There are a range of free and paid resources available online to help you with photo and video editing. I will list those that I have experience with and provide pros and cons for each.
Photoshop – Paid – Even if you aren’t particularly tech-savvy, you will have likely heard of Photoshop, and that’s not without good reason. Photoshop is a comprehensive and powerful program that allows you to create, manipulate, and animate images using the wide range of built-in tools and features.
I have used Photoshop since around 2011 and continue to use it eleven years later. The term ‘photoshopping’ is used to describe images that have been altered in some way using Photoshop, and is often used when an image has been edited in such a way that you cannot tell that it has been.
Unfortunately you can no longer buy Photoshop outright and instead will need to pay for it monthly or annually as part of the Adobe Creative Suite. There are a range of plans to suit different needs so it is worth checking them out to see which one would be appropriate for you. You can also sign up for a free trial to get a feel for the program without committing to the subscription cost.
- Extremely powerful software with a plethora of tools and features
- A range of support available online as it is used by a lot of people
- Subscription-based, meaning no need to shell out hundreds of £££ at once
- Good for students as they have a scheme specifically for those in education
- Paid software – not great for those on a tight budget
- Fairly decent hardware needed to run it depending on what you use it for
- Subscription-based means unable to buy it outright and ‘own’ the software
Photopea – Free – If you are on a budget and/or are not willing to pay the subscription cost for Photoshop, there’s a solution for you. I was pleasantly surprised when I came across this project as it offers a lot more than you would expect for a free product.
Photopea was created by Ivan Kutskir, a 30-year-old computer programmer originally from Ukraine. He started developing Photopea in 2012 with the goal of creating ‘the most advanced and affordable photo editor’. I would say that he has without a doubt achieved this. It is the most advanced web application for photo editing that you will be able to find on the internet.
I still use this when I’m not at my own computer and need to do some editing or create a graphic. It contains a lot of features that Photoshop has including layers and blending.
- Contains a wide range of powerful tools for graphic creation and editing, on par with Photoshop
- Can be accessed from any computer with minimal hardware requirements
- Allows you to import and export a range of different file formats
- Can only be accessed whilst connected to the internet
- Lacks some of the more advanced features like 3D that Photoshop has
- As it is not downloadable to your device, the website could go down at any point or the creator could change their mind about it being free
GIMP – Free – This stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program and is a popular free alternative to Photoshop that has been around since 1995. It is available for Linux, macOS and Windows, and contains a range of features found on other image manipulation software.
This is a solid program to use if you are on a budget and/or are working with images where you do not have internet (and thus cannot use Photopea). It may be a feel more dated compared to Photoshop and Photopea, however it is still a very powerful program and can do a lot more than you may expect.
- Has a lot of powerful features that you would need and expect from a graphics program
- Does not require a particularly powerful computer to use
- It is free and accessible via any mainstream operating system
- Lacks some of the more advanced features like 3D that Photoshop has
- Less support due to not being a paid product (however there are a range of articles online to help you out)
- Struggles when working with high-resolution images with a lot of layers
Paint.NET – Free – Some see this as a more advanced Paint, the default program that comes with Windows, and they would not be wrong. It has more capabilities and a range of features that Paint does not have. However, it is not really comparable to Photoshop because it is a simple raster image editor for casual users, and you cannot expect the same functionality or power as Photoshop.
Unfortunately, I do not have a lot of experience with Paint.NET and have only used it briefly (before I discovered GIMP), however I thought it was worth a mention as an alternative. Because of this I will not list pros and cons because it will not be based on my experience and instead based on what I can find online.
VEGAS Pro – Paid – This is a popular program that has been used by professionals for years. Previously known as Sony Vegas Pro, this powerful application lets you produce and edit videos to a high standard and features unlimited video and audio tracks, storyboard and timeline synchronisation, scene detection, nested timelines, adjustment tracks, keyframing and automation control, hundreds of filters, effects, transitions and titles, and much much more.
Like everything else nowadays, it is available as a subscription rather than a one-off purchase, which is not necessarily a bad thing given the original fairly steep price that it used to come at. It used to be around $898 (approx. £675) but is made more affordable by paying £8.69 per month (annually) or £14.49 per month if paying monthly. If you want the addition of extra mobile to timeline (50GB extra) and 4K stock images rather than HD, you can pay £12.89 per month (annually) or £21.49 per month if paying monthly. Considering just how powerful this software is, and the original outright price, this really isn’t too bad. It also lets you use a free trial so you can get some hands-on experience before subscribing to a payment plan.
I no longer use VEGAS Pro since I discovered the program I will mention next, however when I did use it, it was definitely a strong piece of software and very comprehensive. It does have a fairly steep learning curve if you are new to video editing software, but there are a wide range of tutorials (written and video) available online to guide you through almost any task.
- Excellent audio editing functionality compared to other video editors
- Large variety of FX tools as well as fast rendering speed
- Overall it can do almost anything you would expect from a strong video editor
- Costly if on a budget
- Reasonably high spec hardware requirements in order to function smoothly
- Can be overwhelming for those new to video editing
HitFilm Express – Free – This is my go-to program for video editing and, best of all, it is completely free, with the ability to upgrade to the pro version for extended features and functionality. Whilst I do not create a lot of videos nowadays, I still upload the occasional video to one of my YouTube channels, and HitFilm Express lets me do so with ease and for free.
One benefit of HitFilm I have found is that the user interface is pretty beginner-friendly. The timeline can be used with ease and all of the features are clearly organised and easy to find. It also does not require the best computer to run or render videos, so I am able to use this when working remotely on a Surface Laptop from 2017.
You can use effects, transitions and titles and can download free ones online that others have created. If you want access to more premium ones, you can upgrade to HitFilm Pro, or purchase addon effects from the addon store.
- Comprehensive, powerful video editing functionality
- Easy for a beginner to pick up and learn how to use
- Usable on lower end hardware
- Less effects available than on the Pro version
- Requires addon packs to be purchased for various effects (although plenty are available without)
- Audio editing is not as strong as other software