The search for the best photo editing software is like trying to solve a riddle. Which one gives great value, intuitive use, top quality results, versatility, and suits your needs? We’re here to help you solve that riddle.
Photo editing programs flood the market today. But, no matter what level of post-processing or graphic design knowledge you bring, whatever your budget or specialty, there’s a software for you.
That’s why we’ve compiled our list of the best photo editing software (both free and paid) to help you narrow down the options based on your experience and needs. So, let’s dive right in!
If we had to describe Skylum Luminar, we’d call it a hybrid between Photoshop and Lightroom. Skylum’s newest edition is faster and it now offers a digital asset management (DAM) system for easy file sharing and media management.
It also includes new AI features such as The Sky Enhancer and Accent AI Filter. Both are designed to process your images beautifully and quickly with built-in adjustment sliders. The AI features make processing big, raw files a much faster experience, boosting colors vividly, and balancing the exposure with surprising accuracy.
Luminar is a great choice for photographers who shoot RAW and are looking for an easy way to organize photos. The new and improved AI capabilities and affordable price make Luminar a strong competitor to Adobe Lightroom.
We’re impressed by the level of control in the editor. The panels and controls are intuitive and placed efficiently for quick edits.
Price: Packages Start at $99 per year
- DAM System
- New AI-powered features
- Intuitive and Easy-to-use
- Great for RAW file processing
This list wouldn’t be complete without one of the best photo editing software programs in the world. Adobe Photoshop has been around since 1990. This software has come a long way and is still one of the most popular editing choices among photographers, graphic designers, and artists around the globe.
Adobe Photoshop CC is only available with the Creative Cloud subscription, but the monthly Photography Plan’s pricing won’t break the bank.
New improvements to existing features include the Content-Aware Fill, allowing artists to fill in any object or shape seamlessly into the artwork. This new feature is powered by Adobe Sensei technology, allowing you to select your source pixels to scale, rotate, or mirror each other. Additional features include the Frame Tool and added Blend Mode previews.
The Live Blend Mode gives you the freedom to see previews of various blend modes instantly while scrolling through the options. The update also comes with the Coolorus 2.5.14 Color Wheel, a new color wheel plugin that will improve the artist’s painting workflow with limitless color variations. In addition, you can lock your workspace to prevent moving any panels.
Price: Starting at $20.99 per month
- New Live Preview of Blend Modes
- Content-Aware Fill
- New Color Wheel Plugin
- Lock Workspace
Adobe Lightroom CC remains among the top software choices for a photographer. The latest version comes with a few new features and enhancements. You can now remove shading using the Flat-Field Correction tool and smooth out details with the Texture Slider.
Also, Adobe increased Lightroom’s support for new cameras and lenses.
The Flat-Field Correction tool allows you to remove or reduce shading or lens cast from your photos. This is a great tool to use when vignettes occur or when certain lenses create unwanted light casts in your images. The new Texture Slider gives sharpness and detail to hair, skin, and other textures. The slider allows you to smooth or retain finer details depending on your preference. This tool is a must for portrait and wedding photographers, and a great addition to the latest Lightroom version.
Other enhancements include being able to import photos from the Files section instead of the usual Device section. This enhancement seems to work better than having the photos appear under Device and keeps your photos more organized. You can also connect Lightroom with mobile apps for extra convenience.
Price: From $9.99 per month
- Modern and Professional Interface
- Flat-Field Correction Tool
- New Texture Slider
- Mobile Integration
This free, open-source software started in the early 1990s and is still widely used today by professional photographers, graphic designers, and illustrators. GIMP interfaces with multiple operating systems, including Mac OS, Windows, and Linux.
The image manipulation software is similar to Adobe Photoshop, but may not be as intuitive and easy to use. Because it is an open-source software, there is a strong community of designers and artists who have transformed it into a more modern and advanced tool for image manipulation.
GIMP supports plenty of image formats such as GIF, RAW, TIFF, TXT, and PDF. It is also customizable meaning you can easily add or remove menu items and icons to fit your working style. The toolset is robust and requires some graphic design knowledge to use it effectively.
Some of the design tools include curves, retouching, dodge, burn, and offset. GIMP is a solid choice for graphic designers and photographers who are looking for a free and powerful editing software that’s comparable to Photoshop.
- Open-source Photo Editor
- Graphic Design Elements
- Supports many file formats
- Customizable User Interface
- Digital Enhancement Tools
This software is easy to use and features professional tools for serious photographers and designers. If you’re looking for a subscription-free software that allows you to design and edit your photos professionally, PaintShop Pro packs a punch.
Beginners will appreciate the user-friendly interface that PaintShop offers. There are tons of resources and tools that photographers and designers of all levels can use. Some of these features include the ability to add text to your images, along with over 99 different filter options
It also comes with basic tools, such as Brightness, Highlight/Shadow, Red Eye Removal, Blemish Remover, Skin Smoother, Teeth/Skin Enhancers, and even a 360-degree editor where you can stitch your photos together to create a virtual tour.
PaintShop Pro serves as a photo editor as well as a graphic design platform. You can use the built-in tools to edit your vector and raster images easily. Other options automate your edits and correct lens distortion with the click of a button. PaintShop Pro supports batch uploads and processing, making it an extremely versatile and efficient software program for photographers.
This powerful editing software is affordable and offers many tools that benefit photographers and graphic designers. Its intuitive design and functionality make it a strong competitor to other softwares.
- User-friendly Interface
- 99+ Creative Filters
- Built-in Graphic Design Tools
- Face-detection Technology
Are you searching for a powerful editing software but aren’t ready to commit to Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom? ACDSee is packed with a myriad of features that can transform your photos instantly at a very reasonable price tag. You gain lots of useful tools and capabilities in this single purchase software.
The latest version of ACDSee comes with new exciting features such as Facial Recognition, Develop Brush tool, Luminosity Selection, and an Auto Advance function so you can move on to the next image faster when inputing metadata.
This program includes photo managing capability so you can quickly edit photos and organize them effectively.
In ACDSee, you find many tools that are similar to the ones found in Photoshop. One of the biggest features of ACDSee is that it offers adjustment layers, making it more professional for serious photographers and photo editors. You can create composite images with adjustment layers and work on more complex edits with the tools provided by ACDSee.
It is available on both Windows and Mac OS.
Price: Starting at $39.95
- Facial Recognition
- AI-based Management
- Processes RAW Files
- Edits with Layers
A photo editing software platform designed for desktop computers, ON1 Photo Raw started as Adobe plugins. A complete photo editing program, it features a digital assets management system and a suite of image editing software tools.
ON1 needs no third-party plugins and includes many photographer-friendly tools, such as sky replacement and focus stacking. Also, it includes artificial intelligence tools, such as Super Selection. This function creates automatic masks to adjust parts of the image that need tweaking. AI use extends to ON1’s sharpening and denoise tools.
ON1 is compatible with Windows and macOS, along with a mobile app for editing on phone or tablet.
Price: ON1 Photo Raw $99.99 / ON1 Everything subscription $76.49
- Super Select AI
- Color Fringe Reduction
- Sky Swap AI
- Content Aware Crop
- Quick Mask AI
8. Capture One
Capture One 12 is the latest version of this high-quality image editing software, and it doesn’t disappoint. There are updated features, more masking options, improved plug-ins, and best of all, it’s faster than the previous version.
What makes Capture One stand out from other competitive editing software is its customizable menu system. The latest version has updated menu icons, making the entire interface sleeker and more enjoyable to use. You can easily make your own keyboard shortcuts with more than 500 customizable command options.
The latest update also features Intelligent Adjustments Copying, a huge time-saver for those doing skin retouching or cropping since the software will automatically detect changes. Plug-ins have been added to Capture One opening up the opportunity to share and collaborate with other artists and photographers.
Capture One allows users to fully control their images with precise local adjustment layers. You can apply up to 16 layers and utilize various brush options inside the editor. Experiment with specific tools such as Radial Gradient, Linear Gradient, Luminosity Masking, and Grey Scale Mask.
This software is packed with premium features and is mainly aimed at professional photographers. It is commonly compared to Adobe Lightroom, but its customizable menu, powerful catalog-based workflow, and advanced local adjustment tools make it an excellent choice for serious photographers.
Price: $24 per month
- Customizable Workspace
- Efficient Photo Management
- Intelligent Adjustments Copying
- Advanced Plug-ins
- Uses Adjustment Layers
A fast and powerful image editing software, Affinity Photo 2 won Apple’s App of the Year award. Files load fast, pan and zoom transitions smoothly, and fine details are edited with no delay.
It features retouching tools for portrait skin smoothing, blemish retouching, and background removal. Its liquifying tools take sculpting portraits to a new level.
Affinity Photo 2 comes with an impressive collection of brushes, which is a great graphic design tool. This digital image editing program includes advanced features, including layer editing tools, raster composition, and the ability to edit raw files.
Affinity Photo 2 is file compatible across Windows, MacOS, and iPad, so you can work the same image file across all devices.
Price: $69.99 / Universal License $169.99
- Redesigned User Interface
- Advanced Selection Algorithms
- Large Library of Adjustments
- Compound Masking
- Wide Range of Blending Modes
One of the best photo editing software programs for beginners, Photoshop Elements combines excellent features for learning with some advanced editing tools.
Elements features automatic adjustments and guided edits, or you can choose manual editing tools, many of which are part of the full Photoshop.
Sensei AI technology gives Elements a performance boost, adding features and simplifying some tasks.
The main window offers three options: Quick, Guided, and Expert. As an example, Quick includes Smart Fix, which is a pretty good starting point. From there, it’s easy to make adjustments to exposure, color, sharpen, and noise.
Price: $99.99 / $69.99 limited time offer
- Easy to Use
- Companion Video Editing Tools
- Options for Creative Projects
- Automated Functions
- Collage and Slideshow Templates
11. DxO Photolab
An award winning professional photo editing software, DxO PhotoLab features a full range of editing tools in six groups. Some, like lens, exposure, and color corrections, deliver top-notch results automatically. A selection of artistic effects is available through presets.
PhotoLab comes in several versions, including Elite and PureRaw. The Elite version includes DeNoise algorithms and haze correction. However, both editions lack panorama stitching, focus stack, and HDR. For those functions you’ll need another application.
But PhotoLab’s image editing tools are robust and easy to use. Colors are rich, skins tones appear natural, and photos are clean.
A major competitor for Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop, PhotoLab offers top quality image editing tools along with automatic controls to speed the workflow.
Price: PhotoLab 6 Elite $219 / PureRaw 3 $129
- Top Image Quality
- Powerful Editing Tools
- Intuitive Photo Management Tools
- Industry Leading Optical Corrections
- Targeted Edits Without Masks
Are you a casual or amateur photographer just looking to make basic edits to your photos? Fotor might be your best option. This application is perfect for beginners with little knowledge or experience with photo processing. It is both an online photo editor and collage maker. You also have the option to purchase Fotor as a downloadable copy for convenient offline editing.
The structure of Fotor is simple. Edit, retouch, and make a collage of your photos. The editing interface is minimal and is best for light retouching or enhancements. The online version does not support RAW files, so you’ll have to buy the offline version to unlock this functionality. Hence, it’s best to use the online editor for your JPEGs.
In addition to the AI capabilities, Photolemur also features cloud-based batch editing, making it extremely easy for photographers to bulk upload their work and edit all their photos with the powerful AI functionalities.
Fotor contains all the basic editing features such as Brightness, Contrast, Sharpness, and Saturation. The Effect Panel inside the editor has over one hundred readily made options for filters and customizations. Overall, this is a very simple and easy-to-us application if you are just looking for basic editing. The interface is smooth and easy to understand, making it one of the best simple editors for photos and graphic design.
Price: Basic Edition is FREE / Pro+ $7.49 per month
- Online and Offline Editing
- Highly Intuitive and Easy-to-use
- Built-in Collage Maker
- Graphic Design Capabilities
Similar to Fotor, PicMonkey is an online photo editor where you can build collages, add text, and apply many different effects to your photos. This includes graphic design and basic retouching.
PicMonkey is used by many beginners and amateurs due to its ease of use and affordable price tag, making it the perfect editor for influencers, bloggers, and Instagram users.
The main features include built-in text functionality, overlays, and touch-ups. You can easily create engaging and beautiful graphics. Select from PicMonkey’s font book, which comes with many different font styles. You also have the option to load your own fonts into the editor.
Also, PicMonkey comes with a huge collection of graphic overlays for endless design freedom and creations. Lastly, the touch-up feature is specifically built for portraits, family photos, and even selfies.
You can quickly touch up photos using the teeth whitener, lip tint, skin smoothing brush, and eye brightening tools.
Price: Starting at $7.99 per month
- Simple Photo Editor
- Touch-up Tool
- Tons of graphics and textures
- A Dedicated Font Book
- Collage Maker
SumoPaint is a web-based paint and draw application with some of the same tools and functions as Photoshop. But it is more suited to illustration than photo editing.
It features layering function, image adjustment tools, and image blending options. In addition, SumoPaint works with RAW, JPEG, PNG, and GIF files, as well as a proprietary format called Sumo file.
SumoPaint also comes with some one-of-a-kind drawing tools, such as Symmetry. With this editing tool you can create symmetric patterns and shapes. Layer editing includes a suite of effects, including gradient, shadow cast, and translucency.
The online version of SumoPaint is free. You can upgrade to the Pro version if you want to install it on your computer.
Price: Basic Free / Pro $4 per month / Student $2 per month
- Intuitive Interface
- Layers and Masks
- Powerful Digital Drawing Tools
- Large Selection of Filters
If you design graphics for social media, Canva is a good choice. It features templates for all the social media platforms. Logos, memes, and branding materials are easy to create from a selection of frames, graphics, royalty-free images, and text options.
It includes millions of assets that make it an excellent graphic design tool. You can create ads, videos, infographics, and websites without a graphic design background.
Canva launched a new AI tool, called Magic Design that creates a template based on images that you upload.
The user interface is simple with an easy learning curve. The downside for photographers is that Canva is limited when it comes to editing images.
Price: Free / Pro $12.99 per month
- Drag and Drop Editor
- Thousands of Templates
- AI Powered Design Tools
- Free Photos and Graphics
- 5 GB Cloud Storage
Not a graphic designer? No problem. Snappa can save you a lot of time with their easy-to-use online graphics editor. In just a few clicks, you can get a head start with ready-made templates and free high-resolution stock photos.
It helps attracting potential clients and promoting your photography brand by creating visually striking graphics with Snappa’s powerful graphic design features, including 200+ fonts, 100,000+ vector/shapes, and tons of photo effects.
Snappa has a fully-featured graphic editor that’s incredibly easy to use. You don’t need design experience to use this program. It utilizes a drag and drop style editor. Use your own photos, or select from a massive library of over one million images. All visual assets are royalty-free and licensed for commercial use.
You can quickly and easily share your work with clients, colleagues, friends, and family members with Snappa’s well-designed sharing system. This is one of the best graphic software programs to use if you do not have a strong design background but want to create attractive graphics for personal and professional use.
Price: FREE / $10 per month for PRO / $20 per month for Teams
- Easy Graphic Editor
- Wide Range of Templates
- Customized Fonts
- Affordable Pricing
- Collaborative Platform
A group of software apps designed for image correction, color grading, and graphic design. Pixlr Pro features refined tools, such as layers, custom brushes, and curves. It’s similar to Photoshop and supports plug-ins.
Pixlr X automates some useful features, making it a nice option for beginners. Pixlr Editor is free online editing software; however, banner ads take up part of the workspace. The interface is a bit unstable and difficult to navigate.
Pixlr Express is simple web-based editing software. It’s easy to learn its color correcting tools, cropping, and collage generation.
Pixlr is a good choice for online image editing, especially for beginners.
Price: Free / Plus $1.99 per month / Premium $7.99 per month
- AI Image Generation
- Object and Background Removal
- Library of Templates
- Animation Presets
- Variety of Filters and Effects
What is the Best Paid Photo Editing Software for Beginner Photographers?
If you are new to photo editing, finding the best program is a challenge. Whether your photos need minor touching up or you want to explore more creative avenues, you want photo editing tools that dovetail with your specialty.
Be prepared to spend some time looking at your options and think long term. Find the software that is suitable for you today and that you can grow into as your photo editing skills progress.
Take advantage of free trials and online tutorials. Then, work it. Any software program has a learning curve and requires practice.
I boiled it down to two that I believe are the best to get you started and are powerful enough to meet your needs for many years to come.
Number One: Adobe Photoshop
Full disclosure: I’m biased. I’ve been working with this program for more than two decades, first with Elements, then the fully featured Photoshop, and I’m still learning new tricks.
There’s a reason many photo editing programs compare themselves to Photoshop. It’s the gold standard. Start with Elements, then move up. Photoshop takes some time and some money, but it’s worth both.
Number Two: Skylum Luminar
It streamlines the workflow with basic editing tools, image organizer, and batch processing. Luminar has interfaced new AI-powered features into many of its enhancement and correction functions. It features a simple interface. You may find it more intuitive than Photoshop. And in terms of powerful features and raw editing tools, many professional photo editors prefer Luminar.
Which is the Best Free Image Editing Software?
Free is always in the budget. But free is not always such a great deal. Many of the software programs offer a free version, which is a scaled down edition of their paid plans. So while it’s free, it’s also missing some valuable functions. That narrows the list down to one.
The GNU Image Manipulation Program is an open source platform. That means you could create your own custom tools or features. Of course, you have to write the code or know someone who does. Third-party plugins are also available.
GIMP comes with powerful tools for photographers, designers, and illustrators. It is a popular, stable, and intuitive editing software. They offer just one version. And it’s free. GIMP has been around for a long time, and a large community of support is there to help. GIMP is an excellent way to start, learn, and expand your skills.
You have a large selection of choices for photo editing software today. Whether you’re taking snapshots for social media or working with demanding clients, you can find a program that fits your needs.
One-time payment options are attractive; however, subscription plans have the advantage of timely updates and feature add-ons included in the plan.
When you evaluate what software is best for you, look for versatility and power. Consider its organization and ease of access, sharing options, and file format support. And does it give you the creativity you need as a photographer?
I hope this article helps you in your search for an editing software. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them in the space below.