Basic Editing

Best free photo software

Written by Gail Bjork

Here are some of the best free software programs and utilities to edit, improve and organize your digital photos.

FreeFree software for the digital darkroom

Some of the best things in life are free, including these nifty programs and utilities to help you in the digital darkroom. Programs include those to edit and enhance digital images,  to view and organize them, and even to help recover digital files you may have deleted. All programs were free and available at the time of posting.*

Free photo editing, organizing and viewing software

  • ArcSoft RAW Thumbnail Viewer – plug-in for Windows that allows previewing of RAW photos when browsing through files.
  • ePassportPhotos – create passport photos online
  • Fastone Photo resizer – Batch convert, rename and resize images, including converting images to PDF files.
  • FastStone image viewer – image browser, viewer, converter and editor.
  • FilterSIM – photo filter simulator.
  • FotoSketcher – automatically converts digital photos into art; or improve them with simple tools.
  • FuturePaint (Mac) – full-featured image editing.
  • Gimp – (Windows, Mac, Linux) – open source photo retouching software that has many robust features and supports layers. The learning curve may be higher for some than other editing programs listed here.
  • Irfanview – image viewer and converter; reads exif data.
  • Microsoft ICE – advanced panoramic image stitcher
  • Neat Image – digital image noise reduction.
  • Paint.NET – image editing program that supports layers. [What are layers?]
  • PanoramPlus Starter Edition – automatically stitch photos together to create panoramas
  • PhotoFiltre – image editing and filter program (go to the downloads page).
  • PhotoPlus – image editing software offering layers.
  • Photoscape – photo editing software to fix and enhance photos.
  • Picturennaut HDR – combine multiple photos of a scene for High Dynamic Range. [What’s HDR?]
  • Seashore – open source image editor for Mac OS X; supports multiple layers.
  • TwistedBrush Open Studio – create original digital paintings and all forms of digital art. Photo editing too. Layers and Transparency; Masks; Tracing Paper.
  • VicMan’s Photo Editor – image editing.
  • virtualPhotographer – apply photographic styles to images.

Free photo-related software and utilities

  • Bulk Rename Utility – easily rename files and entire folders based on extremely flexible criteria.
  • Exposure Plot – analyzes usage of focal length, ISO, aperture and shutter speed.
  • iTag – utility that embeds title, description and keywords in photos and videos.
  • Photo Dater –  add date and other information to photo.
  • PIXresizer – image resizer.
  • SD Formatter – considered the best utility to format SD/SDHC/SDXC cards.
  • uMark Lite –  image watermarking software.

Free photo & data recovery software

  • Exif Untrasher for Mac – rescues JPEG photos that were deleted from memory cards or memory sticks
  • Pandora Recovery – find and recover a variety of deleted files
  • PC Inspector File Recovery – data recovery program that supports the FAT 12/16/32 and NTFS file systems
  • Recuva – friendly user-interface
  • RecoveRx (Windows and Mac) – user-friendly interface that allows you to search deep within a storage device for traces of erased files that can be rescued; the files include digital photos, documents, music and videos.
  • Zar – the free version recovers photos only
  • Zero Assumption Digital Image Recovery – recover pictures from media cards

Free EXIF readers/viewers

  • Opanda IExif – browse available Exif / GPS / IPTC data in digital images posted online.
  • PhotoMe – analyze and modify Exif and IPTC-NAA data ;  analyze ICC profiles.

Free video software

  • DVD Flick – simple but powerful DVD authoring tool.
  • MP4Cam2AVI – quickly converts .mp4/.MOV files to .AVI files (lossless).
  • Mpeg Streamclip – a powerful video converter, player, editor for Mac and Windows.
  • VirtualDub – video capture and processing utility.
  • VLC – open source cross-platform multimedia player

Free monitor calibration software

*Important notice: Read disclaimers about operating system requirements and compatibility that are posted at a developer’s site.  If your OS system isn’t supported, a program won’t run correctly. You are solely responsible for software you download and install.

About the author

Gail Bjork

Gail Bjork, who is passionate about digital photography, is the owner and editor of Digicamhelp.Gail is the author of three illustrated ebooks about digital photography. A number of her photos and digital photography related articles appear at other websites.In 2006, a series of her photos, People in the Louvre, were exhibited at the Underground Photo Gallery
in Iisalmi Finland. Eight of her photos taken in the Florida scrub are on permanent exhibition at Parrish Medical Center in Titusville, Florida.Gail served twelve years as an elected member of The School Board of Palm Beach County, Florida, one of the largest school districts in the U.S. She has also been the editor of a small town newspaper and a free-lance writer. Gail and her husband owned and ran several small businesses.

50 Comments

  • Hi Teresa, First, sorry for the delay in responding. We haven’t been able to get into the site for almost two weeks, until the host discovered that some software needed updating.

    You may want to try the Picasa photo editing and organizing program. The program is free and has some very sophisticated editing tools that are easy to use. You can view your photos in a slideshow and it can even create a movie, with transitions and effects, of selected still images.

    The downside is that it does not let you create layers. If you need to use layers, try one of the free image editors listed on this page that has layering capabilities.

  • I am doing photography as a side project. It’s a hobby of mine and I am looking for a good editing program I can use to help my photos looks more professional and preferablly for free since I am 18 and I don’t have a very good quality camera. I have a vivitar vivicam X014N

  • By the way, check that you have the latest version of ZoomBrowser EX. Currently, it’s 6.9.01. Depending on your version, it has several improved features including the ability to update the software from the Help menu, rather than going to the Canon site.

  • Elizabeth, yes, you can extract frames from zoombrowser. In the Tasks Bar, click on Export. Select a video and then click on “Extract frames from a movie.” You are presented with several options, including “Extract all frames.” It’s quite efficient and fun to use, though if you extract all frames expect a lot of images.

  • I’m a novice fashion photographer using a Canon T2i to shoot video. I have ZoomBrowser EX for editing and cannot figure out how to remove frames effectively and easily using that software. I would like to look at the video frame by frame and remove the frames I don’t want (like the really blurry ones). Can I do this with ZB Ex or do I have to use a different software and is there a version of said software free or cheap?

  • For me, photoshop and Lightroon is still the best because they are very flexible and have many plugin available. But trying other ones is good because it can give more option.

  • Julliët, thank you very much for the information. I checked the PhotoFiltre site the other day and didn’t find a download for this version. I just checked now, and you are absolutely correct. Downloading it now. 🙂 Thanks again!

  • That’s not true Gail, I really mean PhotoFiltre 7, it’s free.

    PhotoFiltre 7 is a complete image retouching program. It allows you to do simple or advanced adjustments to an image and apply a vast range of filters on it. It is simple and intuitive to use, and has an easy learning curve. The toolbar, giving you access to the standard filters with just a few clicks, gives PhotoFiltre 7 a robust look.
    PhotoFiltre 7 also has layer manager (with Alpha channel), advanced brushes, batch module and lot of other powerful tools.

  • PhotoFiltre, mentioned above, does have layer options too.
    New version 7 just came out. I’m not much experienced with these kind of programs yet, but it did what I wanted to do: create icons from jpg/png files with transparent background… Also the option of installing your own language file and lots of plugins makes this program not bad at all.

    Portable version available!

    This link directs to the free PhotoFiltre v7 site.

  • I recently moved a friends photos from a Mac to a PC. I tired to copy them to an external hard drive but the Mac would not recognize it. So I ended up burning the images to a DVD. A good and easy program to use to organize and edit your photos on the PC is Picasa. It’s free software by Google.

  • Has anyone any experience in moving an iPhoto library on a Mac over to a PC? I would like to preserve the titles, keywords, and descriptions. Can anyone suggest a software package or a work-around?

  • Brian, Some recommend simply dragging the images from your computer directly to the card that you place in a computers memory slot.

    Personally, because you’re using the files from a different manufacturer, I’d try a different route.

    You should be able to use ZoomBrowser to transfer jpegs from the Samsung to the computer.

    ZoomBrowser EX is the software that comes with the s90 and s95. It can also be used to transfer images onto a SD card. When you open ZoomBrowser there is a Tasks panel on the left-hand side of the screen. Click on Acquire and Camera Settings, select the images you wish to transfer, and then click Transfer Images to Memory card.

    Try with one or two images first to see if it works. If not, try changing the filenames to the naming convention used by Canon: IMG_0123.JPG. If that works, you’ll need to batch rename images. A program such as the free, FastStone Photo Resizer can quickly rename photos. As with any form of editing, work on copies of your originals.

    Enjoy your s90. The s90 and s95 produce wonderful image quality. I own the s90 and have written about it here.

  • Hi. I have a SAMSUNG P1000. I have just been given an S90 by my son who is upgrading to the S95. I have app 600 photos on the SD card (taken with the SAMSUNG) which I want to transfer to the SD card of my S90 and be able to view them on the S90. How can I do this? Do I need special software?

    HELP!

  • Really great post, Thank you for sharing This knowledge.E If only all bloggers offered the same level of content as you, the internet would be a much better place. Please keep it up!

  • Photoplus (in your list of editors) is very good. I’ve been using it for quite some time now. It has layers and is free from Serif website. The price on the website is £71 for the x4 version, but once you have downloaded the free version and installed, everytime you exit the program it offers you the chance to upgrade to the full version of x4 for £39.99. Use the program for a few weeks and Serif seem to send an email with the offer to upgrade for £29.99.  Some good savings to be had on what is an excellent photo editing software programme.

  • I FREQUENTLY NEED TO ADD A BLUE SKY TO MY HOUSE PHOTOS – CAN YOU RECOMMEND A PROGRAM THAT IS NOT TOO DIFFICULT.

  • Brittany, Photoshop has dodge and burn tools, as well as a number of colored filters that you can apply via an adjustment layer or via the image menu > adjustments > photo filter. The free program GIMP, also has burn and dodge tools. FilterSIM listed above is a free photo filter simulator.

  • Hey, I was wondering if there were any software that did darkroom techniques such as dodging and burning in… and had tools that were like filters in the darkroom(creating more contrast etc!)

  • Louis, Try FastStone Image Viewer. It is a very user-friendly image browser, converter and editor. Features include image viewing, resizing, cropping and color adjustments. Picasa is also a good choice and there is plenty of online help should you need it. Each has a learning curve, of course, however they are easier to learn than a more fully featured program such as Photoshop Elements. Since they are free, download each and see which is the most user friendly for your writers. FastStone also offers a free image sizer.

  • I have a number of service writers who need to incorporate photos into their reports.  While they know the equipment they are writing about, many are by no means masters of image editing software.  We need an easy to use freeware product which can handle the bare basics such as cropping, contrast enhancement and image file size reduction.  can you recommend a product for our application?  Thanks much.

  • Try some of the editing programs listed in this article, such as GIMP or Paint.net. Free programs that support layers typically have more editing tools.

  • hi,
    i am looking for a free photo editing program, i used to have picasa, and i really enjoyed it, but i am looking for something with more options. more editing tools, so let me know if you have a program like this.

  • Rich, if you’re looking for free software, take a look at Picasa. It’s available in both Mac and PC versions. The features are many including creating movies, slideshows and collages. You can also create DVDs. To view on your tv directly from your computer or laptop, you’d need a port for S-Video-out or HDMI.

    There are links to the Mac and PC versions of Picasa near the bottom of the page in the page in the review.

  • Hi,  I am presently scanning over 2000 old family slides to jpg format. I am wanting to find a FREE software that will be user friendly to none computer users (like my family) and allow them to view photos from the DVD in a neat and tidy gallery and copy photos to their computer, if they wish. If they can view via TV/DVD player that is a bonus. I am using an iMAC but most of my family are using PCs. Rather than just give them jpgs or an long winded iMOVIE – can you suggest a software alternative that would appease both MAC and PC users? Any direction would be of assistance.
     

  • HI, When I tried to upload pics from my camera to my computer, the computer could not read the memory card. It showed as if the memory card was empty and when I clicked properties, it showed that there was no data. I tried in several other computers but none can read the card. But when I view the photos on my camera’s view finder I can still see my pictures. Can anyone please tell me how I can retrieve my pics and upload the files to a computer. Thanks in advance.

  • To some extent, you can enhance photos with programs like Photoshop and Photoshop elements that have various editing tools. For something more sophisticated, do a search for Police Photo Enhancement software.

  • Hi, I’m looking for a program that will manipulate and enhance photos like you see on police shows, kind of like being able to blow up sections and make grainy areas more distinct.
    Thanks Rudy

  • I agree that it would be nice if there were more free programs that offered layers. But software developers need to feed their families like the rest of us. They often offer decent programs for free, but if you want advanced goodies like layers and layer masks, you have to pay. At least paint.net is free.

  • yall need more programs with layers an layer mask . cause usually those are tha best programs .

    paint.net is the closet thing to photoshop !! — i use it myself . *

  • I’m looking for a program that I can use to leave color on just part of the photo (like a flower or eyes) while turning the rest blk & wht.

  • Thanks a thousand times and over!!!!! This site has helped me so much I can’t thank you enough, keep up the good work.

  • Now that I’ve been able to add copyright to my photograph, how do I take it off?  I can’t find anything in the help section.  The first one, I did it on a copy but for some reason the second one didn’t.

  • You will need a program that has layering capabilities and lets you make selections and add layer masks. You can get more information about these techniques in our Advanced Editing section. You may have to end up buying something like Photoshop Elements or PaintShop Pro. But first download and try some of the free programs mentioned that have layering capabilities. When there is a clear definition between an object and its background, it’s easier to select and extract. Many programs have dozens of filter effects so you can make a image look like a sketch or cartoon. Here are some examples in a recent review we did of the online photo editing tool, Picnik.

  • hello, we are in search of a neat program that can say cut out things in a picture and place them in a background. Like for instance we own some neat collectible cars. I want to make picture of our car say in a Mountain background or take one of our cars and place them say in front of a 50’s 0r 60’s diner.
    Plus does this program take a picture and make it into a drawing or say clip art form? Can you please let me know… thanks so much

  • All the photo editing programs mentioned will let you retouch photos. Since they are all free, give a few a try to see the one that best meets your needs. For example, the latest version of Picasa has a Retouch tool.

  • Hi, 
    I have lots of photos on my pc, something went wrong and I could not view them, 2 days latter and loading a program disk that took over everything, it did everything i did not want it to do, all i wanted was to view them, I went on the your site and there was arcsoft, I realised that was what I had before but had forgotten, it was easy to download and believe me I am 100% thrilled. now I am going to download virtual photographer, now i wont just look at the pictures I will be able to print them for my 11 grandchildren. thank you,
    Sandy