders for clarity, vibrance and saturation at the bottom of the “basic” tab on the Camera Raw editing window (CS4 version).  All three of these adjustments are used to alter the saturation of your image.  Saturation refers to the intensity and purity of the color.  A highly saturated image has very vivid color while an image that has been desaturated is a greyscale image with monochromatic grey tones.  Each of these settings has a little different effect on the colors of the image.  The sample photos here are at either extreme end of the spectrum, -100 and +100 to help give you an idea of what each saturation setting does.  In most cases, except where you are trying to go for an “artistic” look, you would not take it to the extreme ends.  Generally you may blend a few of them at varying points along their scales to get the end result you are trying to accomplish.

The original photograph with all  saturation settings at the default level of zero.

Clarity – Clarity adds depth to an image and gives it a stronger focus and more impact.  Notice the sharper detail in the +100 clarity photo while the focus becomes softer and the colors almost muted in the -100 clarity image.

Click on the images to see the effect better in the full size version.

Example of a photo with the Clarity setting at plus 100

Clarity at + 100

Clarity at - 100.

Vibrance – From a visual standpoint the results of adjusting the vibrance settings may appear very similar to those you get from adjusting the saturation settings.  However there are a few subtle differences that make the two unique.  Most notably, vibrance changes the saturation of the least saturated colors and has minimal effect on the higher-saturated colors.  When you do not need equal adjustment across all colors vibrance is the route to go.  Also, when working with portraits vibrance helps prevent skin tones from becoming over-saturated.

Notice the difference between the vibrance -100 image and the Saturation -100 image.  The vibrance version still has hints of color left because these were highly saturated to begin with and vibrance has less impact on these types of colors.

Vibrance at + 100

Vibrance at - 100

Saturation – Increasing the saturation will brighten and deepen all of the colors in the photograph across the board, unlike vibrance which acts on the least saturated colors. Going the other direction will remove some of that depth and brightness in the colors and, if you go far enough the image will turn out desaturated or monochrome.

Saturation at + 100

Saturation at - 100

Adobe products are probably some of the most widely used image editing software by both amateur and professional photographers. I recently upgraded from CS2 to CS4 and the vast improvements from one to the other were impressive.  But software technology advances quickly and that only means there are much better things to come.  Adobe recently gave a sneak peak of a feature that will be in the next version, PhotoShop CS5.  Content Aware Fill is a remarkable bit of technology.  In its simplest terms, it takes the spot healing brush and the clone stamp tools to a whole new level.  The Content Aware Fill tool uses data from the area surrounding your selection (content) to smart fill in and match the selected area resulting in near perfect corrections in your photograph.  Based on the demo video released from Adobe it does an amazing job of it.  Will this feature alone force me to upgrade again so soon?  Adobe PhotoShop CS5 is slated to be released in just a few weeks on April 12, 2010.

Thanks to Matt at Awesome Toy Blog for passing on the news about PhotoShop.

Photo of a railroad bridge in a sepia toneRailroad Bridge in Sepia
f/5.6 – 1/500 sec – ISO 100 – Focal Length 50 mm

Photo of a railroad brigde in colorPhotoshop CS4 is an amazing tool for photographers.  It offers some very complex and powerful tools for fixing, improving and artistically altering your images.  But it also offers some very basic tools that do not require too much advanced knowledge of Photoshop and most anyone can quickly learn to use.  One of those is adding a sepia tone to an image.   Sepia simply means a brown color tone with a hint of red.

Most actions in CS4 have more than one way to be accomplished.  But one of the easiest ways to get this effect is to use the adjustments tool. Here are the 3 easy steps to take a color image like the one on the right and give it a sepia tone like the one above.

  1. From the menu bar at the top go to image>adjustments then select black & white.
  2. Your image has now turned black & white and the Black and white dialogue box has opened.  In this box, just below the color sliders is a check box next to the word tint.  Check this box.
  3. The default should be a sepia tone.  So you can stop here if you like the coloring.  But if it defaults to another tone or you want to further adjust the sepia color click in the square of color to the right of the word tint and change your color to anything you like.

If you do any significant amount of portrait photography or just photograph people with any regularity there is a photo editing program you should take for a spin.  Portrait Professional works very differently than any other photo editing software that I have seen.  I can’t explain all the programming and magic that goes on in the background to make this work, but it makes quick and easy work of retouching portraits.  If you download the free trial you will be able to play around with some of the great features of this program using either the sample portraits they provide or on your own photos.  Here are some of the things you can do quite easily with Portrait Professional:

  • Fix skin blemishes such as pimples, moles, and spots
  • Reduce and/or remove wrinkles
  • Increase attractiveness (according to the software’s definition I suppose) by reshaping any aspect of the face
  • Remove sweat or shin on skin
  • Change hair color and thickness
  • Adjust lighting on the face

There is a lot to this program and it works very well.  Did I mention how easy it is?  There is not a lot of learning needed to jump right in and start retouching portraits either.  I played around with retouching one of the program’s sample portraits and feel that the rich features, ease of use and great end results make Portrait Professional a bargain for even the amateur portrait photographer at about $60.

Here are some screen shots of the portrait retouching I did with the Portrait Professional sample photograph. Click on any image to enlarge.

Portrait Professional Image Editor - Before PictureOther then the usual angst of teenage acne this kid is not bad off and his BEFORE portrait shouldn’t require too much work.  The great thing about Portrait Professional is that it allows you to do simple retouches to save a teenager from embarrassment all the way up to getting Vogue model air brushing-like results.  Either way it is a pretty simple process and models and teenagers (or even teenage models) can be cleaned up quite nicely.

Portrait Professional Step by Step WizardA step-by-step wizard of sorts walks you through the first part of the retouching process.  It begins with defining the facial features.  The software asks you to click on various parts of the face such as the left corner of the left eye.  Once these reference points are established you will see your portrait marked up with blue lines as though a plastic surgeon has taken his Sharpie to the face to indicate what needs a little nip and tuck.

Portrait ProfessionalThe 3rd step is to take the blue markings that the program placed on your portrait and adjust them.  This is done through lining up various points with the outline of the facial feature you are working on.  In the case at left it is the boy’s right eye and eyebrow.  A simple click and drag process is all you need to do in order to line the “plastic surgery” marks up with the various features.

Portrait Professional Wizard StepsYou will do this same process on each eye and eyebrow, the mouth (as shown at the right), the nose and then the face as a whole.  After you have everything lined up as you like it is time to let the Portrait Professional program do its magic.  I could not begin to explain exactly what this magic is, but my best guess is that it matches up the marked up facial features with a database of “ideal” positions and starts adjusting.

As you can see from the before and after comparison below this simple four step wizard does a pretty decent job of cleaning the portrait up.  Pimples and blemishes are gone and we have a new photograph that any teenager should be happy with.

Portrait Professional Before and After

Portrait Professional Face Enhancement ToolsBut you do not have to stop at what the wizard has to offer.  After you get to the “after” stage above, you can keep going with additional more detailed adjustments of every feature of a portrait you can image.  The tool box (at left) offers categories to start your additional virtual plastic surgery with including face sculpt, skin, eyes and mouth. And each of these categories expands to reveal multiple features for you to play with using sliding scales to create the perfect portrait.

Portrait Professional Skin Enhancement ToolsThe skin option for example, allows you to give your pale model a tan; remove wrinkles (not necessary for our test subject, but great for those of us with a few years behind us); close up those pesky pores; and reduce overall imperfections to just name a few.

Portrait Professional is a very specific photo editing program, in that it is limited to portraits.  However, it has taken that one limited field of photography and produced a very good piece of software exclusively for it.  All of the human “imperfections” that some may see as a distraction to the ideal portrait can be addressed with ease.  The learning curve is not steep at all and most anyone with a small amount of photo editing knowledge can pick this program up quickly.  Finally the price is very attractive considering all you get.  Download the free trial and see what you can do to spruce up your portrait photography.

Pop Art Pug made with Fotoflexer Online Photo Editor

“Pop Art Scooter”

Scooter-Pre-Pop-ArtA few weeks ago I wrote a post about free online photo editors.  There are a lot of them out there with a wide assortment of features.  So I figured I would show a little bit of what they can do.  This image was done using a photograph of my pug, Scooter and the online photo editor Fotoflexer.  I’d like to say I slaved away at this for hours in order to master the “pop art” effect.  But in reality the program makes it very easy.  Here are the basic steps I followed to accomplish this final image.

  1. I cropped an image of Scooter so his head basically filled the frame (see the original image above right).  I used Photoshop but you can also accomplish this in Fotoflexer.
  2. I then uploaded the image from my computer to the Fotoflexer program at
  3. I then selected the “effects” tab and the “pop art” option.
  4. Et voila!  Save the image back to my computer and I was done.  A masterpiece in seconds.

OK, maybe not a masterpiece.  But it is a fun program to play around with and turn your photographs into somethign creative and fun.

This is a follow up to my post the other day about 6 Free Photo Editing Programs.  The difference is that those were downloadable programs and these are free online photo editors.  So if you are concerned about hard drive space or have commitment issues with downloading a software program these could be a good alternative for you.  In no particular order, five worth giving a spin are:

Sumo Paint

Sumo Paint Online Image Editing ProgramSumo Paint is relatively new to the online photo editing game having been released about a year ago.  It also differentiates itself from some of the other options by being less of a photo editor and more of an art creation tool.  It has most of the tools you would expect that allow  you to turn your photos into a unique work of art.  Yet, what sets it apart from traditional photo editors are some of the extras it has that give you the ability to create art from scratch.

Some of the features and tools you will find in Sumo Paint Include:

  • A whole lot of filters – liquid waves, spherical mapping, camouflage, glowing edges, twirl, and noise to name a few
  • Layers
  • Clone, lasso, blur, color picker and magic wand tools
  • Text editor
  • A large selection of brushes

A few of the cons you might encounter include requiring Flash be installed (but who doesn’t nowadays?), a bit more time consuming with larger files sizes, no direct integration with social media and photo sharing sites such as Flickr and of course you are working online so it is dependent on the availability and speed of your internet connection.


Flauntr Free Online Photo EditorFlauntr is broken down into several different tools with names like editR, textR and styleR.  It has a lot of fancy gadgets designed to “pimp” out your photos such as adding frames, shapes and text.  It also is big on integration with social networks and your mobile phone.  The main drawback of Flauntr is its unusual interface.  The saying “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” seems to apply well to this photo editor.  By that I mean most other photo editing programs follow a somewhat standard interface design.  It works and most don’t deviate too far from what is the “standard.”  Flauntr seems to take being different to the extreme.  So much so that it is a bit confusing to navigate.  However, it does have some cool features you will not find elsewhere.

  • profilR – allows you to customize your photos to match the profile picture specifications of a long list of social networks
  • picasR – offers a library of historic paintings to reference for colors – I never quite figured out how this works, but it seems like it should be a neat concept
  • stylR- gives you frame overlays and magazine covers to get creative with your photos


fotoflexer free online photo editor FotoFlexer has many of the features and tools of both the free offline photo editing programs as well as some of the programs you can purchase.  It also includes many of the fun extra features from programs like Flauntr and integrates with the major social networks so you can edit and upload your photos.  Overall FotoFlexer is one of my favorite free online photo editors.  The interface is intuitive, the features are rich and it produces good results – all for free.   Even the ads which help pay for the site are rather non-intrusive.  Here are a few things you can expect from FotoFelxer:

  • Basic editing features such as red eye correction, cropping, rotating, resizing, and contrast and brightness correction.
  • Special effects for photos such as blur edges, greyscale, sepia, ink stamp and soften
  • “Decorating” options such as a text editor, eraser, drawing, and things like adding “stickers,” borders and the like.
  • Portrait tweaking tools such as blemish and wrinkle removal
  • Layers!
  • A very easy and useful undo button


LunaPic Free Online Photo EditorLunapic is differentiated from the first three by the fact that it is is html based, meaning if you don’t have flash installed you can still use the program.  It’s layout is also a bit different in that it looks less like a photo editor and more like any other web page.  i.e. the ads are very prominent and there are a header and standard footer – it looks like most any other web page.  The first three above are much less “website” like and more photo editor in appearance.  Appearance aside, here are some of the features you will find in the Lunapic photo editor:

  • A good number of animation features such as slide shows, transitions, fire and lightning effects and a new “glitterizing” effect
  • All the basic editing tools including crop, magic wand, rotate, resize, and scale.
  • Drawing and text tools including color picker.
  • Adjustment tools such as blur, tone, red eye reduction and contrast.
  • A respectible list of effects or filters including one called “lego” that makes your picture look as though it is made out of Lego bricks.


Phixr Free Online Photo EditorAt first glance you are going to notice that the Phixr web interface is a bit rudamentary and dare I say “boring.”  It is certainly lacking the pizzazz that many of the other free online photo editors have.  It is also lacking some of the features and is not exactly straight forward in how the features it does have are presented.  Phixr focuses on integrating with the major social networking sites, Facebook, Flickr, Photobucket and the like, and is scaled back on the enhanced editing options in order to make basic and quick edits to your photos.  If you are looking for a robust program to do some of the more advanced edits allowed by a program like FotoFlexer or Lunapic, Phixr is probably not for you.  If all you need is a quick and dirty fix or change to get the picture back up to Facebook this one has what you will need to get the job done.  Here is what you can expect to find in Phixr:

  • The basic editing options of rotate, flip and the like
  • A short, but effective list of effects such as swirl, pop art, black and white and sepia
  • Ability to alter brightness, hue and saturation
  • Red eye correction
  • Text

Another great resource for specs on these and many more online photo editors is this article by

I am a big fan of PhotoShop, but it can be pricey and a bit cumbersome to learn if you do not have a lot of time to dedicate to it.  For amateur photographers, without all the time and money, there is good news.  There are a lot of photo editing software alternatives out that that are priced just right to fit anyone’s budget.  They are free!

I am listing six of the more popular ones here although there are plenty more out there.  Keep in mind that none of these are going to be quite as robust and feature rich as PhotoShop, but in most cases they will get the job done perfectly well.  These free photo editors are in no particular order.


Photoscape Photo Editor ScreenshotPhotoscape is touted as being fun and easy to use.  It is great for the point-and-shoot photographer as well as the amateur looking for some more professional features in a photo editor without the cost of commercially available programs.   In addition the ease of use is supported by a good array of how-to videos on the Photoscape site.

Some of the features of note are:

  • View, edit, batch edit and combine photos
  • Built in templates to create collages, comics and other creative works
  • Supports RAW image file formats
  • Re-size, crop, and filter images
  • Red eye removal feature
  • Brightness, color and white-balance adjustments as well as noise reduction


GIMP Free Photo Editing Software ScreenshotGIMP, which stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program, has been called “One of the most powerful general-purpose image editors around…” by  GIMP is often recognized for its comparability to PhotoShop in features as well as being compatible with all the major operating systems, Windows, Mac and Unix.

A few of the features GIMP offers are:

  • All the paint tools you would expect – brush, pencil, airbrush, clone
  • Layers and channels
  • Transformation tools such as rotate, flip, and scale
  • Filters and effect
  • Editable text layers
  • Some very rich animation tools
  • A whole lot more… Free Photo Editing Software ScreenshotFor all the basics you may need without some of the complexities and overkill of more advanced photo editing software programs is ideal.  For what it lacks in “professional” elements (no RAW file support for example) it more than makes up for with an array of photo editing attributes to keep even the advanced hobby photographer happy.  To top it off is an easy to learn, intuitive program.

Here are a few of the things you can expect to find in

  • Layer support
  • Action manager
  • Editing tools such as crop, resize and rotate
  • Color enhancement and correction tools
  • Red eye correction – although this has been reported to not be its best feature
  • Magic Wand, Clone Stamp and text Editor tools


Pixia Free Photo Editing Software ScreenshotPixia’s website definitely lacks the flash and “professional” appearance of many other photo editing software sites, even the free ones.  But don’t let that fool you.  What started as a Japanese language program has produced a very popular English language version.  It is limited to the Windows operating system however and is not ideal for the less tech savvy user due to its steep learning curve.  Yet it does a good job of packing some useful tools into a free photo editing application and is worth the extra trouble if you can spend the time to conquer its complexity.

Pixia has the basics you would expect and then some:

  • Supports masks and layers
  • A wide array of filters including black & white and sepia effects
  • Drawing and paint tools
  • The photo editing basics including crop, rotate and color adjustment


Paint Star Free Photo Editing Software ScreenshotPaintStar is a versatile and feature rich photo editing software program.  The interface is relatively intuitive allowing those unfamiliar with image editing programs to master PaintStar without too much trouble.  Like many of the free programs discussed here if you need RAW file support or are working on a Mac PaintStar is not going to be the program for you.  Otherwise it is well worth giving it a try.

Here is a brief list of what you will find in PaintStar:

  • Numerous painting tools including all the basics as well as customizable brushes
  • Image morphing
  • Support for more than 30 files types – JPEG, GIF, TIFF and then some
  • Over 100 filters and effects
  • All the transformation tools you’ll need including rotate and scale


Photofiltre Free Photo Editing Software ScreenshotPhotofiltre has ease of use and intuitiveness  on its side.  It has menus and icons you will easily recognize making the learning curve on this one less steep than some of it s competitors.  Some have gone so far as to say its features rival some commercial photo editing software packages on the market.  In addition it has optional plug-ins that can be downloaded and added; something most free image editors do not offer.

Photofiltre offer these and many more features:

  • A wide range of filters
  • Magic wand and clone stamp
  • Image effects, photo masks and image adjustments
  • The paint brush and drawing tools you would expect
  • Batch processing capabilities

The bottom line is that there are a lot of options out there for photo editing and you do not need to spend a fortune to take advantage of their features.  Many people have put a lot of time and effort into some excellent free alternatives to the commercial programs.  Although none may be as rich as PhotoShop most will do just about everything the amateur photographer needs.