GIMP vs. Photoshop: Yikes, That’s a Loaded Comparison!

Posted on January 30, 2012



That’s all I can say after doing, what I feel to be, A LOT of research on what was to be today’s post. GIMP vs. Photoshop. As a person who used to use Photoshop and now uses GIMP, I felt that this was a good topic to touch upon. I never realized how loaded it really was for photographers and graphic designers out there, both serious and casual users alike.

When you Google ‘GIMP vs. Photoshop,’ there are over 480,000 results within seconds. This tells me that this is a debate that has gone on a long time and has a lot of fuel behind it with likely no real resolution.  Now, I just want to make it clear that my initial goal was to compare GIMP, for X Windows systems, and Adobe Photoshop (- NOT Photoshop Elements. I have no experience with Elements, so I feel I cannot speak to it.)  After my research I abandoned my attempt at a post to compare the two and instead thought I would reflect on my own experience with both.

So here it is…

As I have alluded to many times in the past, I began my photography career doing all of my work in the darkroom. It wasn’t until the last couple of years that I have branched out into digital photography. Like I have said, this was initially out of necessity, however I have come to enjoy it deeply.  Throughout college I had the privilege (yes, privilege) of using Adobe Photoshop.  We had it in every digital lab and it was at my disposal 24 hours a day.  Back then I was also more daring with pirating software and even had a version on my computer (ah, to be young… and stupid).  It introduced me to a whole new world of digital imagery and image manipulation.  It got me excited about some day owning a legitimate D-SLR and the possibilities that it may afford a professional photography business in the future.

Once I entered in the real world, started grad school for a career that definitely frowns upon pirated software, and realized that I had absolutely no money, Photoshop became less of a reality for me.  My computer crashed and I lost that old pirated version.  My grad school studies were not for art (sadly), so my 24 hour access was gone.  I no longer had access to my school’s or parent’s darkroom – so I just stopped doing photography.  It felt SO wrong – I was lost.  Once grad school ended and I had *some* disposable income, I was able to save up for a D-SLR.  I was excited again.  I felt whole.  But I had no clue anymore what I was doing.  It was clear then that it was a necessity for me to find a good photo editing program.  

Now, I have always been a fan of open source software.  Open Office got me through grad school and even had features my Microsoft Works didn’t have.  I had heard about GIMP from a friend, who was just as poor as I was, and I decided to try it out – I liked that it was free and the interface looked much like what I had learned on (Photoshop).  I must admit that it’s a clumsy program in some ways and I had to Google a lot of things to figure out some more complicated actions, but ultimately, it mirrored Photoshop in a way that I understood and I grew to love it.
So again, this post did not end up what I wanted it to be.  I ditched that idea 480,000 results ago.  It did however force me to take a look at my personal experiences with the software.  I will acknowledge that both have their highs and lows and you have to choose the one that is right for what you need, not what the industry is telling you you need.  Ultimately, I feel that GIMP is right for me.  Oddly it makes me feel like part of a community and I enjoy the hunt to discover how to do things in this program.  And honestly, I cannot afford Photoshop – not saying that I would, at this point in my career, buy it if I could.  I simply don’t need it right now.  Photoshop did however prepare me for using GIMP and I am unsure if I had never used both how easy GIMP would have been for me.  
So what’s your favorite photo editing tool? GIMP? Photoshop? Elements?  Have you used more than one and have a preference?  I’d be interested to know.  Ultimately, I’d like to say “screw the software” and go back to film, but now that’s just not practical for me.  Maybe, someday.  Until then, GIMP, you’re my man.  But Photoshop, I do love you too, because you taught me what possibilities there were and ultimately, you are a wonderful program as well.
% A.L. Kohlmann
Visit me at A.L. Kohlmann Imagery.  New photos coming to the gallery soon!

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