Without a doubt one of the best photo editing software programs available is Adobe Photoshop. In the past Photoshop would be available for around $699 to $799 depending on the version. It was a quite expensive tool. You could possibly get it for “free” by stealing it through a bit torrent, but that’s not very ethical and doesn’t support the software company (so it wasn’t recommended).
A free alternative to Photoshop (almost as powerful) is an open source software called GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program). This program gave you some of the complex editing tools of Photoshop such as layers, dodging and burning, and color manipulation. However some of the disadvantages would include a steep learning curve (and at times it could be buggy) – caveat here – I haven’t used GIMP in years so some of the bugs and glitches may have been fixed. Also if you were shooting exclusively in RAW format, some of the newer camera RAW formats were not supported by GIMP.
Luckily Adobe released a SAAS (Software as a Service) plan called the Photography Plan. This includes both Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC. CC just stands for Creative Cloud, meaning you can access some of your resources – image files and such online. If you didn’t know, Lightroom is an image organization processor that also has some editing capabilities such as cropping, white balance, color manipulation, resizing, and lens correction. You could use Lightroom stand alone editing tool as well (if you don’t have the time to learn Photoshop). The best part of the photography plan is that it’s only $9.99 a month and it includes ongoing updates. I used to hate SAAS plans where you pay a monthly fee, because when buying a piece of software I wanted to fully own it. However if you do the math you’ll see you are only paying about a $120 a year (a fraction of what it would cost for both programs) and you continually get updates – that make the software better and faster. If you compare it to just buying Photoshop outright, you maybe could have the same type of value in about 5 – 6 years and not having any updates at all.
I’m not sponsored by Adobe or anything, but their software is great and fast for photo editing. There are also a ton of resources online for free (youtube) that can teach you how to leverage this software to create stunning images. I love using both Lightroom and Photoshop and when I found out about the photography plan I immediately signed up and if you want to get serious about photography, I suggest that you do as well!