Nearly everyone has a camera these days, even if it's only the smartphone variety. Many people take their photography very seriously, and some even make a living out of it. But most people simply want to enjoy looking at and sharing their photos. Whatever the reason for taking pictures, even lightly editing the photos will make them look far better.
Our top pick overall is Adobe Photoshop Elements for its robust editing tools, face recognition, and guided edits mode. Our favorite free app is Google Photos, formerly known as Picasa, which lets you make quick but effective edits, and share the results.
There is no best, one-size-fits-all photo-editing program. Instead, we'll help you select the best app for your needs (from beginner to pro), interests and budget.
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For instance, a casual snap-shooter wants quick, fun sharing capabilities but isn't willing to spend a lot of time or money on editing. Amateur photographers want to improve their pictures more and are willing to learn new skills. A serious, advanced hobbyist is fascinated by the process of improving photographs, and enjoys spending time at the computer discovering new creative possibilities. Professional photographers need versatile, high-performance, efficient software that will enable them to explore their artistic visions and produce the best possible quality, so they can make a living.
We tested these programs based on seven criteria:
- Design and interface: Is the program easy to navigate and intuitive?
- Organizing photos: How useful are the tools for sorting, tagging and face recognition?
- Photo editing tools: What are the adjustment capabilities, and how easy are they to use?
- Projects and workflow: How well does the program guide you through the process from camera to final output? For those programs that have creative projects, how well do they work, and how interesting and attractive are they?
- Potential for creativity: Does the program have advanced tools for sophisticated effects?
- Sharing and output: What formats can you output? Can you create items such as books or Web pages? Does the program integrate with social media sites?
- Access to help and learning: Are the help functions easy to access? Does the company provide instructional documents or videos?
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