Photo Editing Software Definition & Meaning

Photo editing software is used to manipulate or enhance digital images. This category of software ranges from basic apps, which are able to apply simple effects, to industry-standard programs used by professional photographers for more advanced needs. Many functionalities of these programs mimic the manual photo editing techniques used in a dark room.

Typically, a photo editing software uses photos that have been taken with a digital camera that are then uploaded or imported to the software program. As touchscreen technology and wireless file sharing become more robust, many photographers are opting to use tablets or even smartphones instead of traditional desktops or laptops to use their photo editing software programs.

Using photo editing software

Many qualities of a photo can be manipulated using photo editing software, often on the pixel level. Most basic photo editing software programs can accomplish a number of these techniques, including:

  • Color balance, which adjusts the levels of intensity across the color spectrum.
  • Exposure, which adjusts how much brightness or light is applied to the photo.
  • Noise/grain, which indicates the level of detail or distortion between pixels.
  • Saturation, which indicates the dramatic appearance of all colors.
  • Cropping, which adjusts the dimensions of the image.
  • Burning/dodging, which adjusts the contrast between lightness and darkness.

More advanced programs enable users to also perform operations such as background removal, healing, cloning, selective adjustments, and layering. These advanced programs often feature additional artistic functionalities like brush and pencil strokes, textures, and 3D design.

Examples of photo editing software

Basic photo editing software is frequently available for free across most mobile and desktop operating systems. Some are available as Internet programs, others can be downloaded as applications, and many are native programs that come preloaded on a device. More advanced photo editing software generally comes with a regular subscription fee or flat licensing cost.

Some prominent software editing software vendors include:

  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Adobe Lightroom
  • Google Snapseed
  • Skylum Luminar
  • Capture One
  • GIMP
  • ON1 Photo RAW

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Kaiti Norton
Kaiti Norton is a Nashville-based Content Writer for TechnologyAdvice, a full-service B2B media company. She is passionate about helping brands build genuine connections with their customers through relatable, research-based content. When she's not writing about technology, she's sharing her musings about fashion, cats, books, and skincare on her blog.

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