Photo Software: 15 Best Photo Editing Programs for Beginners
When we think about a generic photo editor, Photoshop immediately comes to mind. A pioneer in its field, it’s understandably one of the most tool-packed, multi-purposed programs, a great Mac photo editor by all means. However, to feel comfortable working with Photoshop you need to be extra diligent. The multiple features allow you to do wonders, but mastering them can be tiring and time-consuming for beginners and professional photographers alike.
We compiled a varied list of “Photoshop for beginners” kind of photo editing software oriented towards all kinds of users. Which is the best photo editing software for Mac? There is no straight answer. You can try all kinds of photo editors to see what prefer: a Mac photo editor, an editing program on your phone or online editor. Bear in mind that different photographers might be interested in different and specific features, have unequal budgets, be used to different workflows. That’s why there’s no universal answer to all editing needs. Please consider the purpose of your photographs and the skill levels when choosing among these editing programs.
When you open Luminar 2018 for the first time, you are immediately faced with a user-friendly, neat interface that suits any Mac photo editor. There is a preset panel on the bottom, a photo filters and layers panel on the right, and a few handy tools on top. It’s a no-brainer even for beginners. The filters vary from basic ones like brightness and contrast, to impressive one-slide enhancements powered by AI. The presets are varied, multi-purposed and continuously adding up on the website, available for download.
There are intuitive masking tools and layers at your fingertips to create realistic-looking edits. Not to mention that you can find all kinds of educational materials, video tutorials and more if you would like to perfect your editing skills on the Skylum software website. Big things are coming to Luminar in late December 2018, including a long-awaited library system with access to all your photos, ability to organize, quickly edit and sort, while making it all extremely easy.
One unique feature of Luminar is that it caters to the needs of professional photographers and beginners. With the coming up photo organizer update, it will become truly impressive.
2. Aurora HDR
If you would like to perfect your HDR photography, Aurora HDR editor is the right program for you. HDR photography captures the maximum of details from many brackets and makes every photo look detailed. It is useful for architecture, indoor photography, real estate photography, detailed landscape shots.
Aurora HDR merges multiple brackets with different exposures and creates a single stunning image relatively fast. A great feature is that it can create an HDR photo from a single picture too. Of course, this is not only a merging tool, as you can tweak the sliders to adjust the results to your liking, add special looks and much more.
A distinctive feature of Aurora is the quality of the output image: such upsetting outcomes as halos, ghosting, artifacts or chromatic aberration are absent, making the image vivid, realistic and high-quality.
3. ON1 Photo RAW
ON1 can be used both as a plug-in and as a standalone software. It has a powerful arsenal of tools ranging from basic ones, to special image effects, to HDR tools, to panoramic stitching and anything you can imagine.
ON1 has all kinds of necessary tools if you are professional, while being more affordable than the gurus in the field. It has been upgrading and evolving quickly since its release in October 2017, trying to catch up to the needs of all the clients. In case you are looking for your first serious tool, or you’re worried about your budget, or you really want to experiment with a single multi-purpose program,
ON1 Photo RAW has gathered those necessary tools in a single place at a better price. However, something that photographers have revealed through testing, is that some tools such as masking and layering are just not doing as good a job as they could. This is bound to happen if you are after quantity and not quality.
ON1 is a multitasker that has a lot of features. One of the most distinctive are the image effects, that are varied and loved by its users. If you are a beginner, it is one of the best photo editing software for you to try out and see what you want to do with it.
4. Zoner Photo Studio
If you are flexible for your platform, a worth checking out software for Windows is Zoner Photo Studio. With its wide variety of tools, it is a real competitor for Photoshop. It is low-cost, but the pricing model is by subscription, which allows you to experiment with it for a short period of time to decide if you really need it.
Photographers claim that Zoner has a shorter learning curve, and this is always a plus when trying to lure in users who are dissatisfied with their current programs. Overall, it has been described as intuitive, even though users could find similar tools in both the Develop (aimed at non-destructive editing) and the Editor (enhancements that are integrated into the file) modules. The difference was that the editing in the Editor module requires exporting. Users are still awaiting some improvements with masking and layers that will truly elevate Zoner to the level of Photoshop.
Zoner is a powerful image editor for Windows users. As you can see from its cluttered interface and multitude of tools, it is mostly for professionals.
5. Pixelmator Pro
For those beginners who are not limited to photo editing, but want to try a little bit of everything, including retouching, creating graphic designs, painting, drawing vector graphics, as well as applying stunning effects, Pixelmator is the key. It’s one of the best photo editing software for Mac. It’s main idea is making those effective professional image editing tools accessible to everyone, both beginners and advanced users.
User experience is something that this Mac photo editor values greatly. Its single-window interface is elegant and the purpose of it obvious: putting all the focus on the images you edit, rather than what’s around them. Aided by machine-learning, Pixelmator is a great tool for selections, typography, all kinds of editing. It is a true bargain for its price.
Pixelmator Pro is for those Mac users who want to know how to edit photos, painting design, and would like to try a little bit of everything, but do it in a professional software.
6. Corel PaintShop Pro 2018
The latest version and an upgrade from Corel PaintShop X is Corel PaintShop Pro 2018, with even faster and more enhanced tools packed in this photo editing program for beginners. A powerful merge of a photo editor and a blend of realistic media painting tools, PaintShop Pro is for real professionals, who want to have some fun. You can do both advanced manual and automatic photo editing. However, it may be slow on less advanced computers, with its main drawback being the fact that its art tools are resource-intensive.
PaintShop Pro 2018 Ultimate is a great photo editing program for beginners and digital painting application that’s easy to master and, perhaps most impressively, fun.
7. Adobe Photoshop Elements
If you want to enjoy your photo editing program and learn something useful in the process, Adobe Photoshop Elements is a compact-size version of Photoshop that makes a lot of cool effects accessible to those who don’t have time to master Photoshop, kind of like a Photoshop for beginners. Elements is a great app to have fun features inside a professional photo editor.
For example, there are a lot of tools designed to adjust facial features in the enhance menu. The faces, which get automatically circled, offer adjusters for some parts of the face, including lips, eyes, nose. There is even a feature to open closed eyes, albeit the results look a bit funny with those standardized sample eyes. This program is perfect for beginners, who enjoy taking photos and want to easily edit them. It is also a great way to ease someone into the process of professional photo editing, as you can choose the difficulty of your tools.
A unique feature of Elements is that it is a separate application that can help you ease in the process of editing with Photoshop, is suitable for beginners who need some of the Photoshop features or want to experience a kind of Photoshop for beginners.
A free program for beginners, Paint.NET is an image editor that was developed as a replacement for the build-in Microsoft Paint software that you can find in Windows, however it is also available as a Mac photo editor. Even though it looks simple, there are a lot of surprising tools that you can use. For example, it has a plug-in system with a selection of free plugins, and that means you can customize this program to suit your workflow.
The user interface is not cluttered, and easy to understand, as you can effectively do simple editing like cropping, resizing, even use layers, add custom texts. Of course the effects of the layers are limited, and image enhancing is not possible like it is in other applications.
Paint.NET’s distinctive element is that it is free and has lots of plugins. It originated as a free pixel-based application for drawing, and has come a long way, as you still can do a lot of simple editing in it.
Another free and easy program is Darktable. It is exclusive only to Mac. Even though it looks like a Lightroom alternative, there are still a lot of features missing. However, considering it is free, we should not be too picky about it. Darktable has a database to manage your digital negatives and lets you look at them in a zoomable lighttable. Also, it enables you to develop RAW images and enhance them.
A great interface, cool features, and most importantly, absolutely free – here is how Darktable is different from the other available photo editing programs.
10. Apple Photos
The built-in photo editor in Mac, Apple Photos, gets better with each update. Of course, one might think that the best photo editing software for Mac is the built-in one. In some way it is true, as far as free software goes, Apple Photos is one of the best choices. It is designed with Apple’s signature intuitive and modern interface, that is easy to navigate and understand.
Apple’s desktop photo editor has some really great options for the iOS Live Photos feature available on new iPhones. It also has some great sharing options. Apple’s desktop photo editor has the basic adjustments you need in any photo editor new power-editing tools, plus nice effects for iOS Live Photos. Still, it’s not perfect for everyone, since filters aren’t adjustable, and not all tools are available. However, if you are a beginner Mac user, you can start by editing in this program and find out which tools you will need later on.
A nice built-in editor in Mac can help you with your simple edits and guide you on your path to perfect photos.
11. СyberLink PhotoDirector
It is easy to turn your good photos into stunning artwork with such a smart photo editor as PhotoDirector and its wide range of quick and easy, professional level tools. No matter what camera you are using, PhotoDirector can help you edit photos to perfection, with impressive AI-powered style tools, improved layers, and other tools that benefit your workflow.
A nice distinction of CyberLink PhotoDirector is that editing tools are organized to make the process of editing easier. Other photo editors may lump all of the tools together without a clear logic, while CyberLink divides into tabs and clearly labels the tools so you can quickly find what you need, even if you are a new user.
A unique feature of CyberLink is the AI Style Transfer tool. Using deep learning, it recreates the style of an artist or a painting and applies its effects to your photo, without using any filters. This can create especially stunning results.
Affinity is a program that is designed with professional photographers in mind. Both a Mac photo editor and a PC one, it provides all the tools you need in a single powerful program. Photography professionals who want to get creative can do so with Affinity’s powerful toolbox, designed for editing and retouching images, or creating full-blown multi-layered compositions.
Affinity is available for quick correction and detailed retouching, as well as working with RAW files (with a whole workspace dedicated to them). It has the necessary features of any professional photo editor such as dodge, burn, clone, patch, blemish, and red eye tools. However, you can also be impressed by such tools as inpainting brush, frequency separation capability, and liquefy features, which turn the objects in your photos to putty. However, there’s no digital asset management system, and this means that organizing files is quite hard. But still, it is one of the best photo editing software for Mac.
Affinity is a valid competitor of Photoshop and Lightroom, and a much cheaper alternative to other photo editing programs for beginners and professionals. It is also available on your iPad.
A web app as well as a mobile app, PIXLR.COM is an effect-packed bomb ready to explode. It has over 2 million effects, filters, overlays for your photos, making it an extremely smart photo editor. It may have some drawbacks, as the popping up ads that distract you from the editing, and the need to install Flash, however, you don’t need to download and install a program on your computer.
At the same time, some cool features that are only available in this type of app are fully realised in PIXLR.COM: it supports layers and masks, has a customizable interface that you can edit as you like, it can open photos directly from URLs.
Not many editors have a mobile version that is just as good as the web one, and allows you to edit photos on the go.
If you want a photo editing program for beginners without installing anything, PicMonkey might be the deal for you. It is an online photo editor that has all the basic tools and effects to perfect your images. It is not a strictly Mac photo editor, because you can use it online from any supported device. It doesn’t have only the basic crop, exposure, rotate or resize tools, but also highly effective digital makeup. It is not free, and works on subscription. One of the disadvantages of using it, is that you can only edit one photo at a time, and this is hard if you want to enhance your whole photo library or see the differences between photos before editing.
PicMonkey is a great tool for beginners who want to learn more about editing and experiment with their photos without investing in expensive software right away.
Another online and mobile photo editor is BeFunky, and it truly lives up to its name. It is designed to make photography fun, and that is why beginners might like it right away. Some of its effects include tools that make your photos look like cartoons, oil paintings or pop art. Also you can add all kinds of details to your photos, in the form of hand-drawn graphics: hats, facial hair, accessories, photo frames, and graphic overlays.
BeFunky photo editor can also add customized text fonts and layouts chosen from your computer. BeFunky photo editor has smart enhancement tools to fix poor lighting, digital noise, fuzziness, and other common problems all with just a single click.
A unique BeFunky feature is that you can switch between our web and mobile photo editors, making it easy to learn how to edit pictures on the go. Even if there’s a smart photo editor around, you still have to get used to it and learn the ins and outs of it. Any amateur photographer will claim that the photo editing program for beginners that they are using is the best, but it’s up to you to make a choice. We hope this list helped you make up your mind and see what is the best photo editing software for Mac personally for you.