7 Free Photographers Apps & Programs

f you’re a newbie, amateur, or hobbyist photographer, then by definition you aren’t making money from your photos. And if that describes you, it won’t be long before you figure out — if you haven’t already — how expensive this hobby can be.
Most of us don’t have a lot of money to throw at photography, and when it comes down to making a choice, wouldn’t you rather spend your budget on gear instead of software? I know I would.
The good news is that there are plenty of free apps and programs that can get the job done and will suffice until you absolutely need something more professional like Adobe.

1. FastStone Image Viewer

One of the first settings to tweak on your camera should be switching from JPG mode to RAW mode. RAW images are bigger in file size, but they hold more information and are better for post-processing (assuming your SD card is big enough).

But because RAW images have specialized formats depending on the camera brand, a lot of image viewing programs can’t read them. That’s where a fast RAW viewer comes in handy: you quickly browse your latest set of photos, delete the unwanted ones, then load them into Lightroom or whatever.
FastStone Image Viewer is the best free RAW viewer you’ll find. It can view, organize, and even convert individual RAW files into other formats if necessary. For me, I just use it as a quick tool for culling unwanted photos.
Supported platforms: Windows.
Alternatives: If you’re on Linux, Geeqie is pretty good. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find a good, free, fast RAW viewer for Mac yet.

2. RawTherapee

RawTherapee is a godsend for photographers who can’t afford or don’t want to use Lightroom. They serve the same purpose: the ability to collect, organize, process, develop, and touch up many different photos.

It’s so good that we consider it to be an app that proves you don’t need Adobe Creative Cloud. The learning curve is slightly harder than Lightroom, especially if you’ve never used a digital RAW processor before, but you’ll be able to get the hang of it in no time.
Supported platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux. However, Linux builds aren’t officially provided. On Ubuntu, you can use this PPA in conjunction with your package manager.
Alternatives: Many consider Darktable to be even better than RawTherapee, but we chose to highlight the latter because it’s cross-platform whereas Darktable is only available on Linux. Otherwise, few viable alternatives exist.


If you have even one creative bone in your body, you’re probably well aware that GIMP exists and you know what it does. For anyone who doesn’t know, GIMP is a free and open-source competitor to Photoshop that’s pretty darn good (despite its awkward name).
GIMP can do what Photoshop do, at least on a fundamental level, and you can improve its functionality through plugins, but at the end of the day, Photoshop is the industry standard for a reason.

Not sure whether GIMP is good enough for you? Check out our comparison of GIMP vs. Photoshop for more information.
Why do you need GIMP? Well, you don’t. A lot of photographers are happy enough with something like RawTherapee or Darktable mentioned above. But if you want to dip into digital artistry with your photos, that’s when GIMP shines.
Supported platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux.
Alternatives: There aren’t many that are on par with GIMP and Photoshop. If you’re okay with a few sacrifices in features, you could try PhotoScape, Pixlr, or Paint.NET.

4. Hugin

Hugin is the kind of program that few people need, but the ones who do need it are so glad that it exists. In short, it makes it easy for you to stitch together multiple photographs into a complete panorama.

It’s been in development for years, so if you tried it in the past and found it to be too unstable and crash-prone, consider giving it another try. It’s much better now and recommended for general use.
Supported platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux.
Alternatives: We chose to highlight Hugin because it’s full-featured and cross-platform. However, there are two free alternatives that you might like better if you’re on Windows: Microsoft ICE and PTGUI. Both are less powerful but worth trying.

5. Google Photos

Every photographer must learn, as soon as possible, the basics of making data backups. Regardless of how many photos you actually have, how are you going to feel if your drive gets corrupted and you lose everything?
Trust me, you don’t want that happening to you.

That’s why we recommend using Google Photos. With it, you can store your photos on Google’s servers and access them from anywhere at any time. But the best part? You get unlimited photo storage for free. And yes, it counts RAW files.
Supported platforms: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Web. The desktop and mobile apps exist as uploaders to Google Photos, with the option for auto-uploads if you wish.
Alternatives: If you already have Amazon Prime, you should know that you have unlimited photo storage with Amazon Cloud, but only for personal use. Or you can use any other cloud storage service, like Dropbox or OneDrive, but they have storage limits.

6. Recuva

I once heard a story of a photographer who handed his camera to his model so she could get a sense of how the shoot was going — and she ended up deleting all of the photos she didn’t like. That photographer learned two important lessons that day.
The first lesson? Never hand your camera over to anybody unless you’re ready to accept whatever happens next. The second lesson? Deleted photos can be recovered if you’re careful and fast enough.

Using a program like Recuva, you may be able to access the memory inside hard drives, flash drives, SD cards, etc. and recover items that were deleted. How it works is beyond this post’s scope, and it won’t always work, but it works often enough.
Supported platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux.
Alternatives: There are several other data recovery tools out there, but we chose Recuva for its ease-of-use. If that doesn’t work for you, try PhotoRec or Disk Drill.

7. Wave

If you’re an amateur or a hobbyist, feel free to skip this program — unless you intend to go professional at some point down the road. And as a professional, or even a semi-pro, you’re going to have to deal with clients and invoices. So many clients. So many invoices.
Enough to make you reconsider your photography business because of all the paperwork and hassle. That’s how bad it can get if you don’t use a tool to help you keep everything organized.

That’s where Wave comes in. Simply put, Wave is an online accounting dashboard that you can use to track sales, expenses, invoices, clients, and even employees (if you ever pick up another shooter). A lot of it is automated, including reminders so you never forget to pay or get paid.
Supported platforms: Web.
Alternatives: The pickings are slim here. The free alternatives are too simple (e.g. only create invoices) and the other alternatives all cost money, usually by way of a monthly subscription. Avaza and Invoicely are close, but their free plans do have limits.

Which Free Apps & Programs Do You Use?

Photography can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. Why spend money every month for professional quality software when you don’t need it? If you’re just starting out, or if you’re a semi-pro on a budget, these free alternatives should be more than enough.
You might even find that you prefer these free alternatives to their paid counterparts, even after you turn professional. You never know.