Best Photo Editing Software

Introduction

In today’s world, gone are the days of merely loading a piece of film, taking the photo, and calling the job done. No. Things have changed. And these days, capturing a picture is the first step to initiate the process of a completed image.

Today, editing is a critical component in the overall photography process. And it’s taken a new level of importance with the rise of smartphone photography. Sure, overall camera sales may indeed be declining, but photo editors are seeing a newfound surge. And their market is expected to double in the next five years, as demand continues to rise.

Thankfully, the secrecy surrounding them is gone and no longer reserved for working pros. Instead, photo editors are now truly mainstream. And today’s market is filled with plenty of capable options, giving you ample freedom in choosing which best suits your workflow. Adobe was once the only name to rule this space as the go-to tool for professionals. But, other worthy options with equally revolutionary technology exist. And each streamlines and simplifies the mundane aspects of editing without needing any specialized skills.

In today’s post, we’ve compiled a list of the best editing software programs around. And we’ve gathered a diverse selection tailored toward all skill levels and operating systems.

 

 

Why edit your photos?

In today’s market, capturing a compelling image alone isn’t enough to separate your work. And while a photo conveys a thousand words, a carefully edited one coveys millions. Even technically “perfect” images often require minor corrections such as cropping, noise reduction, or sharpening. And even with excellent photographic technique, it’s impossible to manipulate every detail in the real world.

luminar-banner-big

Thus, in most circumstances avoiding editing altogether isn’t possible. And it’s an essential component in our workflow, to some degree. Now, the degree you prefer to edit will depend on what you shoot and how.

But, crucially, editing allows you to perfect an image before printing or sharing online. And you can correct any of the nuances that were difficult to control after the fact. This also helps recover and save seemingly lost opportunities. In general, photo editing software supplements your skills and gives you more control over the creative process. So you won’t be tied down by what the camera captures alone. Instead, you’ll have the freedom to process the image as you see fit to reflect your vision accurately. And this gives you the chance to add a special touch to make your pictures stand apart.

How to choose photo editing software? 

Choosing the best photo editing software isn’t quite as tricky as it would seem. The most important consideration before looking at a specific tool is how much time you want to edit your photos? If you’re going to rush through the process, then you’ll want to look for 1-click editors with plenty of automation. But, if you prefer more precise editing and aren’t concerned with time, then one with an extensive toolset is best.

But, with that in mind, let’s discuss the specific factors to consider when looking to photo editing software.

Platform

What operating system do you use? Are you a Mac or Windows user? Or are you using Linux, Chrome OS, or Ubuntu? Most of the top editing applications are on Mac and Windows. And users on these platforms will have a much more comprehensive selection. But options do exist for other platforms, albeit more limited.

Another consideration here is, do you plan on editing on a mobile device? Not all editors offer mobile companion applications. And if they do, it’s often limited to either Android or iOS alone.

Built-in Organization

Most of the time, we take hundreds of photos on an outing. And rarely do we keep images on the SD card alone. And you’ll likely want a convenient and straightforward way of sorting them. So ideally, you want to find an application that offers easy playback and sorting. Some of the key features here are metadata tags, keywords, ratings, and AI recognition. Without these, finding a specific image quickly will be a time-consuming process.

luminar-banner-big

Exporting

Having an editor that offers intuitive exporting of images is essential. The supported file format varies between editors. And not all will export the final image to the correct format. Additionally, if you often post to social media, you may want to consider editors that offer integration for the platforms you use.

Customization

Not all editors offer customizable interfaces and presets. But, it’s a feature that greatly simplifies repeat actions, mainly if you apply similar effects to every photo. Some programs can even automatically record activities on your behalf. But, a minimum having a customizable interface is a must so that you can tailor the program to your specific style. And meanwhile, remove any unnecessary items not used, streamlining your workflow.

Difficulty Level

If you’re a self-taught editor, you’ll know it’s not an easy feat. And it can be quite overwhelming for beginners. Sadly, not all programs are intuitive and easily mastered. Some have steep learning curves that require taking courses to get enough working knowledge. Ideally, if you’re a beginner, you want an easy-to-learn program with plenty of tutorials and a well-written user manual. So that after a quick brush up, it’s smooth sailing.

Price

No matter the software, the price ultimately becomes a deal-breaker for many. And many photo editors are paid programs. Now whether their one-time purchases or ongoing subscriptions vary. But, most of the high-end editors in this space aren’t free, sadly. Thankfully, all of them offer a trial, so you can test the program before buying. And taking advantage of it is essential before committing to purchase.

Extras

A lot of features and tools overlap between most photo editors. And all the editors featured on this list offer the basics, including crop, straightening, color, and exposure tools. But, not all include advanced 1-click tools, presets, customizable interfaces, AI-based tools, and so on. So, if some of the bonus features covered in this list sound helpful, consider them while looking around.

 

17 – PortraitPro 

Anthropics-logo

PortraitPro by Anthropics is an editor that puts portraits as its main focus. And it’s available on both Mac and Windows devices.

PortraitPro allows you to make enchantments to fix common issues. These include correcting skin tones, minimizing pores, removing wrinkles, and blemishes. But it also offers advanced tools like re-lighting and bone restructuring. And you can even make extensive manual adjustments to alter facial features using their advanced AI face detection masks. Or add realistic digital makeup to the subject. The editor also offers layers, skin smoothing, catch-lights, hair editing, RAW support, and automatic batch processing.

Overall, PortraitPro offers a full suite of tools to perfect portraits in minutes. And it’s an easy to use platform that’s ideal for those not comfortable performing these advanced edits manually.

Pricing: one-time purchase

 

16 – PhotoWorks 

photoworks-logo

PhotoWorks offers professional portrait retouching and top-grade functionality for Windows users.

It offers numerous 1-click effects and presets, which work alongside robust AI-based functions to simplify the retouching process. In total, it offers over 150 of these effects to detect the photos genre and enhance it as needed. It also has Auto-Correction to fix color balance, exposure, and dynamic range. Plus, the Portrait Magic and Smart Face Editors, for 1-click skin smoothing, teeth whitening, shine removal, or modify facial features without complicated brushes or masks. Other bonuses include background removal, photo restoration, layers, stickers, clip art, filters, HDR, and healing.

Overall, PhotoWorks is an excellent application for Windows users looking for high-level automation. And an easy to use platform.

Pricing: One-time purchase

 

15 – Movavi Photo Editor 

Movavi-Photo-Editor-logo

Movavi’s Photo Editor is another high-end desktop editor fueled with AI-powered editing functionality available for Mac and Windows.

This editor also uses AI to sharpen, enhance, and fix poorly lit photos. And it has selection and replacement tools for quick object removal or getting rid of distracting backgrounds. Plus a comprehensive photo restoration tool to retouch and repair analog pictures by removing folds, stains, and even adding color. Other bonuses include frames, freckle removal, blemish removal, teeth whitening, lipstick, and hair color.

Overall, Movavi’s Photo Editor is a straightforward solution that’s good for both beginners and advanced users. And it removes much of the complications required for these advanced tasks.

Pricing: One-time purchase

 

14 – InPixio Photo Studio 

InPixio-Photo-Studio-logo

InPixio’s Photo Studio offers both ease of use and a large selection of fun bonuses available for both Mac and Windows users.

With Photo Studio, you can enhance your images with 100+ frames, effects, text, filters, and textures to quickly transform your memories into art. It also offers 1-touch image corrections, LUTs, and an extensive collage tool with a powerful cutout feature to create photo montages. Other bonuses include clone stamping, object removal, tilt-shift, blemish removal, and photo restoration.

Overall, InPixio’s Photo Editor is an easy to use program that provides a good compromise between editing and organizational capabilities. And it offers impressive special effects to compliment.

Pricing: One-time purchase

 

13 – Zoner Photo Studio 

Zoner-Photo-Studio-logo

Zoner’s Photo Studio is the result of 25 years of continued development. And a powerful workflow and editing program for Windows users.

Photo Studio offers a full suite of comprehensive features such as layers, masks, filters, RAW editing, Photo Books, stacking, collages, retouching tools, presets, and automatic cataloging. But where it shines is in its advanced color management. And it has a unique 360º color shift tool that allows you to make quick and intuitive changes to HSL.

The Eye Dropper is also doubly powerful, and the software automatically chooses the right mix of hues and ratios. And switching to the Advanced Mode unlocks fine gradual control, a feature typically reserved for much pricier programs. Combined, these make it easier than ever to balance foreground and background colors. Additionally, the program even doubles as a video editor, turning photos into videos, presentations, or time-lapses. And it boasts cloud storage and social media integration with Dropbox, OneDrive, and Facebook platforms.

Overall, Zoner’s Photo Studio is a powerful tool for Windows users, especially if you want online storage and social media integration.

Pricing: monthly subscription

 

12 – Exposure X6

Exposure-X6-logo

Exposure has been developing award-winning image processing software since 1993, and they’re a long-standing name in the industry. X6 is their latest professional-grade editor available for Mac and Windows.

This editor shines in its immediacy. Instead of painstakingly waiting for images to import and render, it bypasses this process through GPU optimization. And it uses the full power of your computer to speed up image processing, so you’re off to editing straight away after only a few clicks.

The interface is also fully customizable to suit your workflow. And it transitions seamlessly between editing and organizing without having to switch between modules. Other bonuses include layers, 500+ presets, overlays, textures, borders, profile-based noise reduction, masks, DNG converter, cloud integration, tilt-shift, and realistic film grain.

Overall, Exposures X6 is the perfect combination of Adobe’s products, offering many of their most used and popular features. But, it provides a more streamlined design that saves time and reduces many of the unnecessary aspects of editing. And it’s a powerful stand-alone editor or plug-in that rivals the best on the market.

Pricing: One-time purchase

 

11 – Cyberlink PhotoDirector

Cyberlink-PhotoDirector-logo

CyberLink’s PhotoDirector offers ease of use and superior value available on Mac OS, Windows, and Android.

It offers a healthy selection of AI-supported tools and effects for advanced color control, layers, masking, and creative filters to create outstanding compositions. But, easily, its standout feature is that it provides complimentary access to thousands of world-class Shutterstock images and background music. Other bonuses include paths, HDR, tethering support, RAW, panorama, GIFs, multi-exposures, textures, text, LUTs, de-blurring, facial recognition, and 360º photo editing.

Overall, PhotoDirector is quite formidable, and it’s a well-versed tool at a much lower price than rivals. Yet, one that offers complimentary cloud storage and a dedicated smartphone app.

Pricing: Monthly subscription

 

10 – ON1 Photo RAW

ON1-Photo-RAW-logo

On1’s Photo RAW brilliantly combines an organizer, editor, and effect suite into a single program. And it’s armed with powerful tools that are available for Mac and PC.

It offers a large selection of RAW processing tools along with a robust cataloging feature to help organize images. It also has a full suite of advanced AI retouching features like the Portrait Mode to fix blemishes. And not only is it an organizer and editing tool, but it also offers integrated support with Apple Photos and cloud-based editing via a dedicated mobile app. Other bonuses include layers, HDR, panoramas, masks, 100+ custom presets and profiles, and advanced searching tools.

Overall, while On1 was originally known for its special effects and plugins, Photo RAW developed into a full-fledged editing suite. And it’s a powerful stand-alone application and third party plugin for photographers wanting to create stunning images without a hefty price to do so.

Pricing: one-time purchase

 

9 – Adobe Photoshop Elements

Adobe-Photoshop-Elements-logo

Photoshop Elements is the ideal option for beginners and hobbyist photographers. And it’s available for Mac OS and Windows.

Naturally, since it’s designed with beginners in mind, it offers more limited functionality than the full Photoshop suite. However, it provides all of the essentials and is the easiest editor to use, bar none. Adobe breaks the editor down into three modes. The Quick Mode offers the simplest and most straightforward tools, like cropping, straightening, object removal, filters, and portrait enhancements. But, the Guide Mode is the real star. This mode provides step by step instructions to walk you through more complicated edits like replacing backgrounds, merging images, or creating double exposures. However, seasoned shooters can use the Expert Mode to take full control over layers, masks, and filters. Other bonuses include Auto-Selection to create a shallow depth of field effect, Smooth Skin, and Auto Curate to automatically categorize the best images in your gallery.

Overall, Photoshop Elements is the ideal choice for beginners. Don’t be fooled by its simple interface. It still packs many pro-level features into an otherwise modest design that’s easily mastered. And it’s a powerful alternative if you don’t need the full-fledged suite.

Pricing: one-time purchase

 

8 – DXO Photo Lab

DXO-Photo-Lab-logo

Photo Lab, best known for its RAW conversion, sharpening, and noise reduction tools, is the long-standing tool of choice. And the latest version now becomes an all-in-one workstation for Windows and Mac OS devices.

Photo Lab shines in its RAW conversion, fully automatic lens, and camera corrections, which remain above rivals. And, it also now has Render Matching to match the rendering of 60+ cameras, so the RAW images look akin to JPEG previews.  Additionally, it also provides signature tools like DeepPrime for reducing noise, a Smart Lighting Module, and class-leading dehazing. Other bonuses include a customizable workspace, virtual copies, auto-micro contrast, and presets.

Overall, DXO’s Photo Lab integrates some of the best features into a powerful image editing suite.

Pricing: one-time purchase

 

7 – Corel Paintshop Pro 

Corel-Paintshop-Pro-logo

Corel’s Paintshop Pro is surprisingly capable, considering it’s one of the most affordable tools for Windows devices around.

Paintshop offers both pixel and vector editing, which are features typically reserved for high-end services. But it also has Smart Clone to blend multiple selections and the Filter Brush to select complex objects like tree lines or hair. And it’s one of few programs that supports painting, enabling you to create artwork with the most popular inputs and brush formats. And one of fewer to provide Upsampling, which increases a photos megapixel count and print resolution without degrading quality. Other bonuses include HDR, layers, gradients, intelligent merging, Artifact Removal, AI Desnoise, filters, and batch editing. But, you can also extend its functionality by installing other third-party plugins or work within the PSD format for better cross-platform compatibility.

Overall, Paintshop Pro is an excellent option for those wanting a straightforward but effective editing suite. And it’s a perfectly acceptable Adobe alternative without the continuous subscription fee.

Pricing: one-time purchase

 

6 – Skylum Luminar

Skylum-Luminar-logo

Luminar by Skylum is one of the top editing applications around. And their latest revamp continues shaking things up with better AI-based tools and a more intuitive design available for MacOS and Windows.

Luminar uses a unique approach to editing. And the application offers a collection of defined effects to edit by applying various filters. But, it also acts as an organizer to help structure and organize your gallery. Even so, easily its standout feature is the updated AI technology. Using AI, the program can enhance the sky, skin tones, retouch portraits, accentuate details, and sharpen images. And these functions are simply unmatched by other software, easily matching the realm of professional retouchers.  Other bonuses include layers, masks, Smart Contrast, and image cataloging. And the application doubles as a third party plugin-in, not just a standalone editor.

Overall, Skylum’s Luminar has emerged as one of the top editing applications over recent years. And it’s a go-to option for many professional photographers, given its continued innovation and modern design. And it’s a powerful alternative to Adobe’s products, blending many of their capabilities with better AI-based simplicity.

Pricing: one-time purchase

 

5 – ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 

ACDSee-Photo-Studio-Ultimate-logo

ACDSee Photo Studio is another popular choice amongst professional photographers. And it’s arguably the fastest and most comprehensive stand-alone editor for Windows.

With Photo Studio, you can directly send photos and videos to the program from your smartphone, which is quite rare. The application also supports GoPro cameras, which is perfect for adventure photographers wanting to highlight their trips. But, crucially, Photo Studio offers unrivaled file management capabilities on Windows. Not only does it provide advanced searching, sorting, and organizing, but there’s no need to upload or import images. It also provides advanced face detection, which gradually learns names and suggests possible matches. Other bonuses include layers, a customizable interface, RAW support, focus stacking, HDR, text, batch editing, color framing, photo manipulation, retouching tools, LUTs, re-lighting, cloud integration, and cataloging.

Overall, Photo Studio provides everything you’d want to perfect images, closely matching Adobe’s products. And it delivers a powerful combination of management and editing functionality that make it the one-stop solution for Windows users.

Pricing: subscription or a one-time purchase

 

4 – Serif Affinity Photo

Serif-Affinity-Photo-logo

Affinity Photo by Serif is a powerful photography-centric editor that’s hard stacked with advanced features available for Windows, Mac, and iOS.

Affinity Photo uses a clean and straightforward interface that separates tools into workflow modules that focus on various stages of the editing process. The Develop Person for RAW processing, the Photo Persona for optimizing, and the Tone Mapping Persona and Liquify Persona’s. And this design greatly simplifies navigating and mastering the program. Other bonuses include layers, masks, RAW conversion, smart objects, HDR, liquify, panoramas, focus stacking, 360 image editing, custom brushes, and batch processing.

Overall, while Affinity Photo lacks a customizable workspace or organizational and management tools, it delivers an enormous feature set instead. And it’s easily the strongest photo editor for iOS users wanting a powerful traveling companion.

Pricing: one-time purchase

 

3 – Phase One Capture One

Phase-One-Capture-One-logo

Capture One by Phase One is a powerful all-in-one suite with advanced color correction and repair tools aimed at experienced photographers and enthusiasts. It’s available for MacOS and Windows devices.

Capture One was originally designed for tethering with Phase One cameras. But, over the years, it’s developed into an equally powerful RAW editor. And it’s doubly robust with excellent color grading tools to deal with color accuracy and precision control. It also offers a full suite of advanced features like HDR, layers, masks, cloning, healing, multilevel adjustments, and cataloging. And the interface is also fully customizable, so you can change it as you wish.

Overall, Capture One is an excellent option for advanced photographers wanting superior RAW support over rivals. And it’s acclaimed for its RAW conversion, color adjustment, and class-leading tethering support.

Pricing: subscription or a one-time purchase

 

2 – Adobe Lightroom

Adobe-Lightroom-logo

Adobe’s Lightroom is the longstanding tool of choice for most photographers, given its intuitive interface and ease of use. It’s available for Windows and MacOS.

Lightroom offers a full selection of advanced library functionality, from labeling to keywords, metadata, collections, filters, and face detection. And it’s supremely easy to find and keep track of a growing photo library. But it also offers a well-designed interface, with straightforward access to image processing tools. Plus, all the adjustments and tools are conveniently and easily accessible by sliders. But, it provides a healthy suite of features such as retouching tools, profiles, presets, HDR, masking, layers, and correction tools. And it also seamlessly integrates with other third-party applications.

Overall, Lightroom is ideal for photographers who want a straightforward and capable tool. And it’s a far less intimidating experience than other high-end products. As it stands, it remains mostly unmatched by the competition in general functionality. And it’s the current benchmark in the industry.

Pricing: Monthly subscription

 

1 – Adobe Photoshop

Adobe-Photoshop-logo

Adobe’s Photoshop is the longstanding king and the most popular editing tool around for Windows and MacOS.

Photoshop offers an unrivaled feature set, ranging from the essentials such as retouching, design, exposure, and color correction tools. Or more advanced tools such as smart sharpening, vectors, masks, paths, cloning, photo manipulation,  background removal, presets, RAW integration, AI, and batch editing. But, it also provides a huge array of features, not specifically aimed at photographers. And the editor is doubly capable of 3D design, logos, illustrations, digital prints, and web design. In short, it’s meticulously crafted for hardcore professionals in the digital world needing utmost functionality.

Overall, as it stands, Photoshop remains the leader of the pack and the golden standard these days in digital art. And it’s proven itself to be an effective and competent editor amongst many industries.

Pricing: Monthly subscription