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.
A RAW converter is software that processes RAW files from a camera and converts them into regular image files. Not all RAW converters are the same. The closest analogy is the different developers used to process film. Examples include Adobe Camera Raw, Capture One Pro and DxO PhotoLab.
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.
Almost any photographic expert will tell you that you should shoot RAW files not JPEGs, and that RAW files are innately superior. The trouble with this kind of wisdom is that it’s repeated and passed on without question.
You might assume your RAW processing software shows you everything captured by the camera, but that’s not always the case. Where the camera is applying digital lens corrections, there may be more ‘image’ outside the regular image area that you wouldn’t normally see.
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.
White balance sounds a pretty simple image adjustment, but there’s a little more to it than meets the eye. Here are 12 white balance tips that might help you get the results you want and explain what’s gone wrong if you don’t.
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.
Noise is the digital equivalent of grain in film. It’s random electrical signals captured by the photosites on the camera sensor, and usually this background noise level is so low compared to the brightness of the captured picture itself that you just don’t notice it.