Whether you’re a budding artist looking to make your photos pop, a blogger who wants to create awesome featured images and Pinterest pins, or a seasoned professional interested in streamlining your workflow, photo-editing software is a must-have. High-performance software is an important tool to have in your arsenal. It can help you make the most out of your digital images while giving you complete control over the final product.
While photographers do their best to compose shots perfectly, it’s impossible to manipulate every fine detail in the real world. Lighting issues, colour imbalances, and poor focus and turn an otherwise beautiful photograph into something that looks like an amateur did it. If you need advice on your wedding photography, check out our photography packages and services at Wild Romantic Photography.
The best photo-editing software takes care of all those finer details. It supplements your own skills and puts you in the director’s chair. Instead of relying on raw images to show off your talents, you can use software to make your vision come to life.
Which Photo Software Should You Use?
Of course, novice shooters want different software from those shooting with a $52,000 Phase One IQ4 in a studio. We’ve included all levels of PC software here, and reading the linked reviews will make it clear which is for you. Nothing says that pros can’t occasionally use an entry-level application or that a prosumer won’t be running Photoshop, the most powerful image editor around. The issue is that, in general, users at each of these levels will be most comfortable with the products intended for them.
Note that, in the table below, it’s not a case of “more checks mean the program is better.” Rather, the table is designed to give you a quick overview of the products.
A product with everything checked doesn’t necessarily have the best implementation of those features, and one with fewer checks still may be very capable, and whether you even need the checked feature depends on your photo workflow. For example, DxO Photolab may not have face recognition or keyword tagging, but it has the finest noise reduction in the land and some of the best camera- and lens-profile-based corrections.
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Best Photo Editing Software for Photographers
The best photo-editing software is what can take a mediocre photo and turn it into something breathtaking or make a really good photo even better. The best photo editing software enables you to make a range of edits to your images, ranging from applying filters and fun effects to making tiny tweaks to colour or saturation.
To save you from having to experiment with every piece of photo editing software going (and there are a lot of them), we’ve rounded up the best right here. If you want to see your images in all their glory, then don’t miss our best laptops for photo editing buying guide.
Some of the below are desktop only, while others are available in the browser, tablet, and even on your smartphone. Every price point and ability level is covered, so you’re bound to find the right software for you.
It’s impossible to ignore Adobe Lightroom when talking about the best photo editing software for photographers. 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.
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 that 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 centralised 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 labelled 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.
Lightroom Key Features
Adobe Lightroom offers all the tools you’ll need to create a stunning portrait, landscape, real estate, and other photography for most freelance photo editors. Lightroom’s host of fantastic features includes:
- Face detection for photo organisation
- Camera and lens-based corrections
- Brush and gradient adjustments
- Fixing and blurring tools
- Presets and professional filters
- Customisable sliders
- Multiple device support and sync
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.
It’s hard to write an article about the best photo editing software for photographers without giving Adobe Photoshop a well-deserved mention. Photoshop has proven to be a capable and trustworthy editing tool for artists, illustrators, and designers around the world.
We’ll be honest, Photoshop isn’t known for its simplicity. 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.
Many beginners to photo editing struggle to use Photoshop 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 by offering organised 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!
This workspace presets provide a great introduction to Photoshop because they emphasise 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, prioritises 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 customised workspace. A customised workspace that features only your favourite 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. Its 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.
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Key Features of 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
- Multi-layer editing
- 3D design functionality
- Pro editing tools
- Advanced colour 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!
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!
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Canva is a simple graphic design software with a huge following. It operates on a freemium model and comes with multiple photo editing tools and products.
Canva allows you to adjust various elements of your images with a simple drag-and-drop editor, as well as additional fonts and templates to your pictures if you want to use them on your website.
Canva’s simple interface categorises searchable elements to help you better find what you’re looking for. Simply click the Search button, docked on the left-hand side of the screen, to browse frames, shapes and lines, illustrations and grids to add to your photo.
You can also apply various layouts, text and backgrounds to your image from the main workspace screen. With all of those tools at your fingertips, it’s no wonder Canva is a favourite of photo editing graphic designers.
Key Features of Canva
- Over 8,000 templates
- Photo blur and vignette
- Image cropping and straightening
- Image transparency tool
- Design grids and photo frames
- Stickers and badges
- Add texture
- Speech bubble maker
- Photo enhancer
Unlike some other editing software, you can download Canva on your mobile phone and edit your photos instantly. The Canva Marketplace has tons of templates, photos, cards and icons that make your life easy in creating visual content for your site or blog.
Canva is a great tool for turning your photos into branded social media posts or graphic design projects. But, as a standalone photo editor, it lacks many of the more professional-level tools you’d expect. Still, if you want a photo editor that will help you make quick and beautiful Instagram graphics from your images, Canva is for you!
Canva offers three pricing tiers:
- Free – For quick projects, you can use Canva and 8,000 of their templates for free.
- Pro – Their most popular tier, the Pro subscription, includes over 60,000 free templates and 60 million professional stock imagery for $9.95/user/month.
- Enterprise – Designed for larger collaborative teams, this tier includes unlimited storage and support for $30/user/month.
Corel PaintShop Pro
Corel PaintShop Pro is easily one of the most straightforward photo editing software options online for people who want a simple but effective approach to upgrading their images. Though it might not be the most advanced tool in the market at first glance, it comes with everything you need to take your images to the next level without breaking the bank.
Like some other software, it requires a one-time fee, which starts at around $60. You gain access to dozens of textures, backgrounds, and brushes to choose from for that price. And, app updates add new features all the time.
The newest version of Corel PaintShop Pro also boasts a new Photography Workspace, specifically designed for photographers. This simplified workspace streamlines your edit workflow by offering the best photo editing tools in a simple format. You can apply most of the tools in the Photography Workspace in just one click!
Because this workspace is touch-ready, it’s perfect to use photo editing on a tablet. Corel has even made the tool icons large and distinct so that they’re easy to select on a touch device.
Other current features include:
- Layers and masks
- Refine brush for selections
- SmartClone technology
- AI-enhanced presets
- 360-degree photo editing
- Fantastic user experience
- Graphic design tools and templates
- Photo editing options like blur and fix
- Learning tutorials
- RAW image processing
Like many other photo editing programs, Corel’s PaintShop Pro also offers plugins, brush extensions, colour palettes and even textures that you can import to give yourself even more editing options.
Cost of PaintShop Pro
You can own Corel PaintShop Pro for just $79.99. They have a 30-day money-back guarantee if you find it doesn’t work out for you.
For many reasons, Luminar has quickly grown to become one of the most popular editing tools for professional photographers worldwide. 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 with Lightroom, Photoshop and even Apple Photos.
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 organiser. Once again, this means that you can upload your images to your Luminar Library so that all of your photo editing workflow is centralised in one place!
Like Lightroom, you can then sort, tag and categorise 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
- Aerial Photography
- 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!
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Skylum Luminar Key Features
Luminar has gained popularity for its AI slider, which applies quick automatic 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:
- AI Editor
- 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 on others)
- Adjustment Layers
- Image Layers
- Dedicated presets for DJI drone photos
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.
Which photo-editing software will you try? If you’re still unsure, give a couple of these titles a shot. Each program is unique and offers a distinct editing experience.
Take a moment to think about how you work and what kinds of effects you need. If your edits are basic, you can fair well with an affordable option covering all of the essentials.
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Figure out your priorities as a photographer and use them to guide you in the right direction. Before you know it, you’ll find the perfect editor that enhances your workflow while making your photographs look better than ever.