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in Photos

For the most basic things like cropping, some enhancing, rotating, minor retouching, and annotating there are editing tools built into the Mac OS that will help you do those basic tasks. Some of which are immediately accessible in Photos and in Preview as well. I use them all the time in my workflow and it save me a lot of time being able to do it on the fly without the complexities of what more professional image editors bring in. Mail application gives you access to basic cropping and annotating tools right from within the Mail interface. I use this a lot when coordinating through email. I believe if you aren’t doing anything intensive with your photos you might be able to get by with what’s readily available without having to spend a dime. Explore what you can do already before you decide to look for other options.


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in Preview

however if you need to work with layers or if you have a need to do some intricate cropping, then without a doubt, you will need something more powerful. Immediately you might think “Photoshop“. I want you to hold that thought for a moment. You might then think of “Photoshop Elements” – hold that thought too. I want you to step back and ask yourself “Do I really need Photoshop?”. It may offer the tools you need BUT do you really need everything. We have to remember that Photoshop and even Photoshop Elements are powerhouse hardcore image editors. They do lots of stuff and they do them well however it comes with a price.

At the time of this writing, Photoshop will set you back anywhere from $9.99 per month to $79.98 per month depending on the subscription plan you think you need. Yes, they are all subscription based. Photoshop Elements is not subscription based yet but it will set you back $79.99. It can become costly and it is important to know that there are alternatives that I feel fall in between what is readily available in Mac OS and Photoshop Elements that may give you more feature for a fraction of the price and perhaps even free – I’ll write about this some more.

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from within Mail

I’ve done a lot of searching and comparing. There are many great options however for me there was one that stood out. The program I think is worth looking at if the built-in tools don’t satisfy your needs is Pixelmator (app store). It costs about $29.99 and is not subscription based. Pixelmator (website) gives you layers, annotation, complex cropping/selections, brushes, retouching, vector tools, color adjustments, effects and so much more. The features available begins to creep into Photoshop Elements/Photoshop level features. Check out the overview video below.

A free alternative is an open source software called Gimp. It is entirely free and gives you a lot of the capabilities offered in Pixelmator, Photoshop and Photoshop Elements. While there may be too much features in Gimp that it causes a steep learning curve.. it is free.

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A good way to test out what you need without diving into the big costly programs is to test the tools themselves in trial mode. Here’s a list for you to follow in order. If you find limitations, move on to the next option. It is sorted from basic to the most complex and all the paid options offer a free trial.

  1. Built in editors in Mac (i.e. Photos, Preview and Mail)
  2. Pixelmator
  3. Photoshop Elements
  4. Photoshop

If you don’t have the budget try the alternative free option: Gimp.

Everyone’s criteria will be different and this post is solely based on my experience and usage. What image editing programs do you use and what do you use them for?