21 Best Photo Editing Software for New Photographers (2020)

TLDR: Adobe Photoshop is the best photo editing software for new photographers. There is a reason why someone tells you to “Photoshop” a picture. Despite its steep learning curve, it is the most feature rich editor that I’ve seen in the market. If you want to become a professional photographer – this is a must have in your toolkit. 

According to Datareportal, there are currently 5.15 billion unique mobile phone users in the world.

With high mobile phone penetration and Instagram filters, it’s easy for anyone to become a photographer nowadays.

But photography is so much more than snapping a quick picture and popping a filter on top of it. 

Only seasoned photography veterans understand the art of bringing to life raw images through noise reduction, exposure, focus, desaturation and highlighting.

If you want to do this – Instagram filters won’t cut it – we need dedicated photo editing software.

What Is Photo Editing Software?

Photo editing software are tools that allow you to digitally manipulate and enhance images. These types of apps allow you to bring the best out in each photo. 

They are an essential part of any aspiring photographers arsenal and often require a degree of skill and finesse to master.

Some software provide the full package of tools such as Adobe Photoshop.

Others are more beginner friendly and tailored towards general graphic design such as Canva (with less of an emphasis on direct photo enhancement).

Disclaimer: I may receive affiliate compensation for some of the links below. This is at no extra cost to you – you will be simply helping me put out more helpful content. However, these are the best photo editing software tools that I recommend. You can read our full affiliate disclosure here in our privacy policy.

What Is The Best Photo Editing Software

Here are my top picks for this year: 

1. Adobe Photoshop – Best Overall

Photoshop is by far the most ubiquitous photo editing software, to the point that if a photo is edited in any way, it’s been “photoshopped.”

In an industry as full as discerning professionals as photography and design, any program reaching this level of prominence is a de facto endorsement.

Adobe Photoshop offers perhaps the most robust list of features that you could be looking for in a photo editing program.

The capabilities, processing power, and formats supported by photoshop make it the leading option for both established professionals, and aspiring photographers, designers, and artists.

Adobe does offer other photo-editing and design software, but Photoshop is the most powerful and versatile of these options.

Key Features

  • It supports all the main file formats, including raw files
  • It allows anything from minor retouching to major constructive edits
  • Edits can be isolated or added by layers
  • It features a comprehensive and easy to use interface
  • It includes the capability for 3D editing, as well as mobile designs
  • Drawing and typography tools are included, making it a top option for designers as well
  • The software creates cloud libraries and automatic backups

Pros

  • An unparalleled number of features
  • Great speed and processing power
  • Widely used and supported, making it all but an industry standard

Cons

  • It’s only available through an expensive recurring subscription, and a permanent purchase/license option is not available
  • The sheer number of features might make it difficult to navigate, especially for users who may only be looking for a few specific features

Pricing

Adobe Photoshop needs to be licensed through a recurring subscription, either as an annual plan that can be prepaid or paid monthly but comes in at $20.99/mo either way. 

It can also be licensed through a month-to-month plan, requiring no annual subscription, but is slightly pricier at $31.49/mo. 

Discounts are available through bundles with other Adobe products, or for students, and a 1-week free trial is also offered.

Try Adobe Photoshop

2. Skylum Luminar – Best Filters

Skylum Luminar may lack a few of the features of its next competitor Photoshop, but is nevertheless a well-rounded software that includes most (if not all) of the photo editing and manipulation features that both professional and amateur photographers need.

It also assists with the creation, sorting, viewing, and backup of large albums with integrated cloud storage options.

Luminar includes automatic editing of multiple photos and a large number of filters which can also be sorted and applied automatically.

The quick, automated nature of these functions, which also include HDR imaging, makes Luminar a close contender for the top spot on this list.

In addition to working well as a stand-alone product, it can also be integrated as an add-on to Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom.

Alternatively, Luminar allows the addition of other premade background and filter packs and programs.

Key Features

  • It uses a simple, clean interface
  • There are a large number of automated fixes available
  • HDR imaging well as numerous filters are included
  • Support for all major file types, including raw
  • Files on the drive are automatically backed-up to cloud storage
  • Frequent software updates
  • 24/7 support

Pros

  • Easy to use interface and features
  • Many enhancement features are automated
  • Easy viewing and sorting options
  • Easy integration with other programs

Cons

  • Some manual editing features are not always reliable
  • No face recognition or geotagging
  • Limited manual album sorting options

Pricing

Unlike some competitors, Skylum Luminar is a one time purchase. It can be purchased and downloaded from their site for $67 with a thirty-day money-back guarantee. 

While it already includes a large number of filters and features, other filters and backgrounds can be bundled at purchase. 

Special pricing is also available for users upgrading from a previous version of Luminar (which is currently in the fourth generation) or for users looking to license multiple logins at once.

Try Skylum Luminar

3. Corel PaintShop Pro – Best For Beginners

The combination of accessible features and low price offered by Corel’s PaintShop Pro make it an excellent option for beginners looking to get into photography or graphic design.

Its features are powerful, but not quite as diverse in some areas as some of the higher options on this list.

For users looking to expand into graphic design, Paintshop Pro includes excellent features for vector and raster graphics.

Like other options, PaintShop Pro includes automated AI features, which can help with the removal of noise and artifacts.

It also includes image enhancement features, like HDR, and a number of stylistic adjustments and filters.

Newer versions of PaintShop also include their Sea-to-Sky feature, which provides automated features targeted at photos taken underwater or by drone.

Key Features

  • It includes automated enhancement and image clean-up tools
  • It supports graphic design functions, including vector art, and comes preloaded with art & design templates
  • It features a clean interface, with tutorials aimed at beginners to further assist use
  • Automatic correction and stabilization of underwater and aerial photographs

Pros

  • It offers a wide range of beginner-friendly tools, including tutorials
  • No recurring fees, PaintShop offers its programs via a one-time license purchase
  • AI-assisted automation features make simple clean-up and editing easy
  • The core tools it offers are simple and powerful

Cons

  • Missing some of the more advanced manipulation tools available through Photoshop and others
  • No cloud backup
  • Only available through Windows
  • Need to purchase an upgraded edition to access new features

Pricing

PaintShop Pro is currently offering its 2021 edition, available for as a one-time purchase of $79.99 for the basic edition, or $99.99 for the ultimate edition which includes their Sea-to-Sky editing features.

A 30-day free trial is offered, as well as discounts for users upgrading from a previous edition of PaintShop Pro.

Try Corel PaintShop Pro

4. Adobe Lightroom – Best Online Tool

Adobe’s Lightroom is a lightweight, cloud-based photo editing program targeted at users who do not need the full range of tools offered by the more expensive Photoshop but still want the advantage of Adobe’s industry-leading tools and expertise.

Lightroom’s interface is intuitive and straightforward – it helpfully directs you through the core tools needed for basic photo clean-up and editing.

As a cloud-based option, Lightroom also includes backup and storage of photographs, as well as the ability to sort them into albums.

It’s essentially everything an amateur photographer looking to be able to store and touch up their photos would be looking for.

Lightroom is also available in Lightroom Classic, a version of the service that still includes cloud support, but makes many of its tools available offline.

It also includes some of the tools that professionals would find essential, most notably local printing.

Key Features

  • Lightroom offers simple solutions to photo editing and album sorting
  • Many of the touch-up features are automated
  • It comes with a large number of default presets and filters
  • The sliders that adjust key features are fully customizable
  • Your subscription includes up to 1TB cloud storage
  • Option for either a lightweight cloud version of the software or a more in-depth software version

Pros

  • Simple, guided photo editing
  • Option for pre-sets or custom sliders for editing photos
  • Face recognition software
  • Manual editing tools, like brushes

Cons

  • Requires an expensive subscription
  • May be lacking some more advanced features, depending on your version
  • Back-up features may be a little overzealous, requiring you to manually remove photos you did not want to be backed up

Pricing

Both Lightroom and Lightroom Classic are available for $9.99/mo, with a 30-day free trial. Both versions are available with higher storage starting at $19.99/mo.

Discounts are available for students, or when bundling with other Adobe creative cloud products.

Try Adobe Lightroom 

5. Canva – Best Templates

Canva’s features focus more heavily on the graphic design aspects of photo editing. They use a simple drag and drop editor to add layers and other photo elements.

This makes it an excellent tool for amateur designers and small business owners to create image posts for social media.

Canva may be a less than ideal option if you’re looking for something to clean up and enhance photos, seeing how their strength lies elsewhere.

But if you’re looking specifically for a program with a large number of entry-level graphic design functions, Canva is the leading option in that regard.

Their software can be used on both a computer and mobile device, and exports cleanly to the cloud, or allows images to be posted on social media.

Key Features

  • Versions of Canva are available on both desktop and mobile app
  • The interface uses simple drag-and-drop tools to create multi-layered images
  • It includes thousands of templates, overlays, and icons available
  • Canva offers basic photo editing tools, like crop and rotate, as well as filters
  • It allows you to create image posts for social media, printable or online materials for business and marketing, and even a variety of educational
  • Items can be edited or created individually, or linked together for large projects

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Premade templates guide you in the right direction
  • Cloud-based service is available anywhere you have internet
  • Free versions of the service available

Cons

  • Limited options to create and edit original images
  • Some features are limited, or difficult to use on mobile

Pricing

Canva offers a free version of its service and expands the features available on its free tier to educators and non-profits. 

Canva Pro is $12.95/mo, which is discounted to $9.95/mo if purchasing a yearly subscription. 

The premium tier allows you to save custom logos and adds thousands of additional templates, as well as access to a massive library of stock photos and similar media.

An enterprise version is available to users who need to collaborate on a single account. This starts at $30/mo per user.

Try Canva

6. Skylum Aurora HDR – Most Sophisticated HDR Engine

Skylum’s Aurora HDR software functions as either a standalone product or as a plugin to another software, including most notably Adobe Photoshop and Apple Photos.

It offers both the traditional options for HDR image creation, as well as AI-powered tools to create HDR images from a single image.

It features a clean, intuitive interface that allows the quick navigation and application of its many tools and filters.

Aurora HDR is a powerful tool for creating stunning, vibrant images and offers a wide range of tools to facilitate that goal.

This includes both a wide range of pre-sets and automatic functions, as well as manual editing which allows both experienced photographers and aspiring amateurs to create stunning enhancements of single or multiple photos.

Key Features

  • The ability to process RAW images, and other image formats
  • Functions that automate cleaning noise from an image
  • The software automatically enhances depth, clarity, and localized contrast to create sharp, detailed images
  • It includes dozens of tools and presets that can be quickly applied and sorted through to choose the best version of your image
  • All enhancement functions can also be controlled manually, allowing specific tweaks to be made by more experienced users

Pros

  • Excellent mix of accessibility and depth of function
  • Suitable for all experience levels
  • Integrates with related programs, including industry leaders like photoshop
  • Available on both Mac and Windows
  • Fast and powerful processing ability
  • One-time license purchase

Cons

  • It’s a specialty app, designed around a specific set of functions, meaning it’s not the best option for broad-use photo editing
  • Comparatively expensive for the small number of features it offers

Pricing

Skylum Aurora HDR can be purchased for the one-time price of $99 and includes a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Discounts are available when bundling with Skylum’s full-service photo editing software, Luminar.

Try Skylum Aurora HDR

7. DesignWizard – Most User Friendly

DesignWizard is another option that allows the simple creation of designed image posts by using a variety of presets and templates.

In addition to its ability to create image posts, it also allows the editing of videos, and insertion of video elements into your designs.

A combination of single-click implementation of designs and templates and a drag-and-drop interface allows you to easily create professional-looking designs.

DesignWizard allows the backup and storage of designed images and exporting to a variety of social media outlets (Facebook, Instagram).

The design templates available include business and marketing tools, personal posts for social media and blog designs, and a wide variety of cards and invitations.

Key Features

  • Design wizard’s online service includes access to a massive library of stock photos, all licensed for personal and commercial use
  • It allows content to be backed up or immediately uploaded to social media
  • It includes hundreds of templates, including several that are directly formatted for Facebook ad spaces
  • Basic photo editing features are included, allowing cropping and rotating, and adding logos and layers to original photos

Pros

  • Beginner-friendly features and interface
  • Allows the creation of ads
  • All images are licensed, preventing copyright strikes
  • A free version of the service available

Cons

  • No mobile app is available
  • Text overlays and certain layering features can be clumsy

Pricing

DesignWizard includes a free version of the service, that supports itself with a freemium model, in which you pay for additional stock photos and other premium media. 

A pro version of the service is available for $9.99/mo and adds 60 free stock image downloads per month, and 1GB of cloud storage and additional uploading capacity. 

The business tier of the service, available for $49.99/mo, adds unlimited downloads and the ability for video editing and uploads. Discounts for annual subscriptions are available, as well as a 7-day free trial.

Try DesignWizard 

8. PicMonkey – Best For Social Posts

PicMonkey strikes a balance between online design features and a suite of basic photo editing software.

Where many similar services limit their photo editing capabilities to basic cropping and other features you could find on your phone’s default photo app, PicMonkey includes the ability to touch up photos, remove backgrounds with one click, and merge them with others to form collages, and more.

This is not done at the expense of PicMonkey’s graphic design capabilities either.

Its design tools allow even beginners to create professional-looking media through a combination of manual tools, templates, and presets.

Key Features

  • PicMonkey offers a wide range of templates and presets, as well as graphics and fonts
  • Creates professional-looking designs for both business and personal brands
  • It’s an online service, available through a web browser, as well as a mobile app for either Android or iPhone or as a desktop app
  • Images can be downloaded, backed up to the cloud, or uploaded to social media
  • It offers a healthy number of tools and options for photo editing
  • A stock photo library with millions of images is included as part of the service

Pros

  • More in-depth photo editing
  • Extremely beginner-friendly option with a wide range of tools
  • Constantly expanding and updating features
  • Great for collaboration or use across multiple devices

Cons

  • No free option available
  • Limits on high-res images
  • Not as fast or as powerful as top tier options

Pricing

PicMonkey offers two tiers of service for personal use, and one targeted at business. The Basic tier includes 1GB of cloud storage and all the basic editing functions for $7.99/mo. 

The Pro tier adds access to their stock photo library, several automated features, and unlimited cloud storage for $12.99/mo

The Team package includes all the features of pro, but offers a discount for teams of collaborators, and starts at $33.99/mo

The personal options include a 7-day free trial and discounts for prepaid annual bundles.

Try PicMonkey

9. Capture One – Best For Advanced Users

Capture one is a pure editing platform, providing experienced photographers a diverse and powerful set of features to edit raw image files.

It was developed by high-end camera company Phase One, a company familiar with the needs and demands of expert photographers.

So it’s functions are both more streamlined and in a few areas more expansive than Adobe Lightroom.

In terms of aesthetics or core functions, there’s not going to be much that’s surprising, but some of it’s expanded features, like masking capabilities, allow you to perform functions that otherwise would require a second, more comprehensive program, like Photoshop.

Key Features

  • It includes numerous manual tools, like brushes, cloning tools, and masking tools not usually found in a raw image editor
  • Capture One offers multiple color-correction tools, from basic options like saturation to more in-depth automatic correction for light balance and contrast, and even skin tone specific corrections
  • It automatically imports settings for all major camera brands and offers settings and adjustments for common issues
  • It allows you to save settings for specific lenses, and can automatically apply those corrections
  • It includes (some) HDR imaging tools

Pros

  • A large number of powerful tools
  • A customizable interface
  • Ability to process multiple edits to multiple layers simultaneously
  • Good photo and album sorting features
  • Option to license month-to-month or in perpetuity

Cons

  • The interface is not especially beginner-friendly
  • No online storage or sharing functions
  • Lacks the ability to merge multiple images, limiting HDR and panorama options

Pricing

Because many of its features are meant to address camera and lens-specific editing needs, Capture One’s pricing model is based on the type or number of cameras you need to be able to process. 

For Sony, Fujifilm, or Nikon, it’s a $9.99/mo subscription or a one-time payment of $129. 

For other or multiple brands it’s $20/mo or a one-time license fee of $299.

Try Capture One

10. DxO PhotoLab 3

 

DxO PhotoLab (formerly DxO Optics Pro) is another powerful Adobe Lightroom alternative, which offers the ability to process and edit large raw files.

It includes the ability for numerous automatic fixes, including camera-specific corrections and emulations.

What really makes DxO PhotoLab a strong contender is its noise reduction features.

The software also includes manual tools for lighting and color correction, as well as enhancement filters, and single-image HDR.

It offers a wide range of tools in a clean and straightforward interface, but overall may be a bit more complicated and unguided for newcomers to the field of photography.

It’s an excellent option for intermediate and experienced photographers and designers.

Key Features

  • The software comes preloaded with dozens of presets and allows the creation of more
  • The ability to correct any lens or camera-specific rendering issues is preloaded for over 60 models
  • It offers industry-leading noise reduction tools, as well as AI-enhanced haze removal
  • Brushes and automated repair tools for small corrections are included and easy to use
  • It includes a large number of lighting and color tools

Pros

  • Powerful automated tools
  • The interface is simple and direct
  • Corrects geometric issues related to wide-angle and other lenses
  • May reduce the need for Photoshop or more advanced tools
  • One-time purchase of a perpetual license

Cons

  • Minimal workflow management
  • Large automated corrections can lag a bit
  • The lower price option sacrifices too many features for a relatively small drop in price

Pricing

DxO PhotoLab is currently in the third iteration of its software and is available in two editions, Essential and Elite.

Essential is a one-time purchase of $99 and includes all the core features of the service, but is missing many of the automated features that give DxO an edge over competing products. 

The Elite package includes them for a similar one-time payment of $149

A free 30-day trial is available for both products, as well as discounts for users upgrading from a previous version.

Try DxO Photolab 3

11. ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate

Photo Studio Ultimate is not the only photo editing program available from playfully named design lab ACDSee, but Ultimate is the tier where the features offered reach the level of being able to go blow-for-blow with competing options.

ACDSee has been around as long as Adobe, and while not as widely used are kept in business by a dedicated core user base.

Their service includes layer editing, not unlike what you’d get from PhotoShop or Lightroom, and it’s automated options and workflow tools make it a more manageable option than some similar Adobe competitors.

Photo Studio Ultimate is particularly adept at managing color and lighting corrections, making it an excellent choice if you need a versatile photo editing program, but typically use those core functions.

Key Features

  • You have the ability to import and edit raw photo files
  • It’s light and color correction tools are top of the line
  • It includes full support for multi-image HDR processing
  • Photo Studio Ultimate uses AI-Powered Facial detection and recognition
  • You can make significant edits with its multi-layer editing tools
  • Presets are included to allow lens-specific correction

Pros

  • Many features not included in comparable options
  • Compatible with cloud storage
  • Responsive and relatively strong processing

Cons

  • Its interface is insanely busy, making it a bit harder to navigate
  • The clean-up tools, especially noise removal are weaker than certain competitors

Pricing

ACDSee offers Photo Studio Ultimate as either a one-time license purchase or monthly license subscription. The one-time purchase comes in at $224.98 though it frequently offers substantial discounts, and the full purchase includes updates and support for a full year. 

The monthly license comes bundled with other ACDSee products and starts as low as $8.90/mo

A 30-day free trial is available for this and all related products.

Try ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate

12. Gimp

Gimp is an open-source photo editing and graphic design software that hearkens back to the early days of the internet.

Gimp is a fully free piece of software that still gets 3-4 major updates a year, and it predates the freemium software model, meaning all features are available, without restriction, to all users.

Gimp has the ability to perform in-depth editing functions on photos but also includes a variety of illustration and graphic design tools (specifically raster graphics).

Its open-source nature makes it easy to integrate with a wide range of third-party apps, as well as allowing support for several programming languages.

It’s an excellent choice for part-time freelancers, and beginning users who don’t mind a bit of a learning curve.

Key Features

  • Gimp is an open-source platform for photo-editing, graphic design, and illustration
  • It includes tools for high-level photo manipulation
  • The platform integrates with a large number of other open-source programs and is compatible with several programming languages
  • It’s supported by an open-source modding community, which creates plugins specifically for gimp

Pros

  • Fully free, open-source program
  • Full range of features comparable to many premium, professional options
  • An excellent multi-function design and image manipulation platform

Cons

  • No official support
  • Can be quite difficult to adopt for users who are not familiar with similar programs

Pricing

Gimp is entirely free and is updated a few times a year to add new features and compatibilities.

For those who wish to support the continuing development of open-source programs, they have donation links to support the project or core developers directly.

But this is in no way required to use the software, or prompted in the desktop app.

Try Gimp

13. On1 Photo RAW

 

On1 offers a variety of media editing and sharing programs. Their combination editing and viewing software Photo Raw is an excellent choice for photographers.

It’s specifically useful if you’re looking for the ability to sift through large numbers of photographs and make edits as needed.

Photo Raw is available for both Windows and Mac, though only the Mac version includes the ability to share photos across multiple connected devices.

Photo RAW’s main features center around a variety of presets and filters, which allow quick adjustments to things like lighting and color.

Users aren’t constrained to using just those, it offers sliders to make minute adjustments to just about every feature, and an editing history which allows you to review those changes, or retrieve settings used previously.

Key Features

  • Photo Raw switches easily between photo viewing and photo editing, allowing professionals to manage large albums with ease
  • It offers dozens of filters and presets, but also fully customizable sliders for all potential adjustments
  • It allows major layer-based edits and manipulation
  • Versions of the software are available for Windows, Mac, and mobile devices
  • Edits can be previewed before changes are fully made and processed
  • It supports hundreds of cameras, and all major image files, including (obviously) raw images

Pros

  • Excellent balance of features and ease of use
  • Allows switching modes between portraits, landscapes, and wildlife photography
  • Available as a subscription or perpetual license

Cons

  • It has limited automatic sorting features, most notably an absence of face recognition and geotagging
  • The Windows version of its software doesn’t have the same sharing features as the Mac versions

Pricing

On1 Photo RAW is available either via a one-time license purchase, or recurring monthly license. The one-time license is $69.99 with discounts available for users upgrading from a previous version. 

The monthly subscription comes bundled with their cloud storage tools, and starts at $7.99/mo, with discounts available for annual prepayment.

Try On1 Photo Raw

14. Adobe Photoshop Elements

No matter how much effort a developer puts into creating wizards, tutorials, and walkthroughs, sometimes there’s nothing to be done about the fact that you just don’t need all the features being offered.

This is why Adobe has created the lightweight alternative Photoshop elements.

Photoshop Elements is specifically aimed at amateur photographers who lack the expertise and/or desire to make use of the more feature-heavy alternatives in Adobe’s arsenal.

It automates numerous basic editing functions, including the application of filters and minor corrections.

It can also be licensed with a one-time purchase, freeing it from the ongoing commitment that other products in the Adobe Creative Cloud require.

Key Features

  • Photoshop Elements automates many editing features, including filters, and light and color correction through AI
  • It’s guided sorting tools include face recognition and geo-tagging, as well as an “Auto-curate” function which identifies the best photos based on a few simple criteria
  • Guided edits allow the creation of mixed format images, and some basic layering and cutout functions
  • It includes AI functions to edit minor difficulties with amateur subjects, like red-eye, eyes closed/blinking, and more

Pros

  • It’s an extremely beginner-friendly offering, in terms of both features and guidance
  • Automated tools allow professional-looking edits and corrections
  • Numerous tools for album creation and sorting
  • Available for both Windows and Mac

Cons

  • Limited cloud sharing options
  • Missing more in-depth editing tools, including correction for lens issues like chromatic aberration and geometrics
  • It’s a purely desktop app, meaning its drawing entirely from your computer’s hard drive and processing power

Pricing

Photoshop Elements is available through a one-time license purchase of $59.99

It can also be bundled with Premiere Elements, a version of Adobe’s video editing program with similar automated functions, for $89.99.

Try Adobe Photoshop Elements

15. Pixlr Editor

Pixlr is available as a web app, or for download to desktop or mobile devices.

It offers both free and premium versions of its service, making it a competitive option whether for both casual users, and those looking to move into offering a professional service.

Pixlr allows images to be stored on the cloud and accessed and edited from any connected device.

In addition to being uploaded from a camera or hard drive, it allows you to pull images off social media and other online sources.

It includes millions of filters and editing presets, allowing images to be quickly and easily edited through a simple, customizable interface.

Pixlr is currently offered as Pixlr E and Pixler X. Pixlr X is designed as the simpler version of the service, where E has a larger number of creative functions.

Key Features

  • As a web-based service Pixlor allows images to be uploaded, edited, and stored across multiple devices
  • It includes millions of presets, filters, and templates allowing you to edit images, or create custom designs for social media or promotions
  • Even as an online service, the service allows a high level of interface customization
  • A massive library of stock photos is available to assist with the creation of design posts

Pros

  • Available as a free service
  • A wide range of accessibility options
  • Compatible with many devices
  • It enables quick, beginner-friendly edits

Cons

  • It’s a flash-based program, which some browsers and devices are beginning to phase out
  • The free version is cluttered with ads (which is to be expected, but still distracting)

Pricing

Pixlr is available as a free service that includes access to both Pixlr E and X, and access to the core editing and design functions. 

Upgrading to the $4.90/mo Premium version expands both the editing tools and design assets and removes ads. 

The professional tier adds access to their stock library and expands the available assets even further for $14.99/mo

Discounts are available for annual prepayment.

Try Pixlr Editor

16. Alien Skin Exposure X5

Alien Skin Software, now doing business as Exposure Software is another independent developer that offers a professional grade product targeted at users who find their needs somewhere between the features offered by Lightroom and Photoshop.

Exposure Software is somewhat unique, in that it focuses heavily on providing film-quality effects, and selective editing of photos, including the ability to apply filters and effects to just a part of an image.

It comes preloaded with dozens of pre-sets and includes the ability to save your own, allowing quick, uniform edits to your images.

All its features are provided in a single interface, allowing you to move seamlessly between viewing and sorting images, and making edits of any size.

Key Features

  • X5 uses non-destructive editing tools to enable layer edits of raw images
  • It offers hundreds of filters and presets that can be applied selectively
  • Images can be quickly transferred, and are backed up with virtual copies
  • It can be used as a standalone product, or integrated with other programs, like Photoshop
  • Full support for local printing is included

Pros

  • A large number of powerful visual tools
  • Intuitive yet comprehensive interface
  • Several options for album creation and sorting
  • One of the fastest options available
  • One-time license purchase available

Cons

  • Options for auto-correction are extremely limited
  • No face recognition or geotagging
  • No lens geometry or chromatic aberration corrections

Pricing

Exposure’s X5 is available as a one-time license purchase for $119, or just $89 for users upgrading from a previous version. 

It can also be bundled with additional effects software from Exposure, which can be added to X5 or other editing software, for a total of $149, or $99 for upgrading users. 

A free 30-day trial is also offered.

Try Alien Skin Exposure X5

17. PortraitPro

Anthropics, the creators of PotraitPro, actually offers several different services for photo editing.

PortraitPro is simply the version of their service that’s most worthy of appearing on this list.

PortraitPro comes loaded with tools and presets specifically designed to create gorgeous professional portraits.

It offers the ability to make simple corrections like lighting and color corrections.

More crucially to its intended purpose, it includes the ability to remove wrinkles and blemishes, and add or enhance makeup.

It can also adjust hair color and includes AI-enhanced skin tone corrections.

It’s available as a standalone app, or as a plugin to Photoshop, making it an essential tool if you’re looking to offer professional portrait services.

Key Features

  • PortraitPro features powerful AI-powered face detection and correction tools, automatically making tweaks to lighting and smoothing the skin
  • A wide range of fully manual or AI-assisted adjustments can be made to facial features
  • Advanced layering options allow portraits and silhouettes to be placed on other backgrounds
  • PortraitPro offers fast, powerful processing, allowing you to make adjustments in real-time

Pros

  • Best photo editing software for portraits
  • Integrates with other programs
  • Make adjustments to facial features and makeup
  • Many unique features

Cons

  • Some versions cannot process raw image files
  • Limited ability to undo edits, meaning photos should be backed up before editing
  • The large number of unique features can make the interface feel a bit alien at first

Pricing

PortraitPro is technically the basic version of the packages offered for this program. 

For $44.95 you get the core software and the features listed (except support for RAW files and the ability to function as a Photoshop Plugin). 

The Studio version adds these features for $69.95. 

Finally, the Studio Max version, allowing the automated processing of large albums, is available for $279.90. 

Discounts are available for users upgrading from previous editions and are often available to new users as well.

Try PortraitPro

18. Inkscape

Inkscape is an open-source graphic design program, meaning it’s entirely free and can be installed on Mac, Windows, and Linux devices.

Enterprising designers can make adjustments to the program, or simply employ add-ons created by members of its community.

Despite being a free option, Inkscape includes a robust suite of services, most notably the ability to create vector graphics or translate other image formats into vectors.

The tools are fully customizable and can be removed or added as necessary, and offers you professional studio-level control over the creation and editing of new or existing graphics.

Key Features

  • As an open source program, Inkscape is free to install and can be modified or integrated with other open-source programs without restriction
  • An active developer community drives the creation of new features and adds compatibility when and where it’s required
  • Vector illustrations can be created and edited with the same capability as offered by a premium software
  • A simplistic interface that can be customized to add or remove tools
  • It offers a rich number of both text and color options for your designs

Pros

  • Free, and compatible with all operating systems
  • Powerful, professional-grade tools
  • Frequent updates

Cons

  • The interface lacks tutorials and wizards, creating a very high learning curve
  • Limits on the ability to import/export files to other programs
  • Not the best option for text overlays

Pricing

As an open-source program, Inkspace is entirely free. If you choose to, you can support the developers in this or other initiatives, but it is not required, and there are no repeated prompts to do so.

Try Inkscape

19. Snappa

Snappa offers yet another outlet for users looking for an online solution that combines basic photo editing functions with graphic design creation tools.

The image editing tools may be simple, but they include everything that may be required to edit and add photos to various graphics templates.

Snappa has a one-click tool to isolate and remove the background of an image.

The design functions include hundreds of pre-made templates specifically sized and formatted for various social media outlets.

This includes anything from blog posts and themes to Twitter and Facebook posts.

Snappa is unique in that all versions of its service, including the free tier, include access to its library of millions of stock images, as well as thousands of pre-made design templates.

Key Features

  • Snappa is an online image editing and design platform with thousands of templates
  • It includes a fully licensed stock photo library with millions of images
  • Images can be added to existing templates, and those templates can be adjusted via a simple drag-and-drop editor
  • Images and designs can be immediately uploaded to the numerous social media connections that Snappa supports

Pros

  • Wide range of customization options
  • Design templates can be adjusted and resized while maintaining integrity
  • Free version available
  • Quick and easy to use

Cons

  • No auto-save or undo features mean that progress can easily be lost
  • The free tier has limits that you may find frustrating

Pricing

Snappa is available as a free or premium service. The free version of the service includes access to the full library of images and templates but imposes strict limits on the number of downloads and the ability to load images to social media. 

The Pro tier removes those restrictions and adds the one-click image editing features for $15/mo

A collaborative version of the service is also available, offering support for up to 5 users on the same account for $30/mo.

Try Snappa

20. Fotor

Fotor is one of the most powerful online tools for integrating both photo editing and design.

Fotor offers a wider range of photo editing features than many competitors, including color correction, light balance, numerous filters, and even HDR imaging.

It also includes manual retouching functions. Certainly not least: it supports raw image files.

The design features include the ability to create simple collages or load images into existing templates for use in various personal and promotional posts.

Most importantly, it offers all these services for free.

Although a Pro version of the service is also available that adds cloud storage and the ability to load custom logos.

Key Features

  • Fotor offers a powerful and diverse set of photo-editing tools
  • It includes the ability to make custom designs, including collages
  • Cloud storage for both created images and custom logos and templates is offered as part of its premium service

Pros

  • Most photo editing tools of any free online platform
  • Easy, intuitive interface
  • Available on a web browser or mobile app

Cons

  • Free version puts limits on saving images, and certain format exports
  • Some of its higher-end services are better performed by a dedicated software

Pricing

Fotor offers the base version of its service for free. You don’t even need to login to start working. 

If you want the option to load directly to social media or save your own images and custom templates, you’ll need to upgrade to the Pro version, which is $8.99/mo but is heavily discounted for annual subscribers.

Try Fotor

21. Affinity Photo

Affinity Photo is the only fully-loaded photo editor integrated across macOS, Windows and iOS.

It features a suite of tools such as panorama stitching, focus stacking, batch processing, 360 image editing, PSD editing as well as smart object support.

With a cost-effective perpetual license, Affinity Photo is perfect for those who want a Photoshop like experience without paying the price tag.

Affinity is geared towards the beginner market with its simplified frequency retouching and HDR editing tool set. 

Whilst it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles in Photoshop, it’s still good value relative to its price. 

Key Features

  • Editable metadata on photos
  • Supports very large images (100 megapixels and upwards)
  • Can edit PSD and PSB files
  • Smart object import
  • Refined photo touching with frequency separation

Pros

  • Lifetime license
  • Easily remove objects with inpainting brush
  • Burn, patch, clone and dodge removal tools
  • Non-destructive filter effects
  • Live resolution preview
  • Professional lens correction technology
  • Easily adjust backpoint, exposure and white balance

Cons

  • Not as feature rich as Photoshop
  • Will need to purchase multiple versions for different operating systems

Pricing

Affinity Photo prices it’s Mac and Windows lifetime license at $49.99 and its iPad license at $19.99. They also offer a 14 day free trial. 

Try Affinity Photo

Photo Editing Software FAQ 

What is the best photo editing software for beginners?

The best photo editing software for beginners is Adobe Photoshop. Though it has a steep learning curve, there are a library of online YouTube tutorials that you can use to learn the features in and out. 

It’s better to invest in learning a tried and tested tool like Adobe Photoshop vs less well known options. Adobe releases periodic updates and is continually improving their Photoshop package.

Is Adobe Photoshop free?

Unfortunately, Adobe Photoshop is not free – however it does come with a 7 day free trial. If you are really tight on cash you could consider rotating free trials between different emails but bear in mind this is a hassle. Personally, I feel Adobe Photoshop is a worthwhile investment.

What do professionals use to edit their photos?

The most commonly used software for professionals to edit photos is Adobe Photoshop. Photoshop features an intuitive interface with almost any tool you can think of for editing pictures. 

What is the difference between Lightroom and Photoshop?

Lightroom is a lighter weight version of Photoshop that allows you to export, organize and import photos with minimal functionality around photo editing. Photoshop on the other hand allows you to fine tune and make detailed adjustments to any image. 

Does Windows have a default photo editor?

Windows has a Photos app which features basic editing capabilities such as organizing, cropping, rotating and enhancing images. However, if you want to apply advanced effects on your photos, Photos cannot do this.

Does Mac have a default photo editor?

Yes. The Mac OS has a new Photos App. It is similar in functionality to the default Windows app but also features non-destructive editing. This means that you can always revert back to older versions of your image even after you have edited and saved them. 

Summary

Editing photos with ease and accuracy is the end goal. As a photographer, the tool you pick is dependent on the job that you need done.

If you are on a budget then consider free tools such as the online editor Pixlr. If you want the best and don’t mind paying you can’t go wrong with Photoshop

To reiterate, here are my top picks:

  1. Adobe Photoshop 
  2. Skylum Luminar
  3. Corel Paintshop Pro 

The good thing is – you don’t need to pick the perfect tool right off the bat – most of them come with free trials. 

What did you end up using? Let me know in the comments and share your experience. 

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Eddie

About Eddie

I launched this blog in 2020 to share my knowledge and experience on online businesses.

I've built 2 successful online businesses (ecommerce & leadgen) and want to share the best tips, tricks and software so you can do the same.

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