Want to alter the colors of your photos to make them more creative? Is your grandmother's portrait a bit dark? Does that picture of your gentle golden retriever have bright red devil eyes? Free photo editing software can fix all that and more. Here's a list of some free photo editing software you can easily download.
EasyShare lives up to its name. Burn a CD/DVD, make a slideshow or prepare photos for sharing and printing (including projects and cards). Simple edits include cropping, auto exposure, manual exposure, red-eye correction, color adjustments, plus a handful of special effects. Pictures are organized by albums and by the date taken, with a month or day view option. EasyShare is excellent for novice users, as well as photographers who don't want to be bothered with complex editing.
PhotoPlus is a rich photo editor that includes basic tools for exposure and color, plus a clone tool, paintbrushes, layers and masks -- all rare in free programs. However, it was the only program in this roundup that wouldn't open large TIFF files; smaller JPEGs were used to test it. The free download is an older, limited version, but the upgrade to the current version is only $9.99.
Paint.NET has a wide range of editing tools, including a cloner, brushes, layers, masks and a history palette. Quite frankly, the masks are not as easy to use in Paint.NET, or PhotoPlus, as they are in most modern software that you'll buy. Fortunately, Paint.NET has an active community base for support.
FxFoto has more tools (and more control over them) than EasyShare, but less than Paint.Net or PhotoPlus; it offers less guidance than EasyShare, though more than the other two. Though lacking in layers or masks, it does have a cloner and creative frames. FxFoto shows all the tools from the deluxe version ($39.96), but you can't use them until you pay to unlock them, which can be frustrating.
Picasa's focus is organizing your photos so you can easily find them. It also offers a basic photo editor to crop, straighten, fix red-eye, brighten, and auto-correct or manually correct contrast, color and exposure. Effects are applied by clicking on a thumbnail. Though limited, sharing options include burning CD/DVDs and creating or adding to a Picasa Web album or to Blogger. The slideshow can't be shared.
OK, Photo Story isn't really a photo editor, but it's cool. Photo Story gives you tools to create a storytelling slideshow (with titles, music and narration) that you can share with any computer, PocketPC or smartphone that has Windows Media Player. Editing tools are minimal, allowing you to crop, remove black borders, auto-correct color and contrast, fix red-eye, rotate and apply some special effects.
Try Before You Buy
When you are ready to buy a more full-featured photo editing software, take it for a test drive first. Free trial downloads are available for all photo editing software; two to try are Adobe Photoshop Elements and Corel Paint Shop Pro X2.