21 Best Photo Editing Software for Photographers

As much as you need good equipment to photograph, you need good software to organize, edit, and improve your photos. So, to help you find the right choice, we made a list of the best photo editing software for photographers— including free options!
Best Photo Editing Software for Photographers

Choosing a compelling photo editor is hard. We know it. There are many alternatives in the market, and some of them are pretty expensive. Besides, sometimes the most popular choices are not necessarily the best for the kind of photographer you are. After all, different photographers need different tools.

That is why, in this article, you will find a helpful guide to choosing the best photo software according to your needs, preferences, and budget.

Let’s start from the basics:

How to pick the best editor? – Photo editing software quick guide

How to pick the best editor

To choose your ideal image editing program, you must evaluate some aspects:

  • Functionality: what features do you need to improve your workflow (e.g., selective editing, batch processing, management and organization tools, filters, creative presets, cloud-based storage, etc.)?
  • Interface: is it easy to use?
  • System requirements and compatibility: can the program run smoothly on your computer and operating system?
  • RAW support: can you process RAW files with it? Is it compatible with your camera model?
  • Training resources: is it easy to find books or online tutorials?
  • Software upgrades and plugins: how often are software upgrades available? Is the program compatible with third-party plugins?
  • Price and free trials: does the program fit your wallet? Does it offer a free trial version?

You can rest assured that you don’t need unlimited money to buy good photo editing software. There are plenty of excellent alternatives to suit all kinds of photographers and wallets. What’s more, you can find online solutions that can do the job without spending a single penny. So, don’t worry that much about the money. You can start from the basics and then grow as you earn more capital and experience.

That said, let’s move on to our round-up of today’s best deals for amateur and professional photo editing:

Best Photo Editing Software for Photographers

Best Photo Editing Software for Photographers

Here is a list of the best 21 photo editing tools for photographers at all skill levels. This selection includes the top picks among beginners and pros, from the most expensive and complete programs to free basic alternatives.

Note that most of the paid software alternatives offer a free trial version. So, if you are curious to see what they can do, download them for free and test them out before buying. That is the most effective way to know if a photo editor truly fits your workflow.

1. Adobe Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop

Price: various subscription plans from $9.99/month

Compatibility: Windows and Mac

Website: Adobe Photoshop

For years, Adobe Photoshop has been the number 1 professional photo editing software for most photographers worldwide. It is a feature-rich program equipped with advanced retouching tools and capabilities for photography and graphic design. With it, you can do pretty much everything you want for digital image manipulation. Plus, you can create illustrations, banners, GIFs, and much more.

One of the many great things about Photoshop is that it allows non-destructive editing by using layers and masks. However, although it is a powerful photo editing software, it is not very user-friendly. It takes a lot of time and practice to get used to it, and it has so many functions that it might be overwhelming for beginners. Yet, there are almost infinite tutorials online to master Photoshop.

Adobe Photoshop is available in several Creative Cloud subscription plans. As such a complex and expensive option, it is more suitable for professional photographers and photo editors.

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Extensive selection of professional editing tools.
  • Layers and masks for non-destructive editing.
  • Wide variety of brushes, filters, selection tools, textures.
  • It supports all image formats.
  • Popular software with many training resources.
  • Best photo editing software for professionals.

Cons:

  • It requires a monthly subscription.
  • Steep learning curve.
  • No image organization tools.
  • No batch processing capabilities.

2. Adobe Lightroom

Adobe Lightroom

Price: various subscription plans from $9.99/month

Compatibility: Windows and Mac

Website: Adobe Lightroom

Adobe Lightroom is one of the best photo editing software available in the market for the average photographer who doesn’t need to do detailed retouching. It has a wide selection of tools for good image post-processing, although it’s not as advanced as Photoshop.

Where Lightroom excels is in its options for organizing and managing photos. It is a very complete program in which you can create photo collections and categorize your images easily to have a more organized workflow. It’s perfect if you’re looking for an option that allows you to organize and edit photos in the same place.

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Excellent for organizing images and processing RAW files.
  • Perfect for fine-tuning general details (exposure, noise reduction, color correction, blur, spot removal, and more).
  • Batch processing.
  • There are many tutorials available— and it’s easy to use.
  • Camera and lens-based corrections.
  • It has many exporting options.
  • It allows you to add metadata to images (image credit, author information, keywords, etc.).

Cons:

  • It requires a subscription.
  • No advanced tools for professional photo editors.
  • No layer support.

Both Lightroom and Photoshop are available for a Creative Cloud subscription. The Photography plan includes both programs along with 20GB of cloud storage. Note that plan comes with Adobe Lightroom Classic and Lightroom CC as well. The first version is the full desktop app, while the second version is a simpler, mobile alternative.

If you want to know more details, you can compare all the best deals from Adobe.

3. Skylum Luminar AI

luminar

 

Price: $79 one-device license / $99 two-devices license

Compatibility: Windows and Mac

Website: Skylum Luminar AI

Skylum Luminar AI is one of the best photo editing software in the market right now. It uses artificial intelligence to analyze and enhance your photos in a matter of seconds. Overall, it provides pretty impressive and professional-looking results, and it is the perfect editing tool for those looking for a quick retouching process.

With Luminar AI, you get incredible editing capabilities in a convenient, user-friendly interface. Its key features include AI sky replacement, portrait and skin retouching tools, color correction, creative presets, and more. The program also provides a few organization options, but its Catalog system is not very advanced.

If you want to know more about Skylum Luminar AI, you can read our full review here!

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • It has first-class AI-powered tools for a quick editing process.
  • Perfect for both beginner and experienced photographers and photo editors.
  • Fast performance.
  • Easy to use.
  • It includes many templates and creative functions.
  • It works as a standalone app and plugin for Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom, and Apple Photos.

Cons:

  • Few options for image organization.
  • You can’t edit metadata.
  • No layers or advanced retouching capabilities.
  • Not the best choice for professional photo editors who like to have absolute control over the images.

4. Topaz Studio

Topaz Studio

Price: $99.99

Compatibility: Windows and Mac

Website: Topaz Studio

Topaz Studio is a powerful yet simple photo editing software developed for quick, creative, non-destructive photo editing using layers and masks. It is pretty intuitive, and it comes with many retouching features, filters, selective adjustments tools, and more. Additionally, it works as a standalone app or as a plugin for Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom.

One of its most impressive features is the AI Clear function, which uses artificial intelligence to remove noise while enhancing sharpness and detail. It also comes with many one-click looks to make your editing process much easier and faster.

In short, Topaz Studio is a solid photo editor, but it has no image management features. If you want to know more details about what this software has to offer, check our in-depth Topaz Studio 2 review!

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Simple interface.
  • Powerful image editing tools.
  • It uses layers and masks for non-destructive editing.
  • Several quick tutorials to get started.
  • It provides many creative one-click looks.
  • Excellent noise reduction and sharpening.

Cons:

  • No image management tools.
  • No lens profile corrections.
  • No batch editing.

5. ON1 Photo RAW

ON1 Photo RAW

Price: subscription plans from $7.99/month or perpetual license for $99.99

Compatibility: Windows and Mac

Website: ON1 Photo RAW

ON1 Photo RAW is a complete and handy image editor and organizer. It combines some of the best features from programs like Photoshop and Lightroom for a smooth, non-destructive editing workflow. It has layers, masks, countless presets and profiles, photo effects, and tools for resizing, creating HDR, panoramas, and much more.

In addition to that, ON1 Photo RAW provides a robust set of AI-powered features for enhancing portraits and reducing noise. And, as a bonus, it also offers cloud-based photo editing capabilities, meaning that you can sync your photos on multiple devices. However, that option is only available if you subscribe to a plan instead of buying a license.

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Excellent RAW processing.
  • Extensive selection of editing tools.
  • High-quality filters and functions.
  • Layer support.
  • You can integrate it seamlessly with Lightroom and Photoshop.
  • You can buy ON1 plugins separately for Photoshop, Lightroom, Affinity Photo, Corel, Apple Photos, and Capture One.

Cons:

  • The interface might be intimidating for new users.
  • Some actions run slowly.
  • You have to subscribe to access sync options.

6. Corel PaintShop Pro

Corel PaintShop Pro

Price: $79.99 for the standard version / $99.99 for the Ultimate version

Compatibility: Windows

Website: Corel PaintShop Pro

Aimed at PC users only, Corel PaintShop Pro is an affordable, one-time buy alternative to Adobe Photoshop that comes with many great tools for photo editing and graphic design.

Its most relevant features include layers, AI-powered tools for quick editing, pixel and vector editing, brushes, textures, patterns, multiple workspaces, and creative filters. On top of that, it has management and organization features for an improved workflow.

Corel PaintShop Pro is also compatible with many third-party plugins, including Adobe, DxO, Nik Collection, and Topaz Labs solutions. Moreover, there are many online training resources available to learn how to use it.

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Versatile image editing software similar to Photoshop, but at a lower cost.
  • Perfect for beginners.
  • Powerful editing tools.
  • It supports layers and masks.
  • Helpful tutorials.
  • Plugin support.

Cons:

  • No Mac OS X version.

7. DxO PhotoLab

DxO PhotoLab

Price: $129 for the Essential edition / $199 for the Elite edition

Compatibility: Windows and Mac

Website: DxO PhotoLab

DxO PhotoLab is an alternative to Lightroom for professional photographers. It has intelligent features for quick editing, creative presets, masks, brushes, and more. Besides, it also lets you make selective editing with its U-point technology.

This program has an excellent performance in terms of image processing, color correction, and noise reduction capabilities. It also has plenty of management tools but still lags behind Lightroom in that field. However, you can integrate DxO PhotoLab to Lightroom Classic seamlessly to have the best of both worlds.

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Excellent, versatile editing features with outstanding RAW processing.
  • It allows local adjustments.
  • User-friendly and customizable interface.
  • Powerful noise reduction.
  • Camera and lens-based corrections.
  • Complete photo editing software with image management tools.

Cons:

  • High-level denoising takes longer.
  • It doesn’t have layers or advanced retouching features.

8. Adobe Photoshop Elements

Adobe Photoshop Elements

Price: $99.99

Compatibility: Windows and Mac

Website: Adobe Photoshop Elements

Adobe Photoshop Elements is a simpler and more affordable version of Photoshop. It has many features from the full version, like layers, actions, filters, histograms, artistic effects, brushes, and more. Plus, it offers a few tools to organize and classify your photos, including face- and geo-tagging.

On top of that, it uses Adobe Sensei AI technology (Adobe’s artificial intelligence system) to get more creative within your editing process. With it, you can colorize photos automatically, create GIFs from static images, make one-click selections, remove distractions, and open closed eyes on a subject. Moreover, Photoshop Elements also has a Face-Tilt function, which adjusts the position of a person’s face.

This option is one the best photo editing software for novices, as it gives you plenty of control and flexibility to manipulate your images, but it is still easy to use.

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Perfect for beginners.
  • It has a wide selection of image manipulation tools.
  • The organizer allows you to classify your photos, add tags, search images, and more.
  • It has AI-powered features for quick editing.
  • It provides layers, filters, actions, artistic effects, creative functions, and many more tools.
  • It has guided edits to help novices achieve professional-quality editing.

Cons:

  • No chromatic aberration correction.
  • Few sharing options.

9. GIMP

GIMP

Price: free

Compatibility: Windows, Mac, and Linux

Website: GIMP

GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is the best free photo editing software for photographers worldwide. It is an open-source app that works as an alternative to Photoshop, and it gives you the chance to change the code yourself to fix errors and improve the software.

Overall, GIMP is a pretty complete solution for all kinds of photographers. It supports almost any file format and comes with all the basics for photo enhancement (noise reduction, blur, sharpen, exposure, curves, cropping and resizing, etc.). Besides, it has advanced editing tools, such as layers, masks, brushes, filters, and more.

However, although GIMP is pretty impressive, it is hard to understand for beginners. It has a similar interface to Photoshop, but there is no guidance to help you get started.

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Free alternative with professional-like features.
  • It has a great selection of photo editing tools, including layers.
  • It allows you to change its code for increased functionality.
  • It supports many plugins.
  • It has RAW support.

Cons:

  • No batch processing.
  • It may have several bugs.
  • Steep learning curve.

10. Phase One Capture One

Phase One Capture One

Price: subscription plans from $19/month or perpetual licenses from $199 (depending on your camera brand)

Compatibility: Windows and Mac

Website: Capture One

Capture One is an alternative to Adobe Lightroom equipped with some Photoshop-like features. It is mainly aimed at professional photographers as it is a pretty expensive option. Yet, it provides excellent RAW processing (if not the best) and advanced photo editing tools for the most experienced users.

Its features include layers, masks, style brushes, presets, and much more. Additionally, Capture One has catalogs, keywords, filters, and many other helpful functions for organizing your photos.

This photo editor provides superior performance compared to other software, even when handling heavy files. Moreover, it has a customizable workspace and offers outstanding noise reduction and color editing features. In a nutshell, Capture One is fastflexible, and powerful.

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Top-notch RAW file processing.
  • High-end photo editing tools.
  • Highly customizable.
  • Fast.
  • Good noise reduction.
  • It includes many features for managing photos.

Cons:

  • Expensive.
  • No cloud storage.
  • Difficult for beginners.

11. Cyberlink PhotoDirector 365

Cyberlink PhotoDirector 365

Price: $40.99 per year

Compatibility: Windows and Mac

Website: Cyberlink PhotoDirector 365

PhotoDirector 365 is a powerful photo editing software designed for fast, creative editing in a user-friendly interface. It includes AI-powered tools, filters, visual effects, layers, masks, regional adjustments tools, photo animation features, face and body enhancements, and more. Also, it has a photo library that supports keyword tagging and face recognition for easy image organization.

Although you could buy a lifetime license, a subscription will get you more features and value for money. For example, you can access Shutterstock content (photos and audio files), LUTs color presetsstyle packs, fonts, and more benefits. However, a subscription model is more expensive in the long term.

In simple words, PhotoDirector 365 is a professional photo editing software that remains easy to use and intuitive for beginners. And, it also has an online learning center to help you get started.

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Easy to use.
  • Pro-level image retouching features and filters.
  • Eye-catching visual effects for creative editing.
  • It has AI-based functions for sky replacement, quick selections, style effects, and more.
  • It provides photo animations and effects for content creators.
  • Online tutorials.

Cons:

  • The best features are available for subscription users only.
  • It lacks some recent camera and lens profiles.

12. Serif Affinity Photo

Serif Affinity Photo

Price: $54.99

Compatibility: Windows and Mac

Website: Affinity Photo

Affinity Photo is another great photo editing software that works as an affordable alternative to Photoshop. It features layers, masks, custom brushes, digital painting, RAW conversion, 360° photo editing, color correction, and advanced tools for image enhancement. In other words, it is a complete suite for photo manipulation at a low cost.

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Professional-grade features.
  • Inexpensive.
  • RAW processing.
  • Batch editing.
  • Layer support.

Cons:

  • It lacks organizational tools.
  • No customizable workspace.

13. Zoner Photo Studio X

Zoner Photo Studio X

Price: $4.99 per month

Compatibility: Windows

Website: Zoner Photo Studio X

This is a comprehensive photo editor for PC users only. It includes layers, masks, filters, RAW processing, online storage, image catalogs, and lots of tools and presets for image editing. What’s more, it also provides a few video editing capabilities to create presentations, time-lapses, and videos from your photos.

Generally speaking, this is a solid choice for Windows users, especially in terms of usabilitycolor editing, and social media integration.

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Clean interface.
  • Online storage.
  • Image cataloging.
  • RAW support.
  • Wide selection of tools, filters, and presets.
  • Excellent color management.
  • Non-destructive editing workflow.

Cons:

  • No Mac version.
  • It lacks some camera and lens profiles.

14. ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate

Price: subscription plan at $8.99/month or perpetual license for $149.99

Compatibility: Windows

Website: ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate is an all-in-one photo editing software equipped with powerful functions for image manipulation. It is a good option for Windows users as it provides many tools similar to Photoshop and Lightroom, but it has much faster performance.

Overall, it has plenty of features for non-destructive editing (including layers), RAW support, cloud integration, LUTs, and cataloging— just to mention a few.

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Fast and responsive.
  • Comprehensive photo editing software and image manager.
  • Name suggestions for Facial Recognition functions.
  • No importing is needed.

Cons:

  • No Mac version.
  • Not the best choice for professional photo editors.

15. Exposure

Exposure

Price: $129

Compatibility: Windows and Mac

Website: Exposure Software

Exposure is an intuitive, versatile software for image editing and organization that provides creative tools, 500+ customizable presets, textures, layers, masks, portrait retouching, and more. It works as a standalone app or plugin for Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom.

Overall, this is a great photo editor because of its rich set of features and customizable interface. Still, where it shines the most is in its fast performance, thanks to its GPU optimized processing engine.

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Fast.
  • Intuitive and customizable interface.
  • Wide selection of creative tools, filters, presets, one-click adjustments.
  • It allows selective editing.
  • Layer and mask support.

Cons:

  • No face- or geo-tagging options.
  • No chromatic aberration correction.

16. InPixio Photo Studio

InPixio Photo Studio

Price: $49.99 Standard / $59.99 Pro

Compatibility: Windows and Mac

Website: InPixio Photo Studio

InPixio image editor is an affordable, simple to use, and fun alternative for beginner photographers. It provides a handy set of tools to edit photos easily, including features for sky replacement, object removal, quick selections, LUTs, filters, one-click image corrections, background eraser, and more.

On top of that, this photo editor doesn’t need any fancy system requirements, so it’s perfect for those who can’t afford a high-end computer but still want to try compelling editing software.

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Easy to use.
  • It includes creative tools, filters, presets, effects, clone stamping, object removal, etc.
  • RAW support.
  • It has a photo montage function.
  • Low system requirements— 8GB RAM minimum and Intel Core i3 processor or better.

Cons:

  • No batch processing.
  • Not suitable for professionals.
  • Lack of advanced organizational tools.

17. Pixlr

pixlr

Price: free

Compatibility: online

Website: Pixlr

Pixlr is one of the best online photo editing software, and it is also available as a desktop app. It is completely free, and it offers two different versions: Pixlr X for quick edits, and Pixlr E for pro-level photo editing.

Despite being a free solution, it has excellent features that match some paid options, so it is a great starting point for novices. Its interface looks pretty similar to Photoshop, and it has advanced tools (including layer and mask support), filters, visual effects, and more. Plus, it provides templates and one-click looks for creating easy designs.

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Clear interface.
  • Free online photo editing software.
  • Great for beginners.
  • Wide selection of tools for image retouching, collages, and quick designs.
  • Layer support.

Cons:

  • Annoying ads. You can opt for a paid plan if you want to remove ads and get more features.
  • Not a professional editing tool.

18. Movavi Picverse Photo Editor

Movavi Picverse Photo Editor

Price: $59.95 for a lifetime license

Compatibility: Windows and Mac

Website: Movavi Photo Editor

Movavi Photo Editor is a comprehensive photo editing software equipped with AI-powered features for quick and easy editing. It’s best suited for novices and intermediate users, and it has a simple and intuitive interface.

Its most relevant tools include background and object removal, RAW image support, light and color correction, noise reduction, portrait retouching, sharpening, and text insertion.

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Easy to use.
  • Low system requirements.
  • RAW support.
  • Creative tools and filters.
  • AI-powered functions for picture enhancement, old photos restoration, and more.

Cons:

  • Limited free version.
  • Not a good choice for experienced photographers.

19. PhotoWorks

PhotoWorks

Price: from $19.25

Compatibility: Windows

Website: PhotoWorks

PhotoWorks is a straightforward photo editor designed for quick and automated editing for beginners. This software has numerous one-click effects and presets to choose from, as well as content-aware auto-correction to adjust lighting, contrast, and color balance.

Additionally, PhotoWorks has intelligent features for portrait enhancement, including skin smoothing, blemish removal, and even a tool for slimming the face. It also provides basic retouching features, perspective correction, captions, watermarks, magical brushes, background replacement, and batch processing.

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Easy to use.
  • Intelligent features for quick editing.
  • It is a simple photo editing software for novices.
  • It provides RAW support.

Cons:

  • No Mac version.
  • No layer support.

20. Darktable

Darktable

Price: free

Compatibility: Windows, Mac, and Linux

Website: darktable

Darktable is a free photo editor and organizer designed to process RAW images with a non-destructive workflow. In simple words, it is an open-source app that works as an alternative to Lightroom with a pretty similar interface.

Despite being a free photo software option, it has an extensive set of features, including professional color management, tethered shooting, curves, chromatic aberration correction, watermarks, artistic effects, and many more. It is a strong competitor against the most popular paid editing programs in the market.

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Free and cross-platform.
  • Great image management system.
  • Feature-rich and versatile.
  • It has many exporting options.
  • Professional-grade functions.

Cons:

  • No mobile versions.

21. Photopea

Photopea

Price: free

Compatibility: online

Website: Photopea

Photopea is an online photo editor that is almost like an exact copy of Photoshop, but free! It can open a wide range of image formats and files, including RAW photos. Plus, it comes with many templates to design banners, flyers, and social media posts.

As for its photo editing capabilities, Photopea has all the basics for image manipulation— and a bit more. It has layers, masks, curves, filters, histograms, brushes, and most features you could find in pro-level software.

Honestly, Photopea might be a good choice for beginner photographers who want to get used to Photoshop, as it has a similar layout and shares common keyboard shortcuts.

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Online free photo editor for beginners.
  • It supports RAW, PSD, XCF, Sketch, XD, and CDR files.
  • It can save PSD files.
  • Wide selection of Photoshop-like tools.
  • Versatile, easy to use, and effective.
  • You don’t need to create an account to use it.

Cons:

  • It lacks some advanced retouching features.
  • It may crash when handling heavy files with multiple layers.
  • Annoying ads. You can opt for a paid Premium version to get rid of ads and access more features.

Other free photo editing software alternatives

  • Fotor
  • Polarr
  • Raw Therapee
  • PhotoScape
  • Adobe Photoshop Express

Which photo editing software is best for beginners?

Which photo editing software is best for beginners

Skylum Luminar AI is arguably the best photo editing software for beginners due to its intuitive interface, high-end toolkit, and AI-based features for easy, fast, and pro-level retouching. Yet, note that it is not an image management tool.

What is the best free picture editor?

GIMP is the best free photo editor available as it provides most of the features you get with Photoshop but in an open-source app. However, it takes time to get used to it. So, if you want a flexible, powerful, and straightforward free alternative, you might go with Darktable, which is also helpful for image management.

Wrap up

wrap up

Trying to look for the best photo editing software will always depend on your needs, personal taste, and budget. There is no winning program that works well for everyone. Therefore, it is crucial to make a list of priorities when looking for an editing program and compare the pros and cons of all possible candidates. Hopefully, this article will help you get a firmer starting point for your decision.

If you want more lists of recommended software, reviews, and tutorials, check our Photo Editing section!

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