So, you've been snapping away with your digital camera and are finally ready to enhance and display your pictures. Then it's time to find a good photo editing software program. Whether you are a Windows or Mac user, plenty of options exist at very good prices. Some are even free. Let's take a look at a few of the most popular ones.
Consider your free options first. If you own an Apple computer, your Mac operating system comes installed with iPhoto. If you are a Windows 7 user, your computer came loaded with Windows Live Photo Gallery. Both programs give you some flexibility to crop, edit and correct photos. You can also perform some pretty neat enhancements. For instance, you can create panoramic photos or capture the best elements of two like photos in Windows Live Photo Gallery [source: Windows Live]. iPhoto's strengths are in multimedia applications. After you crop, adjust and retouch your photos, you can post them directly to Facebook and manage comments through iPhoto. You can also create animated slideshows [source: Apple].
Google's Picasa is an easy-to-use, free downloadable program that offers a good mix of enhancement tools and photo management options. Some of the enhancement tools include red eye reduction, cropping, and changing pictures from color to black and white. Picasa also has a face recognition feature that allows you to search through all your photos for a certain person. Picasa is available for both PC and Mac [source: Muchmore].
If you feel like getting a more in-depth program, consider GIMP. Available as a free download for PCs, Macs and even the Linux platform, GIMP boasts professional-level photo editing tools. While that sounds great, be aware you'll need to spend some time learning how to use them. If ease of use is what you're looking for, you may want to consider something else. But GIMP will deliver editing tools on par with Adobe's Photoshop [source: Girard].
Photoshop Elements offers many editing features beyond what you'd find in most free software. It does much of what GIMP will do with an easier user interface. Elements 9 has the facial recognition feature similar to Picasa but with an MSRP of $99 (if you look around you can find it a bit cheaper), it's at the high end of what an amateur should spend on photo editing software. But it will deliver everything he or she needs and may be a wise investment [source: Muchmore].
However, stay away from Photoshop CS5. While it's often considered the industry standard among professional photographers, digital media and graphic artists, it has many advanced features that a novice probably won't ever use. Plus Photoshop CS5 can set you back $699 (the extended version costs even more). It's not a wise investment for beginners.
And don't forget to look at the software that came with your digital camera. Play around with it and see what it offers. It might be one of your best options.