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.
We put five of the best and most popular PC and Mac photo editing programs to the test: Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5, Adobe Photoshop CC, Adobe Photoshop Elements, Corel PaintShop Pro X7 and Google Picasa 3. (We'll also review Photos, Apple's successor to iPhoto, when it becomes available in the first part of 2015.) 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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