Modern smartphones mean we all have a camera in our pocket, but we’re generally unable to do much with the images we capture.
Other than rotating and cropping a photo, smartphones tend to focus on youth-oriented editing tools like applying decorative filters or coloured tints.
Happily, there are plenty of free photo editing utilities online, capable of performing advanced edits to the .JPG files saved by all modern cameras.
To remain platform agnostic, we’ve concentrated on websites and programs rather than apps, though there are numerous smartphone-based utilities like Android’s Lumii Photo Editor.
(It’s also far easier to edit images on a larger screen using a mouse than on a phone, which is worth considering if you’re planning to use the finished images professionally.)
We’d remind startups and small businesses seeking more professional images to investigate free photography websites.
The best free photo editing utilities
When you get under the bonnet and explore its various functionalities, it’s remarkable how much of Pixlr is free to use.
This web-hosted platform offers three main packages – design, photo editing, and a visual asset creation tool which can remove backgrounds and batch-process images to a customised template.
The photo editing software offers advanced functionalities like blemish removal and colour replacement, alongside frame effects and the ubiquitous bokeh (background blurring).
No jokes, please. The GNU Image Manipulation Program is effectively an open-source version of Adobe Photoshop without the latter’s price tag.
This free software package is suitable for installation on Windows, macOS and Linux devices, with an interface familiar to other photo editing tools.
It extends to alpha channel support, Bezier path editing, shearing and scaling. We apologise if your eyes just glazed over, but GIMP’s editing functionalities are truly comprehensive.
Yes, it’s been around since 1985, and yes, it’s hardly in the same category as the packages summarised above. However, Paint’s merits are impossible to ignore.
For one thing, it’s pre-installed on every Windows PC. For another, its streamlined software can open huge files that might stump a more complex program.
It’s undeniably basic, yet Paint delivers the most common photo editing requirements – flipping and cropping, rulers and gridlines, freehand brushes and an unlimited colour palette.
If Paint is too basic and your hard drive doesn’t have space to install GIMP, digital photography resellers Canva offer a free photo editing tool as a loss-leader.
You can edit videos and even audio tracks as well as conventional images, with the latter benefiting from filters, text animations and various visual effects.
Editing is supported through Canva’s Photo Enhancer tool. This enables users to fix blurring, boost saturation, optimise contrast and adjust low lighting.