Part of what I love about being a VA is the variety the role offers and the new skills I’ve had to learn. Some of my learning has been self-taught and some has been via online courses. One of the areas I’m self-taught is with regards image editing. It’s pretty easy once you know how, but I think how easy and quick to learn they are really comes down to the image editing software you choose.

There are plenty of free and paid versions available, so it ultimately depends on how often you need to use it as to whether you opt for a paid version or not.

From experience and through the research I’ve carried out, using free software has both its advantages and disadvantages. The main advantage is the obvious one – it’s free. However be careful when choosing  free software and check the small print as sometimes the version you’re downloading will be just for a set period which may simply stop working altogether without any prior warning. You also might find that the free version doesn’t have all the functionality you need, or it’s ten times harder to operate. Either way this will increase the length of time you’ll be spending on each task.

Paid versions have more advantages than the free ones, but they can have their disadvantages too. Among the many advantages are the editing options on offer and the support they provide. However that they can often still be difficult to get your head round if you’ve never used editing software like it before. I personally had a horrible experience trying to get my head around Photoshop a few years ago as I found it to be very technical for a non-designer, so I switched to Fireworks 8 which I find to be much more intuitive, but it does really depend on your starting level.

Below are reviews for the top three free and paid image editing software which offer at least a starting point  if you’re slightly overwhelmed with the choices available.

The reviews are based on research, software review panels and talking with users where possible, and take into account the following:

  • Ease of use
  • Export formats
  • Editing functionality

Top 3 Free Image Editing Software:

1. Lightbox Image Editor: This is fairly easy to setup, and from what I’ve read it’s straight forward and intuitive to use. You have all the basic editing functions such as red-eye correction, sharpening, cropping, re-sizing, adding borders, as well as being able to compare images side-by-side.

2. Photo! Editor: Similarly this has all you need in terms of enhancement tools such as brightness, contrast, saturation, and colour adjustments, as well as retouching tools that work similar to the healing brush in Photoshop. There are also advanced manual settings you can use if you’re more experienced.

3. Photo Filter: This is a slightly more mid-range piece of software that along with the basic features offers things like the ability to select specific sections of your image, and make more complex alterations i.e. adding filters, smudge effect, drawing basic shapes and adding text.

Top 3 Paid For Image Editing Software:

1. Corel Paintshop: This piece of software is user friendly and provides excellent editing tools such as an Instant Effects palette as well as social media sharing options. Price: $69.99

2. Serif PhotoPlus X5: Another relatively easy product to use, but to master it could take some time. However you can start editing images straight away, whilst building your skills by checking out their extensive library of video tutorials.  Price: $89.99

3. Photo Impression 6.5 Gold: This is at the lower end of the pricing scale and has everything you’d want from an image editor with the exception of sharing capabilities. So if you don’t need social media share options, then for the money this is a great option. Price: $29.99

The main piece of advice I can give is to look into the features of each one, as they will suit you differently depending on your level and what you need to use it for. Many of the paid products offer demos or free trial periods, so take advantage of those before you commit.

If you’ve tried and tested some image editing software and would like to give your feedback, good or bad, please leave your comments below. All input will be appreciated by those still searching.