Top 5 photo editing software
Without further ado, let’s see what these photo editing software have to offer!
1. Adobe Lightroom
It’s impossible to ignore Adobe Lightroom when talking about the best photo editing software for photographers. In fact, Adobe products are considered the gold-standard when it comes to image editing software.
But why? What makes Lightroom so great? Let’s take a look.
Adobe Lightroom Interface
If Photoshop comes off as too complex and cumbersome, then you’re sure to love Lightroom’s simple, beginner-friendly interface.
Lightroom’s clean and easy workspace allows you to focus on what’s important — your image. The left-hand panel gives you quick access to your image library, so you can toggle between photos as you edit. Within the right-hand panel, you’ll find drop-down menus for making quick adjustments, adding keywords to your images and more.
In order to really get into your photo editing, you’ll need to access Lightroom’s horizontal tabs along the top of the workspace. All of your basic and advanced photo editing tools live in the Develop module. From there, you can manipulate your photo with lens correction, split toning, effects and other basic adjustments.
Having a centralized panel for all of your photo editing tools sets Lightroom apart and makes it super intuitive to use!
And, in the Develop module’s left-hand panel, Lightroom keeps stock of your photo edits in a drop-down labeled History. That way, you can easily scroll back through your image edits, make changes and review your edits before saving them in a custom preset.
Also, you may notice that Lightroom gives you a guided walkthrough of each module the first time you open the program after downloading the software. Unlike some other in-app tours, Lightroom’s tutorial hits all the highlights so you don’t miss a thing. With this brief introduction alone, you’ll be able to get started on your own edits.
This program is more than just a photo editor. It’s a photo organizer, too. Lightroom allows you to easily store and rank your images inside the program, which eliminates the need for an external photo organizing program. Simply assign your photos a star rating based on editing priority — or any other metric for that matter — and get to work!
It’s clear that Adobe designed Lightroom to work for photographers at every skill level. So rest assured, Lightroom’s navigable interface doesn’t mean it isn’t powerful. That’s what makes Lightroom all the more impressive — it doesn’t sacrifice functionality for ease of use!
Lightroom Key Features
Photo edited with Adobe Lightroom
For most freelance photo editors, Adobe Lightroom offers all the tools you’ll need to create stunning portrait, landscape, real estate and other photography. Lightroom’s host of fantastic features includes:
Face detection for photo organization
Camera and lens-based corrections
Brush and gradient adjustments
Fixing and blurring tools
Presets and professional filters
Multiple device support and sync
You can get Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop together here in Adobe’s Creative Cloud Plan.
Adobe Lightroom Extras
Given its library of pre-made editing solutions called presets, Lightroom is one of the most expansive photo editors on the market. These presets make it easier than ever to achieve a specific look in your photos. Simply find a preset package you like via Lightroom’s preset marketplace or online, then apply it to one or more of your images for a flawless edit.
Of course, presets work wonderfully for batch editing your photos at a break-neck pace. And, you can even design your own custom presets, which work like editing recipes for future photo edits. You can always edit pre-made or custom presets before you apply them, or you can adjust their sliders for a tailored application, depending on your photo.
With Lightroom’s presets, you have the opportunity to continually expand the software’s editing capabilities.
Not to mention, many third-party plugins and applications have integrated with Lightroom to make using the program even easier. Envira Gallery, for example, includes Adobe Lightroom to WordPress integration that allows you to easily sync your Lightroom photo galleries with your photography website.
Adobe Lightroom is available as a singular app, or as part of one of Adobe’s Creative Cloud packages. You can get Lightroom and Photoshop together for just $9.99/month.
2. Skylum Luminar
For many reasons, Luminar has quickly grown to become one of the the most popular editing tools for professional photographers around the world. For one, you pay a one-time flat fee for the program rather than a monthly subscription like Adobe. And, Luminar offers a ton of built-in tools and accessories!
Luminar is a one-stop shop for photo editing that can be used by itself or as a plugin in with Lightroom, Photoshop and even Apple Photos.
Skylum Luminar Interface
Believe it or not, Skylum Luminar uses the same keyboard shortcuts that Adobe’s Lightroom does. This is especially helpful if you’re already familiar with Lightroom’s interface. If that’s true of you, you’ll find switching to Luminar an easy transition given the consistent keyboard shortcuts between the two software.
And, like Lightroom, you can use Luminar as both a photo editor and a photo organizer. Once again, this means that you can upload your images to your Luminar Library so that all of your photo editing workflow is centralized in one place!
Like Lightroom, you can then sort, tag and categorize your images within the Luminar Library to make them easier to find. Many also find the Luminar Library to be simpler and more intuitive even than Lightroom’s library.
Where Luminar excels over Lightroom is its preset workspace options. Luminar provides preset workspaces each specifically designed with an editing task in mind. For example, Luminar’s preset workspaces include:
Quick & Awesome
Black and White
In addition to those presets, you can create your own workspace by saving the tools you use most often to a blank workspace.
If this feature sounds familiar, it’s because Photoshop also provides preset workspaces. But, you’ll note that Luminar’s preset workspace options are much more extensive and cover a greater number of photography-specific needs. Anything to streamline your photo editing!
Skylum’s Luminar also offers more editing tools than Lightroom but fewer than Photoshop. Having more editing tools is both an advantage and a disadvantage — they make the program more challenging to navigate, but they also allow you to do more with your photos.
Here’s what we love about Luminar’s editing tools:
Skylum Luminar Key Features
Photo edited with Skylum Luminar 4
Luminar has gained popularity for its AI slider, which applies automatic quick fixes to your photos including brightening, clarifying, toning and other basic adjustments.
It also comes with a host of built-in tools to make your photo editing easier and faster. These Skylum Luminar features include:
Exclusive filters like Sunrays filter (which lets you add realistic looking sun rays to your images) and Orton filter (made famous by the Lord of the Rings and blurs parts of the image while focusing in on others)
Dedicated presets for DJI drone photos
Skylum Luminar Extras
What we love most about Skylum Luminar is its expandable gallery of Luminar Looks. These Looks are sets of editing solutions, much like Lightroom’s presets. But, Luminar Looks are even easier to use, and there’s more of them!
Skylum’s extensive Luminar Looks collection makes achieving specific, stylized photos even easier than ever. And, while Skylum comes pre-packaged with its own set of high-quality Looks, you can also find them for free all over the internet. Some of them are made by freelance photographers, but others are made by popular, professional photographers to help you achieve the looks you’ve loved in their work.
Once you apply a Luminar Look to your image, you can tweak the edit’s intensity and fine-tune it to fit your photo. You can also build and save your own Luminar Looks, which saves you editing time in the long-run.
If you’re liking the sounds of Skylum Luminar, you can purchase it online for a one-time fee. This purchase gives you access to Skylum Luminar for life! Plus there is a 30 day money back guaranty.
3. Adobe Photoshop
It’s hard to write an article about the best photo editing software for photographers without giving Adobe Photoshop a well-deserved mention. For artists, illustrators, and designers around the world, Photoshop has proven to be a capable and trustworthy editing tool.
Adobe Photoshop Interface
We’ll be honest, Photoshop isn’t known for its simplicity. In fact, if you’ve heard anything about Photoshop’s interface, it’s likely been how difficult it is to navigate! And it’s true — Photoshop isn’t the easiest software to learn. Instead, like most things in life worth doing, it requires a bit of patience.
The reason many beginners to photo editing struggle to use Photoshop is because it offers such an enormous amount of tools. We’ll talk more later about all the great things you can accomplish with Photoshop, but know that it does attempt to lessen the learning curve offering organized workspaces.
Photoshop offers several different preset workspaces, designed to trim away the excess tools you don’t need for your project. You can find these workspaces under Window >> Workspace in the upper menu bar. There, you’ll see preset workspace options for Essentials editing, 3D, Graphics and Web and even Photography!
These workspace presets provide a great introduction to Photoshop, because they emphasize the best tools for the job. The Photography workspace, for example, puts Photoshop’s brush, histogram panel and selection tools right at your fingertips. The 3D workspace, on the other hand, prioritizes Photoshop’s 3D panel and 3D Material Dropper.
Of course, as you get more familiar with Photoshop and decide which editing tools you prefer, you can create and save your own customized workspace. A customized workspace that features only your favorite tools goes a long way to increasing your editing speed and streamlining your workflow!
So, even though Photoshop can be difficult to master, it’s not necessarily difficult to learn. It’s pre-made workspaces, in-app tools descriptions and clear tools icons help make learning the program more manageable. Don’t try to dive in all at once! A piece-by-piece approach to Photoshop will likely be the more successful route.
Key Features of Photoshop
Photo edited with Adobe Photoshop
Photoshop’s masking, retouching and layering tools are still some of the most compelling on the market. Although, it’s fair to say that these tools might not be best for basic touch-ups, which would be best left for Lightroom. Photoshop is designed for professionals who need all the bells and whistles.
Photoshop’s built-in features include:
Sophisticated touch-up and retouching
Extensive filters and brushes
3D design functionality
Pro editing tools
Advanced color editing
Adobe Photoshop provides tools you simply won’t find in other editing software. If you’re a photo editor who works on graphic design projects or other, more layered assignments, Photoshop might be the photo editor for you.
Otherwise, if you’re looking to touch up your photos before you turn them over to clients, you’d likely be happy with a more basic program. Still, if you see your photo editing needs increasing in the future, you might want to begin learning Photoshop. That way, you’ll know how to do all of your edits in one software!
Adobe Photoshop Extras
Like many other photo editors on this list, Photoshop can increase its functionality through additional filters. That being said, Photoshop doesn’t have nearly as many filters available as programs like Lightroom and Skylum Luminar. And, while you can import and use presets in Photoshop, you may find that they complicate your workflow.
Still, Photoshop does offer some other unique expansion opportunities. For example, you can import brushes and create your own brushes to use in your photo editing. You can also use Photoshop to create short animations or GIFs using the program’s Timeline window.
Honestly, Photoshop’s built-in capabilities are already so advanced, that it only makes sense that there are fewer chances to expand the software’s functionality.
Don’t know whether you need Photoshop or Lightroom? Check out our guide: Lightroom vs Photoshop: Which is the Best Solution
Cost of Photoshop
The other great thing about Adobe Photoshop is that you can get it through Adobe’s Photography Plan, which pairs it with Adobe Lightroom. That means you get two powerful photo editors for a monthly subscription fee of $9.99/month!
You can get Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop together here in Adobe’s Creative Cloud Plan.
4. DxO PhotoLab 4
DxO PhotoLab is a solid alternative photo editor. It converts your RAW images to JPG very smoothly, and it works great with both Mac and Windows operating systems.
This photo editing and organizing system comes with customizable interface options, presets, color protection and multiple export formats so that you can accomplish all your tasks in one place. Of course, those perks come alongside a host of interesting and helpful features.
Photo edited using DxO PhotoLab
DxO PhotoLab offers a suite of processing and correction tools that meet the needs of real photographers.
Some features include:
U Point local adjustment technology
Manual and automatic mode
A multitude of optical corrections
Also, you can sign up for a free-day trial before committing to a subscription, so get DxO PhotoLab now.
5. ON1 Photo RAW
ON1 Photo RAW is a complete photo editing software that you can try for free. It works wonders on your photographs!
ON1 Photo RAW Interface
Not only is Photo RAW easy to download and install, but it offers a free trial! Simply follow the on-screen instructions to download the software, then use it on any major operating system, including PC and Mac OS X.
After you’ve installed and opened ON1 Photo RAW, you’ll find a selection of getting started video tutorials waiting for you! See, ON1 Photo RAW is so dedicated to saving your time during your photo edits that it even eliminated the need to search for your own tutorial videos.
Once you actually enter into the software’s workspace, you may feel a bit overwhelmed. Like most photo editors, ON1’s selection of editing tools can be a bit intimidating if you’re not a practiced photo editor.
Just take your time exploring ON1’s features, and you’ll be set!
Photo edited using ON1 Photo RAW
Speaking of features, ON1 Photo RAW offers several that are unique to this software! For one, this program doesn’t require you to upload your RAW photos in order to edit them. In fact, all you have to do to edit your RAW images in ON1 Photo RAW is find your images where they’re stored on your device and select them.
Because ON1 doesn’t have to load your RAW images into the software, you’ll find that it works lightning fast — even faster than Photoshop and Lightroom!
Other ON1 Photo RAW features include:
Textures and borders
Live adjustments and previews
Available to download on any device
Selectively apply effects option
ON1 Photo RAW Extras
With ON1 Photo RAW, you’ll gain access to literally hundreds of presets, stackable filters and other solutions to enhance your pictures in no time. And, of course, you can download even more online from fellow photo editors!
Plus, ON1 Photo RAW offers an addon for Lightroom, Aperture and Photoshop! So, if you’re considering pairing photo editing software, this one works with a host of other programs.
ON1 offers three primary Photo RAW plans:
ON1 Photo RAW Software Only – Purchase for $99.99 and own ON1 Photo RAW outright for use on up to 5 computers.
Monthly Subscription (ON1 Photo RAW Software + ON1 360) – A subscription license to the software ensures you always have access to the latest updates, plus 1TB cloud storage for $15.99/month.
Yearly Subscription (ON1 Photo RAW Software + ON1 360) – Enjoy the free update benefits of a subscription to ON1 Photo RAW for just $89.99/year (comes with 200GB storage) or $179.99/year (comes with 1TB storage).