Should I Use The GIMP Photo Editing Program? It's Free! :: Digital Photo Secrets

Should I Use The GIMP Photo Editing Program? It's Free!

by David Peterson 44 comments

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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Comments

  1. shurbsk says:

    Gimp advantages:
    - It's made for windows, linux, and many other OS.
    - I'ts free, so many software companies rely on this software to reduce costs.
    - Updates do not cost a dime.
    - You cand get lots of docummentation and video tutorials, in almost every language.

    Gimp is as hard as Photoshop to learn and use (or any other Adobe tool). If you really want to be married with something easy to use, i recommend Coreldraw, but it's even more expensive.

  2. Robert says:

    I find - The Lightzone Project excellent. It's free. Some users claim it is 90% as good as Photoshop. I especially like their Zone Mapper tool which allows you to adjust 16 grey tone/colour zones independently for various depths of contrast.
    This programme is run by a small community group from different locations.

  3. Charlie says:

    When I first started using digital cameras I found Photoshop maddeningly hard to figure out, and now that I have switched to open source, I find learning the new tools like RawStudio and Gimp nearly as hard. The ideas I acquired from Photoshop, and film based photography mean I'm not starting from zero with no photographic knowledge. But in 2016 I expect a great deal more from a camera than I ever did before, and so the learning curve begins again.

    Open source raw image editors and Gimp have been gaining on Photoshop. The weaknesses that once relegated open source image editing to second status are being addressed. There are differences, but for my purposes, they are unimportant. I think the author of this article might want to take a new look at open source photographic workflow. There is a surprisingly good selection of fully professional open source tools now.

  4. Tomo Popovic says:

    Poor analysis without any merit.
    Been using GIMP for years and it fulfills all my needs. No need to pay for cheap crippled versions of Adobe PS, when you can have a full solution for free. The main point the author is missing is the concept of Free/Libre OSS. If there are features that you do not like in GIMP you have a full freedom to contribute and improve it. If you are not a software developer, you can contribute as an advanced user with bug reports, and feature and improvement descriptions.
    Somehow, there are always "experts" suggesting that you pay and everything goes away. If someone needs PhotoShop for a particular reason they will buy a full version. Buying smaller/crippled versions is usually not a good deal. GIMP is completely free, and there is an extraordinary community and lots of resources online that you can use.

  5. Paul says:

    "If theres a reason not to use the Gimp, than that is because it lacks some nice features Photoshop has (at date): content aware fill..."

    Actually, GIMP has content aware fill (called heal selection), and had it before photoshop. Likely PSs was based off GIMPs which in turn came from a PhD paper.

  6. Wendy Kirstein says:

    I'm a professional graphic designer. Somehow, the GIMP has this near-magical ability to make anything you're working on look like shit. Literally anything else is better than GIMP. MS Paint is better than GIMP. Photoshop is better than GIMP (although I hate photoshop; it's bloated and it doesn't feel good using it). Paint.NET is better than GIMP. Shitty webpage-embeddable JAVA drawing applets are better than GIMP.

    Don't use GIMP. It makes your art look like shit.

    • Brendan says:

      If your art looks bad because you used GIMP you probably didn't know how to use it or were a bad artist. It's nice for people who can't afford other programs, and Paint.NET doesn't fulfill the same functions as GIMP. I used to use it to texture the UV maps, it's not ideal but it gets the job done. Saving and working on it in the right formats helps.

  7. NEVILLE says:

    YOU OBVIOUSLY SUPPORT PHOTOSHOP TO THE HILT. GIMP IS EXCELLENT AND VERY EASY TO USE, I DO USE CS, IN FACT ALL THE TIME. BUT IF IT WERE NOT AVAILABLE, I WOULDN'T MISS IT IF I HAD GIMP. I READ SOMEONE SUGGESTED GIMP WAS DIFFICULT TO DOWNLOAD. BOY IT COULDN'T BE ANY EASIER. I USE GIMP FOR PERSPECTIVE CORRECTION ALL THE TIME AS IT IS EXCELLENT. I WOULD LIKE TO SUGGEST GIMP USERS DOWNLOAD THE DARLA SCRIPT FOR CORRECTION OF PURPLE FRINGING AND CHROMATIC ABERRATION. CANON CAMERAS ARE VERY SUBJECT TO THESE PROBLEMS WHEN USING THEIR LENSES THAT COME WITH CAMERA PURCHASES. THIS GIMP PLUGIN IS A MUST. IT WORKS LIKE A CHARM. I HAVE GIMP ON MY LAPTOP FOR JUST THESE TWO PLUGINS. THE GIMP PRODUCERS, ETC. ARE DOING A FANTASTIC JOB. KEEP IT UP.

  8. Ingeborg Vaz says:

    I am sad about your opinion on GIMP. I bought, yes, I bought my first GIMP version years ago and am now using GIMP 2.8. I am very grateful to all the wonderful people who constantly improve GIMP. You think, it is too technical, can't be, I am 75 years old and get so much satisfaction out of GIMP whenever I discover some new feature.

  9. Gyorgy Taller says:

    GIMP documentation is here: http://docs.gimp.org/2.6/en/

  10. Vern R says:

    Seems everyone overlooked the Organizer that is included with Elements. Used to be that the Organizer was NOT included with the full boat Photoshop.
    Don't know if it is now.

    Late in 2011 I was able to get Photoshop Elements 10 and Premiere Elements for $75 from Adobe(plus shipping, of course).

    I can truthfully say that anything that I ever wanted to do from making simple color adjustments to making an Elvis Collage was easily accomplished in Elements.

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