Photoshop Alternatives

Posted on October 5, 2013

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One of the things that the new Adobe Creative Cloud has done is polarized quite a few people against Adobe and their software. I personally am against being held hostage, and their new agreement basically says you have to do what Adobe dictates you have to do and if you don’t, you lose access to your images. As a pro, cI can’t afford to be in this position. Right now, for instance, they dictate that you pay monthly or lose access  to your software. Worse, you have to be on Windows 7 or Windows 8. I don’t know about you, but this means buying new hardware and software because they dictate it – the cost being I lose access to my images. This is what has caused me to look for other options.

If any of you know me, you know I was very active from the 1990s until fairly recently in working with Open Source software. This means I am really biased toward this movement and will push using this software over buying commercial or getting “free” software. Why? Because with Open Software, you get access to the source code and can change or fix problems you find on your own if you know enough. If you don’t, you can start learning, too. There aren’t hidden agendas or intent to “lock you in” that you find with most proprietary software vendors. The software is usually developed to support standards and information exchange. Contrary to one billionaire who is firmly against this type of software, it is not viral unlike his own company’s software. There is usually lots of support in the industy online, too. It isn’t a number you can call and get an answer, but you have people who are willing to help you who are more experienced. You won’t get that proverbial automated letter that doesn’t answer your question at all, or someone responding with a form letter that doesn’t help, or have someone force you to go through steps you already have tried. And, there is a response. If a bug, they suggest submitting it – unlike proprietary companies who either call it a “feature” or ignore the bug and tell you to work around it. But, if you are in a business world with a large company dictating what you use, you will want to use Photoshop and pay the money. What does everyone think about writing a blog on using various Open Source packages? I will get off my soapbox now.

What have I found? There are a lot of packages like Lightroom and it appears to be what most people want in a photo editor. But, what about those of us who want something more? No single product has all the functionality. There are some that are close, and I am going to recommend a few packages for people to try on their own.

First, you need something that you can edit RAW images. You can always use the software that came with your camera, but I have found another package more useful: RAW Therapee. You can even edit JPEGs with it, just like Adobe Camera RAW. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was built in here first, and Adobe modified their editor to do this because of RAW Therapee. It is available for Windows, Mac, or Linux. It is also free. I find the package gives you lightning fast results (a little sharper than I am used to getting) and the package works. GIve it a try and see what you think.

I have also done everything I can to avoid GIMP. If anyone knows, GIMP is the closest “Photoshop like” package in Open Source. I personally prefer CinePaint but it isn’t available for Windows (not yet) for many reasons. But, if you have Linux or Mac, you may want to try this gem. If you are worried about quality, if you have seen any of Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, Harry Potter movies, 2 Fast 2 Furious, or a handful of others, then you have seen what can be done with this package.  So, back to GIMP.

The issue with GIMP is that it is rock bottom features and functionality. In order to bring it up to the level that needs to be usable for someone with Photoshop experience, you have to add a lot of plugins, filters, scripts, and other packages. This isn’t feasible for just anyone, and I personally hate having to spend two days doing this making the software functional for me. After looking around at other options, I found that someone already does this at Partha’s Place. They also have a blog, too. Finally, a pre-built and usable GIMP package. If you are used to Photoshop, there is a lot here and you should find similar functionality that you are used to having plus a lot more. It is available for Windows and Mac, and as is typical for Open Source, it is free.

Hope these finds help you and give you some jems that most people probably don’t know they are out there. Give them a try and see what you think. maybe they will make a convert out of you, too.

Edit 9 Oct 2013: First, I will cover some more of this indepth and some other alternatives. The biggest thing in this blog was to let people know that there is a build that is complete and where they don’t have to add everything from brushes, actions, filters, and other things to make GIMP a workable package. The second was that there is something decent in OpenSource that can be used as a RAW image editor.  And, finally, for those of you who have sent me messages, somewhere around December or January, I am told that GIMP will support 16 bit image editing. I don’t know the details, but several people have written in that GIMP will be supporting this on the next release around December or January. I personally haven’t seen anything along these lines but others who are more in the know seem to know this.

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