Best Photo Editing Software
No matter what kind of photographer you are – smartphone, camera or professional – you will need some kind of photo editing software to get the best results out of your pictures.
It is now easier than ever to take great-looking photographs. Smartphones are equipped with excellent camera capabilities, while cameras have gone beyond their former functions.
Those who are serious about their photos – and aren’t just uploading them to social media – will want to save their photos to a computer where they can edit them until they are satisfied.
For this to be possible, they need some great photo editing software.
What Is Photo Editing Software?
Photo editing software allows you to take the raw image and enhance it to bring out its best qualities before showing it to others.
You can now take a lot of photos without worrying too much about the finer details, because they can all be fixed later. It also helps that many smartphones and good cameras come with all the settings you need to get a great shot.
Photo editing software can take care of anything from reducing the size of your image, to correcting red eyes, removing blemishes, changing the lighting, adding backgrounds and more.
While photo editing software was previously only used by professional photographers , advertising agencies, magazine publishers, modelling agencies, now even the most novice photographer is likely to use some sort of editing software.
Different software brings with it different features, and you want to choose one that works with the skills you have.
Beginner photographers will need different software than photographers with more experience. Those who do outdoor photos will also need different software than those who do primarily indoor shoots.
Anyone who wants their photos to look clean, clear and professional should use some form of editing software.
What to Look For in Photo Editing Software
Not all software suits every photographer’s needs. Depending on what type of photography you do, your requirements may be different from someone else.
Many smartphones and cameras even have some editing capabilities in them .
Most software comes down to these factors:
While all photo editing software should contain the basic editing features, not all programs will have the specific capabilities you’re looking for.
Think about what features you use the most, as well as what ones you are hoping to learn and incorporate into your work.
If you are hoping to quickly advance your skills, keep in mind the features you would like to have in the near future. These answers should help point you in the right direction.
Unfortunately, many decisions often come down to money. Again, list the features that you feel you use the most often and need in your work and then apply those against the software programs to find what works for you and what you can afford.
If your list is basic, it may be one of the free platforms that works best for you.
If you’re an established photographer, you may already have a workflow in place. So it is important that the software you’re using aligns with that workflow too.
Beginner photographers may be able to choose a program that works best for them and then adjust the way they work.
If the program isn’t complementing the way you like to work, it may be wise to look at getting something else.
Some photographers really need a program that can both edit and organize . If this is something you are unable to do yourself, you may want to look for a program that can do both.
It is only logical to think that the more you edit your photos, the better you will become. You may need further editing tools. Choose a program that is expandable or can be upgraded.
Everyone loves sharing photos online, and if you are building a photography business , it is essential.
Some programs make it very easy to share your photos straight away, while others may require a few more steps.
Some photo editing programs offer more support than others or may have online tutorials to help you navigate. It may also be useful to ask fellow users any questions you may have.
Are Free Editing Software Programs Any Good?
Before you go and spend a lot of money on photo editing software, there are some free options you can check out. If your needs are simple, they may work for you.
There are many desktop systems that include photo editing software such as Windows 10, Linux and Apple.
These free programs can help correct images, carry out blemish removal, offer raw camera file support and create albums based on date and location, as well as sync with online storage services.
For example, the GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) is available for Windows, Mac and Linux and can run Photoshop-style programs. There are other editing options that are often found in photo storage and sharing services such as:
While these options all do well to suit the needs of a beginner, they lack the functionality found in many paid-for programs.
Paid-for programs require more space on your computer system but offer much more in return. They have non-destructive editing, where your edits are all stored, as well as strong organizational tools, such as keyword tagging, geo-tagging, colour-coding and more.
Good software offers better options in printing and sharing your files or may even offer their own hosting abilities.
11 Best Photo Editing Software 2021
Because your options seem endless, we have narrowed it down to seven great paid software programs and four that are free.
Price: Between $120 and $600 a year
Adobe Photoshop is likely the first program that comes to mind when you think of a good photo editing program. It is one of the most popular in the world, largely due to all its features.
Key features: Photoshop offers many features that make it an ideal software for photographers. It is quite fast, even with large images, it has amazing cloning and retouching abilities, it has top masking and selection tools, and it comes with depth map support for HEIF files and 360-degree image editing tools.
Photoshop also supports all the big file formats, such as JPG, GIF and PNG, plus raw files. It also supplies non-destructive editing.
For those photographers who do not need all of Photoshop’s bells and whistles, Adobe Photoshop Elements is a simpler, cheaper version at $9.99 a month, that allows you to edit photos quickly and easily.
Pros: Photoshop has basically everything you need in one package and is supported by both Mac and PC.
Cons: For the beginner, the price tag can be a bit much, which is why Adobe Photoshop Elements may be a better bet.
Price: $120 to $240 a year
Adobe has yet another product to help with photo editing, Adobe Lightroom. Lightroom is ideal for those who want something simple to use but with adequate tools to get the job done.
Key features: Lightroom is known to be more user-friendly than its counterparts. It also syncs with other devices, has camera and lens corrections, professional filters, blurring and fixing tools, and customizable sliders. It also features face-detection capability to help organize photographs once edited.
Pros: Lightroom is a cloud-based tool that offers editing features through mobile, web and desktop platforms.
Cons: Lightroom is considered to have fewer graphic design elements, absence of layers or blend modes and limiting editing options.
Price: $64 to $80 (one-time payment)
Corel PaintShop Pro excels at basic and effective editing. It is also quite inexpensive for what it offers.
Key features: Corel PaintShop Pro is a piece of great software for beginners. It has 360-degree image editing, an extensive library of gradients, colours, pallets, picture tubes, among others.
It provides a smooth user experience and allows designers to work from pre-existing graphic design templates.
Cons: At the moment, PaintShop Pro is only available on the Windows platform.
Price: $20 to $50 (one-time payment)
Affinity Photo offers a lot of the same capabilities as Photoshop but with a low, one-time payment.
Key features: Affinity offers strong retouching capabilities, such as cloning, healing and inpainting. It has powerful tools at a great price point.
Cons: Affinity does not have any cataloguing tools and can be quite technical to work with.
Price: $70 (one-time payment)
Skylum Luminar is considered a strong alternative to Adobe Lightroom. It has great image editing skills at a fast speed.
Key features: Skylum Luminar offers technical and sales support 24/7, fast editing controls with less lag time, shortcuts for automatic management of photos, viewing options such as filmstrip view, single image view and gallery view.
The software also offers adjustment layers and masks, continually updated folders and AI image-enhancing tools.
Cons: The healing and cloning tool of Skylum Luminar is not always reliable and the handling of workflow and organization could work better.
Price: $100 (one-time payment for new users); $70 for upgrades; PowerDirector 365 is $55 a year
CyberLink PhotoDirector is full of many of the features photographers are looking for. The software also includes many AI special effects, such as animation, photo merge, watermarks, body enhancements and more.
Key features: CyberLink is easy to learn and use and has an abundance of useful features.
It also supports raw editing and has guided editing for special effects.
Cons: Some of the license and subscription packages are only available for Windows users.
Price: $100 (one-time payment)
Adobe Photoshop Elements is the pared down version of Adobe Photoshop and really suits the no-frills photographer. It focuses on common photo issues, such as tint or colour, and offers only the essential photo editing tools.
Photoshop Elements can also work with its companion Adobe Premiere Elements to help organize your photos.
Key features: Photoshop Elements provides its users with guided edits, integrates with Adobe Premiere Elements for organization and has easy export to social media. It also has no monthly subscription and is available for both Windows and Mac.
Cons: Photoshop Elements has somewhat of an outdated look and is best when purchased with Premiere Elements.
Free Photo Editing Programs
GIMP has quickly become one of the most popular software choices for novice photo editors.
It has grown into a photo editing software that offers users the option of manipulating their images, adjusting hue, contrast or saturation of their photos, as well as offering layers or masks.
GIMP supports many photo file types.
Key features: GIMP is simple and easy to use, and it’s available to everyone. With more than 150 filters and effects, it has great colour-enhancement tools.
Cons: GIMP can be prone to issues, such as bugs and glitches, and some of their photo editing tools can be too much for beginners.
Paint.net is a great option for photographers with a bit more experience who do not want or have the money for paid software. The program is useful in editing multiple images at the same time and allows you to switch between different photos.
It offers the ability to crop photos and apply effects and filters, add a text layer and combine two or more photos in a single image.
All editing steps are saved in the history tab and can be quickly undone in case of a mistake.
Key features: It is a great option for editing multiple images at the same time. It has a well-organized interface, with a variety of effects and filters, and is easy to learn no matter your experience level.
Cons: It is only compatible with PC computers and only supports common photo file formats.
10. Microsoft Photos
PC offers a lot of options for photo editing. Windows 10’s native Photos app allows you to edit, organize, view and share all images taken with a phone or camera.
Images can be imported from a smartphone or digital camera and then sorted and edited.
Photos can be rotated or cropped. You can also apply filters, add animated text layers or 3D effects. It also has some video editing capabilities.
Key features: Windows photo editing tools are easy to use and make organizing photos easy. PC users can also transfer photos from different devices.
Cons: Windows only has basic photo editing tools, so photographers looking for more may need something else. It also does not allow for adjusting filters and effects.
11. Apple Photos
Mac owners have a lot of great photo editing options at their fingertips with many filters and effects. The Apple Photos app allows you to add a vignette, control white balance and desaturate a photo.
The Photos app has file sharing capabilities, as well as the long exposure mode to simulate images from low exposure values.
Key features: The Photos app is available to all Mac owners at no cost. It has good photo sharing options, a selection of photo editing tools and is simple and easy to use.
Cons: The program is only suitable for basic editing, and adjusting filters is not an option.
Almost everyone takes photos in one way or another. Whether it is a quick snap on your phone or setting out with your camera and a specific goal in mind.
Photo editing helps you to make the most of your pictures, allowing you to edit, crop and touch up in whatever way you want.
Depending on your needs, not all editing software will suit. Make a list of the editing features you use the most and the ones you hope to use soon, and narrow the software down from there.
Photography can be a great hobby or profession, and good editing software can make it that much better.