If you’ve just picked up your first mirrorless camera and a juicy lens or two to help take your photography to the next level, you may have run out of budget to buy some must-have software. But never fear, there are plenty of free software options available, ranging from raw processing to video editing and more.
Most manufacturers offer free raw processing software (on Mac or Windows) to go along with the best mirrorless cameras for beginners. This is often enough to get you started with raw processing at first, but if you need more or even less control over your image editing, there are plenty of free software options available.
Freeware might not always be as comprehensive as paid options like Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop, but you might be surprised at what’s available and how good it is.
Additionally, there is freeware that covers a wide range of editing requirements. So buckle up and check out some of the best free image editing software available today.
1. Best for raw editing: RawTherapee
Available in over 15 languages and compatible with Linux, Mac and Windows, RawTherapee is a powerful and comprehensive raw processing software. The features offered and the things that can be achieved with the software are truly remarkable. They even exceed the capabilities of some of the most basic paid software options.
RawTherapee offers compatibility with a wide range of raw file types and by default aims to automatically match processing so that they look like camera-processed JPEGs. This can be used as an end in itself – which is great for beginners – or as a starting point for further editing.
Features include image star rating, non-destructive editing, and a host of advanced controls. These include tone curves, shadow and highlight adjustments, tone mapping, localized adjustments, lens correction profiles and much more.
Best Photoshop Alternative: GIMP
As one of the best-known free software options for photographers, GIMP is cross-platform image manipulation software that serves as an alternative to Adobe Photoshop and Affinity Photo. It’s not as full-featured as the market leader Photoshop and its close competitor, but it offers a huge amount of editing control.
The GIMP interface resembles other comparable software with a main menu bar, a tools panel on the left, an image window and layers on the right side. The interface is also customizable, so you can configure it to your liking or leave it on the default layout.
Considering it’s freeware, the controls and features available are impressive, to say the least. you get many of the tools available with more advanced image manipulation software, including layers, cloning and healing tools, and distortion correction tools to name a few.
Ideal for accelerated assembly: Startrails / Time Lapse Assembler
Time-lapse software is essential if you intend to capture the many photos needed to create those amazing time-lapse videos. And whether you’re using a Mac or a Windows PC, there are two fantastic options that let you easily stitch your photos together to create a video.
Time Lapse Assembler is available for Mac, while Windows users can use Startrails.exe. Both are incredibly easy to use and offer enough options to create basic time lapse videos. If you need the ability to add intro and ending thumbnails, music, and combine your time-lapses with standard video, you’ll need a separate video editor.
The key point here is that both software options are incredibly easy to use and free. And while neither offers control beyond creating the video itself, like the deflicker, they’re the perfect starting point for capturing and creating time-lapse video.
Best for HDR: Luminance HDR
HDR (high dynamic range) photography is a popular way to capture detail in high contrast scenes, such as landscapes. This is achieved by merging several images taken at different exposures into a single image with detail ranging from shadows to highlights, using either editing software that offers an HDR function or specialized HDR software.
The best HDR software is usually standalone (in other words, software that only performs this function) or is part of premium software such as Adobe Lightroom. And while there are several excellent paid options available, the freeware market also has a few deals up its sleeve, with Luminance HDR being available for Mac and Windows.
Luminance HDR supports raw, JPEG, and TIFF files and offers limited but easy-to-use controls that allow you to extract detail from your HDR images. Other basic controls available include white balance, cropping, and image rotation. For best results, process your raw files first and export to JPEG for merging into Luminance HDR.
Best for Web Publishing: iPiccy
If your computer isn’t powerful enough to run photo-editing software, or if you just don’t prefer to install software on your computer, web-based photo editors might be the way to go. Web-based image editing has come a long way in terms of the features and functionality it has to offer, but it’s not as comprehensive as freeware such as GIMP.
That said, one of the best web image editors available is iPiccy. It is an easy-to-use editing solution where you upload your images to the website to perform a wide range of editing tasks to make your photos more beautiful. It’s incredibly easy to use, although the only supported file types are JPEG and PNG.
You’ll find that most of the editing tools you need are available, including cropping, resizing, shadow/highlight, dodge and burn and more. There are even layers, but their use is extremely limited and offers the possibility of adding text to images, inserting images and adding stickers.
Best for web-based AI editing: Autoenhance.ai
Feeling lazy but want to enhance your images with minimal fuss? Autoenhance.ai allows you to perform basic automatic processing of your images. All you have to do is upload your images to the website, select what editing to do based on their application strength, and then you can upload the processed image.
With the free Autoenhance.ai option, the main limitations are that you can only upload 15 images, edited images are limited to 3072 pixels on the long edge, and you must create an account to upload them. With pay-as-you-go options for the service, one image costs £1.20 (around $1.50) and 15 images cost £16.50 (around $20) with seven other pricing options available.
Autoenhance.ai can be configured to edit single images, HDR images, and 360-degree images, although the latter is still in beta. And in terms of enhancements, which can be turned on or off with control over strength for some, you can select the property image enhancement style, opt for sky replacement, fix converging verticals, and increase contrast .
Best for video editing: DaVinci Resolve
Whether you are a beginner or a professional photographer, if you plan to shoot video, you will need video editing software to edit your footage together. There are a handful of excellent free options available, but by far the best is DaVinci Resolve.
DaVinci Resolve is professional video editing software used to edit Hollywood TV shows and movies, but Blackmagic Design offers this incredibly powerful software for free with some limitations in place. The resolution is limited to 4K and some advanced features are not available in the free version, but there are still enough features available to edit your videos like a pro.
The main downside of most video editing software is the steep learning curve. And although DaVinci Resolve uses an intuitive drag-and-drop system, you’ll need to watch a few tutorials to get started. Fortunately, there are videos on the Blackmagic Design website to help you out.
Best for mobile editing: Snapseed
Snapseed is one of the best photo editing apps available for Android and iOS, and best of all, it won’t cost you a penny. The app supports JPEG and DNG (Raw) files, although other Raw file types are not supported, which is not surprising since it is designed for editing phone shots.
That doesn’t mean you can’t send JPEGs taken with a camera to your phone or use the free Adobe DNG converter to convert your camera’s proprietary Raw files to DNG before sending them to your phone or tablet. .
The app offers 29 tools in total, including all basic tweaks, clone and heal tools, spot tweaks, and more. Two of the most popular aspects of the app are the filters, textures, and styles, which allow you to apply a wide range of effects to your images with lots of control over how they look.