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A free way to edit your photos

With the quality of cameras now available on phones, these days pretty much anyone can be a photographer. Sure, there is still a reason to have a dedicated SLR with big lenses and such, but you don’t necessarily need one to get a good-looking picture.

However, one thing even professional photographers would tell you really helps is a good photo editing program. Not necessarily to make big changes, but to crop, adjust colors and otherwise touch up pictures that are good, but could be just a little better.

There are various programs with which to do that, though generally, the more expensive they are, the more features they offer. For a long time, Adobe was seen as the way to go, with Photoshop and Lightroom leading the way.

Photo editing does not need to be expensive

If you would like the ability to edit your photos that Lightroom provides but would rather not spend the kind of money it takes to have it, a great alternative is DarkTable. A virtual light table and darkroom for photographers, it allows you to edit your work in a clear, easy and, best of all, free way.

DarkTable is an open-source program that brings many features to the table, not the least of which is the option to work with raw image files. Raw images are photos in their purest form, with no touching up or anything by even the camera. While that is more of a thing for professional photographers, it’s far from the only exciting feature.

When it comes to touching up photos, you can quickly adjust contrast, brightness and saturation. You can also mess with shadows and highlights, as well as toy with the base curve and exposure controls.

There are also tools to touch up your photos’ tone and color while correcting it further with things like sharpen equalizer, de-noise and de-fringe. Pretty much, you will have the power to make whatever change you want, as well as some others you probably never even thought to do.

If you have experience editing photos, you will understand what these tools can do for you. If you are unfamiliar with the concept, let’s just say you can take a good photo and make it great. Or, if not make it great, adjust it to look the way you prefer.

Take this photo, for example. It’s a bit on the bright and washed-out side, with the colors not being as vivid as they could be.

After adjusting the colors and tone, while messing with the curve, it now looks like this. It’s still not an accurate representation of the actual scene, but it certainly has a different vibe.

Once you have your photo the way you want, you can save it as a JPEG, PNG or TIFF to your computer and then send it as an email attachment. Or, if you want to get it online quickly, DarkTable supports Google+ and Facebook web albums as well as Flickr upload.

It was not very long ago that photo editing was for the professionals. Software that did it well was expensive, and it certainly wasn’t worth the money unless you had a camera setup that cost thousands of dollars.

Nowadays it’s as easy and inexpensive as it ever was to take quality pictures, and because of apps like DarkTable, you do not need to break the bank to edit them in a professional way. In fact, you don’t have to spend any money at all.

It works for pretty much any OS you could run, including Windows, Mac, Ubuntu, Fedora and Solaris.

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