Is anything really free anymore? Well, it would seem so when it comes to photo editing programs - programs like GIMP, Picasa, FotoSketcher, Fastone, Raw Therapee, and Paint.Net, just to name a few, are truly free to the user. Filters like Spektrel, NIK Collection, On1 Effects 10.5 Free Edition, and Redfields' Fine Touch are free as well. But are they any good? I really wanted to find out.
Before I go too much further, I will point out that I am retired and have a lot of time on my hands to experiment with imaging software, and it's something I absolutely LOVE to do.
All of the software used to produce the final image is freeware.
I used Paint.Net as the main hub from which I which I called a goodly number of free filters. Paint.Net has a free download that allows it to use Photoshop plugins with .8bf extensions. You can see the menu in photo 2 below. The program in itself "looks" like a freeware version of Paintshop, but only has about 40% of the capabilities of that larger product, but it DOES include Layers which allowed me to blend my various layers together to get the look I was going go. I used the cropping tool and brightness/contrast sliders from Paint.Net
But MOST of the pure post-processing enhancements used freeware filters. I have included their names below, with a short description of what I used them for:
MV's Plugins, Wire Worm - Paint.net does not have a magical healing brush, nor content-aware fill tools. It's native Clone Stamp Tool is "somewhat" useful, but leaves large round splotches on one's image. Wire Worm works on the same principle but does dynamic color-matching around the edges. I used Wire Worm to remove all the fishing flies from the background
Redfield, Fine Touch - has 10 presets with which one can create textured backgrounds. I used "Impressions"
NIK Collection - Unfortunately, NIK software does not work in Standalone Mode (well, it can, but it loses all Menu Items) - but they CAN be invoked from Paint.Net. At various times I created a duplicate layer in Paint.Net, then called Viveza 2 (structure, shadow management), Color Efex Pro 4 ([Pro Contrast[, [Lighten/Darken Center}, HDR Efex Pro 2 [Outdoor 2], and Sharpener Pro 3 (2) Output Sharpener (global sharpening) individually for work on their own layers, then used the Opacity function to blend with its predecessor before flattening the image and calling the next one.
Finally I saved the image, then opened up the .jpg file in On1 Effects 10 Free Edition, where I used "Dynamic Contrast [Soft]", "Vignette [Big Softy]" and "Borders [Black Border]".
- Original Image, SOOC
- Paint.NET .8bf Menu
- Final Image with Freeware Edits