Just like with pretty much everything else, there is a lot of choice when it comes to photo editing software in 2019. Whether your needs are basic or advanced, you’re sure to find multiple options for photo editors for all price points. With such a vast array of choices, it’s understandable that you might get a little lost when deciding which photo editing software is best for your needs, which is why we are going to talk about 20 of the best ones available today for different kinds of users.
Without a doubt, the first image editing software that comes to most people’s minds is Photoshop. This is a highly powerful and polished photo editor that goes far beyond one’s basic needs of photo editing. It’s designed for those who want absolute control over how their images turn out. With Photoshop, you can perform basic tasks like adjusting the exposure, colors, and levels as well as highly advanced ones like using brushes for creative editing, removing objects that you don’t want in your photos, and using the healing and cloning tools to completely change the way your image looks.
Photoshop, therefore, is a great piece of software for advanced image editing. However, it’s not perfect. Firstly, it needs to be complemented by Adobe Lightroom if you want to edit RAW photos seriously and secondly, it is subscription-based which means you’ll be paying the $9.99 price for as long as you want to use the software. Granted, the $9.99 price tag gets you Lightroom as well but it still stacks up way too high over the years.
Adobe Lightroom is perhaps the most popular RAW photo editing software in the world right now. It’s a very well-designed editor that lets you do pretty much all you’d expect from a RAW editor. You can non-destructively make edits to the exposure, colors, white balance, highlights and shadows, noise, and clarity of your photos. All of this is done inside a slick interface that is easy to understand and to use. Lightroom also has presets that make it quicker to edit photos in a certain way and it also doubles as a strong image organization tool for your computer.
However, just as with Photoshop, the biggest flaw Lightroom has is its subscription-based pricing. You can get Lightroom for the same $9.99 that you pay for Photoshop as part of Adobe’s Creative Cloud bundle, but whether that recurring price is worth it or not is up to you to decide.
If you don’t like subscription-based editors, then Luminar is the best RAW image editor you can get for a very fair price of $69. For your money, you’ll get a powerful, well-designed, and highly intuitive photo editing software that can easily take on the likes of Lightroom with its vast array of features and highly easy-to-use presets. Everything from exposure correction to highlight and shadow recovery is possible with Luminar in an attractive interface, and all of this is done non-destructively. Luminar also offers a number of filters and Looks that are developed by professional photographers and are highly effective and customizable.
With its newest update, Luminar has even added Libraries – it’s own version of photo management. This pushes the software much further and makes it even more compelling for the price you pay.
4. Aurora HDR
Aurora HDR, as the name implies, is a dedicated HDR editor that has a very strong reputation in the world of photo editing software. The editor is full of features you’d want to use while editing HDRs and is also powered by AI to make your editing life much, much easier. There are more than 200 tools to ensure that all your HDR editing needs are catered for, and all of these tools are easy to use and quick in their operation. Aurora HDR also offers some unique tools that make it easy to remove halos and ghosts effectively – something that is a pain for HDR photographers.
Aurora HDR also offers presets and Looks from professionals that give you a very strong starting point for each of your images while editing them. It also comes as a plugin for Lightroom and Photoshop, so you can use it to add more functionality of those two editors if you want to. For $99, Aurora HDR is priced well too, however, we do wish that it offered a little more in terms of editing options for non-HDR RAW photos.
If you are looking for a Lightroom alternative that might just be better than it, then Capture One Pro is it. It’s an excellent RAW photo editing software that is built to be used by professionals. It offers all the tools you’d want, from basic brightness and contrast sliders to local adjustments and various masks. You can make layered adjustments too, which makes it easier to work with a lot of edits without losing your mind. There are presets here as well for one-click edits. Capture One Pro also has partnerships with Sony and Fuji, which makes it a very strong editor as far as these two brands are concerned.
Perhaps the only thing that’s not ideal about Capture One Pro is its pricing. It can be bought for $299 which is a significant amount. But if you’re looking at it as a Lightroom alternative, it may be worth it since it’s a one-time payment. Moreover, if you have a Sony or Fuji camera, then you can get a completely free and slightly less powerful version of Capture One which is better than almost every other deal out there.
AfterShot Pro comes from the reputed company, Corel. It’s the company’s premiere photo editing software that aims to replace the likes of Lightroom and Capture One on professional photographers’ computers. It’s a RAW image editor which has all the tools you’d want. This makes it a very good option for both beginners who want to get some basic photo editing done to professionals who want to dig deeper into their work and produce something exceptional. AfterShot Pro also comes with a very good watermarking tool that makes it quick and easy for people to sign their photos. It also has strong highlight recovery tools as well as a healthy library of presets. AfterShot also makes the claim to be 4x quicker than Lightroom in certain operations, which is a very big claim to make.
Overall, AfterShot Pro is a very good photo editing software even if its cataloging features aren’t as robust as that of some other programs. It can be bought for a one-time price of $79.99 which makes it one of the best values on this list.
Affinity Photo is perhaps the strongest Photoshop competitor on this list. It has everything that you would want from a powerhouse photo editing software for a very low price as compared to some rivals. While it focuses a lot on retouching images with excellent healing and cloning tools, it also provides a lot more like merging HDRs, creating panoramas, using focus stacking techniques, editing PSD files, working in multiple layers, and even digital painting. It also works quickly, opening large files with ease and performing all your edits at a swift pace.
At just $49.99, all of this makes Affinity Photo a great choice for all kinds of photographers. But if you need your photo editing software to come with cataloging tools, then you’d be disappointed as they don’t exist in Affinity Photo.
8. DxO PhotoLab
If RAW processing is what you’re looking for, then DxO PhotoLab is one of the best choices you have. It has some of the most appealing results thanks to years of development and improvements. DxO PhotoLab also comes with a PRIME denoise tool that is amazing at fixing too much noise in photos. There are also local adjustments here and very impressive lens corrections that work automatically. All of this makes DxO PhotoLab a photo editing software that’s hard to beat. However, it’s sad how the software kind of does that to itself.
Firstly, it doesn’t support Fuji cameras. On top of that, its PhotoLibrary feature is pretty weak and not something you’d be excited about using. And finally, in order to get the excellent PRIME denoise tool, you have to pay extra just like you have to pay extra to get the ability to perform a perspective adjustment or add analog effects. So, while the software starts at $129, the ELITE Edition goes up to a significant $199. Still, if you’re okay with spending money, then you’ll be very happy with the program for RAW editing.
Looking for a fully capable image editor but don’t want to spend money? Try GIMP. It’s long been one of the best Photoshop alternatives available and for good reason. It has a huge collection of tools that aim to give you all the creative freedom you’d want from a program that aims to dethrone Photoshop. You can do everything from basic image manipulation to advanced editing in layers using brushes and blending modes. Pretty much anything you can do in Photoshop is possible with GIMP. It’s not for people who want to edit RAW files though, so you should keep that in mind.
It does take some time getting used to the complicated interface GIMP comes with, but once you do that, you might never have to pay for another photo editor again.
RawTherapee is another completely free RAW editor that is perfect for people who want to get rid of Lightroom’s subscription-based payments but still want all the tools they need in order to make excellent images. This photo editing software has so many tools that it becomes hard to believe that it’s actually free of cost. Adjusting exposure and contrast, pulling back highlights and recovering shadows, fixing the white balance and tackling noise, all of this is possible in RawTherapee.
The only thing that can be said against this software is that it’s not as clean and well-designed as other editors and that it doesn’t come with image management features. But considering that you can get it for free, is that really something to complain about?
DarkTable is one more option for photographers looking for free advanced RAW editing. Like RawTherapee, it’s full of features that you’d expect from a premium photo editing software. It’s a software that has been created by photographers so you can be sure that all the essential features for solid RAW editing are present here. DarkTable also comes with a library feature so there’s some photo management going on as well. If you decide to give DarkTable a try, you’ll find yourself with software that allows you to non-destructively edit all your RAW files with all the tools you could ask for.
If you’re new to photo editing, however, then DarkTable might seem a little too daunting and even confusing at first. Its interface leaves a lot to be desired and a large number of tools can be too much to process right away. But once you get used to it, you’ll see why it has such a large fan base.
CyberLink PhotoDirector is a photo editing tool that is very well-rounded and quite affordable for all that it offers. It’s designed in a way so as to appeal to the general user, not just professional photographers. Its interface is well thought out, with all the important tools right there in front of you. It lets you work in layers to make multiple edits easily. It also comes with Express Layer Templates which contain text, objects, and gradient layers that can quickly enhance your images. The content-aware removal tool in PhotoDirector is very good at removing unwanted objects very easily. You can also use the software to smoothen skin in portraits, making them look better in an instant.
PhotoDirector costs just $79.99 and is a good deal especially if you’re not very used to photo editing and want something simple. But if you have an older computer, then the software might run poorly so keep that in mind before shelling out any cash.
13. ACDSee Ultimate
This photo editing software is very powerful when it comes to RAW photo editing. It has parametric photo editing as well as GPU acceleration to ensure that everything you do work quickly and efficiently. You can also work in layers to make non-destructive edits to your photos without making a confusing mess of all the tools you’re using. You also have access to certain brushes that make it easier to give a boost to aspects of your photos, luminance masks, and LUTs for instant editing when you need it. Another great feature of the software is its facial recognition, which makes it easier to identify and organize photos.
ACDSee Ultimate costs $149 and is a great way to edit photos in many more ways than one.
14. Pixelmator Pro
If you need to edit RAW files and want your image editor to have some design features like digital painting tools as well, then Pixelmator Pro is a good, inexpensive solution. Not only do you have a robust color correction tool, you also get the ability to work in layers, create reusable recipes, a Quick Selection tool that’s quick and easy to use, and much more. On top of all that, Pixelmator Pro also offers digital painting features to let your creativity run free.
The software is enhanced by Machine Learning as well as GPU acceleration to make the most of your computer. It costs a low $39.99 but is available only for Mac, which is quite the deal-breaker for many.
15. Exposure X4
Combining advanced RAW editing with a number of easy-to-use, one-click presets, Exposure X4 is a very good image editor to choose in 2019. It is the complete package as far as image editing goes. The presets it offers are developed by professional photographers so they’re much better than the filters in some other editors. That makes Exposure X4 a great option for not just professionals but also for casual users who just want to add some pop to their photos. This photo editing software also offers organizational features which elevate it even more as an editor of choice.
Exposure X4 can be bought for $119 for both Windows and Mac and can be used as a plugin to Photoshop and Lightroom as well.
16. ON1 Photo RAW
ON1 Photo RAW is for those who want an absolutely complete photo editing experience in one software. It can do almost everything you’d want from a photo editing software. Inside a pleasing interface hide countless tools that allow you to do anything ranging from simple exposure adjustments to more advanced localized adjustments. It also has various modules that each come with multiple tools inside them. Using these, you can edit portraits, use different effects, and make selective adjustments like mentioned before. ON1 also has strong search capabilities which make it more complete than some other similarly priced programs.
The one con we can gather about the software is that there’s simply a lot here that you need to wrap your head around. That, and the fact that many competitors market themselves much better than ON1 makes it a little obscure. But for $99, you really should be considering this program very seriously.
17. Portrait Pro
For portrait photographers, Portrait Pro offers up a very intuitive design that’s packed with features that focus on portrait retouching. It comes with very interesting tools such as the one designed to add makeup to portraits and another that’s great for smoothening skin and fixing blemishes or wrinkles. You can work in layers as well to work with multiple effects without affecting the actual image. There are also presets here that automatically retouch portraits, and its artificial intelligence detects faces and gender accurately.
While this is all great, the pricing of Portrait Pro leaves a lot to be desired. For a software that focuses only on portraits, the $139.95 price tag for the Studio Max version is admittedly hard to swallow. But if you’re into portraiture and are willing to spend a premium to get something that’s easy to use, then go for it!
A photo editor for all those who don’t want to install anything onto their computers and rather want to use something that lives in the cloud, Pixlr is great. It’s an online photo editor that can be used for free in your browser and on multiple devices. It is packed with features that are all pretty great at what they do. Exposure correction, color correction, white balance adjustment, blur effects, filters, and a lot more is available to the users and all of this works quite well for a free editor.
While Pixlr might not be for everyone, especially for professionals who need to edit RAW files non-destructively, it’s a very compelling option for people who want something that simply allows them to add some flair to their photos and don’t need the most advanced of tools to get very serious work done.
19. Apple Photos
For Mac users, Apple Photos provides a powerful photo editing software right within the OS itself. It’s free to use and comes with many features that would appease enthusiast photographers’ needs. It has a simple and clean interface with some tools such as Light, Retouch, and White Balance, some of which have more tools hidden inside them. All in all, it gives casual users a fair amount of control over their photos and produces pleasing results. Being an integral part of the OS, the software plays well with the computer and makes it easy to browse and select images too.
While Apple Photos doesn’t have support for RAW editing, the best thing about it is that it can be enhanced in functionality by using plugins. You can add plugins for RAW photos, HDR photos, and a lot of other things which turns this free program into a very strong photo editor even for professional needs.
20. Microsoft Photos
For users of Windows, Microsoft also adds a free image editor by the name of Photos. This is also a very clean, minimalist, and easy to use program that does a lot unless you need to edit RAW files or require advanced features like localized adjustments. For basic photo editing, Photos has a good amount of control over brightness, contrast, highlights, shadows, warmth, and even the tint of photos. You also have a handy Clarity slider that makes images pop out more. There are also filters here that can be quite useful when you need something quick and easy.
Photos also lets you add 3D effects to your photos and you can play with text or draw on your images as well. All of this combines to make Microsoft Photos a very useful photo editing software that can be used for free.
And that concludes our list of the best photo editing software for 2019. Everyone from casual photographers to those who edit photos professionally is bound to find something they like on this list. As always, we encourage users to try out every program they’re considering as a free trial because that is the best way to gauge a program’s usefulness for your particular needs.