Digital photography is so popular today because of all the available photography editing software available. From free versions to more high-end and expensive pieces of software, there’s something for every budget.
But what if you have a big budget?
That doesn’t necessarily mean go with the most expensive program as you could be wasting money on unnecessary features or on software that just doesn’t live up to your detail-oriented standards.
Either way it helps to read some reviews and do your research before committing to a program.
Here are 3 areas you want to focus on when making your decision.
Nobody wants to lose time on an interface with a steep learning curve, or a toolbox that can’t be customized to your needs.
How the software performs to commands and its ease of navigation can be crucial to meeting deadlines and even maintaining your sanity as you’re going through 50+ photos at a given time.
Reviews are great for weeding out the complex and static UX experiences from the ones that you can tailor to your work.
Features are everything in photo editing software.
From your effects to adjustments, what you’re capable of in the program will determine what you can do with your photos.
Some good questions to ask yourself:
It’s not always about the ways in which you need to edit. Sometimes it’s about how many you have to edit, or HOW you have to edit (RAW conversion, importing/exporting, etc) that you should keep in mind when browsing different software choices.
Mac or PC?
Are you using a certain kind of camera, or is there a particular way you’re looking to edit your photos?
Compatibility is everything when it comes to software, but if you don’t have the right specs, OS, etc. to run it, then it’s not really a contender for you. A lot of the popular software can be run on multiple OS so you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding one that’s good for either Mac or PC; however, be sure to see if the features will differ on a particular system (same goes for support), and whether the technical demands will be higher on one over the other.
If you like to shoot with a particular type of camera it’s also worth researching whether others with similar models prefer one program over another. It won’t matter too much as most software can cover you regardless of the camera.
Something like Capture One, however, kind of caters to Fujifilm enthusiasts so it’s at least worth asking about.
5. Corel Paintshop Pro - $69.99-$89.99
Compatibility: PC Only
Paintshop Pro can be a decent starter program for those looking for Photoshop-like features without the price tag--or commitment to Adobe’s new Creative Cloud, subscription-based setup.
While the parameters for most effects can be difficult to figure out, there’s a good range of effects and plenty of adjustment options that should suit the needs of most hobbyist and amateur photographers.
UX is decent thanks to the intuitive menu navigation, which helps create a seamless workflow.
Unfortunately for Mac users, Corel is Windows only.
Overall: An alright start program if you’re looking to get your feet wet with some digital editing. It’s vaguely reminiscent of Photoshop, so it could be a stepping stone to a higher-end piece of software once you get the basics done.
4. PhaseOne Capture One Pro 12 - $299
Compatibility: Mac and PC
Capture One Pro 12 gives users the seamless workflow experience many studio photographers are accustomed to, and surprisingly caters to Fujifilm processing if that’s your go-to.
That you can customize your tool tabs helps make the overall experience more worthwhile, but there are no fancy features to really make the UX memorable.
Despite the excellent tools, cataloguing potential, and smooth conversions, the price on Capture One is steep ($299) and there’s a noticeable lack of face recognition features that could put a damper on things.
Dual compatibility for Mac and Windows, not to mention with Fujifilm processing added on, the $300 price tag isn’t so bad.
Overall: Capture One feels like a niche program without pigeonholing you. It has a steep license fee and misses the mark on some connectivity issues (such as online sharing and mobile synching), but everything else for the aspiring digital photographer is there.
3. Skylum Luminar 3.1 - $69
Compatibility: Mac and PC
One of the cheapest programs on the list, Luminar kind of gets the job done without doing anything to really wow you. Granted, you can customize your workspace and the workflow isn’t bad, but the AI doesn’t match up with the target audience and the software is on the slower side.
All that means a staggered and lackluster UX.
While the batch process feature won’t save you time, at least you can choose between single and batch to begin with. The interface isn’t half-bad looking and there is a good variety of tools and filters to choose from.
Overall: Can be better than some of the ones before it, but the price point makes it number three if only because it could be a good starter program for up-and-coming photographers. Not to mention, you can install it on either the Mac or Windows OS.
2. Adobe Lightroom CC - $9.99/month (20GB), $19.99/month (1TB)
Compatibility: Mac and PC
Adobe Lightroom from the Creative Cloud is an all-star when it comes to image layers and pro-level photo management, and is generally the software of choice for pros.
The built-in face tagging and detection features, along with the camera/lens-based corrections make it an obvious choice for those looking to step up their editing game.
The biggest cons?
Despite mobile app connectivity, RAW conversion misses the mark and import works at a snail’s pace.
Luckily, Mac and Windows users can both take advantage of the sleek and feature-heavy software.Also:
You don’t buy Adobe products. You subscribe to them for a monthly or annual fee. Perhaps not a downside for those looking to invest in the best software, but for most photographers, the cost adds up over time--offset only by how good your work is and if you’re making enough to cover its perpetual subscription fee.
Overall: A solid choice for those just starting out or those who’ve been in the business for awhile. Just make sure you’re ready to invest in the subscription as much as you are your photography.
1. Adobe Photoshop CC - $9.99/month (20GB), $19.99/month (1TB)
Compatibility: Mac and PC
This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s even casually browsed photo editing software. Adobe has been in the game for awhile and their entire creative suite is a powerhouse for a wide range of photographers.
Not to mention the layers-based editing rocks and the typography/drawing tools are on point.
All of these high-tier features and tools are laid out on in attractive interface that’s intuitive without being overly simple, making it great for beginners and vets alike.
Like Lightroom and the rest of the Adobe products, the biggest downside? No perpetual-license option. You access the software through the Creative Cloud and pay monthly or annual fees. If you’re serious about your work it might not be an issue; but overall, it’s definitely a let down to have to subscribe to a program you’ll likely use every single day.
Like Lightroom CC and the other Adobe CC programs, Photoshop is compatible with both Mac and Windows OS.
Overall: Photoshop has consistently set the bar for what photo editing software should be and offer its users. The features and effects Photoshop offers have long since been the standard for what you’d come to expect from Adobe, and graphic design software in general.
And there you have it!
Our rundown of the 5 best pieces of photography editing software available today. Did your favorite not make the cut? Know something we don’t?
Let us know in the comment section below.