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TECH TALK: Manipulating photos without breaking the bank

Last week, I talked a bit about consumer-level tools for working with digital photos. This week, let's step it up notch.

Simple photo editing tools like iPhoto or Picasa are easy to use, but they aren't that powerful. At the other end of the spectrum are full-featured photo editors. The gold standard is Adobe Photoshop but its biggest downside is the cost. A retail copy of Adobe Photoshop CS5 (the current version) retails for $699.

If you'd rather avoid spending $700, there is an alternative called the GIMP. It stands for the Gnu Image Manipulation Program. It's a full-featured open source photo editing suite with an impressive community supporting it. Anything you can do in Photoshop, you can do in the GIMP. To get started, check out some of the tutorials you can find by clicking here.

One more quick hint: if you use Photoshop and are accustomed to it, try Googling "GIMPShop". It's a remaster of the GIMP to look and feel as much like Adobe Photoshop as possible, without violating copyright. This is also useful for prospective design students, or anyone who wants to learn Photoshop without dipping into the college fund.