Serif PhotoPlus X6 is among the best photo editing applications available, this product is perfect for experienced photo editors or those who are just getting started. Pros – this application features extensive video tutorials and instructions that make it easy to use, regardless of your experience level. Cons – it can take a while to learn enough to take advantage of all of this application’s potential. Adobe Photoshop Elements 12 is ideal for beginners and powerful enough for veterans.

The flexible, professional tools let you manipulate settings with precise detail and enable you to unleash your creative potential. Pros – this program learns from your preferences, and the Guided mode gives you step-by-step instructions on what tools to use to accomplish different editing tasks. Cons – you cannot create actions, and the included photo organizer, Adobe Revel, is a separate program, adding an additional step to the editing process. The GIMP can be a very good Photoshop alternative. There is even a GIMPshop modification for users who want the most Photoshop-like experience.

Those familiar with Photoshop are likely to find it lacking, but still a worthwhile option for when Photoshop or Photoshop Elements is not available or feasible. For those who have never experienced Photoshop, the GIMP is simply a very powerful image manipulation program. Pros – It is free. Frequently updated with new features and fixes. Its community developed, so users can have direct input on new features. Customizable and extensible through the use of plug-ins, scripts, etc. Runs on many platforms including GNU/Linux (i386, PPC), Microsoft Windows (XP, Vista), Mac OS X, Sun OpenSolaris, FreeBSD.

Cons – Lacks adjustment layers, macros (actions), clipping layers, layer groups, CMYK, HDR and 16-bit per channel color support, custom shapes. Feature development can be slow. Some highly requested features have been “in the works” for years. Can be buggy. There is no quality assurance team and it’s up to users to report bugs. Steep Learning curve; documentation is often missing or outdated. The cluttered interface and multiple floating windows can be off-putting for many users. Lacks a quality of elegance in the workflow. The unfortunate name makes it hard to take the program seriously.