The Best Free Photo Editing Software for Bloggers

blogger closet raid


So now that you’ve found an affordable camera how are you going to make the photos on your blog really pop?  Adobe Photoshop CS5 is an expensive program and it’s a real gorilla too; after years of adding new features it’s become borderline incoherent, especially to the uninitiated.  I’ve been using Adobe Lightroom since it launched (and if you can afford it I highly suggest investing in it, there is simply no better photo editing/organizing tool on the market), but it too is expensive and can definitely take some time to really master.  Luckily there are plenty of free options to be found out there on the internet.  Here are some Pros and Cons for some of the better free programs I’ve found:
One more thing: I use a Macbook Pro and thus all of these programs are compatible with Mac OSX; there are, however, several free programs (such as paint.net) that have gotten solid reviews but are only compatible with Windows and so I won’t be discussing them here.

Oh wait, one more one more thing (and much more importantly): all of these programs use destructive editing tools.  This means that when you make changes to the image you are actually changing the data within the image file and really truly altering the image’s original pixels.  Be absolutely certain, before you start editing a photo, that you’ve saved a backup copy of the original someplace safe, just in case you do something hideously unwanted to your pics.

Okay, here goes:


Gimp 2.6

gimp 2.6 photo editor


  • Surprisingly powerful editing tools, just about as good as a slimmed down (but older version) of Adobe Photoshop.
  • Can handle RAW image files.  One day I plan to do a post on the benefits of shooting RAW over JPEG images, but for now I’ll simply say that shooting RAW gives you infinitely greater flexibility when you edit your images, meaning that if you totally overexpose or totally underexpose a shot you’ll probably still be able to save it, which is impossible to do with a compressed file format like JPEG.
  • A whole ton of free tutorials can be found on their website, so it might seem intimidatingly confusing at first, but not for long.


  • Really no direct benefits for bloggers: no particularly easy way to get your photos online, no good copyrighting tools, and no social media integration.
  • Definitely not for the uninitiated and it can seem pretty daunting at first.
  • No clear way to organize the photos you’ve edited.


picasa photo editor

  • These two programs are very well integrated with each other: use Picasa to organize your photos and Picnik to edit and share them with your friends.
  • You can easily make neat collages and presentations for your blogs and you can easily add text and title lettering to pictures.
  • Can handle RAW files.
  • Scans for faces and people in your pictures so it’s super easy to tag your friends for Facebook.
  • With Picnik it is very easy to get your photos online and linked to all of your preferred social networks (and Picasa is hyper-integrated with Blogger too) .
  • Easy to understand editing tools, especially for the uninitiated.


  • Pretty crude editing tools once you move out of the RAW processor.
  • If you’re a more advanced user these programs will seem pretty disorganized, with no clear indication as to the most efficient workflow.


photoflexer photo editor

  • It’s free.


  • Can’t handle RAW files.
  • Incredibly lame editing tools that have bizarrely subjective and/or vague titles (like “Beautify,” no idea what that’s supposed to mean) that make the program a total disaster to navigate.
  • Pretty much has the same photo effects as Picnik (so just download that one).
  • The only useful tools (like tone curve adjustments) are under a tab labeled “Geek,” which is both nonsensically titled and just plain demeaning to photo nerds like me.

All of these programs are relatively easy to use with some practice and, in the case of Gimp and certain parts of Picnik, I was pretty astonished to find that they’re offering such powerful tools for free.  Download one of them, play around with it, see what you can make your photos look like; if you’re feeling adventurous, paste a link to the photos you’ve played with in the comments section, I’d love to see what you guys can come up with.



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17 Responses

  1. Mandi

    I’ve been using Picnik since I read about it on TechCrunch a couple years ago. I could take or leave the silly borders and overlays, but the editing tools are pretty great for simple corrections and enhancements.

  2. runawayinla

    Never tried Gimp before but I’ve heard so much about it… might give it a try now! 🙂 I highly reccomend using Pixlr’s editor, it’s amazing (and free!) It’s very Photoshop-esque but much simpler, fantastic for editing!


  3. Cate Young

    i’m glad that you mentioned that these use destructive editing. it can be such a hassle to undo changes you’ve made if it didn’t occur to you to back up data before you start. although, i’ve been using lightroom and aperture for a while now so no worries. great post 🙂

    • Nando

      Yep, nothing better than parametric editing! you can screw with your pictures all you want and never have to worry about ruining them.

  4. lisa

    Good list! I use Gimp for simple editing and I always do a “Save As” before I start. That way I have the original and all my changes are being made to a new copy of the photo.

  5. Joy

    Thanks for this, Nando.
    I hope your readership will keep on growing 🙂
    Joy x

  6. Daniel Dunt

    This is a really great post; I’m always looking for new photograph editing tools to play with, yet a product which I would highly recommend which is also free is PhotoScape- it’s easy to use and has a large selection of techniques which you can use to edit, along with the basic B&W, Sepia and Lightening-type options/effects. – Daniel Dunt

  7. umbrellamom

    Thank you for your blog. I’ve just started a new blog and I was looking for ways to post photos. It’s challenging to make them look professional.

  8. the fashion turd

    i use piknik..it’s really easy to use and fine if you just want to make simple changes and resize etc..thanks for the post!

  9. kavery

    I’v used Picasa/ Picnik for more than a year and quite happy with both. Picasa doesn’t need an Internet connection so I use it when I’m away.

  10. Rania

    I’ve been using PhotoScape for few months now. It’s great and easy to use.

    I love to combine my pictures, and PhotoScape has a great tool, ‘combine’ or ‘page’ to do that.

  11. Cameron

    GIMP is pretty much all I’ve got; I use Ubuntu 11.04 LTS, so Photoshop won’t work there. I’ve done all sorts of things with GIMP–the title card of my latest post, for example, as well as a few of the images for the blog itself–and it hasn’t let me down yet!

  12. paige

    I love using Gimp. It suits me just fine for now. I also do a ‘save as’ to preserve the original image

  13. Christine Seib

    I have the full Adobe suite, but when I just want to edit a picture for size or something easy – or just want to avoid spending 10 mintutes waiting for the software to initialize – I use Pixlr at imm.io. It’s proven very useful for me, and it’s free. I recommend people give it a try. The browser plugins for it are essentials!

  14. Eli

    I keep it simpler and have Photoshop CS 2! It’s really easy to use since I’m not doing heavy retouching.

    Photoshop.com now has an air editor


  15. Tips and Tricks Blogger

    For me I use adobe CS since I don’t need much feature to edit photos for my blog. I only need to change pixel size, auto level, bright and contrast and then safe for web that’s all

  16. Al

    Paint.net is also free (PC only though – don’t know if it would work on Linux via Mono). More “photoshoppy” than Gimp, worth a look: