SO YOU’VE JUST returned from your trip with a billion digital photos.

You hook your USB cable up to your computer and download them all, watching as your experiences flash up on your screen. The places you visited, the people you met, are now reduced to some nicely categorized folders.

Now what?

If you’re a professional digital travel photographer, chances are, you’ve got the latest version of Adobe Photoshop (aff) booted up. You’ve poured the coffee, cracked your knuckles, and are about to attack your travel photos with passionate zest.

For the rest of us that aren’t interested in paying hundreds of dollars for professional photo editing software, there are a number of excellent alternatives. And best of all, you can download this photo editing software for free.

Picasa

(For Basic Users) | Download Picasa (aff)

Another Google product, Picasa is more than just a photo editor. It’s also a surprisingly easy way of sorting, tagging, and categorizing your photos.

Their built in photo features allow you to make fairly simple modifications to the contrast, brightness, and cropping of the photo, as well as red-eye removal. A number of filters also let you add some interesting colour and blur effects.

Other powerful features include sharing your photos via email, publishing to the web, and creating slideshow movies with ease. True to form, the interface will be familiar to anyone using other Google software.

So if you’re new to photo manipulation and you just want to make simple, basic edits, Picasa is the free photo editing software for you.

PhotoPlus 6.0

(For Intermediate Users) | Download PhotoPlus

This software is actually an older version of the Photoplus family (they’re now up to version 10). But the free version is surprisingly good.

It has many of the more sophisticated features you’d find in Adobe Photoshop, though with a slightly older style interface. You can create, edit, manipulate and enhance your travel photos with ease.

In exchange, they do harass you a bit for personal information, in order to send you further “discounts” from their partners and presumably for their own products.

I was able to download the software and remove myself from their lists, so it’s not mandatory to sacrifice your information if you don’t want. All in all, it’s well worth the price.

Gimp

(For Intermediate to Advanced Users) | Download Gimp

Gimp is basically an open source alternative to Photoshop. It has many of the same features as Photoshop, including sophisticated filters, layer support, cropping, resizing, etc.

If you’ve used Photoshop in the past, you’ll pick up Gimp very quickly. And if you’ve never used Photoshop, the learning curve may take a bit longer, but once you follow a couple tutorials, a whole new photo editing world will gloriously unfold before your eyes.

The only slight problem with Gimp is the installation. If you’re not a tech geek, you may have some trouble downloading and installing the various files, but they’ve got some thorough documentation to help you out.