These tools offer bitmap-based image editing, photo enhancement, and graphics creation capabilities for the beginner. I selected these picks based on how easy they would be for a graphics novice to learn and use, but I also looked at how flexible they would be for the long term. A program that is easy to use, but too limiting, will not bring much satisfaction.
Photoshop Elements incorporates many of Photoshop's powerful features without being too overwhelming to the novice user or "dumbed-down" to the point that it frustrates experienced users. With a photo organizer plus fun and flexible photo-sharing projects, it's a perfect all-in-one solution for the majority of digital camera users. For amateur photographers, digital imaging enthusiasts, and small business users, there is little reason to look beyond Elements for all your photo editing needs.
PhotoImpact comes loaded with hundreds of one-click presets, making it easy for the complete novice to quickly achieve polished-looking results. Yet it has enough advanced features that users won't feel limited as they gain experience. The toolset is well rounded enough to meet the needs of users looking to create original graphics, enhance photos, design Web pages, or create special effects.
PaintShop Pro also appears in my picks for advanced editors, and that should give you an indication of its flexibility. It comes with a slightly higher learning curve compared to my other picks in this category, but those willing to invest some time learning will be rewarded with a feature-rich tool that rivals those in the advanced category. The most recent versions expand on the digital photography features of the software, and offer many improvements for easing the learning curve for new users.
Serif PhotoPlus is a low-cost photo editor with many high-end features such as layers, Raw capture, layer masks and adjustment layers, paths, batch processing, and more. It also has help and simplified tools for beginners like quick fix, one-click red eye removal, auto-contrast, and and extract tool. I have not yet had a chance to try PhotoPlus personally, but it consistently gets rave reviews and recommendations from site visitors. You can download PhotoPlus starter version for free from freeserifsoftware.com
to decide if you like it enough to purchase the latest version.