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Free software is many times forgotten by everybody, photographers included. Free does not always mean bad, as some think. Today, I will share five fantastic tools that will help you to have more fun with photography.
Being a photographer in a digital age means having to deal with lots of software, from Exif editors to tools that let you create a border around an image with a few clicks. Many amateur photographers will look for commercial solutions, but give up when told the price.
For some of us, it simply makes no sense to spend money in some software. But there are many solutions available for free for personal or even professional use.
Perfect Effects 4 Free
Recently launched as a free program, Perfect Effects 4 from onOne Software can be looked upon as a "carrot" to convince you to buy the whole program, but in fact, even this collection of more than 70 effects to enhance and stylize images will allow many photographers to, at least, explore new creative paths. They maybe you'll buy the program later, if they completely fall in love with it.
Perfect Effects 4 Free can be used as a standalone program or with Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, or Apple Aperture. With it you can do anything from popular HDR and vintage looks, to textures to add depth and dimension, and borders to add a finishing touch. A friendly interface and online support makes this a program you should try. For more info and download visit www.ononesoftware.com/products/perfect-effects-free/.
Photographers that want to explore the universe of night and sky photography should look at Stellarium, a free, open source planetarium software package. It is available for Mac, Windows, and Linux. It offers you the ability to enter your own location, save it as a preset and use it to find out the times of sunrise, sunset, moonrise, moonset, phase, proximity of other night sky objects.
Stellarium renders realistic skies in real time. With Stellarium, you really see what you can see with your eyes, binoculars or a small telescope. Ideal to find out the best locations for night time photography, the program can be downloaded from www.stellarium.org.
One of my favorite small programs is PhotoScape, a program to fix and enhance photos, but also a box full of special effects. I especially like functions to create image borders and combine pictures in a single page to that can be used to create eBooks. But there is much more it can do, from creating animated gifs to batch editing series of images.
The Print section of the PhotoScape will help people who have a hard time laying out multiple photos on a single page. Photoscape also converts RAW to JPEG, creates slideshows, and will even let you find similar faces on the Internet, using the face Search module. To install PhotoScape 3.6.3 on your computer, visit the webpage at www.photoscape.org.
Everybody seems to love to link their images to the place where they were taken, and the program GeoSetter does exactly that. This freeware tool for Windows XP and higher not only lets you link your pictures to places, it can also read geo-data and other metadata (IPTC, XMP and Exif) of image files from digital cameras.
Available in various languages (English, German, French, Italian, Swedish, Czech, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Russian, Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese and Norwegian at the moment), GeoSetter reads and writes the formats JPEG and TIFF and most camera RAW formats. Created by Friedemann Schmidt, GeoSetter can be downloaded from www.geosetter.de.
The first Windows graphic viewer to offer multiple animated GIF support, this free software tool is the one to look for if you have files in old formats that you need to open. I do not use it nowadays, but had to install it to be able to open some old Kodak PhotoCD files that most commercial programs these days do not open.
But IrfanView is more than a tool to reopen the past. It is a very competent graphic tool that both amateurs and professionals will like, for the multiple options it offers within a simple interface. Compatible with Adobe Photoshop filters, it is a viewer, a paint option, and an Exif/IPTC viewer. It offers batch conversion, print options, creation of watermarks, screen capture, lossless JPEG rotation, and so many others things I think it should be classified as a "Swiss army knife" for photographers.
Remember that IrfanView is provided as freeware, but only for private, non-commercial use (that means at home). You can download it from www.irfanview.com/. You will not regret it!