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PhotoFiltre Review

Review of Free Image Editor PhotoFiltre

About.com Rating 2.5 Star Rating

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This PhotoFiltre review looks at the free pixel-based image editor. The latest version of PhotoFiltre Studio is offered as shareware, but this free version can be used by private individuals, educational establishments and not-for profit organizations.

The free version of PhotoFiltre is a good looking pixel-based image editor with some very well considered tools to help new users achieve effective results when working with their digital photos, but the lack of layers and some other limitations does seriously compromise the application as a creative tool for more advanced users.

The User Interface

Pros

  • Very intuitive interface
  • Filter bar makes many image adjustments very easy for new users

Cons

  • Limited keyboard shortcuts and none for main drawing tools
  • Plug-ins not managed in the user interface

PhotoFiltre is another free pixel-based image editor that, like Paint.NET, offers its users an intuitive and clearly presented interface. Unlike Serif PhotoPlus SE, which obviously draws much of its inspiration from Adobe Photoshop's interface, PhotoFiltre does it own thing, but in a very intuitive way. The tools and features are very easy to explore without referring to the Help files.

For me, the stand out feature of PhotoFiltre is the Filter bar that presents quick access to some of the most important image adjustment tools. The first two buttons are for Auto Levels and Auto Contrast adjustments and these should generally be acceptable for basic users, though I found dark images could be a challenge for the Auto Contrast tool. Also I noticed that Auto Levels could at times skew the white balance, but as long as users are aware of the potential pitfalls of auto adjustments, they can be a time saver.

Moving along the Filter bar though, there are a range of more common manually operated image correction tools and the first four of these have a novel control set with plus and minus buttons allowing users to change the settings for Brightness, Contrast, Saturation and Gamma in preset increments. I think this approach really demystifies these tools and anyone who has ever picked up a television remote control will be familiar with this technique of changing settings. The results are displayed in almost real time allowing users to make quick decisions as to whether to make further adjustments or even undo some changes.

Rather like GIMP, PhotoFiltre has a system to allow plug-ins to extend the application's functionality, but unfortunately there is no facility within the user interface to add and manage plug-ins, meaning these must be installed and uninstalled using Windows Explorer.

Enhancing Images

Pros

  • Good range of image adjustment tools
  • Filter bar's one click tools

Cons

  • No adjustment layers for non-destructive editing
  • Lack of Dodge and Burn tools

Within this aspect of PhotoFiltre, I again find myself singing the praises of the Filter bar. It really does make it very easy for new users to experiment with enhancing their images. Other features not already mentioned include buttons to convert images to black and white and to give them an aged effect. The former can be a useful tool, but the latter does introduce a regular tonal pattern on images it is applied to, which leads to an odd appearance.

The Filter bar also has quick access to other tools, including tools for sharpening and softening images and changing orientation, though there are also more tools available to more advanced users in the Adjust menu. However users familiar with using other image editors may find some familiar menu items appear a little alien in use, such as the Levels dialog and the Duotone feature.

There aren't any adjustment layers to make non-destructive editing an option, but then there aren't any layers of any description in this free version of PhotoFiltre. Many photographers will also bemoan the absence of Dodge and Burn tools, particularly as the lack of layers and blending modes means that some alternative ways of producing similar effects are not an option when working in PhotoFiltre.

More basic users seeking a tool that will carry out as many adjustments as possible in an automatic way will be pleased to know that there are at least two free plug-ins available that can be used to reduce Red Eye, but these plug-ins are not installed as standard.

Creating Artistic Images

Pros

  • Good range of effects
  • All the important painting tools are available

Cons

  • Limited selection of brushes
  • Difficult to combine Effects without layers

At first glance, PhotoFiltre appears to score highly on this front, but on closer examination that facade quickly crumbles. The lack of layers seriously impacts upon the usefulness of the application for producing creative and artistic images.

While there is a good range of Effects filters by default, without layers it does become difficult to experiment and combine different effects to see the new results.

Having looked through some of the tutorials on the PhotoFiltre website, there are some that explain copying and merging parts of different images to create composites, a bit like an image would look when made up of layers in a single document. That might be a suitable option for users that are absolutely wedded to using the free version of PhotoFiltre, but I can't think of a single reason why this approach would be preferable to using a free pixel-based image editor that offers layer support.

Thankfully the toolbox contains most of the important tools that any experienced pixel-based image editor users would expect to find, but some of these are seriously compromised by a lack of options. For example the Advanced paintbrush tool offers a small range of brush shapes that could be very useful. However they are tiny and the only resizing option is to make them twice the original size, which is still very small, rendering them utterly useless in many situations.

One notable exception from the toolbox is a bezier curve tool to allow users to make reasonably intricate manual selections. While many PhotoFiltre users may use the application to apply adjustments to complete images, a bezier curve tool can be invaluable for users looking to make targeted image adjustments.

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