Monday, December 21, 2009

Alternates to Photoshop

When it comes to photo editing - PhotoShop is the first name you think of. The be-all, the end-all - the alpha and the omega. The gold standard. After all - it's name has become the verb that means "to alter an image digitally." Mirriam-Webster says so.

However - there is no denying that, at $699 US - for the non-educational, non-entry-level version - it can be tough to justify it. Or if you can justify it - you might still not actually have it.

My s.o. swears by another program - however. My s.o. is a Unix geek and mostly - his idea of wonderful software and my idea of wonderful software have very little common ground. His image editor of choice is GIMP - which stands for Gnu Image Manipulation Program. Gnu is - well - it's more than software - it's a philosophy. (To learn more about the world of computers and the free software philosophy and the world outside PCs, Windows, Mac, and the real meaning of "hacker" - go here.) The thing about GIMP is - it's free. That's oodles of zero dollars. Which has some appeal, I admit.

Anyhoo - I'm going to give GIMP a try - so here is the website. This talks about the software (and has downloadable versions - but it's geared to Unix wonks) - so I got the windows version from Tucows (which is a reputable software download site - unlike some software download sites which are not reputable.)

Download and installation were painless - I'm mildly annoyed that it didn't give me a choice as to which hard-drive to install it on, as my primary drive is getting rather full-ish. But it did fine.

It started up fine too - a little slow while it loads stuff. But Photoshop isn't actually a speed demon to start up either. It's one of these applications that has floating palettes so you can still see what is going on in other programs, like PS.

My first response is the frustration of someone who knows what they are doing being dumped into a slightly unfamiliar environment. I started looking for familiar things. The icons look a little different - but they all have tool tips (if you hover over them and wait a sec - a little box pops up to tell you what it is.)

Let's try something very basic. Crop a document and adjust the contrast.

Some frustration - as I don't see an obvious crop tool. So, there is more than one to do most everything - so I find the select tool and select an area, and then find crop on the menu.

OK - let's go looking for - oh looky - Levels. Hmm - this looks very photoshoppy - and works exactly the same way.

What about Unsharp Mask. Aha - here is it - under filters - not quite in the same place but purdy darn close. Save, and - here's the image.

OK - so far so good. So I will continue to try using it and report back next week.

Cheers. Have a very merry Christmas, or if this isn't your holiday - enjoy it anyway. A holiday shared is joy increased.

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