February 21, 2017
/ by Jim Dougherty
Images are an important component of content marketing. They give readers a visual representation or reinforcement of the text and increase the shareability on any social platform. To make a memorable image is part creative (creating or choosing a high-resolution image, manipulating it) and part operational (choosing image size and reducing the file size with a tool like compressor.io so that it will load quickly).
For this post, I want to focus on the creative process of editing images. Photoshop and its Adobe companion, Lightroom have always been the ideal software to edit images, but they are cost-prohibitive for some people and require a bit of experience to use well. There are some pretty powerful, user-friendly, and inexpensive alternatives that may allow you to be creative without the costs of time and resource. What I want to do in this post is share some of the most popular Photoshop alternatives and how they can help make your creative process a bit easier.
Note that while there are a lot of very cool mobile apps for photo manipulation, the ability to process high-resolution images is the key criteria for these tools (though I do throw one in at the end for good measure).
Creating or manipulating an image consists of choosing a canvas from pre-selected or user-defined sizes, importing an image (or images), and then manipulating the image (resizing, filtering, adding text). Final images can be saved in JPG, PNG, or PDF formats.
Pros: Ease of use is off-the-charts. No software to run. Has a mobile app optimized for tablets. Ideal for users who don’t want to get too in-depth into image manipulation and prefer a “drag-and-drop” tool. It is free to use, with pay options only for stock photos.
Drawbacks: Creative tools are limited. Image manipulation is done by filtering. No tools for doing fine manipulations to images. Perhaps dissatisfying for some users as a true Photoshop alternative.
Pros: Operation similar to Photoshop. Free. Open-source. Plenty of tutorials on YouTube and elsewhere.
Drawbacks: Features are not as powerful as Photoshop. Not as intuitive to use as Canva.
Pros: Operation similar to Photoshop. Plenty of tutorials on YouTube and elsewhere.
Drawbacks: Some advanced editing features are only available for paid users. Learning curve similar to Photoshop.
Drawbacks: Learning curve similar to Photoshop.
Pros: Great UX / easy to use. Free.
Drawbacks: Limited function.
Pros: Operation similar to Lightroom. Easy UX. Free. Plenty of tutorials on YouTube and elsewhere.
Drawbacks: Slight learning curve. For uploaded images only.
Pros: Easier to use than Photoshop. Free. For Mac users.
Drawbacks: Features are not as powerful as Photoshop. Despite the easier UX, there appears to be a slight learning curve to this software as well.
Instagram is a social platform of course, but in a pinch could do some minor photo editing. The primary means of editing an image would be using Instagram filters, making it a pretty restrictive way to edit photos. The highest resolution for IG is 1080 x 1080 which isn’t ideal but probably wouldn’t look too bad on the web (and would of course be fine for mobile).
It’s a bit blasphemous to compare Instagram filters to Photoshop or Lightroom, but in a pinch it could help make an image a bit more compelling.
If you’re intimidated by image editors, it’s good to know that there are options like Canva and GIMP that you can use to make cool images. If you’re intimidated by the cost of Photoshop, or collaborating in a setting where that cost could scale and sail, it’s good to know that there are a lot of other similar options that can help you to make you images compelling to readers (and a lot of video tutorials on sites like YouTube to help).
In any event, there are plenty of ways to make your images stand-out, no matter how much time or resource that you have to devote to it.
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