Most photographers, whether professional or amateur, edit their photos before declaring them finished. Sometimes, the need to edit is obvious: a power line needs to be taken out of the landscape or a stray hair lifted from a person’s face. Other times, the effect is subtler: the exposure is adjusted, the image is sharpened, or a spot is blurred. Because product photos are photos of inanimate objects taken under controlled conditions, the edits tend to be the latter instead of the former.
Here at A Lazy Person’s Guide, we like free stuff, so I will point out a few highly regarded free photo editors. If you wish for additional options, see here and here. Instead of one software to recommend, I will discuss the functions needed to edit indoor product photos, so you can use the software you prefer as long as these functions are included.
Free Photo Editing Software
There are a lot of free photo editing software in the marketplace. Some can be used on a cell phone, and others are for computers. I like to edit on my laptop because the larger screen lets me see the details, so I will limit my discussion to computer software.
One of the most well-known professional quality, free photo editing software is GIMP. This is an open source software with many functionalities. You will have to invest some time to learn how to use the software. For our limited editing needs, however, this software is
Paint.NET is another highly-rated free editor with many professional level functionalities. The software’s user interface looks fairly intuitive. I have not had the time to explore the software in detail, however. Paint.NET is a Windows-only editor.
Photo Editors on Windows or macOS
Both Windows and macOS come with free photo editors. My laptop runs Windows, and I haven’t used a Mac for many years. Though I’ve only used the Windows Photo Editor, given Mac’s reputation, I’m sure its editor is at least as good as the Windows editor. The Windows editor handles editing in a far simpler and more intuitive way than GIMP or Paint.NET, so you can start using it right away.
For the simple editing needs of product photos, I prefer using the Windows Photo Editor. However, since the other two editors are free and have far more functionalities, you might wish to download at least one and learn to use it in your spare time, just in case you need complex editing in the future.
Photo Editing Functionalities You Will Need
Rather than a specific software, below are the functions in a photo editor you will need for product photography. By focusing on the minimally necessary functions instead of the software, you are free to find and use your own favorite editor.
Crop and Rotate
This is the most important function you will need. Fortunately, this also such a basic function that any photo editor should have it. You can fine tune the composition of your photo through cropping. If you shoot your photos in a cramped space, you can also crop stray items near the edge of the photo out of the shot. Rotating is self-explanatory—sometimes, the camera is not quite level when you take a photo, so you can correct the horizon with the rotate function.
Contrast and Exposure (Light)
Often, the photo can be subtly improved by adjusting the exposure and/or contrast. You should only need minor adjustments because you took the photo under fairly ideal conditions and have already adjusted the exposure on your camera before taking the shot. Other than cropping and rotating, this is the second function I use most.
Tint and Warmth (Color)
Sometimes, your studio light can give off a color that is too warm or too cold, so you can adjust the tint and warmth of the photo. I do not often use this function.
This setting helps to slightly sharpen the subject of the photo. I have not always found the setting useful, but from time to time, it has helped improve the final result.
Blur (Spot Fix)
This feature is a must, even though it won’t be used often. Sometimes, you might have to blur out a trademark or make certain written words illegible for privacy. That is when the blurring function becomes necessary.
Even the simplest free photo editors should have all the above functions. Most consumer-oriented photo editors also have different filters that can be applied to photos, but I have found those to be unnecessary because special effects/filters detract from your main aim of producing a no-nonsense clear and crisp photo of the product.
Even though I said above that I won’t be recommending a specific photo editor, I do believe using the free Windows Photo Editor (or macOS equivalent) is Lazy Worthy. You won’t need heavy editing of your product photos, and the editor is free and easy to learn, so it saves time and money. That is the very definition of Lazy Worthy.
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