GIMP vs Photoshop Elements 13 – First Impressions

pre-cropped-photo GIMP vs Photoshop

Macro photo from the National Gingerbread Competition in 2013

After taking a photography course, I’ve been curious about editing photos, especially in the Raw format (more on that later).  I’ve used GIMP for around 5 years, and am pretty comfortable with it for simple things, but from watching a few videos (this one is pretty excellent), it seemed to me like Photoshop Elements might have some significant advantages.

After seeing a physical copy on sale at Amazon for $49.99 on sale at Amazon (with Prime), I decided to take the plunge.  The hard copy seems to go on sale intermittently, as with the downloadable version, so I’d suggest watching it for a while if it’s not.

After playing with Photoshop for less than a day, I can see that I was definitely right about it being a more polished experience.  The two seem similar, but Photoshop just feels better to use.  There are a few advantages to GIMP though, so read on to see my comparison and some before/after photos.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

GIMP vs Photoshop Elements 13 – Advantages for Photoshop

  • Grid lines are very good when cropping, allowing you to employ the “rule of thirds” as seen in This book (Amazon – also linked of side of page)
  • Auto photo enhancements are quite good
  • Resizing using the original photo ratio is easier
  • Feels similar to GIMP if you’re used to it, with layers, the color picker, and other options are similarly formatted
  • When you select “new,” you can place the image directly from clipboard.  This is a huge advantage when trying to manipulate screenshots.
  • Single window design is great (GIMP users will know what I’m talking about)
  • Ability to easily edit Raw files

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

GIMP vs Photoshop Elements 13 – advantages for GIMP

  • I had to register with Adobe to install the software.  This is pretty annoying when I’ve actually paid for the software.
  • Costs more i.e. not free
  • I had a little bit of trouble installing it
  • Resizing to a certain pixel width/height isn’t immediately obvious.  A box has to be checked.
  • zooming with mouse wheel required pressing ‘alt.’
  • One photo when scaled left some white dots around it.

Raw format images (Wikipedia article) are sometimes described as a “digital negative” because they consist of data straight out of the camera’s sensor, and are not processed into something your computer can readily view.  As such, you can change things such as white balance after the fact.  Photoshop lets you adjust things natively in this format, which is something that I haven’t experimented that much with, but seems like an excellent tool.

All things considered, I don’t regret using GIMP for the simple crops and such that I’ve done for this website and others.  It’s really quite good at that kind of thing.  The skills that I’ve learned with GIMP seem to transfer quite naturally to Photoshop, and I’m looking forward to better looking photos!  For $50, I definitely don’t regret my decision to buy this package so far.

4 thoughts on “GIMP vs Photoshop Elements 13 – First Impressions

  1. Rick says:

    I know this post is a bit old, but you need some comments here! This site is cool, please keep it up.

    I’ll be the first to go…And don’t forget about Adobe Lightroom too! Lightroom has a much lower learning curve than either Gimp or Photoshop. Although, like you, I used Gimp for years, then finally made the switch to Photoshop and Lightroom years ago and have not looked back. I love open source software, but I have to admit, nothing compares to Photoshop and Lightroom.

  2. Tim says:

    Continuing the tradition of one comment per year…
    For me as a portrait photographer, GIMP has one serious advantage which is it’s “Wavelet Decompose” which is by far the best way I know of touching up skin. It splits the photo into 5-12 layers of different spacial frequencies which allows you to deal with skin imperfections without destroying the underlying texture – avoiding the waxy look of over-processing. This alone makes it well worth the price of, err, nothing. Unless this has been introduced very recently, PS doesn’t have an equivalent.
    I use CaptureOne Pro for RAW file editing, which isn’t as easy to use as Lightroom but I (eventually) prefer the results, and removes most of the “advantages for PS Elements” from your list.

Comments are closed.