There are only a handful of free photo editing programs that are simple, fun to use and versatile. We’re not talking about features that require a lot of skill such as layers, masking and advanced selection techniques. These free programs present a bucket load of features, all easy to use, that will help you give your photos that creative punch, which will make them stand out in a way you never expected. Not only this; you also get other useful tools to print photos, create collages, batch process among many others. PhotoScape is one such free photo editor that can keep you engaged for hours. Here’s what it offers.
Home screen with 13 functions accessible with a single click
Features and user interface
Photoscape is more than just a plain photo editor and viewer, and this becomes evident with the main page of the UI in which thirteen functions are arranged in a circle around Photoscape’s logo. Additionally, there are nine tabs on the top left corner that stay static, allowing you to access or switch over to the most important functions. These include Viewer, Editor, Batch Editor, Page, Combine, Animated GIF and Print—seven out of the thirteen functions. In addition to these, the first tab, which is PhotoScape, takes you to the main page and the Help tab opens online help in the default web browser. The help is quite detailed and explains all the functions of the program with screenshots, and videos for certain sections like Animated GIF and Editor. The other functions present in the circular interface are Splitter, Screen Capture, Color Picker, Raw Converter, Rename and Paper Print. We shall talk about these later in the review.
Adjustments for colour, brightness, contrast and white balance
Let’s start with what this program is best at—photo editing. The Editor comprises a Windows Explorer-style file browser on the left and the control panel at the bottom wherein all the action lies. A major portion of the UI is taken up by the work area. The control panel features a minimal design with four tabs, each with limited but a useful set of tools. The Home tab starts with a selection of over a hundred frames that you can apply with one click. Some are simple and textured borders, while others are fancier patterns and masks. Alternatively, you can go the simpler way by just applying a rounded cornered or a simple coloured frame. Here, the thickness and colour of the frame can be set. The next stack has hotkeys for sepia, black and white, threshold and negative, which apply the effect to the entire photo. Just below are buttons for rotation (90 degree CW and CCW) and flip (horizontal and vertical). Next come eight dropdown lists. Out of these, Auto Level, Auto Contrast, Sharpen, Bloom and Backlight have varying intensities that you can select from the list—very handy when you want to auto correct the colour tone, contrast and backlight without any hassle. Bloom applies slight and haze to yield a dreamy, surreal effect.
Boatload of filters!
The Filter and Brightness, Color dropdown lists are most interesting. The Filter section has a raft of filters with which you can add a creative touch to your photos using effects like Antique Photo, Vignetting, Distortion and Glass tile among a raft of others. Want toy camera effect? Apply Cross Process and then add a vignette. The Fake Tilt-shift effect with a contrast boost will yield miniature effect. While some filters aren’t configurable, others feature sliders to adjust related parameters. The Brightness, Color list has tools to adjust colours, saturation and luminance using curves. Others include White Balance, Contrast Enhancement, Decolour, Remove Color Cast etc.
"Antique Photo" frame and sliders for adjusting colours and exposure
The Object tab lets you insert elements such as icons, speech balloons, text boxes, symbols and shapes over photos. Each of these is highly customisable. For example, you can choose the type of speech bubble, flip/rotate it, set the opacity and customise the font. Icons brings up a dialogue box with hundreds of icons with transparent background categorised into groups such as Cartoon, Face, Sign, Christmas, Logo, Travel etc. You place these on your photo and then resize or rotate them as per your preference. A separate tab is dedicated to cropping photos. There’s just a long dropdown list of various useful crop ratios like 1:1, 1:2, 4:6, 5:7, 8:10, Letter, Legal, US business card, etc. You have to drag the crop over the photo and click on Crop to apply the crop or save the cropped area to a separate image file. The Tools tab has tools for red eye correction, mole removal, Clone Stamp and paint brush. The effect brush allows applying effects such as Greyscale, Sepia, Mosaic, Blur, Brighten and Deepen.
Features and user interface (contd)
The other modules aren’t as detailed as the Editor. Here’s what they offer.
Viewer: Very simple. You have the browser to the left to navigate to the folder with images and the thumbnails of images are displayed on the right side. Double clicking on images opens them in full screen along with basic info such as aperture, shutter speed, ISO, EV, focal length and file name. You use the left and right arrow keys to go to the previous/next photo and the scroll wheel to zoom in/out.
Batch Editor—apply filters, add frames and resize multiple photos in one go
Batch Editor: This comes in handy when you want to process several photos in one go. You have to add the photos to the batch using the browser or by dragging and dropping photos onto the UI. Next you can choose to add frames, rotate, resize, add objects and apply filters to all the photos. Filters include basic enhancements like contrast, sharpen, brighten, decolour, bloom, vignetting etc. You have to specify values for the ones you wish to use. The Convert All button brings up the Save dialogue box wherein you can specify the output location, file name syntax and image format (JPG, PNG, GIF and BMP).
Page: You get over a hundred different page layouts to create collages and print multiple photos in a page. Again, you can add frames and effects to individual photos. You can also set the size of the page and set the aspect ratio.
Over a hundred different layouts and editing options for each photo
Combine: This feature lets you stack photos vertically, place them horizontally next to each other or place them in checkerboard style, in a single image. It is possible to set the margin and set the size of all photos to the first, biggest or smallest photo in the group.
Animated GIF: This is a useful feature when you want to create a GIF animation using multiple photos as frames—looks nice when you have shot a burst of photos. You can set the interval between frames, effect and output size.
Print: This module makes printing 4x6, 5x7, passport size photos or custom size photos easy. It’s also possible to print indexes with multiple photos in a page, for which you can set the number of rows and columns.
Splitter: Splits an image into a specified number of rows and columns and saves the segments as individual photos. The main use of this feature is printing large photos and banners.
Screen capture: Captures the full screen, Window or a selected region. The capture is copied to the clipboard or opens in the Editor, depending on the option you’ve selected.
Color picker: This tool allows you to pick any colour from the screen and displays the colour code.
Raw converter: A useful tool with which you can convert all popular Raw formats to JPG (Canon, Fuji, Panasonic, Pentax, Nikon, Olympus, Samsung and Sony). The batch converter allows converting multiple files in one go.
Only Black and White Threshold effect applied
Rename: This tool is again a batch utility for renaming photos using syntaxes like file number, date, and combinations of file name, number, date and time. There are even fields for adding leading and trailing characters and separators such as -, – and space.
Paper print: This has nothing to do with photos. You can print various kinds of pages such as pages with lines and margin, squares, yearly, monthly and weekly calendar and music paper. Depending on the paper type you select, you can choose the colour and thickness of lines and even dotted lines.
PhotoScape would have been awesome even if it offered only the editor, batch editor and viewer. While some tools like Color picker, Paper print, Screen capture and Combine are icing on the cake, others like Page, Animated GIF, RAW converter and Rename are nice to have. The forte of this application is enhancing photos, which goes without saying. If used selectively, the filters, frames and optimisations yield great looking results.
There is no limit to creativity with this program. At times you have to use multiple filters and frames to get something that looks very cool or bizarre, if that’s what you want—it’s fun experimenting with the various elements of the Editor. If you’re looking for a freeware to give your photos a facelift, then you ought to give this one a shot.
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