How to get great photography software on a budget
Updated: Jun 15
For everyone starting out in photography, you won't have a full camera kit or be a Photoshop master and people are reluctant to shell out large amounts of money at the very beginning. However, like many hobbies, there are some free and cheap resources out there that you can use, which will have a big impact at minimum cost. Below, I have put together a list of some cheap/free pieces of software you can get to help you improve your photography without breaking the bank.
PHOTOSCAPE - FREE
The most obvious photography software you will want to get is a photo editing one. If you are taking photographs on your phone, then I think the built in editing software is good enough on most major phones for when you're starting out. You have a range of filters and can manipulate and crop the images to an extent, which is suitable for the resolution of those photographs. If you want to up your game and edit photographs on a PC or laptop, then a great free editor I used when I started out was photoscape. As you can see from the image above, the software is quite powerful and has a lot of different functions. However, the main one to stick to begin with is the 'Editor' one at the top, which has all the main features you need when starting out. Many of the first photographs I took on my old Nikon D3000 were edited with this app before I eventually got into Photoshop years later. You can download this software for free from the CNET website.
MANUAL CAMERA DSLR LITE - £3.69
The Manual Camera: DSLR - Camera Professional app is one which you can download onto your phone and essentially turns your phone camera into a DSLR. It does this by giving you control over all of the main aspects of a DSLR, which you normally do not have on your phone, such as ISO and shutter speed. It even allows you to save files in RAW format, which if you are wanting to seriously edit your photos, is an essential step to take at some point. This app helps you in two ways, firstly it allows you to get the most out of your phone because by having more control, you can override the automatic settings in the phone to get the best out of your shots. However, more importantly, it can have a huge impact on learning how to use a DSLR camera. If you have or are thinking of getting a DSLR or mirrorless camera, then you it can be quite intimidating at first due to all of the different settings available. You probably won't know what aperture or ISO or shutter speed actually does and how to use it. Therefore, many people start off in automatic mode and sometimes people never get out of this setting. Phones are designed to be easy to use and intuitive, which means that they are already in automatic mode straight out of the box. However, if you use the app when taking photographs on your phone, then this helps you to start getting to grips with all of these different settings and you become more confident with them if you decide to use, or buy, a DSLR camera. Even if you do buy a camera, then it can be a struggle to carry it around everywhere you go but we all have room for our phones no matter where we are.
TPE - THE PHOTOGRAPHER'S EPHEMERIS - £2.69
The Photographer's Ephemeris (TPE) app is particularly useful for landscape photographers because it helps you plan out your shot ahead of time, particularly around golden hour. One of the best things to do when taking landscape photography is to plan out your shot ahead of time. This can involve going to a location and seeing what the best composition is or taking a note of here the sunset is at that point in the year. The TPE app works similar to google maps by allowing you to get a birds eye view of any location in the globe. It then shows you from which direction the sun will rise and set, so you can plan around golden hour without having to travel there first and hope that you get lucky and the sun is where you want it to be. This app is also useful if you are looking to take a nice portrait shot at sunset because you can plan where the light will be hitting your subject from and where they can stand to allow you to get the best background.
PHOTO EDITING - WHAT NOT TO DO
As with any technology, there are pitfalls to avoid and I have learnt some of these lessons the hard way. As important as photo editing software is when it comes to digital photography, don't jump ahead too soon and buy a Photoshop subscription. The main reason for this is because it can be too daunting and put you off actually using the software. Photoshop is a great tool and many of the features have been improved over the years to make them simpler to use. However, it is still quite complex and can be overwhelming if you have not used any other type of photo editing software to begin with. For me, the software is like Microsoft Excel, it has a lot of power and can be incredibly useful but you can't just jump straight in and figure out how to use it by pressing different buttons. You have to know what you are trying to do with a photograph before you look into using an advanced editing software. Also, until you are shooting a lot of photos and using a RAW format, then you will not justify spending that much on a Photoshop subscription anyway. Finally, whenever you do take the lunge and spend money on a fancy photo editing piece of software, then I would recommend Photoshop. Not because it is necessarily the best, however because it is so well established, there are so many tutorial videos on Youtube or articles online that can help you with using it. I originally bought a cheaper, less known brand mainly because it was a one off cost. However, I struggled because it wasn't easy to work out how to use the different functions and there were very few tutorials I could use to help me. For every feature on Photoshop, there will be a YouTube video out there where someone has explained how to use it and this is why I think it is the best option.
So, there are ways to get your hands on some good photography software without spending a fortune. These apps can help make a big difference when you are starting out and when you become more confident and shoot more often, you can then justify a Photoshop subscription. I hope you found this useful and let me know if there are any other blog topics you would like to see me write about.