Tuesday, February 25, 2014

5 Free (and 1 Almost Free) Photoshop Alternatives - DIY Photography


I don't think there's a whole lot of debate over the premise that Photoshop has become the gold standard in photo editing software. I'm pretty sure that my earliest use of Photoshop goes back to Version 3 or 4. Now deeply entrenched in CS6, I've decided to sit tight for a while. If I actually stopped to think about the relatively small percentage of PS's full functionality that I actually use on a daily basis, I might also have to stop and ponder why I'm not still using an earlier version. Features have obviously evolved over Photoshop's lifetime, but much of my workflow remains the same. So, in the absence of some huge development that I just can't ignore, PSCS6 and I are doing just fine together for the time being. Also, while I see the potential benefits of The Cloud– immediate updates, etc.– there's still a part of me that remains more than just a little pissed off about the new subscription format. There seems to be a new deal every time I turn around, and nobody seems capable of giving me a straight answer to the question of how much it costs when the discount period comes to an end.

It would seem that I'm not alone.


In a Photoshop-dominated editing world, it's nice to know that there are options available that are either free, or at least won't break the bank if you choose to purchase them. Today we're going to take a look at some of those Photoshop alternatives.


Originally launched as General Image Manipulation Program in the late 1990s,  GIMP is a free graphics editor that packs a pretty powerful punch. While most of us only care about its image editing and retouching capabilities, it can– like Photoshop– be used for some pretty robust graphic design work. Almost constantly evolving, GIMP relies heavily on input from its diverse group of users for suggestions and recommendations when implementing new features and functions. Available as a free download for Windows, Mac, and Linux.



Paint.NET is a free image and photo editing software program, featuring a similar user interface to Photoshop's. Supporting layers and other effects, the interface was designed for a pretty short learning curve. One feature I really like about the tabbed display when multiple images are open is that each tab can be easily identified by an image thumbnail, rather than just the file name. I tend to have several images open at once, and would love to see Photoshop incorporate a feature like this. Available as a free download for Windows only.



Originally created by Lifescape in 2002 and owned by Google since 2004, Picasa is a free image viewer, organizer, and editor. In addition to its file importing and tagging features, it also offers several basic photo editing functions, including the usual suspects– cropping, color enhancement, red eye reduction, etc. Images can also be optimized for external use, such as email and web posting, as well as slide shows and integration with online photo printing services. Picasa supports both JPEG and RAW formats, as well as Google's WebP image format. Available for Windows and Mac.


Pixlr Editor

Pixlr Editor is a completely cloud-based set of imaging tools and utilities, including a solid editing program and photo sharing service. Originally developed in Sweden in 2008, the program was never intended for non-professionals.  Don't let the anti-hype fool you, though. Pixlr's got some serious game. Pixlr Editor is free and available for Windows PC, but is also downloadable in two mobile versions, Pixlr Express and Pixlr O-Matic, for both iOS and Android.



I'm not a Mac user, but checking out Pixelmator's website had me making some phone calls to borrow one. Pixelmator is a full-featured graphics/image editor developed for Mac OS, built on a combination of open source and Mac OS technologies. The program features retouching, selecting, painting, and color correction tools, as well as layer-based image editing functions. Pixelmator uses Core Image and OpenGL technologies that use the Mac's video card for image processing. Pixelmator is the only non-free entry on this list, but at $29.99 (USD), it's incredibly affordable. Ridiculously affordable, actually, when compared to even just a one-year subscription to Adobe CC.


Just to be clear, Photoshop is still my image editor of choice. It has been part of my workflow for years and I don't see that changing any time soon. I'm sure at some point I will even suck it up, cross over to the Dark Side, and subscribe to the cloud. The fact remains, though, that I'm a guy who believes in options– even if I don't necessarily need them for myself. Additionally, the less-expensive editing options tend to be stripped down, or at least scaled back a bit from Photoshop. The result for new photographers and editors is a much more shallow learning curve, and– sometimes– an even better understanding of what the tools do and why. Let's not forget that virtually everything in the digital darkroom originated in the REAL darkroom. Having a better understanding of the editing process brings with it a better understanding of photography, as well as your goal of getting it right in the camera.

Do you edit your images in a program other than Photoshop and Lightroom? Tell us about it in the comments.

Friday, February 14, 2014

U.S. National Park ServiceAmerica the Beautiful - The National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Pass Series

FREE /DISCOUNT  for Seniors   

NY STATE Golden Park Program

If you are a New York State resident 62 or older, on any weekday (except holidays), you can obtain ...

Free vehicle access to state parks, boat launch sites and arboretums (except at Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park and Earl W. Brydges Artpark State Park)
Fee reduction to state historic sites and state-operated golf courses
... simply by presenting your currently valid New York State Driver License or New York State Non-Driver Identification Card.*

For locations with pay stations, please contact the facility directly for information.

For information about facilities where this program is valid, contact the nearest state park, 
state park regional office or:
New York State Parks
Albany, New York 12238
TTY/TDD through 711 Relay Service

- See more at:

FEDERAL Senior Pass

• $10 Lifetime pass
• For U.S. citizens or permanent residents age 62 or over.
• May be obtained in person at a federal recreation site or through the mail using this application form. The cost of obtaining a Senior Pass through the mail is twenty dollars ($20). Ten ($10) for the Senior Pass and ten ($10) for processing the application. Applicants must provide documentation of age and residency or citizenship.
• May provide a 50 percent discount on some amenity fees charged for facilities and services such as camping, swimming, boat launch, and specialized interpretive services.
• Generally does NOT cover or reduce special recreation permit fees or fees charged by concessioners.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Interagency Senior Pass

Depth of Field Basics

Monday, February 10, 2014

Scanning Hundreds Of Slides In Minutes |

Scanning Hundreds Of Slides In Minutes

Over the years we shared quite a few tutorials on scanning slides. Most were focused on how to light the slides correctly, and how to post process the files and how to adapt a macro lens for the job.

Scanning Hundreds Of Slides In Minutes

We never actually touched on the automation of slide scanning and this video by Victor Kaijser Bots explains in details how you can scan literally hundreds of slides in mere minutes.

The scanning mechanism is similar to the ones we've already shared. An translucent surface is used to get even illumination of the slide and a macro lens (the Canon 100mm macro in this case) capture the slide while it is back-lit.

The smarts of this invention is that the way that the scanning is automated using a pair of intervalometers and an old cartridge driven slide projector.

Scanning Hundreds Of Slides In Minutes

One intervalometer (about $15 on amazon) is wired to the slide projector "forward" button, while the other intervalometer controls the camera (it can be a real one, a smartphone app like an ioShutter or Triggertrap about $45 each, or even a built in timer). Since the intervalometers are synced a photo is taken after each progress of the slides cartridge. Pretty Clever, right?

This video shows the entire process:

Thanks for the heads up, Koen.

P.S into slides? Check out the Light Blaster - a revolutionary slide projector.