In the age of digital photo files, having a versatile photo-editing program is almost a must to get the results you want. However these can be expensive. Thankfully, there are free, safe, and open-source software programs available. Designed to work with Windows or Mac, the following programs will help you edit RAW and JPEG files.
Darktable is an open-source photography workflow application and photo developer that has been around for about 11 years. Its interface looks similar to Lightroom and will manage your digital photos in much the same way, enabling non-destructive editing of your images. Some claim it's simpler to use, more streamlined, and has some features that Lightroom does not.
Another choice is Rawtherapee, also a well-respected photo program that has been available since 2010. Like Darktable, it is a workflow and a non-destructive editing app similar to Lightroom. Is it better than Darktable? While I’ve not used either program, there’s a good comparison at Fix the Photo that compares just about all the features and should be able to answer most of your questions.
Want an alternative to Adobe Photoshop? GIMP is the free open-source program forerunner and one that I am familiar with. It provides a multitude of tools to manipulate photos from simple retouching to fun creative composites, with more blending modes than Photoshop offers. It is also capable of working with the digital artist to create works of art and graphic designs. The interface is not identical to Photoshop, but it has the power to do it all.
A quick look at these programs can be intimidating, but the internet and YouTube are filled with tutorials on using any of these programs. A simple search will provide enough options to easily overwhelm you. My advice is to find the most recently dated tutorials so that they include the latest software updates.
If you’re familiar with any of these programs, or have other suggestions, please let us know. We’d love to hear from you.