When you're building a website for a client, or even for yourself, the images you receive are not always what you need to create a visually appealing look. You can invest a lot of money in photo editing software to correct this problem, or you can consider something a little less expensive.
Don't get us wrong, you often get what you pay for when it comes to software, but not everyone has a small fortune to spend as the need arises.
We have touched on image optimization solutions in the past, but what if you want to do a little more than reduce the size of a file? What if you need to fix a blemish or adjust color temperature?
Below, we have listed just a handful of the many free alternatives to pricier photo editing software out there. These tools can help you make those quick and dirty edits you need to make just about any photo work for you.
This open source option has been giving Photoshop a run for its money for many years. GIMP is considered by many to be the single most powerful open source alternative to Photoshop available, and it can be downloaded for free.
There is a learning curve ahead if you aren't used to more professional grade photo editing programs, and many of the tool differences between Photoshop and GIMP can be jarring until you take some time with it, but it does work very well.
If you really like Photoshop's user interface, but want to give this a try, you might want to give Gimpshop an offshoot of the main GIMP project, a look. It is basically GIMP's core in the body of a very close Photoshop UI clone.
Picasa has had a lot of change in recent years as it has become integrated more and more with Google's Google+ service. That said, it is still a very good option for those quick and dirty edits you might need to do to make a photo look the way you need.
If you install the desktop app, it will search your system for you and find any image files so you can select and manipulate them within the program without individually importing. It has some common visual effects such as contrast and color correction, as well as some thematic looks to give your images a little something extra.
A lot of these tools have been integrated into Google+ enabling you to edit your images directly from your browser and share them from the same service.
This isn't going to replace Photoshop or GIMP for you, but does make a great quick solution to those images that just need a little correction. Just don't be surprised if it wants to import your entire photo library in the process.
Don't let the name fool you, Paint.Net is not just a different version of MS Paint. It is actually a very robust image editing solution that includes support for more advanced features like layers, unlimited history, and special effects.
It isn't particularly powerful in terms of professional use, but it does have a very intuitive workflow that makes those simple edits a lot easier.
Paint.Net is completely free, and is currently only supported on Windows.
Photoshop is one of the most highly respected brands out there when it comes to image manipulation and mastering. With Photoshop Express, Adobe brought a lot of the backend quality of its paid software to the mobile platform at a freemium price. It's free to download and use, but you might find yourself tempted to buy some additional add-ons to get the most out of your experience.
Photoshop Express isn't as powerful as its desktop equivalent, but it will allow you to do some extraordinary image mastering from your tablet or smartphone. It enables you to crop, adjust levels, and apply a specialized look to each picture. This makes it a pretty effective solution for mobile developers, especially if you receive content that needs to be put up on the fly.
If you need something a bit more extensive, and don't mind coughing up $10 USD, you might find Adobe Photoshop Touch more to your liking.
When it comes to Web-based image editors, Pixlr is consistently near the top of the list. It just works, and it works very well. You get many of the most important tools from GIMP and Photoshop like layers, lasso and freeform selection, and more.
Pixlr is also free to use, as are its associated mobile apps.
It's clean, fast, and the learning curve is minimal if you have any previous experience working with a layer-capable image editor.
There are a lot of great free solutions out there, and many of them offer features and a user interface that comes surprisingly close to that of even the priciest paid applications there. Do you have a good solution that does not appear in this list? Share it with us in the comments section below.