A recent discussion on our lively Facebook group highlighted a trend that seems to be growing – getting away from processed images andgetting things as right as possible “in-camera”. Still, the need for minor trimming of a few technical parameters, and possibly some local adjustments, is there, even in the purest of approaches: even with this trend, there exists a need for basic, no-fuss, cost-effective software, therefore.

A very long time ago, when I was looking for an affordable and usable alternative to Adobe’s already Gargantuan Photoshop (I talk of before the days of Lightroom – yes, the Earth had cooled sufficiently by then…), I trawled the interwebs and found the highly-acclaimed “Picture Window” programme, from the company Digital Light and Color. Back then (at version 3) it cost about €70 and proved to be very good value for money. DL-C is a small company, set up by photographers to make a photographer-friendly programme for quality processing of their images: I dutifully bought the upgrades until Version 5, which is still installed and frequently used on all the PC and laptops I possess. Now, at Version 7, it has officially been released as a free programme. I’ll describe my experiences with it below, which on the whole are Very Good, and now it’s free, you could hardly go wrong to just try it out.

While it offers the ability to handle RAW files, PWP is best used for editing JPEG, TIFF or other standard formats. Though offering an extensive pallet of quite advanced processing possibilities, it really shines for just the basic “tweaking” that may be needed on most images, which can be done very quickly indeed – it doesn’t require files to be “imported” in any way: you just open the file, directly from the memory card if you want. Common things like cropping, exposure, contrast, colour saturation, white balance are immediately to hand, work intuitively and give very good results.

A “mask” feature is available, which is very neat and useful. All adjustments can be applied to the whole image (no mask) or by using such a mask to locally control how much effect the adjustment has. It works like a paintbrush with soft edges, to “paint” an adjustment just where you need it to be, with some very handy tools to make creating these masks very quick and easy. I have often used it, for example, to lighten a face that’s a little dark from being in shadow, or even using teeny-tiny masks to accentuate highlights in the eyes…

It also has cloning tools, which are useful for removing bits and bobs that you may not want in the picture. It can also do composites of different pictures, or create layouts of several on a page. It also does something simply that many high-end programmes seem to find hard – make a nice, properly calibrated print without any fuss.

It’s no Photoshop, so don’t expect wonders of retouching or major manipulation, but I find that it is in fact a VERY handy programme to have around (my secret – most of the pictures that you have ever seen from me in the Viewfinders Newsletters have gone through it, if only just for cropping).