The best image editing program for beginners?


A frequently asked question from beginners to photography and image editing: What is the best image editing program for beginners? So much can you ever tell: Then there is no single, correct answer, but only a lump-sum: It depends.

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The best image editing program for beginners? Especially as a beginner, you will feel ever quite crushed between the myriad choices of apps and software. Therefore out my main recommendations. Picture: Olaf Giermann

My own requirements

When I started with the image processing in early 2002, which had really only one reason: I was able to obtain in developing the films of my former analog Canon IXUS first time the photos equal digitally on CD. The photos themselves were me really mind (I feel today, except for souvenir photos - mostly still so) - I wanted to tinker with it and create something new. Because what could be seen in the photos, I had previously seen on the spot - with much better color, higher resolution and in 3D. 😉

So this requirement accordingly I needed a program with smart filter effects, which allows to cut out individual pixels and combine. then I chose Picture Publisher. This had a fancy box with beautiful sample images and a thick manual here (my only source of learning). correct and change colors, as well as stamp elements from an image went quickly and easily. Very quickly reach the limits of this software I came when I really wanted to make photomontages with it. The problem: There were no levels! You could select items and move, but once the selection was canceled, the item has been charged with the background. then was always in newsgroups Photoshop talk. But I knew only from the university as this stupid "Scanner Program" in which all pallets were hidden and we used only the Twain interface for scanning. It turned out to be exactly what was so difficult in Picture Publisher, was a breeze with this Photoshop 6th Non-destructive! then that was all well and I've never looked back. Although me the great Lensflare- or flashes filter from Picture Publisher but then in Photoshop initially quite lacking. 😉

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My first photomontage. It was in Picture Publisher but quite complicated to hang my grandma to the "rotary mushroom" - there were no planes in the software!
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A similar photo montage occurred to me later in Photoshop much easier - thanks to layers and masks.

The best image editing program for beginners?
requirements general

But how would it look if I had to start with image processing today? Thanks to high-speed internet that the undisputed top dog would be clear in seconds Photoshop is. Along with Lightroom so that one meets the requirements of well 95% of all ambitious image editing beginners. The big advantage: Lightroom and Photoshop, there are also the most learning material in the form of DOCMA (though not for the bloody Beginners), books and video tutorials. Getting started will be extremely light. The only disadvantage: Lightroom and Photoshop is only available in Photo SUBSCRIPTION - and even though this is very favorable, the entry must be set from the beginning to 10 to 12 euros per month. Although they do not yet know if the hobby is really long term, "his thing".

Recommendations for three types of applications

Apart from budding image editing generalist, I would distinguish three groups of users today, so it did not even exist 15 years ago. For now smartphones and tablets have become extremely important and dissemination (user group 1) - as well as the raw format (user group 2).

1) The Smartphone User

Who discovered his passion for photos when shooting with the smartphone will most probably want to edit for processing first on his smartphone or tablet images.

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Photo: Gina Sanders - Adobe Stock

It is primarily about optimizing and stylization of the photos. For this, the pre-installed photo apps are enough usually. But when it comes to retouching and selective optimization of individual image points, you will quickly meet limits.

My personal main recommendations here are the apps Lightroom (Can also use for free, and also supports shooting in raw format and a fully non-destructive editing) and the extremely powerful, especially for selective optimization, retouching and effects, but destructive working Snapseed, Both you can find in the App Store iOS or Android.

2) The ambitious photographer

Who reaches its limits when taking pictures with your phone, makes use of cameras with interchangeable lens and photographed with them in raw format. Purely photographically stay (additional equipment for light and Co. apart) nothing to be desired. For the pure Optimizing photos often enough the supplied raw converter of the respective camera manufacturer, The costs nothing, usually provides a top image quality in Fabre and noise removal, but usually has some quirks (slow, Shadows / Highlights vote not quite as good and missing features compared to the competition ...). If you are satisfied with workflow, speed and photo quality of the manufacturer's raw converter, you do not need you to look for other software.

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The change from the smartphone to the camera with an interchangeable lens can pull a rat tail at a cost of slightly, but offers many more creative possibilities. Photo: ronstik - Adobe Stock

There is also free raw converter (Raw Therapee, darktable ...) and many paid about which I've heard good (and bad), but you can not guarantee its own, honest recommendation for lack of own tests.

In general, most demanding user ultimately end up with the two (in my opinion) best overall package in terms of raw development: Lightroom Classic (in the package along with Photoshop CC and Lightroom), or Capture One Pro, Capture One scores here with a slightly more considerable standard development, but above all by the sophisticated controls for tuning of colors (for example, to optimize skin tones), but also comes with a proud purchase or subscription price and without Photoshop therefore. Here, then, would have to establish a Photoshop alternative for simple retouching and montages developed in Capture One photos. Since I would currently Affinity Photo recommended, as it is here that apply non-destructive with a very clear interface fixes and filters.

Image editing program for beginners - Tip for Sony and Fuji-user: There Capture One a stripped-down Express version for your cameras. Free!

3) The ambitious photo hobbyists

I myself would probably correspond to this type. The goal is rather own vision by photo montages, painting, graphic elements, and so on to implement than "just" photos to be optimized. Here, a program must be found in any case, the powerful brush options, has dominated layers and masks, and for creative experimentation, non-destructive editing options (for filters and corrections) offers. So IMHO separates the free and very powerful GIMP Unfortunately out. GIMP has many filters, which itself does not offer the most expensive programs, but the problem lies with the basics and just a beginner will probably make more frustrating experience with GIMP (for advanced users who know what and where they want, which may again look different ; just should not perform any commercial contract work is so if you do not want to do everything over again from scratch with a change in the customer's request).

The best image editing program for beginners? Photomontages like these are not a problem in Affinity Photo. Setting limits here rather the brush size and performance at very many levels. Assembly: Olaf Giermann

In fact, I recommend for this user category currently only two programs: Photoshop unlimited, Affinity Photo limited. Both programs require correspondingly powerful hardware to "go off like a rocket" - that is especially enough RAM (16 GB and above), a particularly high-clocked processor (multi-core support is in both programs still rather rudimentary) and a current video card for selected functions. Affinity Photo has so many better solved in detail as Photoshop (for example, the mask system, the brush preview for painting and masking, a reasonable course tools, etc.), but I return some experiments always easier to Photoshop back. Not out of habit, but because I come in Affinity Photo repeatedly quickly reach their limits. When editing pictures around 50 Mpx it hooks both in painting and during liquefaction, not out of the brush tip size ranges, the (se genius!) Live filter slow growing, so I then yet always prefer applying, and there is no way that they offer the Smart object instances and copying needs in Photoshop to create some mock-ups or recurring elements non-destructive.

The best image editing program for beginners? It really comes down to their own needs and their own way of working. The entry meets either with Photoshop or with Affinity Photo a wrong choice - and a conversion to one or the other software falls due to the similarities in demand very easily.

Best regards,


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Olaf Giermann

His first contact with Photoshop took place in 2003 at the university where the program has been used exclusively as scanning software. Meanwhile Giermann applies literally as the "Photoshop-Lexikon" in German-speaking and sharing his knowledge in DOCMA in video courses and seminars.

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  1. Eine Frage dazu: was ist mit Photoshop Elements? Das finde ich für Einsteiger hervorragend und mit einem Preis um 80,–/90,– € durchaus interessant. Mit einem VHS-Kurs kommen meine Teilnehmer gut klar damit und können ihre Urlaubsfotos nachbearbeiten. Da geht es dann weniger um Farben und Kontraste – das machen die meisten Kameras von alleine schon gut – sondern ganz praktisch um störende Verkehrsschilder, trüber Himmel, “Augen zu” – Korrekturen usw. Der RAW-Entwickler ist von Photoshop und das Programm läuft auch auf älteren Rechnern mit weniger Arbeitsspeicher. Mehr braucht doch der “normale” Hobbyfotograf nicht (und zu mehr hat er/sie auch keine Lust). Außerdem bin ich selbst immer wieder erstaunt, was man mit dem Programm alles machen kann. Das ist wirklich bemerkenswert und noch dazu ohne Abo ! Dass Adobe jedes Jahr eine neue Version verkaufen will, kann man getrost überschlagen. Ich rate meinen Teilnehmern zur letzten oder vorletzten Version, die ist dann billiger und das Prinzip ist dasselbe. Man kann Einsteiger auch mit zuviel Features erschlagen und ihnen den Spaß an der digitalen Nachbearbeitung damit nehmen.
    Viele Grüße
    Birgit Cullmann

  2. Für einfache Retuschen ohne vernünftigen Raw-Workflow ist Photoshop Elements genauso gut wie jede andere Software auch. Bei diesem einfachen Anspruch reicht auch GIMP völlig aus. Und das kostet gar nix. Mit etwas mehr Anspruch kriegt man für circa die Hälfte des Preises von Photoshop Elements mit Affinity Photo eine deutlich bessere Software.

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