I am about to embark on an adventure of trying out GIMP as a lot of people have been recommending it.
Q: In What Areas (if Any) Does it Excel Over Photoshop?
It would be interesting to know from people who are seasoned with it if it excels over Photoshop in any areas or is it just a good as free alternative image editing application that is best suited to people on a budget?
To answer your literal question, there are a few areas where GIMP can be better than Photoshop. It’s not particularly common (usually, at best you can expect them to do the job equally well), but it does happen. Off the top of my head (and keeping in mind that it’s been many years since I last used Photoshop), here are a few examples:
As a historical example, GIMP had content-aware fill (via a free plugin) for several years before Adobe added an equivalent feature to Photoshop.
As far as I know, Photoshop still doesn’t have anything quite equivalent to GIMP’s Color to Alpha tool, even though it’s very useful for things like replacing the background of an image while preserving soft edges. (Apparently there is an old plugin for it, but it’s 32-bit only and no longer maintained.)
GIMP has built-in support for loading and saving multiresolution icons in the .ico format, e.g. for use as favicons on the web. For Photoshop, you need to find and install a plugin or use an external converter tool.
I haven’t actually used the Adobe Camera Raw plugin in Photoshop, so I can’t really compare it in detail with GIMP’s UFRaw plugin. From what I’ve seen, Adobe’s plugin certainly has a much smoother user interface and includes a bunch of editing options that UFRaw lacks, but on the other hand, UFRaw does have a pretty advanced technical back-end and supports lots of obscure camera formats. While Camera Raw is probably nicer to use for most people, I’d be surprised if one couldn’t find anything that UFRaw does better.
I’m sure one could find quite a few more cases where GIMP does something better than Photoshop or has some feature Photoshop lacks, especially if plugins are included. (There are a lot of plugins for both GIMP and Photoshop, and not all of them have equivalents either way.) If you have both, you’ll probably find that Photoshop offers more features and/or a better user interface for most common editing tasks. But every once in a while, there are some places where GIMP manages to shine.
And of course, there are two more advantages of GIMP worth noting:
Photoshop is proprietary software, and costs money to install (and the pricing is effectively graduated so that if you want more advanced features, you need to pay more). GIMP is free software (both “free as in beer” and “free as in speech”), meaning that you don’t have to pay anything for it, can freely make as many copies as you want and even share them with others, and always get all the features.
Since anybody is free to download the source code to GIMP and compile it, GIMP runs on a lot of systems that Photoshop doesn’t support. Sure, if you’re using Windows or MacOS then you’re probably fine, but even on x86-based Linux systems, you can only run Photoshop using an API emulation layer like WINE. And just try running Photoshop on a Raspberry Pi…