Choosing the best image editing software is complicated, not just because there are so many alternatives, but because they all do different things. It all depends on what you look for most in your photo editing software. Here are ten programs with ten different approaches.
Life after Photoshop software reviews
Choosing the right software isn't easy and you often have to try quite a few different applications to find the ones that suit you. We're all looking for different things, and quite often a single piece of software won't do everything that we need.
Some people simply want a Photoshop replacement without the subscription payments, some want an image cataloguing tool that can also carry out photo enhancements, some primarily want an image effects tool for crafting a very particular 'look'. Most of us want a bit of all of these things.
• Always download the trial version if there is one. My best guess at what photographers need is not necessarily right for you.
These reviews are designed not just to see whether the software out there is any good or not, but to explain exactly what it does and how it might fit into your workflow.
I don't review every program out there, only those which I personally consider add something significant to the image-editing process. There are some notable and quite possibly very popular programs not in my review list but that's because – and I don't want to upset any publishers out there – I don't think they're different enough, interesting enough or just plain good enough.
Verdict: 4.5 stars DxO PhotoLab 4 is superb at RAW processing and lens corrections, often transforming the results from even average camera gear. The improvements in PhotoLab 4, particularly DxO’s new DeepPRIME technology, are impressive, and offer stunning results from high-ISO images. PhotoLab 4 is quite technical, it’s not cheap if you buy the Elite version (recommended) and the ViewPoint and FilmPack add-ons, and its organising tools are pretty basic – and it doesn’t work with Fujifilm X-Trans files. Otherwise, for image processing perfectionists, it’s quite superb.
Verdict: 4.5 stars Exposure X6 remains one of the best tools for recreating atmospheric analog looks and has a large catalog of very good preset effects. It’s also a very good all-round non-destructive image-editor, and offers very good integrated image cataloguing which offers an excellent hybrid approach between ‘live’ folder browsing and quite powerful search and album tools.
Verdict: 4 stars It’s undeniably useful to be able to see, organise and edit your images anywhere, on any device, and the editing tools are now almost the same as those in Lightroom Classic. But you do have to pay for the necessary cloud storage for your photo catalog, and while the Sensei AI image search feature is great, the rest of the organising tools are pretty simplistic – and there are no smart albums. Lightroom CC is unique and effective in some ways, expensive and limiting in others.
Verdict: 4 stars Lightroom has become a standard tool for a large number of photographers and it does streamline the organisation and editing of large numbers of photos. But while it’s powerful and effective, its raw processing is not the best and its organisational system can feel quite awkward.
Which is best for processing RAW files, DxO PhotoLab, Lightroom or Capture One? Here’s a set of eight image comparisons that aims to find out.
What is the best image cataloguing software right now? Lightroom? Not necessarily. Here are six different programs which offer six distinctly different approaches to image organisation.
Verdict: 4.5 stars Luminar 4 is an unusual and constantly evolving program. Increasingly, it’s specialising in altered, enhanced and augmented reality effects – and these are exceptionally effective. Luminar also has a full selection of basic photo editing tools like curves, cropping, layers and retouching. It’s a very versatile and effective photo editor.
Verdict: 4.5 stars Other programs might have the edge individually for cataloguing tools, RAW processing, analog effects or reality distortion, but no other program brings all those things together like this one. The biggest news in this version, though, is the new ON1 360 service.
Verdict: 4 stars: ON1 360 is a new add-on cloud sync service for ON1 Photo RAW that offers similar online sync options to Lightroom and Creative Cloud. It’s different, but is it actually better?