Free Photo Editing Software Options (Microsoft Windows)

We often have questions by newcomers on what free software is available. These requests for information could occur in any forum and we often come up with some favourites. Then the thread of discussion falls off the first page of the forum (no sticklie) or you're not in the forum where the post was. Here's a reference point where we can point newbies to.

I'll list some well known free software - feel free to suggest some or add confirmations in comments to this post. I will update this article over time. This is a work-in-progress.

One source of free software is the CD that came with your camera.

I am not aware of any reasonable camera that does not come with CD with cost free software. The software is usually specific to your camera and that has some advantages.

Reasons to consider using the supplied software

  1. It's free
  2. It can read proprietary metadata in your RAW files.
  3. There might be videos and tutorials on the brand's website.
  4. There might be technical support from the brand.

Reasons to consider not using the supplied software

  1. You learn skills that are locked in to that software. If you change brand, the new brand will have different software. You are also missing out on skilling up in defacto industry standard software.
  2. That particular brand's software comes with a sting - adds a bunch of miscellaneous services and modules that you are not interested in, tries to on-sell paper printing and so on. Makes your computer act funny.
  3. The software might be so cut down that it is not missing too many features.

Other Free Software

In no particular order. Details will be added and updated later.

Google Picasa

  • Catalogues and Thumbnails - the cache is stored in some %user% profile - can be used to launch other programs by right click on the thumbnail, however associating a program to launch is consistent.
  • Needs installaion - although there is a standalone launcher somewhere
  • Reads RAW, JPEG, TIFF, PNG formats. The RAW reader is selfcontained and does not rely on Windows CODECs
  • Allows parametric adjustment and stores the parameters in a picasa.ini file in each folder. Often does not change the source file so you may want / need to export as a batch to a new folder.
  • Can apply adjustments by Copy and Paste - to a batch.
  • Adjustments include lightening / darkening shadows, mids, highlights, sharpening, saturation, straightening. No framing. Cropping, Red-eye retouching. A few art effects.
  • Offers face recognition and face tagging
  • Offers Star (flagging)
  • Offers virtual albums
  • Allows tagging - tags are stored in EXIF.
  • Uploads to Picasaweb and has plugin support to upload to Flickr, Facebook.
  • Downsizes photos and can send via Gmail or other email.
  • Offers Text Search of Captions
  • Offers Text Watermark

Wikipedia Description - here

Documentation and Help - here

Download - here

Microsoft Windows Live Photogallery

  • Catalogues and Thumbnails - can be used to launch other programs.
  • Needs installaion
  • Reads RAW, JPEG, TIFF, PNG formats. The RAW reader rely on Windows CODECs
  • Adjustments include lightening / darkening shadows, mids, highlights, sharpening, saturation, straightening, noise reduction. No framing. Cropping, Red-eye retouching. Flaw removal.
  • RAW cannot be adjusted, just read.
  • Offers Rating and Flagging.
  • Offers face recognition and face tagging
  • Allows tagging - tags are stored in EXIF.
  • Uploads to Picasaweb and has plugin support to upload to Flickr, Facebook.
  • Downsizes photos and can send via Gmail or other email.
  • Offers Text Search of Captions
  • Offers changing of EXIF timestamp
  • Offers Panorama and Photo Fuse

Faststone Image Viewer

  • Catalogues and Thumbnails
  • Can be installed in Microsoft Windows or be used without installation

Wikipedia Description - here

Download - here


Wikipedia Description - here

Download - here


Wikipedia Description - here

Download - here

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions held by or any affiliated companies.


Total comments: 7
By mek42 (Jan 10, 2012)

GIMP does not natively read RAW. For that you'll need a separate program. A couple free options for this are RawTherapee and UFRAW.

Some Windows users don't like the GIMP UI. This might be that GIMP was first written for Linux / Unix systems and has a UI more consistent with X. If you are trying GIMP for the first time, just keeping in mind that it is supposed to be different from MS Windows might help with any frustration.

Also, many free programs are open source, so if you want to add a feature, you're welcome to code it in.

By pdussart (Nov 27, 2011)

Dear all,

I would add the following:

1) Faststone deletes IPTC metadata if you resize pictures. Bad.

2) Zoner Photo Studio V13 : simple but powerful picture collection management. You keep originals, it creates a copy of corrected pics. Many features.

3) Studioline Photo Basic is the best freeware. Able to cope with large collections of pictures (10,000 +). Supports many languages and special characters. A database that can manage metadata (EXIF, IPTC,XML) Easy search of pictures. Corrects pictures with internal tools. Interactive link with other (more) powerful tools, e.g. GIMP.

4) GIMP 2.6 : very complete picture manipulation tool for individual pictures. Colour level correction with easy white and black point picking.

I would recommend that start with Zoner Photo Studio V13 and use XnView only for tricky business like export to CSV format, or update of special matadata fields. Then move to Studio Photo Basic in conjunction with XnView and GIMP.

Regards, Philippe

By dosdan (Nov 8, 2011)

Some things I liked to mention about XnView:

1. Small, can run from a single file, does not need installation, just the shot for a USB stick.

2. Easy to create slide shows. So you can load different presentations of the photos you take to work on a USB stick and easily run them.

3. Powerful batch processing & batch renaming.

4. Separate tagging & file selection mechanisms.

5. Handy image comparison: 2/3/4 images

6. Powerful configurability & customisation. You can set up brower labels and/or thumbnails to show EXIF exposure info.

See (remove space): http://www.pentax

Faststone is a nice program, but for it's size XnView is a gem.

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
By frank200 (Oct 22, 2011)

GIMP it is free and very Powerful

1 upvote
By chiue (Oct 19, 2011)

Good summary Ananda, I'm sure lots of beginners will benefit from it.

By tryhuk (Oct 10, 2011)

Zoner Photo Studio Free

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Total comments: 7