The Best Photo Editing Software of 2021

Our photo editing software reviews are the result of over 40 hours of research on 45+ photo editing software companies from across the web. These reviews and our photo editing software guide help small businesses and startups find the best photo editing software for their business.

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How We Chose the Best Photo Editing Software

Whether you’re a design professional creating high-end art or advertising or you just want to make memes from photos you took on your phone, you need photo editing software to help you finish your task. We’ve evaluated the top contenders based on the factors that we think are most important: editing tools, efficiency solutions, and integrations.

Editing Tools

We recommend software that provides a wide selection of editing tools, including RAW editing, noise reduction, and color editing. Other valuable editing tools include:

  • Image enhancement:With these tools, you can resize images, increase or decrease contrast, crop images, make images darker or lighter, and remove unwanted reflections.
  • Photo restoration: These tools allow you to work with older photos, including physical photos that haven’t held up well with time. Photo restoration tools let you restore crease lines and tears, lost color and tone, faded colors, and missing areas of the photo.
  • Image clipping: Use these tools to add realistic shadows, remove backgrounds or distractions, and retouch photos.
  • Image manipulation: When you want to create something new, these tools allow you to colorize photos, add elements to existing photos, and composite photos together.

Efficiency Solutions

Professional graphic designers need to work quickly and efficiently, so we paid close attention to the efficiency solutions available in the photo editing software we reviewed. With efficiency tools like batch processing, you can edit up to hundreds of photos at once, adding filters and resizing across multiple photos. Edit history features also increase efficiency, with versioning allowing you to correct mistakes easily and get the most out of your images.

Integrations

Photo editing doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Your toolbox gets bigger and more functional when your photo editing software has the ability to integrate seamlessly with other image editing and photography tools, as well as third-party plug-ins. Working with pre-built integrations brings a layer of convenience to your editing work and frees up creativity.

The 15 Best Photo Editing Software Programs of 2021

CompanyPriceFree Trial/DemoMore
Adobe Lightroom ClassicStarts at $9.99/month7-day free trialVisit Adobe
Anthropics PortraitproStarts at $54.95Free trialVisit Anthropics Portraitpro
CyberLink PhotoDirector$14.99/month

One-time purchase of $79.99
30-day free trialVisit CyberLink
Digital Photo ProfessionalFreeFree to useVisit Canon
ExposureStarts at $12930-day free trialVisit Exposure
FotorBasic: Free
Pro: $8.99/month
Free version availableVisit Fotor
InkscapeFreeFree to useVisit Inkscape
Movavi Photo EditorStarts at $44.95Free trialVisit Movavi
Nikon Capture NX-D For NikonFreeFree to useVisit Nikon
Paint.netFreeFree to useVisit Paint
Phase One Capture One ProStarts at $20/month30-day free trialVisit Capture One
Photo Pos ProFreeFree to useVisit Photo Pos
Pixlr EditorBasic: Free
Premium: $4.90/month
Professional: $14.99/month
Free version availableVisit Pixlr
Serif Affinity PhotoiPad: $19.99
Mac or Windows: $49.99
Free trialVisit Serif Affinity
Skylum LuminarLuminar 4 license: $139
Plus bundle: $77
Max Bundle: $199
30-day money-back guaranteeVisit Skylum

Adobe Lightroom Classic

Adobe
Adobe Lightroom Classic is aimed at professional photographers. While you may have previously known it as “Lightroom,” that title is now targeted at consumers, is only available on the cloud, and doesn’t contain all the features professionals are likely to need. Lightroom Classic, on the other hand, delivers the ability to import, correct, and organize all your photos. Its smooth workflow interface pairs with adjustment tools aimed at correcting and modifying lighting, geometry, and color, as well as lens-based correction tools. The software also provides superb organization and management tools, and it supports plug-ins and mobile apps.

Lightroom Classic continues to receive regular updates to its features, including interface updates. Recently added features include a texture slider, custom ISO-based presets, local hue adjustments, an Enhance Details tool, and flat-field correction tools. Other useful features include panorama stitching tools, HDR tools, and facial recognition. While Lightroom Classic handles cloud integrations and has a mobile app, it’s primarily designed for desktop use, with original photos stored on your local hard drive rather than in the cloud (as is the case with Lightroom).

PriceFree Trial/DemoFeatures
Starts at $9.99/month7-day free trial>Deployment: Windows
>Support options: Chat
>Features include RAW editing, color editing, and control and noise reduction
>More features at Adobe

Pros & Cons of Adobe Lightroom Classic Photo Editing Software
Adobe Lightroom Classic streamlines the work involved with processing large photo sessions, with batch editing features that are straightforward and easy to use. The ability to shoot tethered speeds up photo shoots, and the flexibility to make minute adjustments of color, exposure, and more helps photographers get the exact shot they want. However, the software’s file libraries and collections can be confusing.

ProsCons
>Face detection and tagging capabilities help with organization
>Clean, easy-to-use interface
>Seamless integration with Photoshop and other parts of the Adobe Creative Suite
>Requires a subscription
>No integrations

What Customers Are Saying
Customers tend to view Adobe Lightroom Classic as the state-of-the-art software against which other contenders are compared, saying they “can’t think of a better product/software for photography editing and retouching.” They praise its “flexibility” and its “ability to save and upload presets.” However, some users find that the catalogs “aren’t as easy to navigate and switch between.”

 

CyberLink PhotoDirector

Cyberlink
CyberLink PhotoDirector combines some of the best features of Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop, and Photoshop Elements. This feature-rich photo editing software provides a clean, simple workflow with a user interface that’s powerful yet welcoming. It offers tethered support while you’re shooting, and lets you get creative with proprietary AI style effects that add painterly techniques to your toolkit. Stock catalogs are available, including a vast audio library for slideshows, as are professional design packs to give you a jump start on your projects.

CyberLink PhotoDirector updates regularly, with recent additions including new color tools, deblurring capabilities, and new text choices, including text kerning. Other powerful features include glitch effects, drawing tools, a body-slimming tool, dispersion and light ray effects, and photo animation. Express layer templates take the complexity out of photo editing, while the motion and multi-exposure tools can harness the vitality of video in a single image.

PriceFree Trial/DemoFeatures
$14.99/month
$43.99/year
One-time purchase of $79.99
30-day free trial>Deployment: Windows, Mac
>Support options: Live support
>Features include noise reduction, edit history, and color editing
>More features at CyberLink

Pros & Cons of CyberLink PhotoDirector Photo Editing Software
Users of PhotoDirector appreciate the content removal tool, which makes it easy to remove power lines or other unwanted objects from the image. The face and body beautifying tools are powerful and useful, and the workflow is intuitive. However, CyberLink doesn’t integrate well with Microsoft Office, which can cause problems.

ProsCons
>AI style effects tools are powerful and unique
>Content removal tool is useful
>Easy to work with 3D images
>Interface can be slow and unresponsive
>No integrations

What Customers Are Saying
Customers find that the “wide variety of filters/presets is extremely useful,” and especially appreciate the ability to correct the angles of objects. They also appreciate the design of the user interface and the “advanced features like multi-layering and merging multiple photos.” However, customers dislike the fact that the “software can only be installed on one computer,” complaining of issues when the software crashes.

Digital Photo Professional

Canon
Digital Photo Professional is the photo editing software that comes free with the purchase of any EOS camera from Canon. The software works seamlessly with EOS features, such as Picture Styles and Auto Lighting Optimizer, making it possible to output high-quality images shooting in either RAW or JPEG formats. Noise reduction features allow you to create smooth gradations, and DPP also lets you adjust white balance during editing.

Several of DPP’s features begin with tools present in the EOS camera, and the software allows you to take advantage of them during photo editing. In most cases, these in-camera adjustments are lost if other photo editing software is used. DPP’s Picture Style settings let you sharpen images and adjust color, saturation, and contrast when working with the in-camera image. In addition, the Auto Lighting Optimizer, a feature that syncs between the camera and DPP, balances lighting in backlit or side-lit situations. Without DPP, the EOS camera function that controls the lighting is stripped out. DPP also handles lens aberrations in sync with the EOS camera, adjusting for peripheral illumination, chromatic aberration, and distortion within the camera first, then carrying it over to the editing software.

PriceFree Trial/DemoFeatures
FreeFree to use>Deployment: Windows
>Support options: email
>Features include edit history, RAW editing, and layers
>More features at Canon

Pros & Cons of Digital Photo Professional Photo Editing Software
Photographers who use Canon EOS cameras consider DPP to be faster than any other software when it comes to RAW editing. It saves time because it recognizes the picture style setting from the camera and works with that information. However, the software is only valuable for people working with Canon EOS cameras.

ProsCons
>Free with Canon EOS camera
>Auto-control produces realistic colors
>No noise reduction

What Customers Are Saying
Customers who use Canon EOS cameras appreciate the way Digital Photo Professional “will read the additional camera data and preset DPP accordingly,” pointing out that the software can “correct vignetting and chromatic aberration” automatically, with manual overrides available. However, while they appreciate the technical capabilities of DPP, some professional photographers lament that it does not “fit well into an Adobe workflow.”

Exposure

exposure
Exposure, which was known as “Alien Skin” until 2018, is a photo editing tool that’s easy to use right out of the box. The software lets you layer effects, masking each layer as it’s applied to your underlying image, and then Exposure lets you save these layers and effects as customized presets for future use in fine art and portrait image editing. Because the software opens RAW, JPEG, PSD, DNG, and other formats, it’s usable from end to end during your editing workflow. The software integrates smoothly with Photoshop and Lightroom as a plug-in.

Exposure’s creative photo editing features set it apart from other more utilitarian programs, with tools that include artistic focus effects, tilt-shift effects, and an advanced color editor, in addition to the ability to create realistic film grain. Its menu of overlays includes a wide variety of borders, light effects, and textures, and its workflow design doesn’t overload your hard drive. Transitioning between organizing and editing is seamless with no need to switch from one module to another. Other features include non-destructive layers, portrait retouching tools, advanced masking tools, and one-click adjustments.

PriceFree Trial/DemoFeatures
Starts at $12930-day free trial>Deployment: Windows, Mac
>Support options: Business hours, online
>Features include RAW editing, edit history, and color editing
>More features at Exposure

Pros & Cons of Exposure Photo Editing Software
Exposure provides a full photo workflow that’s packed with hundreds of presets and useful overlays, filters, and effects. The ability to work with layers and make minute local adjustments is a big plus, as is the software’s user-friendly interface. However, Exposure lacks autocorrect tools and doesn’t incorporate tagging of any kind, making it less useful for many tasks.

ProsCons
>Analog film effects to create unique images
>Useful cataloging and organizing functions
>Nondestructive layering and masking
>No panorama stitching

What Customers Are Saying
Professional photographers appreciate having Exposure’s “fully-fledged editing suite to make their workflow as efficient as possible,” and they consider it “very responsive.” The “vast library of quick yet professional-looking presets” also wins praise. However, they point out that Exposure is “not the fastest search tool out there.”

Fotor

Fotor
Fotor is an online photo editor that offers free and paid versions that are equally user-friendly. Its intuitive user interface makes it easy for both professional and recreational photographers to edit photos creatively without extensive training or skills. Both the basic and premium versions provide tools to handle contrast, cropping, blurring, rotating, red eye removal, and saturation, among others. The color correction sliders allow real-time changes, and the ability to add text to an image is simple as well.

Fotor provides preset templates for making collages of all sorts and sizes, as well as hundreds of premade poster templates that make it easy to incorporate photos into graphics. Its beauty retouching tools allow reshaping of both face and body as well as other fine tuning for portraits. Its wide range of photo editing effects and features includes background removal, tilt-shift, resizing and cropping, straightening, and mosaic effects.

PriceFree Trial/DemoFeatures
Basic: Free
Pro: $8.99/month
$39.99/year
Free version available>Deployment: Windows, Mac
>Support options: email
>Features include noise reduction, batch editing, and RAW editing
>More features at Fotor

Pros & Cons of Fotor Photo Editing Software
Fotor offers strong collage and poster template options, and its filters and effects make adjustments simple. The user interface is highly intuitive and easy to use without requiring much training. However, the site sometimes freezes, causing users to lose their work, and it lacks a background removal feature.

ProsCons
>Excellent layout and navigation
>User-friendly for beginning photo editors
>More than 100 filters and effects
>No integrations
>No non-destructive layers

What Customers Are Saying
Customers appreciate the “seamless and fluid user experience” that Fotor provides and the fact that recreational photographers can use it easily, pointing out that, “Not all users need an advanced photo editor.” They praise its usefulness in the “creation of attractive collages.” However, they express frustration that clicking on elements within the app frequently causes it to “open and load in a new tab” and find it “lacking some of the features that I really need.”

Inkscape

Inkscape
Inkscape is a vector graphics program that can also be used for photo editing and manipulation. This free program also boasts a large community of users that share tips and tricks to expand the software’s capabilities. Inkscape takes designers from the rough sketch stage to final publication, using vector design to create illustrations, logos, web graphics, engineering CAD, animation, and other art that requires significant scalability. Available on Inkscape are tools to facilitate object creation and manipulation, including embedded bitmaps, object grouping, shaping tools, transformation tools, and drawing tools. Inkscape also handles text manipulation and rendering.

Inkscape’s outlining, filling, and clipping tools make it possible to import photos into the app and edit them, allowing them to be saved as PNGs. The app is particularly useful for graphic designers who want to incorporate photos into their larger works.

PriceFree Trial/DemoFeatures
FreeFree to use>Deployment: Windows
>Features include edit history, RAW editing, and noise reduction
>Supports integrations
>More features at Inkscape

Pros & Cons of Inkscape Photo Editing Software
As open source software, Inkscape is not only free, it’s also home to a large community of users who help each other and improve the app’s tools. It’s possible to work with PDF files natively using Inkscape, and its interface is user-friendly. However, its open source nature can require a steep learning curve, and the workarounds to compensate for missing features can be awkward.

ProsCons
>Free, open source software
>Exports to many file formats
>Can implement new features via scripts
>No panorama stitching
>No non-destructive layers

What Customers Are Saying
Besides the fact that Inkscape is free, customers appreciate that the app “doesn’t take up much storage space as other designer products.” They also praise the “awesome online community” that offers “loads of documentation online on how to use” the software. However, some users find Inkscape “very limited” and cite its “compatibility problems.”

Movavi Photo Editor

movavi
Movavi Photo Editor is a free app that provides the basics of photo editing for professional and recreational photographers alike. It provides features such as noise reduction, basic photo manipulation tools, and photo compression to save space on your hard drive. The software also offers photo restoration tools to help with digitizing and recovering old photos that have been damaged as hard copy. Retouching portraits is easy, with a plethora of tools that focus on different sections of the face to allow fine-grained adjustments. In addition, Movavi provides filters designed to prep photos for display on social media, including titling capabilities.

Movavi’s Picverse app, which is available for both iOS and Android platforms, facilitates photo editing on mobile devices. The software enables organization and management of photos, and its slideshow maker is intuitive and easy to use. Movavi also hosts a large library of stock photos, photo effects, and a stock audio library for producing professional-looking slideshows and other presentations.

PriceFree Trial/DemoFeatures
Starts at $44.95Free trial>Deployment: Windows, Mac
>Support options: email
>Features include color editing, noise reduction, and batch processing
>More features at Movavi

Pros & Cons of Movavi Photo Editor
The effects and filters on Movavi Photo Editor are easy to apply to photos, with graphics effects divided neatly into 13 categories for ease of use. The app encourages creativity without making large demands on your operating system. However, Movavi doesn’t include organizational tools in its photo editor, and it doesn’t facilitate photo sharing.

ProsCons
>Large number of well-categorized graphics effects
>Frames and collages
>Easy text addition
>No integrations
>No non-destructive layers

What Customers Are Saying
Customers of Movavi Photo Editor appreciate the fact that the app delivers “so many different filters, effects, frames, and textures,” saying that their “editing looks original now.” They particularly like the photo restoration tool’s ability to “fix old scanned photos.” However, they wish “more features like annotations and batch functions” were added to the app.

Nikon Capture NX-D for Nikon

nikon
Nikon Capture NX-D is designed for photo editing with Nikon cameras, with support for all current and older cameras that output NEF and NRW files. The software is free and available for download online. It allows you to fine-tune your photos by adjusting hue, brightness, warmth, contrast, saturation, and other photo properties. Other tools let you reduce and compensate for diffraction so you can fix unwanted image blurring. RAW editing and batch processing are available for images captured directly from your Nikon camera.

Capture NX-D practices non-destructive editing, so the changes you make never affect your RAW photo, and migration is always consistent. Adjustment of levels is easy, and the user interface has a flexible layout that allows you to move floating palettes wherever you need them. Capture NX-D integrates smoothly with Adobe Photoshop, Camera Control Pro 2, and other programs.

PriceFree Trial/DemoFeatures
FreeFree to use>Deployment: Windows, Mac
>Support options: email, live support
>Features include panorama stitching, RAW editing, and non-destructive editing
>More features at Nikon

Pros & Cons of Nikon Capture NX-D Photo Editing Software
Nikon Capture NX-D is free, which makes it the photo editing software of choice for many photographers shooting with Nikon 1-series, DSLRs, and compact cameras. The addition of non-destructive editing enhances the program’s usefulness, as does the ability to work with multiple monitors during editing. However, the inability to save settings and the lack of masking tools are disappointing.

ProsCons
>Good retouching tools
>Nondestructive editing capability
>Free to Nikon camera owners
>No integrations

What Customers Are Saying
Customers appreciate the speed of Nikon Capture NX-D, considering it “a great tool if you use Nikon DSLRs.” They find the color control tools easy to use and cite the noise reduction tools and non-destructive editing as pluses. However, many customers point out a tendency for the program to crash and say that Capture NX-D “doesn’t play well with other apps.”

Paint.net

getpaint.net
This full-featured photo editing software offers an intuitive user interface and plenty of tools with a smart layout that lets users reposition their screens as they choose. Tools allow you to add text, apply effects and filters to photos, and add layers for detailed image manipulation, with plenty of preset options to choose from. It hits a nice midrange, sitting between the extremely complex programs packed with advanced features that many photographers will never need and the bare-bones basic programs aimed primarily at recreational photographers.

Paint.net was originally a free program that replaced Microsoft Paint, which was bundled with earlier versions of Windows. Because of this background, it hosts an active online community of users who constantly create new plug-ins and tutorials to expand the software’s offerings. Among its popular features are its unlimited undo capacity and wide range of effects.

PriceFree Trial/DemoFeatures
FreeFree to use>Deployment: Windows
>Support options: email
>Features include batch processing, color editing, and non-destructive editing
>More features at Paint.net

Pros & Cons of Paint.net Photo Editing Software
Because Paint.net’s more advanced features are added via plug-ins, users only have to install what they actually need. The software has a simple learning curve, making it ideal for people who don’t do much photo editing. However, the app only lets you view one image at a time, slowing the editing process.

ProsCons
>Effective set of core tools
>Doesn't require steep learning curve
>Online community constant creates new plug-ins
>No integrations
>Only available on Windows

What Customers Are Saying
Customers who are happy with Paint.net point out that the program is “as powerful as the Adobe products with as large a user database and with hundreds of add-ons.” They also describe it as “flexible and user-friendly.” However, working in specific areas “requires a steady hand or a solid color,” and some users find Paint.net difficult to use on a tablet.

Phase One Capture One Pro

captureone
Capture One Pro allows photographers to tether cameras from several manufacturers, including Sony, Canon, Mamiya Leaf, Nikon, and Fujifilm, making it possible to capture photos straight to the computer while shooting remotely. The app lets you tag and rate photos while making them searchable, and it provides full organizational features. Both automatic and manual tools handle color grading and exposure issues for full editing of RAW files. The color editor is intuitive, and the user interface can be customized to keep the tools you use most right at hand. The app syncs smoothly with Lightroom as well to import whole catalogs.

Capture One Pro’s Heal Brush feature makes it easy to remove objects from photos with automated masking, while the Clone Brush lets you move objects. The app’s Before/After tool provides a one-click review that compares edited images with the original RAW file. You can also tailor color control to your camera before making adjustments with a wide supply of color editing tools. Custom lens profiles help minimize distortion, and 16 edit layers are available along with multiple masking choices.

PriceFree Trial/DemoFeatures
Starts at $20/month30-day free trial>Deployment: Windows, Mac
>Support options: Business hours, online
>Features include batch processing, integrations, and RAW editing
>More features at Capture One Pro

Pros & Cons of Capture One Pro Photo Editing Software
The simple, well-designed user interface of Capture One Pro allows access to advanced photo editing tools in an intuitive fashion. The ability to add keywords, ratings, and tags to photos makes for easy organization and fast search. However, there’s a fairly steep learning curve, and the tutorials could use improvement.

ProsCons
>Wide tethering capability
>Settings pre-tailored to lenses
>Excellent folder organization
>No edit history
>No panorama stitching

What Customers Are Saying
Customers of Capture One speak highly of the software, saying, “Switching to Capture One is the best thing I’ve done for my creativity.” They praise specific tools such as the Heal Brush, calling it “every retoucher’s dream,” and appreciate the way the app “helps me edit large batches of photos faster and create professional-grade photos for my clients.”

Photo Pos Pro

Photo-Pos-Pro
Photo Pos Pro wants to be a photo editor for both expert and novice photographers. To that end, the program provides separate interfaces to suit photographers’ needs and abilities. Choosing Novice mode removes some editing options from your palette, including the ability to work with layers. As a free program, Photo Pos Pro’s professional side wants to position itself as a Photoshop alternative, offering a plethora of tools, including the useful Magic Eraser. On the Novice side, the user interface is clear and uncluttered, and a well-designed Help system provides a step-by-step introduction to photo editing and enhancement.

Among the many tools available on the Premium side of Photo Pos Pro are special effects, layering, masking, pattern and texture tools, and tools for graphic design. Batch processing is supported, and a wide variety of collage and frame options is available. In addition, the Photo Pos Pro community continues to create extensions and plug-ins to expand the capabilities of the app.

PriceFree Trial/DemoFeatures
FreeFree to use>Deployment: Windows, Mac
>Support options: email
>Features include edit history, noise reduction, and integrations
>More features at Photo Pos Pro

Pros & Cons for Photo Pos Pro Photo Editing Software
Photo Pos Pro offers non-destructive editing to allow photographers to layer effects, and it provides excellent tutorials, especially for novice photo editors. Its customizable interface makes this an app for photographers at every experience level. However, it can be a slow program to work with, especially when doing complex photo manipulation.

ProsCons
>Precision tools for repair and editing
>Layering and masking options
>Supports most photo file formats
>Limited customer service

What Customers Are Saying
Customers appreciate the “powerful adjustments and enhancements” available in Photo Pos Pro, as well as the fact that “it supports any file format.” They point out that the app’s Novice mode is “very well thought out, with everything being very clear, easy to locate, and easy to identify.” However, frequent lack of response from customer service makes some users wonder “if support will bother to answer” in case of a problem.

Pixlr Editor

Pixlr
Pixlr is a Flash-based suite of photo editing tools that comes in free, premium, and professional versions to satisfy the needs of all levels of photographers and photo editors. Even when accessing Pixlr on the web, users’ photos are kept private, and the editing tools are accessible regardless of browser or operating system. Pixlr is also available on iOS and Android mobile platforms for use in the field. It contains simple tools for quick fixes and retouching on images, and it’s easy to use without complex training.

Pixlr’s AI tools make it easy to remove unwanted images from backgrounds, and the app uses toggles and sliders for speedy control of image manipulation. An ample library of overlays, icons, stickers, borders, and decorative text options makes it easy to prepare photos for publication. Professional photographers can enjoy an advanced set of image manipulation and editing tools with the same intuitive interface as the free version of the program.

PriceFree Trial/DemoFeatures
Basic: Free
Premium: $4.90/month
Professional: $14.99/month
Free version available>Deployment: Windows, Mac
>Support options: email
>Features include panorama stitching, batch editing, and color editing
>More features at Pixlr

Pros & Cons of Pixlr Photo Editing Software
Photographers with no background or training in photo editing find Pixlr easy and intuitive to use. Its premade filters help speed up the editing process, and the Pixlr community, known as the Pixlr Marketplace, serves as an excellent content creation resource. However, it lacks tools that similar programs offer, including cloning and healing brushes.

ProsCons
>Intuitive and well-designed interface
>Large library of stock images, overlays, and stickers
>Magic Wand tool for removing background objects
>Limited customer support

What Customers Are Saying
Users of Pixlr appreciate that the app “has all the necessary tools for simple edits,” and find it “practical and intelligent,” especially “for small business owners and one-man-show businesses.” They’re also fans of the Pixlr Marketplace community, which “offers beautiful inspiration to our design team.” However, they point out that some tools are “very slow and buggy,” even when working with small images.

Serif Affinity Photo

Serif-Affinity-Photo
Serif’s Affinity line provides plenty of high-end media creation tools, with Serif Affinity Photo focused on photo editing. Its user interface includes 25 modules as well as five modes, which Affinity Photo calls “personas.” Affinity Photo enables photo retouching, image merging, and drawing, but it doesn’t provide any organizational or import tools. It does provide non-destructive editing, but only through exporting your file to a new format. The program offers RAW editing, lens corrections, batch processing, and noise reduction, although no lens profile-based corrections are available. Effects tools include tone mapping, panorama stitching, HDR merge, and photo stacking. The program integrates effortlessly with Shutterstock and Nik Collection 2.5.

Originally designed for the Mac OS, Affinity Photo has expanded to include functionality with Windows and iOS. It supports large-format editing, taking images of over 100 megapixels, and it offers panning and zooming capability at 60 frames per second. Skin retouching tools include cloning, patching, and blemish removal, as well as feature sculpting. Filters can be applied to individual layers or an entire stack, with live, full-resolution layering available at all times. Affinity Photo’s brush engine provides a large number of brushes, and it’s compatible with Apple Pencil, Wacom, and other graphics tablets.

PriceFree Trial/DemoFeatures
iPad: $19.99
Mac or Windows: $49.99
Free trial>Deployment: Windows, Mac, iPad
>Support options: email, phone, and live support
>Features include batch processing, integrations, and RAW editing
>More features at Affinity Serif Photo

Pros & Cons of Serif Affinity Photo Editing Software
Serif Affinity Photo supports RAW camera files and allows photographers to work with vector images. It also enables layer editing as well as HDR, panorama, and focus stack merging. However, the program doesn’t contain any photo organization or importing tools, and its interface is scattered and not particularly user-friendly.

ProsCons
>Wide array of photo manipulations and graphics design tools
>Customer service is very responsive
>No subscription required
>No panorama stitching
>Only available for windows

What Customers Are Saying
Customers appreciate being able to purchase Affinity Photo once without having to pay for a monthly subscription, with many considering it a “cost-effective alternative to Photoshop,” although they’re glad that it “supports many of the same keyboard shortcuts as Photoshop.” They also appreciate the “exceptional palette” that has “all the bells and whistles of a great image compositor.” However, they express frustration with the “exporting process,” saying they are “unable to save to Adobe file formats.”

Skylum Luminar

luminar-4
Luminar is a photo editing and management system that uses AI to create non-destructive edits to RAW files. Its external editor lets photographers import photos seamlessly from Lightroom, Apple Photos, or Photoshop, keeping existing Lightroom adjustments intact, with the option to tether to the Adobe workflow or to edit solely in Luminar. One of Luminar’s most noted features is Sky Replacement, which provides one-click replacement that matches horizon lines and relights the rest of the image to match the new sky. Batch processing with sky replacement treats each image separately, making individual relighting adjustments as appropriate. The Augmented Sky tool lets photographers add everything from a full moon to birds in flight to the Northern Lights to existing photos, and the Golden Hour tool brings warmth to outdoor photos.

For portraits, Luminar provides a full suite of retouching tools that use AI to smooth, chisel, and remove shine and skin imperfections while retaining texture and creating a fully natural look. The app’s facial feature recognition tool also aids in portrait retouching, with the ability to recognize all faces in a group photo for one-touch enhancement. Luminar’s photo management system is intuitive, with drag-and-drop accessibility and easy-to-use shortcuts to help photographers stay organized.

PriceFree Trial/DemoFeatures
Luminar 4 license: $67
Plus bundle: $139
Max Bundle: $199
30-day money-back guarantee>Deployment: Windows, Mac
>Support options: Online, 24/7 support
>Features include non-destructive editing, RAW editing, and batch processing
>More features at Skylum Luminar

Pros & Cons of Luminar Photo Editing Software
The Sky Replacement tool is unique, powerful, and useful to outdoor photographers who can’t afford to wait for the perfect sky. The app’s preset filters and use of AI speeds up photo editing, and the ability to get multiple looks with one click is also a plus. However, loading speeds for various functions, including previews and thumbnails, can be very slow.

ProsCons
>Use of AI photo correction tools
>Custom configurable user interface
>Impressive effects filters
>No free forever version

What Customers Are Saying
Customers appreciate the Skylum Luminar customer support team being “knowledgeable, efficient & kind.” They praise Luminar, saying that it’s their “go-to photo editor for basic as well as advanced tasks,” pointing out that the “sky replacement is fantastic.” However, more than a few customers complain that the app is “a bit slow to load.”

What Is Photo Editing Software?

Photo editing software allows photographers to alter photographs they’ve already taken. They can correct flaws in the images or add artistic interpretation to their pictures. Software speeds up and facilitates the kind of photo correction and advanced manipulation that in the past was done by hand. Photo editing software is often targeted at beginning photographers or professionals, with some programs offering multiple levels to appeal to people across the spectrum.

Photo editing can accomplish many corrective tasks, including addressing problems with the camera lens used to take the photo, adjusting the color of light in the image, removing the background from the photo, cropping or resizing the photo, and smoothing out the image, commonly called “noise reduction.” More advanced photographers can employ photo editing software in more complex ways. These include removing actual elements from the photo, adjusting and even creating shadows, adding overlaid images or text, repairing photo subjects’ complexions in portraits, and adding special effects. In addition, photo editing software often offers layering and masking abilities, which allow photographers to reveal or hide specified sections of the photo.

Benefits of Photo Editing Software

Photo editing can turn ordinary photos into something spectacular and attention-grabbing. It makes personal photos of family gatherings, vacations, weddings, graduations, or other special occasions especially memorable and ready for framing or posting on social media. Special tools exist to enhance and manipulate portraits, making actors’ headshots, family portraits, and fashion photos look extra-special. Other tools focus on enhancing and editing landscape photos to create anything from works of art to eye-catching real estate portfolios.

Many businesses rely on photo editing to help in their marketing efforts. Because customers and audiences are increasingly responding to visuals more than text, having professionally edited images is a must in many fields, especially in the food, retail, fashion, and travel industries. Businesses can create branding through photo editing with consistent color saturation, pattern usage, cropping, and shooting style. Customers tend to trust companies that display actual photos on their website rather than relying on stock shots, and social media tends to depend on beautifully edited photos paired with word art to capture likes and followers. Practical types of photo editing, such as compressing photos so they load faster on websites, are useful to businesses, and the ability to customize and batch-process images across platforms can help companies focus their marketing efforts.

Must-Have Features of Photo Editing Software

Photo editing software can come packed with features, some of which are proprietary to the apps involved, or they can offer just the basics. The differences in programs depend largely on whether the software is intended for beginners or professionals — and, of course, programs that you pay for typically include more high-end features than do free, open source programs.

Key features to look for in photo editing software include:

  • Photo organization or management: This can include folder systems for basic organization, the ability to store different image formats, archiving capabilities, and the ability to tag, rate, title, and add keywords to photos to facilitate search.
  • Basic editing and photo manipulation: All photo editing apps offer the ability to change and improve photos. This typically includes the capability to add or reduce light, add or subtract blur, reduce imperfections, and change color saturation or warmth, as well as to crop, rotate, and flip photos.
  • User interface: Most high-end photo editing software offers a customizable user interface, so the photographer can have the tools they need easily accessible. Intuitive user interfaces make it easy to learn and navigate the program and accomplish the desired effects in a timely manner.
  • Integrations and output formats:Not all photo editing software integrates with other programs (such as Photoshop or various graphics programs), and programs don’t always produce the same type of output. If you need specific outputs for your work, make sure the photo editing software you’re considering is capable of creating them.
  • Special effects: Most photo editing software offers overlays, frames, and collage options. More complex effects can include smoothing hair and complexions in portraits, stitching together shots to form a seamless panorama, and even changing the sky or effects of the sun’s rays in a landscape shot.

The Cost of Photo Editing Software

Photo editing software is offered with three basic pricing structures: a subscription, a purchase model, and free. Most high-end programs are offered on a subscription model, with users paying a monthly fee that hovers in the $10 to $20 range for access to all the software’s services and features. With a subscription model, users are assured they’ll receive all the app’s updates as soon as they’re released.

Though the purchase model requires a higher upfront cost, many photographers prefer to buy photo editing software so they don’t have to keep paying for it. Several professional photo editing programs are available only through purchase, with prices starting in the $45 to $50 range and running as high as about $170. Not surprisingly, the higher-priced programs offer more features. In several cases, apps offer multiple levels to let users choose the complexity they want in their photo editing software.

Free models are often linked to specific brands of cameras. These apps can be handy for users of specific brands, such as Canon or Nikon, because they streamline importing of photos and sync up well with cameras for RAW editing. Free programs also often cultivate communities of users who develop additional extensions and plug-ins that enhance the capabilities of the underlying software.