There are many photo editing apps for Mac or iOS devices, iPhone comes with high-quality camera, and there are dozens of free iOS apps available that will allow you to quickly add a variety of filters and effects to your photos.
Apple include Photos on all new Macs, but this app is primarily intended for organising your photo collection, and only has a limited selection of editing tools.
So here are the best free photo editing software for Mac now.
1. Adobe Photoshop Elements
Photoshop Elements manages to combine powerful editing tools with easy-to-use ‘guided edits’ that can help even beginners create impressive results. Those guided edits are the focus for the new 2021 edition, with new tools that allow you to quickly convert your photos into ‘duotones’, using just two colours, with a number of simple options for adjusting the direction and gradient of the colour blend.
The Perfect Landscapes guided edit helps you to change the sky or background on a landscape photo for greater dramatic effect, and there’s a set of three connected guided edits that make it easier to quickly select, move and resize elements within a photo. If you’ve got a group shot with one person standing off to the side then you can use these tools to select that person and bring them closer in to the rest of the group, or even adjust the angle and tilt of their face.
You can also use the new Moving Photos tool, which provides a series of automatic effects for turning still photos into animated GIFs.
Mac App Store is still selling the version of Photoshop Elements for 99.99, so if you want to make sure that you get the new 2021 edition then you need to buy it direct from Adobe’s own website. It costs A$145.19
Pixelmator is one of the most popular photo-editing apps on the Mac, with, an attractive and easy-to-use interface, and a very competitive price. In fact, it was one of Apple’s Mac Apps of the Year in 2018.
There are actually two versions of the software available at the moment, the company is still developing the original, standard version of Pixelmator that costs US$29.99), but its main focus is on the newer Pixelmator Pro, which costs US$39.99 on the Mac App Store and AU$30.99.
The standard version will be more than adequate for most day-to-day editing tasks, with the latest update supporting macOS Catalina, Sidecar and Apple Pencil, but the Pro version also works with Mac technologies such as Apple’s Metal graphics and the TouchBar on the MacBook Pro models. It also includes additional editing tools, brushes and effects so that you can create even more striking images.
When you opt for this app there is 30-day trials available on the Pixelmator site, so you can check them out before deciding which one is best for you. Both versions are packed with filters and effects, along with quick selection tools and layers that provide really precise control when making fine edits to specific parts of an image.
Seashore started life as a ‘fork’ of Gimp – a kind of clone that took Gimp as its starting point – but it has developed a distinct identity of its own over the years. It doesn’t offer the same level of editing power as Gimp, but Seashore is a lot more straightforward to use. A simple toolbar running across the top of the editing window provides quick access to features such as a crop tool, pen, paintbrush, colour dropper, and clone tool. There’s also a Text tool for adding captions and annotations.
As you select each tool, a second context-sensitive toolbar appears below it that offers additional options for that particular tool. So selecting the paintbrush will show options for adjusting the shape and size of the brush, along with features such as different materials and brush textures.
There’s a selection of colour effects and filters, and – unusually for open-source software – it even provides a manual that explains how the various effects work to help you get started. More advanced tools include colour adjustment, and controls for brightness and contrast, along with precise selection tools that allow you to apply edits just to specific areas of an image. The app also supports layers for creating composite images, and alpha channels for adjusting transparency. Seashore is a great option for getting started with photo editing all free. Click here to download now.
4. Serif Affinity Photo
Affinity Photo provides a really powerful selection of photo-editing tools. The app makes few concessions for beginners, and its interface throws a rather intimidating array of palettes, tools, and menu commands at you right from the start. Fortunately, the main Start screen does include some sample files that you can download and experiment with, along with links to a selection of online video tutorials to help you get started.
Affinity Photo has all the editing tools you’re ever likely to need. There are dozens of filters and effects, including some fun ‘liquify’ effects that allow you to distort images like putty. And, to help keep everything under control, you can also view simultaneous ‘before’ and ‘after’ versions of your photos to see how your changes will look.
Affinity Photo allows you to edit HDR photos that you shoot on the latest iPhones, as well as stitching multiple photos together to create panoramas. It can even edit 360-degree shots taken with specialist cameras for virtual reality projects.
5. Google Photos
This is essentially Google’s version of Apple’s Photos and iCloud. There’s a simple app available for Macs and iOS devices that allows you to upload your photos to the Google website – and videos too, if you want – and then sync them across all your devices as long as they’re signed into your Google account. You can view all your photos online using a web browser on your Mac, and organise them into albums for easy browsing.
The actual editing tools are pretty basic, limited to a selection of simple filters, and slider controls for adjusting lighting and colour, along with tools for cropping, rotation and adjusting aspect ratio.
When you sign up for a Google account its Google Drive service gives you 15GB of free online storage for your files – compared to just 5GB for iCloud Drive.
Gimp is a popular open-source photo-editor that has been available for many years, and which runs on Macs, Windows and even Linux. Gimp is free to download, and is one of the powerful editing tool There are no ads and no in-app purchases to tempt cash out of you, either.
The downside of Gimp’s Linux background is that its interface instead of colourful icons and helpful tools, Gimp fills its main editing screen with dull grey icons and long menus and dialogue boxes containing annoyingly small text descriptions.
There are dozens of filters and effects, with a handy split-screen view that gives you ‘before’ and ‘after’ views of your photos. There are even a few animated effects, such as ‘wave’ and ‘ripple’ that you can use to create GIF files for the web. Gimp also has many of the same editing tools as more expensive rivals such as Photoshop Elements, with precise selection tools, layers, clone brush, and a variety of transformation tools, such as crop, scale and shear. And, if you’re feeling really brave, you can delve into some very powerful and precise colour and lighting controls too.
7. PhotoScape X
PhotoScape X is free app and has proved popular with many users on both Macs and Windows PCs. It’s also quite unusual, as it completely ignores the traditional interface design of most of its photo-editing rivals.
Instead of tool bars and palettes, PhotoScape X displays its main editing window with a series of tabs running along the top of the window. Each tab focuses on a specific task, starting with the Viewer tab that provides a quick preview of an entire folder of photos at once.
You can then select a specific photo that you want to work on and switch into the Editor tab. This includes a wide range filters, effects and lighting controls, with a handy ‘Compare’ button that shows ‘before’ and ‘after’ versions of your photos. You can also tidy up your photos using options such as red-eye removal, and a ‘healing’ brush to eliminate scratches and other blemishes.
The other tabs at the top of the editing window tend to focus on working with multiple photos, including the Batch tab, which allows you to crop, resize or apply effects to a whole group of photos all at once.