Whether you're on vacation, at a wedding or just enjoying some family time, all too often, pictures don't do memories justice. The right photo-editing software can take your snapshots from "meh" to mesmerizing.
Sure, there are free apps out there that can give your pictures a cool effect or filter, but full-featured photo-editing tools give you more control over details in your images. Better yet, a good premium suite can let you correct problems such as overexposure, inaccurate white balance or offending glare and blemishes. You should also pick a photo editor that's easy to use but still offers plenty of advanced features.
While industry powerhouse Adobe has the most recognized program in the market, many other brands offer as many features — if not more — at a fraction of the cost. Our sister site TopTenREVIEWS rounded up the best photo-editing software so you can make an informed buying decision. Here are TopTenREVIEWS' top three picks.
#1: Corel PaintShop Pro X6 ($31.99)
PaintShop Pro X6 is a photo-editing program that's as easy to use as it is powerful, thanks to its 64-bit performance. You can quickly edit images and handle large image files without bogging down your system.
Features: PaintShop Pro X6 bundles basic tools — including resize, rotate, red-eye removal, text and crop — with advanced functions, such as layer masks, adjustment layers and selective color processing. One great feature is Recordable Actions, which allows you to create sets of instructions for frequently performed edits. Video tutorials are available in the Discovery Center section of the program.
PaintShop Pro X6 also packs a robust file-organization system — with five-star ranking, keyword assignments and search functions — so you won't have trouble hunting down specific pictures.
2. Adobe Photoshop Elements 12 ($89.99)
Adobe's consumer-oriented Photoshop Elements 12 effectively distills some of its bigger brother's best features while remaining very user-friendly. Aspiring photo-manipulating gurus will appreciate Guided mode, which offers step-by-step tutorials on how to make specific edits or achieve certain effects.
Great new features include the ability to move objects in the photo and pet-eye correction. You can also easily view and share Elements photos on your smartphone or tablet via mobile apps. The program comes with 65 default brushes on top of the standard suite of functions (such as resizing, cropping and rotating), so you can craft unique masterpieces.
3. Serif PhotoPlus X6 ($89.99)
Want to quickly fix your pictures without having to hunt for multiple options? PhotoPlus X6's PhotoFix Studio is a toolbox with options for the most common problems, such as lighting or color issues. But when you do want to make finer edits, PhotoPlus X6 has a robust array of functions rivaling those found in Photoshop Elements 12 and PaintShop Pro X6. Just keep in mind that this program is for Windows users only.
Features: PhotoPlus X6 has an integrated help tool that labels every function on the screen and offers tips to guide you along. This software also includes a built-in file-organization system, so you can keep track of your photos and share them easily. Plus, you can import Photoshop PSD files that retain all the layers from a previous project for easier management.
You want your creations to be appreciated across all platforms, but some devices or programs will only support specific image types, such as PNG or JPEG. Make sure the software you're considering can both read and export using all of the most important formats, especially RAW and TIFF.
Community and Plugins
Programs such as Photoshop Elements 12 and PaintShop Pro X6 support external plugins, such as brushes or filters, so you can expand your library of instruments. Searching Google for "Photoshop Brushes" brings up hundreds of popular third-party or fan-made downloads, thanks to a robust community. Before buying, check to see if the program you're considering supports external plugins or has a strong online presence.
Amount of Assets Included
Most photo-editing programs come with some fonts, brushes and filters. Photoshop Elements 12 bundles 300 fonts and 92 creative filters, while PhotoPlus X6 packs 216 fonts and 62 filters. PaintShop Pro X6 boasts 192 filters and 190 fonts. Having these assets will give you much more creative freedom.
Budding photography enthusiasts need a great companion for their camera or smartphone camera that will perfect the hundreds of shots they take in all sorts of conditions. With the right photo-editing software, you can tweak and enhance your photos to make those memories worth printing and sharing.