There is lots of advice out there on how to take pictures, but very little on how to use the software that lets you work with your pictures in digital format. Your camera manual will tell you how to get the pictures off the camera and onto the computer. If you’re stumped by the process of getting the photographs off your computer and onto Etsy, read on.

Why do you need image editing software? One of the best things about digital photography is the way you can manipulate and play with your images. Once you’ve put your picture on the computer, there are so many things you can do with it. You can change its size, adjust the colours and brightness and contrast, even cut it up and use parts of it in other projects — all without destroying the original.

Think of it as the digital equivalent of taking your negatives to a photo printer, and telling them you need a sheet of 3×5 minis to send to your family and a 5×7 for your boyfriend to keep on his desk and an 8×10 glossy for the modelling agency who wants your headshot. You can do all of this at home with image editing software.

Is it expensive? It doesn’t have to be. The gold standard in photo editing is a program called Photoshop, which is very versatile and professional and — yes — expensive. If you’re an indie crafter trying to find an inexpensive way to get off the ground, you don’t need that. There’s free software out there that can perform all of the basic functions of a professional software package. I recommend a program called the GIMP, which is absolutely free.

Do I need to be a tech-head to do this? I have an idea that a lot of people who think they’re not good with computers have seen someone doing a bit of programming, or heard horror stories about difficulties with computers, and have just been scared away by seeing something they didn’t understand. What’s more, good software these days is designed to be intuitive. If you don’t know anything about computers you can still learn how to use a program, in the same way that you don’t have to be a mechanic to be able to drive a car.

Let’s get started! Click here for the GIMP’s download page. The site will detect your operating system and give you links to the file you have to download. (If you use Windows, don’t be scared away by their notice that they don’t support Windows — just download the file they give. It works.) Once it’s saved on your computer, double-click and follow the instructions to install it. Then stay tuned, because I’ll follow this up with some simple tutorials to get you used to the program and create some useful stuff for your Etsy shop.