Windows users can use Lightroom and Corel Aftershot , as well a slew of others. Interestingly, Darktable also supports tethered shooting so you can connect a compatible camera and see a live view on screen as well as review your images immediately after shooting them on a large screen. However, we'll take a closer look at Darktable and hopefully give you an idea as to whether it's an application that may be worth you trying out for your own digital photo processing. For many years OS X and the apps running on it have dished up a level of style to their users that was sorely lacking on Windows.
While there isn't quite the same gulf nowadays between the two platforms, we still generally find working on OS X a more aesthetically pleasing experience.
At first look, Darktable seems to offer a slick and good looking user experience, but we have some concerns that form and function aren't as well balanced as they could be. Dark themes are especially popular with most contemporary image editing applications and on our iMac, the overall effect of Darktable is subtle and sophisticated.
However, on the third party monitor attached to our Mac Pro, the low contrast between some of the gray tones meant that viewing angles didn't have to move too far off optimal for aspects of the interface to blend together imperceptibly. Boosting the brightness to full and not slouching did help to address the issue and this is probably not something that will affect most users, but it could be relevant to some users with imperfect vision. In a similar vein, the font size in some aspects of the interface, such as when browsing for files, is somewhat on the small size and may make for uncomfortable reading for some users.
The Lighttable window has a range of features that will help you to manage your photo library within Darktable. The center part of the window allows you to preview the photos within a selected folder, with a handy zoom control to adjust the thumbnail size. On either side of the main panel are collapsible columns, each of which contains a number of features. To the left, you can import individual image files, complete folders or navigate attached devices. Below that is the collect images panel and this is a rather neat way to search for images based on a variety of parameters, such as the camera used, the lens attached and other settings such as ISO.
Combined with the keywords tagging feature, this can make navigating your way through your photo library very easy with lots of flexibility in how you search files. In the right-hand column, there are a few interesting features available.
The Styles panel allows you to manage your saved styles — these are basically presets for processing images in a single click that you create by saving the History Stack of an image you've worked on. You also have the option to export and import styles so that you can share them with other users. You've also got a couple of panels on the right for editing image metadata and applying tags to photos.
You can specify new tags on the fly that you can reuse on other images. The last panel on the right is for geotagging and in some ways, this is a really clever feature for users whose cameras don't record GPS data. If you have another device that will track this information and output a GPX file, you can import it into Darktable and the application will try to match photos to positions in the GPX file based on each image's timestamp.
For most photo enthusiasts, the Darkroom window is going to be the most important aspect of Darktable and we think few users will be disappointed here. As you'd expect with any powerful application, there is a bit of a learning curve, but most users with a little experience of similar apps should be able to get to grips with most features relatively quickly and without resorting to help files.
Free RAW photo editors
With the History panel to the left of the working image and the adjustment tools located to the right, the layout will feel familiar to Lightroom users. As you work on an image you can save snapshots allowing you to compare different stages of your processing to help ensure you end with the best result possible. You can also see the entire history of your work below that and revert back to an earlier point at any time.
As mentioned, the right-hand column is home to all of the different adjustments and there's a wide range of modules available here.
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Some of these you will turn to for every image that you process, while others you may venture to rather more rarely. There's something quite interesting about these modules that we don't think jumps out immediately, but we feel is very useful. You can create more than one instance of each module and this is effectively a system of adjustment layers, with each module having a blending mode control that is turned off by default.
An Easy Guide to RAW Photo Editing
It makes it very easy to try different settings for a single module type and switch between instances to compare or even combine multiple versions of the same module, using different blending modes. Canva is a photo editor that runs in your web browser, and is ideal for turning your favorite snaps into cards, posters, invitations and social media posts. If you're interested in maintaining a polished online presence, it's the perfect tool for you. Canva has two tiers, free and paid, but the free level is perfect for home users. Just sign up with your email address and you'll get 1GB free cloud storage for your snaps and designs, 8, templates to use and edit, and two folders to keep your work organized.
You won't find advanced tools like clone brushes and smart selectors here, but there's a set of handy sliders for applying tints, vignette effects, sharpening, adjusting brightness, saturation and contrast, and much more. The text editing tools are intuitive, and there's a great selection of backgrounds and other graphics to complete your designs.
Fotor is a free photo editor that's ideal for giving your pictures a boost quickly. If there's specific area of retouching you need doing with, say, the clone brush or healing tool, you're out of luck. However, if your needs are simple, its stack of high-end filters really shine. There's a foolproof tilt-shift tool, for example, and a raft of vintage and vibrant colour tweaks, all easily accessed through Fotor's clever menu system.
You can manually alter your own curves and levels, too, but without the complexity of high-end tools. Fotor's most brilliant function, and one that's sorely lacking in many free photo editors, is its batch processing tool — feed it a pile of pics and it'll filter the lot of them in one go, perfect if you have a memory card full of holiday snaps and need to cover up the results of a dodgy camera or shaky hand. Photo Pos Pro isn't as well known as Paint. This free photo editor's interface is smarter and more accessible than GIMP's array of menus and toolbars, with everything arranged in a logical and consistent way.
If it's still too intimidating, there's also an optional 'novice' layout that resembles Fotor's filter-based approach. The choice is yours. The 'expert' layout offers both layers and layer masks for sophisticated editing, as well as tools for adjusting curves and levels manually. You can still access the one-click filters via the main menu, but the focus is much more on fine editing. More is not, believe it or not, always better. NET 's simplicity is one of its main selling points; it's a quick, easy to operate free photo editor that's ideal for trivial tasks that don't necessarily justify the sheer power of tools like GIMP.
This isn't just a cheap copy of Microsoft's ultra-basic Paint — even if it was originally meant to replace it. It's a proper photo editor, just one that lands on the basic side of the curve. PhotoScape might look like a rather simple free photo editor, but take a look at its main menu and you'll find a wealth of features: raw conversion, photo splitting and merging, animated GIF creation, and even a rather odd but useful function with which you can print lined, graph or sheet music paper. The meat, of course, is in the photo editing.
PhotoScape's interface is among the most esoteric of all the apps we've looked at here, with tools grouped into pages in odd configurations. It certainly doesn't attempt to ape Photoshop, and includes fewer features. We'd definitely point this towards the beginner, but that doesn't mean you can't get some solid results.
PhotoScape's filters are pretty advanced, so it's if good choice if you need to quickly level, sharpen or add mild filtering to pictures in a snap. Pixlr X is the successor to Pixlr Editor, which was one of our favorite free online photo editors for many years. Pixlr X makes several improvements on its predecessor. It's also slick and well designed, with an interface that's reminiscent of Photoshop Express, and a choice of dark or light color schemes.