When I found out the price of Adobe Photoshop CS, my gut reaction was nothing less than shock. At $670 a copy, it’s simply too much. How can the average photographer, somebody doing it for the love and not the money, afford such a thing? Some of you may be tempted by the other option, GIMP. It’s a free photo editing program that anyone can download and use right away. But I want to persuade you not to go for it, even though it’s free. Here’s why.
What Is GIMP?
Software programmers never feel like they should pay for software, especially software that’s really really expensive. Back in the days when Adobe Photoshop was the only name in town, hobbyist programmers felt a strong need to create something of their own. So, in an effort to bypass the costs of owning a copy of Photoshop, they created GIMP.
GIMP is actually an acronym. It stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program. I know, you’re wondering what GNU is. That’s a name given by a group of programmers looking to create a completely free and open operating system. Imagine never having to pay for a copy of Windows or Mac OSX. That’s what the GNU programmers are after. Their group is associated with the Free Software Foundation, and they believe everyone should have access to free software.
GIMP is kind of like a free Photoshop. It’s designed to incorporate many of the filters, tools, and photographic effects you get from Photoshop, but it doesn’t cost you a penny to use. That’s pretty awesome, but there’s a problem with that philosophy for regular photographers.
Why you probably shouldn’t use GIMP
There’s a reason why people pay a premium to use software like Photoshop and Photoshop Elements, and that reason is the simplicity of it all. Photoshop is easy to use and easy to understand. Free software “works,” but you often have to learn a lot more about it in order to use it properly. It tends to have been built by some very technically minded people, and that usually leaves the ordinary consumer feeling totally lost.
GIMP is free, but it’s also highly technical. You won’t understand how to use it right away, and good luck reading the documentation. Because the programmers aren’t actually getting paid for their work, they don’t feel as strong of a need to support the people who download their software. If people don’t like it, then so what. It’s not like they’re losing their income. GIMP, for them, is more of a hobby.
Contrast this with Photoshop. If Photoshop isn’t easy to use, people are going to complain. When people complain, Adobe loses sales. As software developers, they have a choice to make. They can either improve Photoshop and make it easier to use, or they can support their users through better documentation. As it turns out, you get both with Photoshop.
But Photoshop is expensive. I don’t want to pay $670
Thankfully, you don’t have to. Adobe makes it easier on you by offering Photoshop Elements for just $79. For most photographers, Elements has enough power to do get the job done. It’s got almost all of the tools in the original Adobe Photoshop software, and it’s a lot more simplified.
Will it do everything a professional needs? Perhaps yes. Perhaps no. It kind of depends on the individual. I will tell you this. The software is highly capable. It’s not some hastily developed junk you’d get with the purchase of a camera. What Elements does, it does really well, and that’s all you really need to know.
So don’t download GIMP. Save yourself hours of frustration and instead purchase and download Photoshop Elements. The sanity you’ll gain is well worth the money, and the software will surprise you with what it can do. Plus, it’ll make it a lot easier for you to follow my Photoshop tutorials. You can consider it required course material.
If you do make an Elements purchase, let me know how it goes for you. I’m happy to create any tutorials you suggest, so keep your ideas coming.
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