Basics of Desktop Photo Editing Tools for Visual Social Marketing

By Krista Neher

Regardless of the method you use to get photos for visual social marketing, whether you take them yourself, hire a professional, or purchase them, you’ll probably need photo editing tools at some point in your visual social marketing image-creation strategy. You may simply want to crop a stock photo that you’ve purchased or remove the red-eye effect or add an interesting filter to make the photo more unique.

Even if you don’t plan to edit photos to improve them, chances are good that you’ll need to resize them. Each social network requires photos of different sizes for various aspects of a profile photo. Photo editing tools are mandatory if you want to be able to create customized image sizes to use on social networks.

Free photo editing tools

Free tools are useful if you’re just getting started. Most free tools give you the basic editing functionality that you need in order to make adjustments to your images. Though they aren’t as robust (or as complicated to use) as paid tools, they can generally handle the needs of an amateur photo editor.

Mac editing options

Most Macs come supplied with free, basic photo editing software, sometimes included in the preview feature. On the Mac, the Preview application often includes basic photo-editing functions. From the preview, you can crop, rotate, and flip photos and adjust their color and size. The app doesn’t have a lot of functionality, but it can quickly meet your needs for basic adjustments.

In addition to simple preview edits, the iPhoto editing option comes supplied on most Macs. The photo editing software in iPhoto (which is quite similar to Windows Live Photo Gallery) allows users to fix red-eye and to rotate, enhance, straighten, crop, and retouch images. For basic amateur editing, the software is robust — it includes most of the editing capability you need.

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In addition to these quick fixes, you can add other effects and make adjustments.

PC editing options

You have two options on a PC computer. First, most PCs come with the standard Paint program, which lets you make basic edits to images, such as resizing, cropping, and adding text. Microsoft also has the Live Photo Gallery application, available for free as a part of the downloads in the Live Essentials package. The photo editing capabilities of Live Photo Gallery are much more robust than in Paint.

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Additional free photo editing software

In addition to the free tools that come supplied with computers, a number of other free tools are available. If you’re interested in branching out, spend some time getting familiar with different tools and choose the one that’s best suited to your needs.

Here are three popular, free photo-editing tools:

  • Picasa: Google’s photo sharing and editing application. The benefit of using it is that it connects automatically with other Google tools, such as Google+. Picasa is a free and easy way to edit and organize images, and it can be used on your computer or online.

  • Picnik: One of the most robust online photo editors that you can get for free. Though its functionality is close to professional quality (which is more complex), it remains easy to use. The main downside of Picnik is that you have to upload images to the website before editing, so you have an extra step versus applications that work on your computer.

  • GIMP: Works across operating systems, which makes it easy to use. The software has, for free, all the same functionality as many high-end, professional systems. The downside is that its expanded functionality makes it more challenging to use.

Paid editing tools

The number-one paid photo editing software is Photoshop, created by Adobe. It’s the photo editing tool of choice of most professionals. The challenge is that it’s more difficult to learn and use. Most free photo editing tools are simple and intuitive enough for users to learn on their own.

Photoshop, on the other hand, usually requires instruction. An investment in Photoshop can pay off, however, because you can manipulate and edit photos dramatically. You can edit and otherwise correct photos down to the pixel.

Photoshop isn’t an editing tool to pick up lightly. It’s one of the more expensive applications to use.

In addition to the standard edition of Photoshop, you can use the Photoshop Elements version, which was created for hobbyists. Elements is easier to use and costs a fraction of the price of the full, professional version of Photoshop.

You can find other paid editing tools such as Corel Paint Shop Pro and Perfectly Clear; however, Photoshop is definitely the market leader in paid photo editing tools.