Photo editing software

I would like to ask the Inat community thoughts about photo editing software. I take photos with Iphone 13 and want to do a few things:

  • unfocus the background
  • remove unwanted clutter on the photo

It seems there is a huge range of free to very expensive editing suites. Can you please help me decide what to download to start with given that at this stage my requirements are small.

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I use GIMP for physical editing, and Darktable for lighting and colors and such. GIMP is similar to Photoshop but without some features.


thank you Zdanko

If you ever want to end up moving to something a bit more in depth, I highly recommend Affinity Photo. It’s $85, but that’s a one-off payment only, no subscription, and it gives you a product key that lets you install it on as many of your devices as you want. You can also download it and do a free trial for a week or so to check it out.

(there are also two other Affinity programs, Designer and Publisher, which are also fantastic)

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My workflow includes
Digikam to import images (following this format yyyymmdd_filename) and occassionally when I am into heavy numbers then adding a time to the file name

Darktable is next to do everything else - including export to jpeg (i shoot in raw)

For mobile pictures which I import to / through digikam it is the same as the above, and for those i don’t import the normal android photo tools are adequate

Generally I avoid heavy editing - the most significant being cropping.

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I use Adobe Photoshop Elements because my friend got a free copy with a camera and gave it to me because she didn’t want it. I got an older version years ago free with an Epson photo printer. You can use it to unfocus the background (have to mask around the subject) and remove unwanted clutter with clone tool. I’ve only done those things for images I want to post online or print for aesthetics. For iNat images I use it to correct white balance and reduce noise mostly. For things like cropping and adjusting brightness I usually use the photo editor that came loaded on my laptop because it’s faster.

I use the (dated) software that came with my first Canon - it is comfortable and suits my workflow.
(Again Dated Picasa for blog collages)
Faststone to compress photo files and watermark for my blog.

For iNat simply cropped to show This Is What We Are Looking At Here

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Not for any fancy editing, but for simple cropping, resizing, brightness correction and similar simple operations I can recommend irfanview:

I think some edits like circles or cropping can be good but I’d strongly suggest against blurring background. The background adds context to the observation and also allows some verification the location is correct.


adobe lightroom also work fine, but it will take some time to learn the features

iPhone 13 has built-in photo editing. I have used iPhone Portrait Mode/Edit to blur or change the background for people portraits. I’ve not tried that for nature pics. Usually I just edit to crop, sharpen, fix exposure or brightness, add circles and arrows, etc.

One advantage of editing and uploading in iOS is the meta data from your will be attached to your uploads. However, there are some features lacking in he iOS app, so you would need to visit the website after to add that additional info.

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Before I used to add circles to highlight the organism in question, especially if there are more than one within the photo and/or if the subject is blurry (eg. bird on tree via iphone digital zoom), and I was told that adding circles may affect the computer vision somewhat, so I stopped and directed the viewer to the specimen in teh description instead.

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i don’t usually add circles, it isn’t required, it can be helpful in some cases.


I reorder my photos to put the (unambiguous) cropped view first. Followed by a wider view for scale, habitat, growth habit, whatever a biologist can glean.


That’s basically all I do as well. I might fiddle with the brightness and contrast, but that’s all. I just use Windows software. But I have a Cannon, not a phone, so I don’t know how that works.

I second zdanko’s recommendation of Gimp: it’s extremely powerful, versatile, and extensible software. It is cost free, open source, works offline, and runs well on both Microsoft Windows and on Linux (it also currently runs on Mac OS, but they’re having trouble finding developers who use Macs to work on the program, so I wouldn’t expect Mac to be supported forever unless that changes). It does have a steep learning curve, but it’s worth learning. I couldn’t get by without it.

Darktable is also extremely powerful, but if you’re shooting with a phone, it’s probably unnecessary, since it’s best used by photographers who shoot in RAW on DSLRs.

That said, I’ve never seen the need to remove clutter from an iNat photo, and I only rarely see the need to unfocus the background. I mostly use photo editing software for extremely basic operations (rotating and cropping) and for light sharpening and color correction.

I use Darktable and Gimp, but these are for people who like to spend a lot of time learning how to use it.

If you’re an iPhone user, you’re almost guaranteed to be much happier buying Photoshop than using Gimp. It will be much easier to use, and you’ll have an easier time finding instructions to do whatever you want.

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I use Adobe Lightroom for managing my photos and for doing most of their post-processing. My work flow is:

  1. Copy files from camera or SD Card into Lightroom allowing it to place the photos in folders by year and date based on the capture date
  2. Apply tags to all inbound photos including location and sometimes subjects
  3. Apply some general adjustments such as lens correction and Input Sharpening on the initial intake
  4. Review the copied photos and rate them based on picture quality flagging the good, the OK and the really bad
  5. Add keywords to individual or groups of photos based on the a category of observation (e.g. Fly, Bee, Cricket, etc.) as well as possibly the behaviour of the subject
  6. For photos of things that are identified in iNat, I apply a colour code. For photos of identified subjects that are not added to iNat use a different colour and yet another colour for pictures of my grandkids
  7. For identified subjects I add the Taxa name in the Title (one at a time or at a group level)

Using Tags allows me to create Smart Collections of pictures that meet certain criteria - e.g. Bees found in my yard in the month of August. You can also create regular collections that you maintain by selecting and adding individual or groups of photos.

Lightroom also has pretty full suite of adjustment features that Adobe seems to improve on a regular basis. It is not as complete as Photoshop but it is sufficient for my purposes. It also has a feature to create slide shows in which you can include the Title on the picture selected.

There are other Photo Management apps out there that have similar features but I have used LR for so long that it isn’t worth my while to switch. Its ease of working with groups of pictures and the database features work well for me.


What operating system do you want to use? Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, Chrome?

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Thank you - I will give that a go.