Keen photographers quickly outgrow the basic software applications and want more control over the adjustments they can make to their digital photos. At the same time, families may also look for applications that extend the range of things they can do with their digital pictures. Fortunately, both groups are well catered for and there are lots of programs to choose from. In this chapter, we’ll look at some of the best.


Keen photographers quickly outgrow the basic software applications and want more control over the adjustments they can make to their digital photos. At the same time, families may also look for applications that extend the range of things they can do with their digital pictures. Fortunately, both groups are well catered for and there are lots of programs to choose from. In this chapter, we’ll look at some of the best.

Software for Novices

Most people starting out in digital photography want some way to catalogue their photos plus a range of basic editing and sharing tools. Key editing functions you should look for include: cropping, straightening, rotating and flipping, red-eye removal and contrast, hue and saturation adjustments. The ability to adjust highlight and shadow density is also handy. Some beginners’ editors automate many of these functions or provide ‘before’ and ‘after’ views to help you choose the right setting.

Many entry level applications include special effects like B&W and sepia conversion, sharpening, soft focus and tinting. Some come with templates that allow users to produce cards, calendars and other items featuring their own photos. The best novice editors we’ve found are the following:

Picasa is a freeware cataloguing/editing/ sharing application for Windows PCs that can be downloaded from This well-designed application automatically locates image files as you download them and sorts them into visual albums organised by date and a name you select. It contains all the key editing tools, along with one-click fixes and special effects and allows users to email and print photos, make gift CDs and post pictures on their own blog.


Irfanview is another freeware application that was designed as an image cataloguer and file viewer but has evolved into a more powerful application. Most key editing functions are provided and users can view images as slideshows; move, rename, resize and copy files and email images directly from the application. Download it from


VicMan’s Photo Toolkit ($US29.95) is a new shareware editor for Windows PCs that integrates directly into Windows Explorer and can function as an add-on program with Windows Picture and Fax Viewer providing quick access to several editing options. Users can fix red eyes, correct colours, remove artefacts, create caricatures and add lighting effects to images without opening a separate editor. Photo Toolkit can also function as a stand-alone software package. Download it from


ArcSoft PhotoImpression ($US49.99) is a very simple image editor and photo project creator. Supplied with some digital cameras it includes all the basic editing tools plus search/sort/viewing functions and printing controls. It comes with lots of clip art and project templates plus a slideshow player. Trial downloads are available at


Intermediate Software

There are plenty of good software options once you’ve exhausted the potential of a basic editor. Most applications in this category include histogram-based adjustments, higher degrees of fine-tuning for the basic settings, customisable user interfaces, batch editing controls, panorama stitching and a wider range of output options (printing, emailing, archiving to CD/DVD, slideshow creation, etc). Some automation is usually retained, often in the form of ‘quick fix’ settings for correcting red eyes and adjusting brightness, contrast and colour. The best packages in this category include:

VCW VicMan’s Photo Editor 7.9 is a freeware application that combines an intuitive interface with user friendly features and includes simple image editing, high productivity and easy customisation. It supports most popular file formats and many Photoshop filters and allows users to import images from any TWAIN source. A more powerful Pro version is available for $US49.95.


ACDSee 8 ($A91) is a Windows-only application that combines an excellent image organiser with tools for enhancing photographs, sending e-mails, creating slideshows and HTML Web image galleries and outputting to CD/DVDs and prints. Users can edit images without launching a separate editor, view image histograms and rate and sort photos by personal preferences. A 30-day free trial can be downloaded from


Microsoft Digital Image 2006 Suite ($A139) has all the image editing, organising and sharing facilities required by beginners plus quick fixes for correcting exposure and colour balance. It also includes level and curve adjustments, panorama stitching, batch editing and resizing. More than 5,000 templates and clip art images are provided for creating projects and the bundled Photo Story 3.0 lets users create video slideshows with digital images. A 60-day ‘Starter Edition’ trial download is available at


Roxio PhotoSuite 8 ($US29.99) combines basic photo editing tools with one-button photo fixes, repair and restoration facilities. It also includes auto pan and zoom effects and controls for creating SVCD slideshows and downloading them to CD/DVD. Photo Project Task Assistants make it easy to include photos in projects such as collages, calendars and gift tags. Trial downloads are not available but product information can be found at

Editors for Experienced Photographers

Applications in this category are more complex and powerful than intermediate packages and some include raw file conversion facilities. Users of the products listed below will benefit from prior image editing experience and most will welcome the additional controls these applications provide. Best products on offer include:

The GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program), which is a freeware editor for Windows, Mac and Unix/Linux PCs. Although The GIMP can handle most common file formats, it lacks a raw file converter. However, it provides most of the tools digital photographers need, including levels and curves controls and layers. It also includes a simple paint program, cloning tools, an online batch processing system and a mass production image renderer. All versions can be downloaded from


ACDSee Pro ($A219) combines all the features of ACDSee 8 with the ability to view, process and edit raw files. Users can compare up to four images at a time, apply up to 10 edits to groups of photos, batch set IPTC data and add watermarks to image files. Lens correction tools and shadow/highlight adjustments are provided, along with support for ICC and ICM colour profiles. A trial version can be downloaded from


Adobe Photoshop Elements ($A164), now in Version 4, is available in Windows, and Mac editions. It provides much of the image editing functionality of Photoshop, along with automated organising and sharing tools for photo enthusiasts. The latest version contains Adobe Camera Raw for integrated raw file conversion. It also includes 16-bit image support for smoother, more accurate colour rendition. Trial downloads are available at


Corel Paint Shop Pro X ($A269) is a combined image editor and graphic design program for Windows PCs. The latest version includes colour management and screen calibrations options and Pixmantec’s RawShooter Essentials for raw file processing. As well as a full range of editing tools, Paint Shop Pro X comes with automated functions such as Smart Photo Fix and Makeover Tools (for blemish removal). It also has a Learning Centre to teach novice users how to edit photos, create collages and share images. A 30-day trial download is available at

Ulead PhotoImpact 11 ($A179) is a complete image-editing suite with plenty of easy-to-use tools. Users can choose between basic and advanced workspace settings or select Graphics or Web mode layouts. The latest version includes support for raw file processing and 16-bit colour depth. Users can also select from 2,500 customisable special effects. Noise reduction and sharpening tools are also provided, along with non-destructive layer masking. Trial downloads are available from

Adobe Photoshop CS2 ($A1,084) is the ‘benchmark’ image editor against which all others are compared. It contains a full suite of editing, processing, and file handling tools, including Adobe’s Camera Raw file converter, which allows photographers to open a wide range of RAW files for editing. The user interface is fully customisable and Adobe has added ‘pro’ tools like noise reduction and lens correction functions, along with support for the Adobe-backed DNG standard and 32-bit High Dynamic Range (HDR) image files.


Printing from Non-Graphics Software

It’s usually possible to print digital photos from non-graphics applications such as Microsoft’s Word, PowerPoint and Publisher. However there are some limitations in these applications that may make the results you obtain a little different from the results obtained by printing from an image editor.

For starters, all these applications rely on the underlying operating system set-up, where the default colour space is sRGB (see Colour Managed Workflow). Best results will be obtained if you start with images captured in sRGB. For many digital cameras this is the only colour space available and for the rest, it’s usually the default colour space.

Use editing software to re-size large image files to the size they will appear in the final document (or as near as you can guess to that size). Most non-graphics applications have some re-sizing facilities, which will handle any fine-tuning that’s required. Check the ICM box in your printer’s driver to apply the document’s colour management system.


Dedicated Printing Applications

Although you can do most of the things you want from a good editing application, when you need special facilities, such as the ability to print multiple copies of an image on a single sheet of paper (especially at different sizes) or adding captions to pictures, a dedicated printing program can make the task easier. Printing several images on a page can save time and money if you require small prints, especially if your printer can’t print on smaller paper sizes.

Most manufacturers supply layout programs as part of the bundled software suite but there may be times when you need a more powerful application. Epson’s bundled Photo Quicker application has a similar facility that includes set-ups for printing album pages with up to four pictures per page plus captions. Similarly, Adobe’s Photoshop Elements has a Print Multiple Photos setting in the File menu that lets you select images from the Catalog, choose a layout and add decorative frames, if required.


Applications that allow you to print multiple images on a single sheet of paper can save you time and money. Some printer manufacturers supply such programs as part of the bundled software suite.

When selecting a printing program, look for applications that show you exactly how the print will look before you have to commit to printing. Many applications provide templates to make laying out pages easier, but these can be restrictive if you cannot adjust picture sizes and change their positions on the page. Qimage, in particular, is recommended because it provides ICC profile support, which allows a wide range of printers and papers to be used. It also has a panorama printing facility that can be used with printers that take roll paper.

Freeware and Shareware

Limitations of Freeware and Shareware Applications

Image editors and other software applications are totally separate from your printer’s driver and, although it may be tempting to blame the latter when problems occur with colour reproduction, the driver is seldom the source of the problem – unless the user has selected incorrect settings. Freeware and shareware applications are made available free of charge and usually developed by enthusiasts who enjoy the intellectual challenge involved and take a pride in making a contribution to the community they serve (in this case, photographers).

By its nature, freeware generates no revenue for the software developer so he or she has to find other income sources. Many shareware applications that start life as freeware evolve into full-scale commercial applications that are sold for revenue. This revenue is used to support further development of the program and to finance support services for the application’s users. Do not expect a freeware program to come with fast and efficient online support; the resources simply aren’t there to provide them.

Freeware and shareware applications are best suited to photographers with a reasonable degree of computer competence. A fair bit of tweaking and shuffling is often required to get them to work to your satisfaction. And you’ll have to depend on your own resources for problem solving.



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