When we think about a generic photo editor, Photoshop is the first name that comes to mind. A pioneer in its field, it’s one of the most tool-packed, multi-purposed programs and a great photo editor by all means. However, you need to be very skillful to feel comfortable working with Photoshop. Its features allow you to do wonders, but mastering them can be tiring and time-consuming for both beginners and professional photographers.
But don’t worry. There are many alternatives to Photoshop that are straightforward and easy to learn. The following list includes photo editing software that don’t necessarily address beginners but are very good for them. Which is the best photo editing software for you? There is no good answer. You have to try different types of photo editors and see what you prefer: a standalone photo editor, a phone editing application, or an online photo editor.
Before choosing a photo editor, consider your interests, skills, technical resources, budget, and workflow.
When you open Luminar 2018 for the first time, you are immediately faced with a user-friendly and neat interface, extremely pleasant for a photo editor. There is a panel with presets in the lower part of the screen, a panel with photo filters and layers in the right part of the screen, and a few handy tools in the upper part of the screen. It’s straightforward even for beginners.
The filters’ range varies from basic such as brightness and contrast adjustments to powerful image enhancements and creative effects. Some of them use Artificial Intelligence algorithms to provide automatic adjustments for different types of images. Luminar offers many presets too. They are called Looks and cover a lot of photography styles (landscape, portraiture, aerial, street, etc.). More Looks can be downloaded from Luminar Marketplace.
Luminar provides intuitive masking tools and layers to create subtle adjustments and realistic-looking pictures. You can find many free learning materials, video tutorials, and examples on Skylum website.
The next Luminar release is announced for late December 2018 and includes a much needed digital asset management software that gives you access to photo albums, organizing, sorting, and browsing tools, the ability to rate and label your photos, and better tools for batch processing.
Luminar is suited for both professional photographers and beginners. The future release will make Luminar a powerful competitor in the market.
Adobe Photoshop Elements is a compact-size version of Photoshop that gives you access to many of Photoshop cool effects without requiring so much learning time and skills.
Adobe Photoshop Elements is a great app for beginners and advanced users who want a quick fix. For example, it provides many tools for portraits retouching. It recognizes faces and facial elements and allows you to adjust specific parts of the face like lips, eyes, and nose. It also provides a function for fixing closed eyes.
Adobe Photoshop Elements is also a great way get to know the process of professional photo editing, as you can choose the difficulty of your tools and learn faster to use Photoshop.
3. Apple Photos
Apple Photos is the built-in photo editor for Mac and gets better and better with each update. It has Apple’s signature design and its modern interface is easy to navigate and learn.
Apple Photos provides options for iOS Live Photos, has amazing sharing features, and offers all the basic adjustments a photo editor needs. It also provides cool effects and filters. Unfortunately, filters aren’t customizable and more advanced features are missing. However, it satisfies the basic requirements and it’s a good start for a beginner.
A nice built-in editor, Apple Photos can help you with simple and fast edits and guide you on your path to perfect photos.
Microsoft Photos is Microsoft’s software for organizing and editing photos. It’s relatively new and supports only Windows 10 but it’s also available for Xbox One, HoloLens, mobile devices, and Hub.
Microsoft Photos provides tools for viewing pictures, creating albums and movies with your photos, adding 3D effects, and basic editing. You can only adjust color, clarity, and light, crop and rotate images, and add text or textures. However, if your use Microsoft products and want a free photo editing software for beginners, you can give it a try.
5. Aurora HDR
If you like to improve your HDR photography, Aurora HDR editor is the right program for you. HDR photography captures details from images with different exposures and creates unique results. It’s useful for architectural and interior design photography, real estate photography, landscape shots, and many more.
Aurora HDR merges multiple images with different exposures and creates a single stunning image relatively fast. It can create a HDR photo from a single picture too. Of course, it isn’t just a merging tool as it allows you to retouch your photos and add creative effects.
Aurora HDR delivers high-quality images. It removes disturbing effects such as halos, ghosting, artifacts, and chromatic aberration and creates vivid and realistic images.
ON1 can be used as a plugin and as standalone software. It provides powerful editing tools, ranging from basic to special image effects, HDR tools, panoramic stitching, and more.
ON1 offers all necessary tools for professional photographers at an affordable price. It has been upgrading and evolving quickly since its release in October 2017, trying to satisfy its customers’ requests. One drawback of this editor is the low performance of masks and layers. But ON1 offers a wide range of appreciated photo effects. If you are looking for your first photo editor, worry for your budget, or really want to experiment with a multi-purpose program, ON1 is a good choice.
Zoner Photo Studio is a photo editor available for Windows. It offers a wide variety of tools and is a real competitor for Photoshop. Zoner Photo Studio is not expensive and has a monthly subscription that allows you to experiment for a short period of time and decide if you really need it without big investments.
Photographers claim that Zoner has a short learning curve. This is always a plus when you want to attract users dissatisfied with their current software. Overall, it has been described as intuitive and users can find similar tools in the Develop module (non-destructive editing) and in the Editor module (changes are integrated into the file). Users are still waiting for improvements in masking and layers area. That will elevate Zoner to the level of Photoshop.
Zoner is a powerful image editor, packed with a lot of professional tools.
For beginners who want more than a photo editor and look for graphic design, drawing, and vector graphics capabilities, Pixelmator is a good choice. It provides professional image editing tools and makes them accessible to everyone, beginners and advanced users.
Pixelmator values the user experience and a fluid workflow. It offers a single-window interface, which is elegant and focuses on the images you edit rather than on what’s around them. Using machine learning algorithms, Pixelmator provides great tools for selections, typography, and all sorts of editing. It has a very good price too.
Pixelmator Pro is professional software for photographers, designers, and artists. It’s a complete solution for creating digital art.
Corel PaintShop Pro 2018 is the latest version of Corel PaintShop and comes with faster and more enhanced tools packed in its user-friendly interface. It’s a combination between a photo editor and a painting application that allows you to have fun while doing professional editing.
Corel PaintShop Pro 2018 provides manual and automatic image enhancements features. It’s a good choice for beginners because it’s easy to learn and use and offers a nice and straightforward workspace. However, some of its features require powerful resources and may be a little slow on older systems.
A free program for beginners, Paint.NET is an image editor developed to replace the build-in Microsoft Paint you can find in Windows. It’s also available for Mac. Even though it looks simple, there are a lot of surprising tools you can use. For example, it provides a plugin system with a selection of free plugins to allow you to customize your workspace.
The user interface isn’t cluttered, and it’s easy to understand. Simple features such as cropping, resizing, adding custom text, and working with layers are at hand. Unfortunately, working with layers has limited possibilities and image enhancing isn’t as good as in other applications.
Still, Paint.NET is a free application and its large amount of plugins can help you complete the task. It’s been growing a lot since the pixel-based application for drawing.
Another free and easy to use editor is Darktable. It’s available only for Mac. Even though it looks a lot like Lightroom, there are still many features missing. However, considering it’s free, it remains a good alternative. Darktable provides a database that manages your digital negatives and allows you to preview them in a panel equipped with lights and zooming tools. Also, it supports RAW editing.
Darktable has a great interface and cool features, and, most importantly, it’s free. So you definitely should consider it and give it a try.
PhotoDirector is a smart photo editing software that provides a wide range of professional tools. It allows you to transform your pictures in works of art in no time.
PhotoDirector help you perfect your photos using impressive AI-powered tools, layers, and presets. The editing tools are well organized in tabs and intuitive labeled and the entire process it fast and fluid.
The distinctive feature of PhotoDirector is the AI Style Transfer tool. Using deep learning algorithms, it recreates the style of an artist or of a painting and transforms your photos accordingly. AI Style Transfer tool creates stunning results.
13. Affinity Photo
Affinity is designed for professional photographers. It’s available for Windows and Mac and provides all the tools you need. Affinity’s powerful toolbox offers features for image editing and retouching, working with multiple layers, and creating creative compositions.
Affinity provides quick correction and retouching tools, support for RAW files and a dedicated workspace, and dodge, burn, clone, patch, blemish, and red eye tools. You can also be impressed by the Inpainting Brush Tool, frequency separation capability, and liquefy features. Affinity doesn’t offer a digital asset management system and organizing files is quite hard. However, it’s one of the best photo editing software.
Affinity is a valid competitor for Photoshop and Lightroom and a much cheaper alternative to other photo editing programs for beginners and professionals. It’s also available for iPad.
Pixlr Editor is an online photo editor. It provides more than 2 million effects, filters, and overlays, which makes it an extremely smart photo editor. Its drawbacks are the pop-up ads that distract you from the editing and the need to install Flash. However, it doesn’t require installation and works with many browsers.
Among its best features are layers and masks, a customizable interface, the possibility to open pictures from URL or import them from stock libraries, drawing tools, and retouching tools.
You can use Pixlr in a web page or as a mobile application. The mobile version is as good as the web one and allows you to edit your pictures on the go.
If you want to use a photo editing program for beginners without installing anything, PicMonkey is a good choice for you. It’s an online photo editor that provides all the basic tools you need.
PicMonkey offers exposure adjustments, crop, rotate and resize tools, textures, themes and frames, effects, and image retouching tools. Unfortunately it doesn’t support batch processing and editing one image at a time can be time consuming.
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. Still, PicMonkey is not free and requires a subscription.
Polarr is a free photo editor, available for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Chromebook, and online. It’s great photo editing software for beginners because it provides a dedicated workspace for beginners, with basic tools and adjustments. Polarr allows you to adjust exposure, brightness, contrast, highlights and shadows, color temperature, vibrance, and saturation. It also provides geometric transformations, filters, overlays, and effects. You can copy edits and apply them to other images.
Polarr offers image editing tools for advanced users as well. You can customize the interface by adding tools for creating distortions, adjusting sharpening and clarity, denoising, editing curves, adding borders and vignettes, and working with HSL.
Additional features like brush, color and depth masks, 3D LUTs, filters, overlays, double exposure, and batch exports are available for a monthly or yearly subscription.
IrfanView is a fast and compact free photo editor for Windows. It allows you to view images and convert them in other formats, create slideshows, do batch processing, and edit photos. IrfanView provides geometric transformation, color profiles, overlays and effects, screen captures, print options, and scan support. It’s a versatile program, perfect for working with large amounts of images.
IrfanView is a good choice for a beginner because it includes all the basic tools and supports many file formats. It’s perfect for adding watermarks and protecting your photos, resizing pictures before publishing them, and getting used with pictures’ information and settings.
BeFunky is another online photo editor and it truly lives up to its name. It’s designed to make photography fun and it’s a great way to learn to edit your photos. Among its features are tools that make your photos look like cartoons, oil paintings effects, or pop art styles. You can add a wide range of details to your photos like hand drawn graphics, photo frames, graphic overlays, customized text, and image layers.
BeFunky provides smart enhancement tools for fixing poor lighting, digital noise, fuzziness, and other common problems in seconds.
BeFunky feature is also available as a mobile application, which makes easy for you to learn how to edit pictures on the go. Even if it offers smart features, you still have to learn how to use it and practicing on your phone can be a good idea.
Every photographer has a preferred photo editing program. You just have to choose the best one for you. We hope this list will give you some ideas and help you decide what’s best for you.