Photo editing is crucial for professional-looking photos. Because photo editors are often pricey and have a steep learning curve, they’re often long-term commitments. You don’t want to keep switching among them. You should find one that works best for you and then stick with it.
Photo editing helps you define your own style to make you stand out from the others
But how do you choose the best photo editor out of so many good ones?
To help you with this, I crafted a list of the best photo editors, all of which are used by professionals, and have a great value to price ratio.
Overview of the best photo editors:
- Luminar 4
- Luminar AI
- Capture One
- Affinity Photo
- PaintShop Pro 2020
How to choose the best photo editor for yourself?
To pick the best photo editors for yourself, you need to ask yourself a few questions. To help you out, you will find answers to all your questions in the table below, or in reviews below the table. Make sure to check them out.
What do I want to edit?
You can edit your photos, which can be either landscape, portrait, nightscape, etc., or, you may want to create graphics for your blog, website, school-project, and so on. You may want to create panoramas, or HDR, or photo stack, and since not every editor has all these options, you want to take this into the account.
What is my budget?
There are free photo editors, and there are paid photo editors. And within paid photo editors, we have one-time purchase, and subscription-based. One-time purchase photo editors are usually a more cost-efficient option in the long run, while the subscription-based photo editors are better for you if you only plan to use them for a couple of months. Although the free editors are quite good, you’ll never see the same results as with premium version.
Am I a beginner, intermediate, or a pro?
Some photo editors are a lot easier to use than the others, usually thanks to their automatization or AI tools, which do most of the work for you. On the other hand, if you’re a seasoned pro, you will want a photo editor that gives you more freedom and creative options. I assume you figured these 3 things out, and now you’re ready to pick the best photo editor for yourself.
So, let’s take a look at the best photo editors for Mac, Windows, and other platforms:
Platform: Mac and Windows | Price: $9.99/month | Cataloguing: Yes | Presets: Yes | Image layers: Yes | Plug-in version: No
- Great library
- Clean interface
- Works well with plugins
- HDR, Panorama, HDR Panorama tools
- Only available with a subscription
- Lacks creative tools
- Might be slow on weak PCs
Adobe Lightroom is a standard in the photo editing industry. It has always been a go-to tool for every pro, but ever since Adobe moved Lightroom to the subscription-only system, photographers have started switching to other photo editors.
Still, Lightroom is a fantastic photo editor with amazing (probably the best Library tool), which allows image marking and metadata editing. Although it is packed with features, it sometimes feels slow.
Lightroom has all the basic tools to edit your photos and fantastic local editing options. What it lacks are creative tools such as we can see with Luminar 4 or ON1. It comes with HDR, Panorama, and HDR Panorama merging tools as well, all of which do their jobs perfectly.
For those who can’t be bothered to edit every image manually, there’s a well-designed and easy-to-use system of presets. These one-click edits are quite simple to install (here’s how) and give an opportunity to newbies to achieve the same edits as pros. You can buy inexpensive, professional Lightroom presets here, or you can download mine for free – just sign up on the homepage or sidebar.
Lightroom is now only available by subscribing, which is a shame since you never actually own it – just rent it. In 6 to 12 months you pay the same amount as you would for a one-time purchase photo editing software such as Luminar 4 or ON1; however, after 6 months you still do not own Lightroom and you need to keep paying if you want to keep using it.
You can get Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop bundled-up here in Adobe’s Creative Cloud Plan.
2. Luminar AI
Platform: Mac and Windows | Price: $79 (one-time) | Cataloguing: Yes | Presets: Yes | Image layers: No | Plug-in version: Yes
- Outstanding AI tools
- Smart presets (Templates) automatically edit photos
- Professional portrait tools
- One-time purchase at a very reasonable price
- No panorama tool
- No HDR tool (Try Aurora HDR 2019 for free)
Luminar AI is the newest addition to the Skylum’s repertoire of excellent photo editing apps.
This photo editor is based on artificial intelligence that’s used to automatically enhance your photos with intelligent presets (Templates), while also boosting the performance of editing tools.
Luminar AI is available at a one-time purchase for a modest $79, for which you get a standalone app with a built-in plugin tool. Plugin can be installed with Lightroom, Photoshop, and macOS Photos.
Related reading: Luminar AI review
3. Luminar 4
Platform: Mac and Windows | Price: $67 (one-time) | Cataloguing: Yes | Presets: Yes | Image layers: Yes | Plug-in version: Yes
- Powerful AI tools
- Edit photos in one click with Looks
- Creative tools are awesome
- Professional portrait tools
- One-time purchase at low price
- No panorama tool
- No HDR tool (Try Aurora HDR 2019 for free)
Skylum’s Luminar 4 is one of the photo editors to pay attention to. Thanks to it’s powerful AI tools, and diverse Creative toolset that allows you to define your own style, it has been awarded Best Product 2019-2020. Adding to its diversity is the fact that it can be used both as a standalone program or a plug-in, for both Windows & Mac.
Luminar 4 has a very decent Library tool that lets you easily manage large amounts of images. Sorting is easy thanks to multiple filters and marking options such as rating, flagging, colouring, and much more
Photo editing is where Luminar 4 shines the most. It’s the reason why Luminar 4 is the #1 Best photo editor. It has all the basic tools that every other photo editor does, however, it packs powerful AI tools that can automatically edit your images with a just drag of a slider, making Luminar 4 perfect for beginners.
If you purchase Luminar 4, you’ll also benefit from Portrait tools, which are very well worth the price of the whole Luminar 4 on their own. You can create pro-looking portraits with literally zero photo editing knowledge. All you have to do is move a few sliders. Learn more here.
Luminar 4 comes at a one-time purchase, which is a huge plus. For a price of a 7-month subscription to Lightroom, you get a much more powerful software for a lifetime! Think about that.
Want to learn more? Read my full Luminar 4 review.
Use coupon code OTTER10 for additional $10 off!
4. ON1 Photo Raw 2020
Platform: Mac and Windows | Price: $49 (one-time) | Cataloguing: Yes | Presets: Yes | Image layers: Yes | Plug-in version: Yes
- Extremely fast
- HDR tool
- Panorama tool
- Focus stacking tool
- Very cheap one-time payment
- The interface can be confusing
- Tool names aren’t the best
ON1 Photo Raw 2020 quickly evolved into a contender for the podium of the best photo editor. Quite likely, this is the only photo editor you’ll ever need because it has everything.
It’s available for both Windows & Mac. Just like Luminar 4, it can work both as a standalone program or a plugin for Lightroom and Photoshop, making it extremely versatile.
Its Browse feature is quite similar to Lightroom’s, however, it’s faster and more difficult to work with.
Editing capabilities are truly impressive in ON1 Photo Raw 2020. It has every tool that Lightroom has, it has most of the Luminar’s tools, PLUS it can automatically focus stack – a task that is usually performed in Photoshop.
You will also benefit from Portrait tools, that will help you turn your portraits into professional-looking images. ON1 Photo Raw 2020 also has a handful of masking and other local adjustment features, which get the job done.
ON1 Photo Raw 2020 is very inexpensive considering what you get for the price. At the moment, it is available for only $49 – for this price, you get everything mentioned above. And it’s a one-time purchase! Buy it once, and you can have it forever.
There’s also a FREE trial available. Check it down bellow.
Platform: Mac and Windows | Price: $9.99/month | Cataloguing: No | Presets: Yes | Image layers: Yes | Plug-in version: No
- A lot of photo correction and manipulation tools
- 3D design
- Drawing and typography tools
- Works well with Lightroom
- Premium is expensive
- Overwhelming amount of tools
- Questionable performance
Photoshop is a wholesome and one of the best photo editors for both photo editing and photo manipulation. The shear number of features is daunting.
Learning the basics of Photoshop is easy, however, mastering this complex and enormous software takes years. It is available for both Windows & Mac.
Photoshop is extremely powerful when it comes to photo editing. It is a lot more complicated than Lightroom but it’s way more flexible. Also, Photoshop doesn’t store your images once you close it like Lightroom does, but it has projects that can be saved and continued later.
Sadly, Photoshop is also available only via s subscription plan, meaning that you rent it rather than own it, costing you a lot more money over the years. Bundled up with Lightroom it costs $9.99/month.
To sum up, Photoshop does everything that Lightroom does and much more, but it comes with a steeper learning curve. I use Lightroom to perform the basic edits, and finish the image in Photoshop to make the final local adjustments.
6. Capture One
Platform: Mac and Windows | Price: Starting at $11/month or $149 (one-time)| Cataloguing: Yes | Presets: Yes | Image layers: Yes | Plug-in version: No
- Intuitive workspace
- Fast import
- Great photo-editing toolset
- Excellent raw file conversion
- Layers can complicate your workflow
- No face recognition
- No HDR or panorama merging
- Lack of 3rd party plugins
Capture One is a professional photo editor designed for professionals and amateurs and is currently one of the best alternatives to Lightroom. It offers exceptional RAW image file editing, cataloguing, layers, local and keystone adjustments.
In contrast with Lightroom, Capture One is one workspace. There are no modules for different functions, making it feel faster. What makes it so powerful is its customizability – you can reassign virtually everything.
Capture One has every basic photo editing tool that you’ll ever need, but what is more, it has tethering, which is priceless for studio photographers. Not only can you sync flash modes, but you can also see your camera’s live view on your computer screen.
Absence of HDR or Panorama merging options is definitely a huge downside, lack of 3rd party plugins makes it even worse, rendering Capture One mostly unusable on its own for landscape photographers, who will have to additionally purchase a dedicated HDR and/or Panorama tool.
Capture One is available both as a one-time purchase for $149 or a subscription-based for $20/month, making it quite expensive.
Platform: Mac, Windows, Linux, Mobile | Price: Free, or $8.99+/month | Cataloguing: No | Presets: Yes | Image layers: Yes | Plug-in version: No
- Free plan
- Professional-looking results
- Great for social media
- Difficult to use on mobile
- Not the best graphics library
- Text designing isn’t the best
Canva can be used as a free simple photo editor, however, it’s mostly intended for creating beautiful graphics for social media, posters, invitations, etc.
This easy-to-use online design software gives great creative possibilities to bloggers, marketers, and even big corporations to create eye-catching graphics that will ensure good conversion rates.
Of course, you can also use it for your personal design needs in case you want to create invitations, birthday cards, or an Instagram or Facebook post.
The design process is simplified with Canva’s drag-and-drop editor, free photos and illustrations, hundreds of fonts and layouts.
Learn more about Canva Pro.
8. Affinity Photo
Platform: Mac, iPad, Windows | Price: Starting $54 Mac & Windows, $21 for iPad | Cataloguing: Yes | Presets: Yes | Image layers: Yes | Plug-in version: No
- Good value
- Non-destructive live filters
- Low, fixed cost
- Can be complicated
- Questionable saving and exporting
- No cataloguing options
Affinity Photo is an affordable alternative to Photoshop. It has Laxers, Filters, Adjustment Layers, Layer Masks, and even Live Filters, making Affinity Photo extremely cost-efficient.
Affinity Photo is less than five years old and each update brings significant upgrades that bring new features, significantly speed it up, and fix bugs.
At first glance, the interface is well laid out and split into modules called “Personas”, which are straightforward. Photo Persona for image editing, Liquify Persona for pixels manipulating, Develop Persona for Raw processing, etc.
In many aspects such as features, functionality, controls, and even keyboard shortcut Affinity Photo is identical to Photoshop, however, Photoshop has slightly more finesse when it comes to the workspace and overall performance.
Affinity Photo is available at a fixed price as a one-time purchase, giving it a significant edge over Photoshop in price aspect.
Platform: Mac, Windows, Mobile, Online | Price: Starting at $4.99/month, $19.99/year | Cataloguing: Yes | Presets: Yes | Image layers: No | Plug-in version: No
- HDR effects
- Portrait retouching
- Hundreds of stickers, shapes, and fonts
- Filters and image touch-ups
- Lots of ads
- Lack of advanced editing tools
- Cannot replace Luminar 4 or Lightroom
Fotor is one of the most famous online cloud-based photo editors with over 300M users. It is also available as a free desktop version, which has all usability of an online photo editing version.
The cloud-based version allows you to save your incomplete work online and continue in the future. All you need to do is upload your images onto the website, and you can start with your creative process.
Fotor’s image editing is somehow limited, especially with the free version, however, filters are a pleasant surprise. They are easy to use and instantly improve your image, which is perfect for beginners or those who can’t be bothered to manually edit their photos.
The price for the full version is reasonable, considering how much other photo editors cost.
10. PaintShop Pro 2020
Platform: Windows | Price: $51.99 | Cataloguing: Yes | Presets: Yes | Image layers: Yes | Plug-in version: No
- Powerful tools
- Excellent content-aware cloning
- Touch-screen compatible
- Great tutorial
- Windows only
- Poor chromatic aberration removal
- Cluttered interface
PaintShop Pro 2020 is a complete and powerful photo editor, that has a remarkable set of features and tools, which experienced users can take of a full-advantage.
One of the biggest pluses of PSP is a touch-screen option, which greatly speeds up the workflow on workspace stations for which it was intended.
Of course, it has all the basic tools such as one-click photo fix, filters, basic exposure and colour correction, and a crop tool. The most noteworthy of PaintShop Pro’s many tools is its Content-Aware Cloning, which arguably does a better job than Photoshop’s.
Price is another factor where PaintShop Pro wins over Photoshop – it’s available as a one-time purchase with a perpetual license starting at a reasonable $51.99.
Platform: Mac. Windows, Linux | Price: FREE | Cataloguing: No | Presets: Yes | Image layers: Yes | Plug-in version: Yes
- Customizable interface
- Digital retouching
- Cluttered interface
GIMP (Gnu Image Manipulation Program) is a free, open-source photo editor aimed specifically at photo manipulation, making it a free Photoshop alternative.
Its toolset includes basic and advanced adjustments, noise reduction, cropping, automatic image enhancement tools, color adjustment tools, gradients, customizable brushed, and a lot more.
GIMP has a standard interface similar to the high-end graphic software layout. It is clean and aimed at boosting your performance. It’s UI is divided into three sections: the main editings area, toolbox, and layers, paths, undo, and channels.
GIMP is easily extensible via numerous third-party plugins, that give it even more functionality. All this makes GIMP the best free photo editor.
Platform: Online | Price: FREE, $10/month for Pro | Cataloguing: No | Presets: Yes | Image layers: Yes | Plug-in version: No
- Free version
- Stylish templates
- Easy to use
- Promotes teamwork
- Slow loading
Snappa is an online cloud-based graphics editor for marketing, personal, and social media purposes. Arguably, Photoshop can do the same better, but Snappa is much easier to use and faster to learn.
The platform is designed to improve teamwork among project members by enabling them to work together on a project. What is more, Snappa also has a free version, which allows small businesses or individuals to start and save resources.
Speed, ease-of-use, cost-effectiveness, and abundance tools to use makes Snapp one of the best photo editors for graphic design.
Platform: Mac, Windows, Linux | Price: FREE | Cataloguing: No | Presets: Yes | Image layers: Yes | Plug-in version: No
- Completely free
- Pro designing tools
- Optimized for weaker machines
- Outdated interface
- Text tools need some work
- Laggy with Illustrator
Inkscape is a free open-source vector graphic photo editor with a unique native format, which makes it different from similar programs such as Adobe Illustrator, Xara, etc. Because it’s an open-source project, you can use its code in your own app or program.
This open-source photo editor is a good choice for beginners or hobbyists, who cannot afford to purchase expensive tools, however, for professionals, it might not be enough.
It’s packed with filters that let you for example convert to Braille, barcodes, grids, or generate calendars in one click.
Here are some Frequently Asked Questions, and my honest answers to them.
Which is the best photo editor?
I answered these questions above, but just to reiterate. These are the best photo editors in 2020:
- Luminar 4
- ON1 Photo Raw 2020
- Adobe Lightroom
- Adobe Photoshop
- Capture One
- Affinity Photo
- PaintShop Pro 2020
I keep this list regularly updated, and I will add more in future updates.
Which is the best photo editor for PC?
Due to the optimization, either Luminar 4 or Capture One. Luminar 4 has become a true powerhouse since the 4.2 Update, while Capture One has always been a number one choice for studios.
Which is the best photo editor for Mac?
Macs are usually better optimized, so Luminar 4, Lightroom, ON1, and Capture One are all great choices.
Is Photoshop the best photo editor?
No, it’s not the best. The best photo editor is the one that works the best for you, however, Photoshop is one of the most versatile and feature-packed photo editors available.
Which photo editing software is best for beginners?
The best photo editor for beginners is the one that is the easiest to learn, namely:
- Luminar 4
- On1 Photo Raw 2020
Is there a free Photoshop alternative?
Yes, there’s free Gimp and an open-source Inkscape. Both can do most of what Photoshop can do, but in the end, it comes down to your needs. If you need it just for photo editing, you can go for Fotor, if you want a professional Graphics software, you can go for Canva, or finally, for photo manipulation, you can pick Gimp.
Related reading: Best photo apps
Can I buy Adobe Photoshop permanently?
Not anymore. Adobe moved Lightroom and Photoshop to the subscription-only system, meaning you can only rent them.
Which is the best software for graphics?
The best photo editing software for graphics is Canvas. Its drag-and-drop editor makes designers’ workflow effortless and fast. Canva is also suitable for beginners.
Canva has both free and premium version, so you can test it out before deciding for its inexpensive subscription.
Conclusion | Best photo editors
I hope this short guide on best photo editors helped you make your mind. Or, you can just do what I would if I were you. Here are some options:
- Photo editing (paid): I would go for Luminar 4! Thanks to its powerful AI’s and numerous creative tools, it’s the perfect combination of automatized and manual editing. I use it as a Lightroom plug-in, and it’s fantastic.
- Photo editing (free): I’d pick a free version of Fotor. It won’t be nearly as good as a paid version, but it’s better than nothing. Or you can opt for a free mobile Lightroom.
- Image manipulation (paid): Photoshop, there’s no better.
- Image manipulation (free): Gimp is a very close second to Photoshop, but it’s free.
- Graphics: Both Snappa and Canva are great, and they both offer a free trial/plan. You should try them for yourself and see which one feels better.