The choice between numerous photo editors might seem tricky for all kinds of creators, from beginners to experts. The reality is that the tools don’t vary too much across programs, so the only thing that actually matters is your impression of the product.
Discover the 20 best editing programs for creators of all levels and with all skill sets. You’ll find both expensive professional tools and their cheap analogs — and even completely free applications. Pay attention to the details we review for each piece of software. Some of them might spoil all the pleasure of using the photo editor for you; therefore, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons before making your choice.
Here are 20 tools you at least should consider. All of them are proven and are presented in no particular order.
A savior of photographers everywhere, Luminar is undoubtedly one of the top three editors. You’ll find Luminar on the desktops of beginners and professionals, illustrators and editors.
Luminar provides both simple and advanced editing menus, allowing you to customize your workspace in a few clicks. It comes with a variety of filters, including cinema filters like Orton, whose look you may know thanks to the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
For those creators who are used to editing by hand, Luminar offers a ton of adjustments from basic to advanced. It’s really fun to play with the filters, searching for the perfect temperature, color scheme, hardness, and sharpness.
Another advantage of Luminar is that it doesn’t overload your computer, so you can have dozens of other programs open together with Luminar and still have excellent speed. It’s an optimal solution for those who are tired of monthly subscriptions and random freezes.
Suitable for experts and beginners
Supports batch editing
Works smoothly without freezes
Single-time purchase for a friendly price
Supports Mac and Windows
|Doesn’t work on Linux|
Unlike Photoshop, which makes it possible to do precise work with a single image, Lightroom can process a set of photos simultaneously, quickly, and well.
Lightroom has one of the fullest sets of tools and filters (both integrated and open-source) that can be found among photo editors. In addition, you get 1 TB of storage for your pictures as part of the Creative Cloud subscription, which is more than enough for beginners.
One minus is the speed of this software, which burdens your system significantly. And, of course, the price — $10 a month for Adobe Creative Cloud, which includes Lightroom, Photoshop, and other Adobe programs.
Subscription to Creative Cloud includes other Adobe software
Supports Windows, iOS, Android, and macOS
A single account can be used on multiple devices
Requires a powerful computer
Doesn’t support Linux
3. Aurora HDR
The 2018 version of Aurora HDR won the title of best Mac application, and — spoiler alert — the 2021 upgrade made it even better. When rivalry in the market is harsh, an application that’s able to satisfy users’ slightest needs will become the most popular. That’s exactly what happened to Aurora HDR, which combines outstanding efficiency and functionality with a pleasing design and minimalist interface.
The app comes with plenty of great presets as well as an artificial intelligence (AI) engine that can edit your photos on its own. In addition, selective adjustments are possible. A variety of instruments and filters inside Aurora HDR will pleasantly surprise you.
|Great selection of presets, filters, and adjustments|
Awesome results when working with HDR photos
Works as a plugin for Photoshop, Lightroom, and Apple Photos, or as a standalone app
|The interface can’t be personalized|
The order of the presets/instruments is locked
4. Photolemur 3
Photolemur appeared on the market recently but has managed to make quite an impression on users. Its outstanding feature is its simplicity: this editor can apply the perfect combination of filters with a single click.
It’s not black magic but a trained artificial intelligence engine that analyzes each picture pixel by pixel, searches for patterns (faces, sky, nature, etc.), and applies changes by itself. This software is best known for its Sky Enhance feature, which sooner or later comes in handy for every photographer.
Variety of filters for all kinds of pictures
Low price and no monthly subscription
Provides numerous adjustments
|Not suited for experts|
No possibilities to edit particular details in photos
Fast and high-quality RAW conversion is what distinguishes Capture One from all other programs on the market.
It does have some disadvantages. For example, it doesn’t have a face-tracking feature. In addition, it sometimes fails to work with DNG files and doesn’t have that many presets.
No need to use other programs for metatags
Doesn’t ask for constant subscription renewal
Can have trouble processing DNG files
No face tracking
As the basic instrument of any creator, Photoshop honors our list with its presence. Photoshop is a leader in the editing software market, and that doesn’t seem poised to change anytime soon.
Still, it doesn’t avoid criticism from users — many claim that Photoshop is too expensive.
In addition, Adobe Photoshop is made for experienced users. It has an unintuitive interface, and you’ll have to spend years to achieve good editing results using this software.
|Great set of instruments|
Frequent updates with new features
Great for experts
|Not that great for beginners|
High monthly subscription price
An underdog amongst editing software, Corel offers quite a convenient and worthful tool for users…but with one catch.
Numerous reviews on the unbiased websites from real users state that the soft offers very poor support, which treats its customers quite unfairly. Turning up the pressure, the soft has a multiple bugs, which may interrupt your calm workflow and add some hassle in your life.
Despite that, the program is very affordable thanks to a single-purchase policy, instead of constant license renewal. It has a lot of bright sides, including a variety of both basic and sophisticated instruments for editing & drawing, but f you’ll decide to buy this editor, a great decision would be to try a free trial previously.
|Pro-level of instruments for editing|
single time payment
will suit for artists
free 30-days trial
Bugs in the functioning and payment system that won’t be solved by the tech support team
For Windows only
Standing at the origins of the photo editing trend, ACDSee always created top-notch soft for the photographers, that was undeservedly neglected. Still, the developers don’t plan to lose ground, which is the reason why this editor recently appeared on the market.
Photo Studio is a professional software full of the features you won’t find in any other products. It allows you to edit photos of different genres, to work with almost all known file extensions including .raw and .heif, as well as to personalize your shots in every possible way with the help of numerous instruments. The set of tools in the soft includes face detection & facial expressions recognition, skin improvement, and more.
Following the trend, Photo Studio enabled users to buy month-to-month subscription to their product, but the one-time purchase of $99.99 was left available.
|Professional editing tool|
Support of .raw and .heif files
Minimalistic interface, three color schemes of the program
Free space on Cloud storage
|Can be called pricey because of the $8.99|
Monthly subscription and $100 single payment
Has a non-intuitive interface
Air photography is associated with low-quality shots, as soon as regular drones can carry most basic – therefore, light – camera equipment. For that reason, only people, who can afford expensive technique, get great pictures from their occupation.
The software, specifically designed for the needs of the air photography fans exists under the name of Skylum AirMagic. It truly does magical things to your pics, as soon as the filters the soft uses are picked up according to the metadata the photos carry. It allows you to enhance the quality of the pictures in one click, without using complex editors.
|Suits to the air photography fans|
Uses artificial intelligence, which means the edits to the image can be done automatically
The soft reads your drone metadata, according to which the best filters are chosen
|Automatic edit doesn’t provide Top-notch quality, unlike the manual one|
Many photos obtain strange bluish tint after AI editing
“Image Manipulation Program” GIMP is your guide to the world of free, community-developed (open-source, in other words) tools. It became one of the most popular photo editing instrument not only because of its unrestricted distribution, but mostly because of its availability, as soon as the program can be installed on Windows, macOS, and Linux.
It’s hard to talk about GIMP without mentioning Adobe because the rivalry between these two products has been lasting for a while. However, even the most devoted fans of the free tool can’t deny that there is a lack of some very specific editing instruments, unlike in the commercially developed program.
GIMP is perfect for beginners and middle specialists but might disappoint more advanced users, who are used to the functionality the Adobe products offer.
Suits for basic and advanced editing
|Not a tool for the professionals|
Lack of updates, no support
11. On1 Photo RAW
OnOne developers position the soft as an alternative for Lightroom, and, honestly, it seems like the guys have respect for their promises. The soft works according to “no subscribe” policy, that allows you to save a decent amount of money. A single-time purchase will provide you with the full & unlimited version of the tool.
Speaking about the tools, OnOne instruments set is quite analogous to those the Lightroom, but has some features borrowed from Photoshop. This makes the app quite a competitor for the current market leaders and attracts users, who put emphasis on the functionality of the editor rather than on its popularity.
|The functionality of Lightroom + Photoshop|
Reasonable pricing and single-time purchase
Available for macOS and Windows
Free 30 days of the trial version
1 GB of cloud storage space
|overloads your PC|
Canva is a free tool, which offers advanced features in its premium version. Generally speaking, it is a great soft for simple editing needs, like the appliance of filters for pictures, or their most basic handling.
It’s not Photoshop by any means, but the possibilities for editing are quite surprising: here you’ll find the base of preset templates, free pictures, possibility to create graphic design of high quality. More to that, the soft is free, and the price for its premium version is comparatively low. This is an excellent purchase for people who work with social media frequently, but, unfortunately, not much than that.
perfect for the creators, who only started to grow professionally
the impressive set of tools
free templates and photos bank
works on all PCs, smartphones, touchpads
|year by year, the amount of free features in Canva decreases|
the resolution of the edited pictures is lower than expected
minor slowdowns and bags occur in the newest version of the soft
not for professional editing by any means
Traditional soft like Photoshop or Lightroom is great for photography, no questions, but their price and complicity makes us search for better alternatives. And PortraitPro provides it.
Partly-automatic, the soft does the job of detecting the face and its particular zones and then applying the filters. You still can interfere and help the tool where it fails to find eyes, hA, or face line correctly, but generally the soft works just good by its own. It’s a great editor for people, who need to apply changes quickly, but it fails to compete with the advanced soft like PS – by overusing the filters, at the output you can receive a photo of a plastic doll rather than an actual human being.
|Mostly applies the changes automatically|
Is available after a single purchase, has no subscription
Offers more advanced soft for additional payment
Has impressive possibilities in the portraits editing
|Overburdens your PC, eats too much RAM|
If used without limits, creates unrealistic and unnatural photos
Lately, this tool has been called the newer and cheaper version of Adobe Photoshop, but to be honest – Affinity Photo has some space to develop. The editor contains all the instruments for the professional picture editing, yet, in a less convenient shell than the other competitors.
Many users notice the queerness of Serif Affinity Photo interface, which automatically leads to the question – why reinvent the wheel, if everyone is used to work with a normal tools dislocation? In addition to that, the editor seriously lacks the possibilities to manage and import your work results, which is a basic function every editor has to have.
Despite the listed disadvantages, the tool is useful if you’re searching for an alternative to the hoar Photoshop functional, and its low price is another reason why you should try Serif Affinity Photo by yourself.
|Has all the tools for the professional photo editing|
Supports most common file extensions
Has quite an attractive price
|Has a non-convenient interface|
Can’t import edited pictures
Doesn’t have any pre-set templates
PicMonkey is a great image editor for basic photo management. It won’t impress experts, but will perfectly suit those users who don’t want to open weighty applications for primitive color scheme change, cutting, or skin tone fixing.
The app has all the tools you expect to find in an $8 per month soft: a collection of templates and presets, cropping, enhancement, portrait editing instruments like Weight Loss, Makeup Adding, or Wrinkle Smoother.
|Light, suitable for quick basic editing|
Has a rich library of presets
Cutting, and other selective corrections are available
Great price for the functionality the soft offers
Cloud storage, which automatically saves your progress
|Wouldn’t suit for more complex needs|
There are editing programs with similar functionality, but with a lower price
Users experience glitches and bags, that influence the convenience of the tool considerably
Fotor puts an emphasis on the availability of the soft on any platform: it is available in web, desktop, and mobile versions. All of the adapted versions have the same performance level, which is a rare thing for multiplatform editors.
The functionality of the app, at the same time, is not that rich. Some call it a simplified GIMP, but whether such a response is good or bad depends on your particular expectations from the soft. Nevertheless, Fotor compensates a lack of tools by the support of .raw files and intellectual filters, so it would suit you if you want to work in a single environment on all of your devices.
|Dupports numerous platforms, works equally good on all devices|
Has a free limited version
Has built-in trained filters
Reads and converts .raw files
Cost-efficient offers for those who plan in advice
The free version of the instrument is full of distracting ads
Will not replace editors for more sophisticated image management
Another one online tool, that would suit perfectly for superficial image editing, where you don’t need professional soft to interact. Snappa has a great number of free filters and images you may use in your work. The free version of the soft is presented, too, while to try its premium features, you’ll need to buy a subscription – monthly or annual.
The instrument can be used by teams for a price of $20 per month. A “regular” pro version starts at $10, but for the same price you can buy a subscription for Adobe products, so why paying extra?
|Can be used for teamwork|
Suits for social media management thanks to a base of preset picture adjustments
Simplicity and minimalism
The abundance of stock materials – both free and paid
|Too much simplicity|
The price doesn’t correspond with the functionality
Has a primitive set of tools
Free open-source applications for editing are perfect for those readers, who don’t trust big companies with their tendency to collect private data of their users. Thanks to the accessibility of the original code, you can puzzle out what the soft does with the help of minor knowledge in web development.
The features the soft present are impressive, especially for a completely free tool. It allows users to work with vector images, superseding Adobe Illustrator completely.
|The code of the soft is available for all users|
Substitutes Illustrator completely
|less polished interface|
19. DxO PhotoLab
Competing for the lead place among the professional pic editors, DxO created their Photolab according to the high standards of the market. Aside from the basic functions the soft carries, it is additionally equipped with the cool technologies like denoising tool PRIME or the setting, which allows amending the defects of camera lenses – optical correction.
|Has unique instruments and technologies, that you won’t find in other software|
Suitable for expert editing
Has a free month of trial, and abides a single-purchase policy
You can edit pictures by hand, or choose a smart photo improvement
|Expensive, the price of the tool starts at €129|
The possibilities for photo managing are limited compared to the other available products
20. Pixlr Editor
Online editors rarely appear in the tops of editing software, but for Pixlr we’ve decided to make an exception. It is an online free instrument, available both for your PC, iOs, and Android devices. It is often called “the Photoshop killer,” but let’s face up the truth – there are only a few programs currently available, which can compete with Adobe products, and some online tool unlikely will pass over all of them.
The main advantages of such soft are its lightness, simplicity, and availability without downloading. However, this would not be enough for some advanced designing you wish to implement. The bottom line is – Pixlr is a great assistant, but not an accomplished environment at any means.
|Easy to use |
Quick & light
Has a literal ton of free presets, filters, stickers, fonts
Can be installed both as a separate instrument, and as a plugin for your browser
|Can’t brag about its editing possibilities|
You have to have a Flash Player in order to start using it
The ads are very obstructive