Do you want to get the most out of your camera?
All frequently used digital camera uses “.JPG” as their default export format. But that compresses your photo, and you might lose some editing opportunities. Whereas, a “RAW” image format store every single bit of data from your camera sensor. You can use this format to modify your photo to a greater extent.
But, not all photo editing programs can open and edit a RAW file.
Therefore, we brought you the 10 best free photo editors that you can use to enhance your RAW image.
Without further ado, let’s get started.
Darktable is an open-source Adobe Lightroom alternative. You can use this editor for non-destructible image enhancements. It lets you do basic photo editing, color correction, and apply filters. Furthermore, this editor is completely free.
The photo editor provides essential guides so that you can study the program faster. You can do all the basic as well as advanced editing using Darktable. Some features include are detailed color correction, spot removing, lens correction, and perspective correction.
The user interface is quite friendly. Starting guides and simple design make it easy even for a beginner to understand the editor quickly.
You can find that the Darktable has five modules: Lighttable, Darkroom, Map, Slideshow, and Tethering. It has grouped similar functions under each module.
RawTherapee is a free open source photo editor that edits RAW files. It provides deep photo color correction, high dynamic range (HDR) tone mapping, histogram matching, and other useful picture adjustments. Besides, it offers pre-processing, pattern noise, and chromatic aberration correction for your RAW images.
It is best to use it for quick cataloging of your images. Besides that, it does have some essential tools from photoshop and presents a more in-depth color correction option.
It supports a variety of images from different cameras. And developers are adding more formats to it frequently. However, there are some adjustments that Rawtherapee lacks. Some essential features like layers are not available in Rawtherapee and stop it from becoming a full-fledged photo editor.
Rawtherapee does come with some drawbacks. The processing speed could have been better as compared to Photoshop and Lightroom. The change in value does not reflect in real-time. Although it is not a problem if your editing pictures for fun, but it can be an issue if you are doing it for business. Also, the user interface is quite confusing. Besides, there aren’t many free tutorials for this editor available for learning. A new user might find it challenging to get a hold of it.
If you are using open-source photo editors for a while now, then you can give Rawtherapee a shot. We would not recommend a beginner to start their journey from this editor. Lack of free tutorials and information regarding this editor makes the learning curve gradual.
GIMP features some professional-quality functions that can easily rival giants like Photoshop. Besides, it is an open-source, free image editing platform. It is a full-packed solution for photographers, graphic designers, and illustrators.
It has a standard User interface that adheres to the high-end graphics editor layout. The editor has three parts: toolbox, main editing area, and layer, paths, undo, and channels.
Although GIMP being free lacks the intensity of the commercial photo editor, it provides all the necessary commands, editing features, and tools. It has the layers feature like photoshop that allows you to work nondestructively.
GIMP allows the user to improve productivity via many customization choices and its support for third-party plug-ins. It is the most maintained open-source photo editor of all. Developers work continually in the betterment of GIMP’s source code.
Also, it has an in-depth help and support. There are several free youtube tutorials that you can watch. Therefore it has a steep learning curve. That means even a beginner won’t find it challenging to learn the functions.
GIMP does not have an inbuilt RAW photo feature. But you can install the free UFRaw plug-in. You can also use UFRaw individually to open RAW files. It supports almost every RAW file format. Although it lacks in-depth editing features, therefore using it as a GIMP plug-in delivers excellent results. It is the best free, open-source photo editor in general.
If you are using a Sony or Fujifilm camera to click your RAW photo, then you should use Capture One Express to process your images.
Capture One Express is the free version and has the full editor’s cataloging tools. That means, once you’ve imported your raw pictures into the catalog, you can order them by folder or into Albums and Smart Albums. Moreover, you get a full collection of search and keyboarding functions too.
The editing tools are simple to understand and effective. You can find ‘tool tabs’ for Quick adjustments, Color, Exposure, Lens corrections, Adjustments (Styles and Presets), Details, and Metadata. Each tool tab possesses collapsible adjustment panels. So the Quick tool tab, for example, has Exposure, High Dynamic Range (shadow and highlight adjustment), White Balance, Black & White, and Clarity panels.
For downside, you don’t get the advanced controls and local adjustments like Pro version in the free one. Therefore, there is only so far you can do with your raw images before you need to swap to another image-editor. That is for in-depth effects, layers, and local enhancements. Besides, it supports only Sony and Fujifilm RAW files in the free version. That means you can not use it with other cameras.
However, Capture One Pro can still produce the best high-quality, processed raw files. Therefore, you can import them to Photoshop, Elements, Affinity Photo, or any other photo editor of your choice. We have discussed better free Photoshop alternatives in further sections.
Nikon is the most frequently used camera brand in all categories of photographers. If you are using a Nikon camera, then you should try the free Nikon Capture NX-D.
Capture NX-D has no browsing and batch conversion tools. It’s quite confined compared to other editors, but it may be sufficient for most of your needs. It doesn’t have cataloging tools – there’s no centralized database for organizing and searching within your whole photo collection. Still, you can skim the folders containing the photos on your hard disk, and for many photographers, that’s acceptable.
Unlike other raw conversion editors, Capture NX-D does not make changes to your original raw files, or JPEG images. Its adjustments are saved only as processing directions in data stored alongside your photos. However, to make the change permanent, you have to use the Convert files button. By doing so, you create a new JPEG or TIFF photo with the adjustments applied.
You don’t have to edit and transform each photo individually. Instead, you can use the batch processing option to convert an entire folder. As a result, it applies adjustment parameters to all images in the folder. Also, you can perform individual adjustments to each photo if you like. Moreover, you are free to create a new folder with different filenames while doing batch processing.
For the downsides, Nikon Capture NX-D does not support other RAW file formats. However, you can carry out advanced and wide-ranging adjustments, from automatic lens corrections to detailed selective color shifts. Additionally, it can make your images as pleasant as possible. But, it would have been better to provide more image editing functions. Apart from that, the editor freezes quite often.
Nikon Capture NX-D works best to edit Nikon’s RAW images. If you want to make minor adjustments to your photo or do a batch process, it can provide you with that. Although, if you are looking for more detailed editing, then you should opt for GIMP.
If you are looking for an all-in-one image editor, then try Photoscape.
Photoscape provides an impressive variety of features. It contains essential image adjustment tools like color correction, luminosity control, and much more. Additionally, it has a batch editing function, an image viewer, a multitude of filters and effects, a built-in screen capture tool. With all this, you can quickly enhance any image. It is more than enough for a free editor.
It supports a variety of RAW file formats and converts them to JPEG. Moreover, you can choose the auto-brightness and white balance option before conversion. Later, you are free to make image adjustments manually.
The editor is surprisingly robust, and all of the options are well-labeled and self-explanatory. Additionally, it is an excellent tool, and if you are a beginner, you are encouraged to play around with various filters. Also, it has the undo function to go to the previous steps.
Photoscape has a unique circular layout. Some users might prefer the classic grid view. But, it also got a lot of online tutorials providing it a steep learning curve. Therefore, you can learn it quickly.
If you are looking for editing and sorting your RAW files, then use digiKam.
digiKam supports a decent amount of RAW files. Therefore, you can add photos from multiple camera sources. Additionally, it is an all-inclusive sorting and customizing tool. You can use the map feature to save and see your photos according to location. Moreover, you get the batch editing feature. Thus, you can select and edit multiple images at once.
Some other features include detailed noise reduction, collection of powerful filters, and histograms. Therefore, you can play with your RAW file and export a stunning photo. Additionally, it supports sharing your photos directly to various media platforms like Pinterest, Flickr, and Google Photos.
digiKam provides a swift sorting and selecting layout. Therefore, you don’t have to skim through images each time. You can label and flag photos that you don’t want to edit further. Moreover, you can put detailed tags on each picture so that you can search them when required.
Although the principal feature of digiKam is sorting images, it provides essential control over editing each image individually. Further, you can export your files to PNG or JPG. Also, it has an option to jump directly on different functions like panorama, collage, and more like that. digiKam proves to be the best free editor for sorting images.
Photivo is an open-source, free photo processor that can handle most common image formats as well as RAW files. Also, it supports major image formats like TIFF, JPEG, BMP, PNG, and many more. It offers an impressive array of photo adjustment and enhancement options, as well as sharpening, denoising, local contrast algorithms, and several other advanced options. The layout consists of multiple tabs for different features. Moreover, there is also a keyword search that empowers you to locate a function quickly.
To understand Photivo better, you need to have a prior photo editing knowledge. The tools it features have an excellent performance, but it would take a beginner some time to understand them. However, the interface is quite familiar to other photo editors and helps to get a grip in less time. Besides, you can always use the search option to look for a specific function. Also, there are several tutorials and guides available to help you through the learning process.
The editor features sliders for tweaking the values. Also, the result is shown in real-time so that you can decide where to stop. Additionally, it performs all the operations on a copy of the original file. Therefore, even if you took your editing too far, then you can step back to the previous version or restart your editing.
Some other features like tonal contrast, color correction, resizing, vignetting, and more make it an ideal choice for editing social media posts. It has a batch editor so that you can edit photos in bulk with a single setting. Also, it is worth mentioning that it blends the GIMP workflow mechanism to provide robust processing with a convenience to send modified photos straight to GIMP for further re-touching.
In short, Photivo can handle most of the RAW image files and an excellent option if you click photos in RAW mode. It has some sharp codes, and the processing is impressive. However, there is plenty of space for fast performance.
Photoflow is rather new in the arena and is still in the development phase. But, it has all the required functionality for converting a RAW image to a presentable photo.
It is a free, open-source editor, and developers are trying to make it a full-fledged photo editor for RAW files. Additionally, it inherits the source code for RAW integration from Rawtherapee and Darkroom. Therefore, assure yourself regarding your camera support. It supports a wide range of RAW files and BMP.
Another essential feature, Photoflow provides non-destructive image editing. That means it stores every edit in a different layer, and the base image is kept untouched. Although many editors offer non-destructive image processing, they have an option to choose. Whereas, Photoflow strictly follows the non-destructive rule. It automatically creates a new layer for different edits.
Besides, it serves all essential photo editing tools like levels, brightness-contrast control, curves, blurring, cropping, sharpening, resizing, colorspace conversions, and more. If you know about image editing, then you would agree that these features are sufficient to make a decent photo from RAW data. Further, you can always export it to edit in some other editor for extra processing.
Overall, if you are looking for editing limited RAW files and know about required image adjustment functions, then Photoflow is a competent editor.
Photopea is an online browser-based alternative to Photoshop.
Looking at the layout and tools, anyone who has used photoshop in their life would feel home. Besides, the similarities between the two are so comparable that you might think of it as illegal usage. But, trust us, it is not.
Photopea is an open-source one of a kind image editor. Firstly, it is a full-fledged image editor that consist of all standard Photoshop tools. You get to work with layers, and it presents similar blending options. Secondly, you do not have to download a single bit of data to use this editor. It uses your system’s resources but completes the task in the browser. Therefore, it doesn’t share much load on its server and rarely crashes. The downside of this point is, if you have a mid-level PC or a slow internet connection, then it might not be the best to work on the browser.
It supports a variety of RAW files and lets you download the processed image in .psd format. To clarify, you can download all your edits along with the file and open them in photoshop. Moreover, you can also export the image as frequently used formats like JPG, PNG, SVG, and many more. Also, it has a creative mode where you can start working on a new project using a template.
For the downside, the interface might look familiar, but there is space for a performance upgrade. If you are dealing with massive files, then it might stutter while processing.
In short, Photopea might not be the optimal choice for RAW image editing. But, if you are used to working on photoshop and can’t access it for some reason, then Photopea is a go-to option. Since it does not require installation, you can use it on any device.
How to Use Free Photo Tool?
Free Photo Tool is a bonus alternative to Photoshop. It works similar to Photopea and uses the same source code. Moreover, you don’t have to install or download anything to use the Free Photo Tool. It is a full-fledged browser-based photo editor. Therefore, you can start working on it from any compatible device by visiting the site.
How to Process RAW Images?
There are some essential tasks you must do before you convert your RAW image to another format. Like, set brightness and contrast control, tweak hue/saturation, and enhance the temperature of your image. Although, you can always do detailing in post-processing, having a suitable base image always helps.
Besides, RAW is a general term for primary image data from any camera. That means every camera saves the RAW files in different formats. Therefore, it is essential to check whether the photo editor supports your file type or not.
Furthermore, if you want to do a batch edit, then make sure you take the time to categorize your images. Else, you might spoil the image by applying the wrong settings.
Let you be a newbie trying to learn more about the RAW file by experimenting. Or, you can be a professional photographer. RAW data present you with the opportunity to tweak your image in desired adjustments. Possibly your camera doesn’t provide adequate post-processing. Therefore, you need a RAW file editor to gain full control over your image. In any case, editing from scratch to high-end printable material has a beautiful workflow.
The market has a variety of RAW file editors, and most of them are open-source. Therefore, none of the products are ideal compared to expensive giants like Photoshop. Still, if you want to get the best experience, then our suggestion is Darkroom.