Best free photography software packages

In our article: Best free photography software packages we look at several free software programs

Recuva

Recuva

We've all done it at some point - deleted images that we haven't backed up. Not to worry though, because the chances are you'll be able to recover them with data recovery software. Recuva has been around for a few years, during which time it has regularly topped the vote in online data recovery software polls. That's because it's simple to use with an intuitive user interface that will help you to recover your files without the need for any advanced command-line interface skills. Sadly, Recuva is PC only for the time being, however Apple users need only look in the panel along the bottom for a data recovery freeware built specially for Macs.

Summary

Compatibility: Windows only
Pros: Easy to use, gets good results
Cons: Windows only
BEST FOR: recovering deleted images

www.piriform.com/recuva

RawTherapee

RawTherapee offers an advanced set of conversion tools to help you get the best from your Raw image files. From exposure and tonality to noise reduction and sharpening, RawTherapee offers just about everything you would expect to find in paid-for software such as Adobe Lightroom. In addition, you can use RawTherapee to perform batch conversion of multiple Raw image files. The selection of supported Raw file types is extensive and growing all the time. The only slight issue some may have is that there are lots of build versions available for download, which can make choosing the right one slightly more complicated.

Summary

Compatibility: Windows and Mac
Pros: Extensive control
Cons: Finding the right version to download can be tricky
BEST FOR: getting the best from your raw images

rawtherapee.com/blog/features

Luminance

Luminance is a free HDR creation tool that allows you to blend several images taken at different exposures together to produce a single image with a much greater dynamic range. Once installed, using the software is a breeze thanks to the built-in wizard that will prompt you through each step. There's even help for eliminating any "ghosting" effects caused by images that are slightly unaligned. Should you want to get more advanced, Luminance also offers plenty of manual controls as well - simply check the Custom box. Luminance currently supports JPEGs, TIFFs and Raw files, making it a great all-rounder for free HDR creation.

Summary

Compatibility: Windows and Mac
Pros: Good results, wizard tool makes it easier to use
Cons: None, given that it's free
BEST FOR: advanced hdr creation

qtpfsgui.sourceforge.net

PicMonkey

PicMonkey is the polar opposite of Gimp in that it's super-easy to use and requires very little digital darkroom knowledge to get good results with. Of course, there are limitations and you won't find any layers-based image manipulation on offer, nor can the site open Raw files. That said there's still a good range of basic adjustments on offer, along with a pretty generous selection of digital filters that can be used to spruce your images up with. The biggest selling point of PicMonkey, however, is that it's entirely web-based, which means there's no need to download any software in order to use it.

summary

Compatibility: Windows and Mac
Pros: Easy to use, no software downloads required
Cons: A bit basic, no layers adjustment, JPEG only
BEST FOR: if you want to easily make quick edits 

www.picmonkey.com

Picasa

 

 Picasa is an easy-to-use photo management application that allows you to store, browse and view all of your images conveniently from one window, and to make basic edits to them. Once installed, Picasa will search your computer for images and then neatly categorise them into folders. You can then choose to sync these desktop Picasa folders to the Picasa cloud should you want to back them up. If you want to edit your images, then you have the choice of doing so in either the desktop viewer, or you can export them to Creative Kit - where there's a broader range of options, including a good selection of filter and paint-on effects.

Summary

Compatibility: Windows and Mac
Pros: Comprehensive, easy to use
Cons: No support for layers
BEST FOR: photo management and editing 

www.picasa.com

Gimp

Gimp is just about the closest thing you can get to the full-fat version of Photoshop without having to reach for your wallet - even the layout looks similar. Open up an image in Gimp and you'll be faced with all manner of healing, cloning, paintbrush and selection tools. In addition, you can also create multiple layers for really close control over specific aspects and/or areas of your image. While the depth and breadth of Gimp is sure to please the advanced digital darkroom enthusiast, those looking for something simple may well find it a little over-complicated.

Summary

Compatibility: Windows and Mac
Pros: Offers just about everything Photoshop offers
Cons: Novice users may find it over-complicated
BEST FOR: if you're an advanced digital darkroom enthusiast  

www.gimp.org