20 Best Photo Editing Software for New Photographers (2021)
Last Updated on July 13, 2021 by Adam Enfroy
Thanks to smartphones and Instagram filters, everyone is a photographer these days. But only real photographers know the value of editing raw images to bring out the very best in them.
A raw image is like an unprocessed film seen by your DSLR sensor. Image editing requires correcting several things, including exposure, noise reduction, focus, and highlighting essential objects to make a stunning image.
And there's tons of advice out there. Most talk about Adobe Photoshop, which seems to be the most commonly used tool.
As great as Adobe is, it's not the only credible photo editing software out there. In fact, there are plenty of photo editing software available on the market to explore and choose from.
In this guide, we'll cover the 19 best photo editing software capable of meeting the needs of all types of photographers.
This includes all tools ranked and compared to include:
- The best free photo editors.
- The best tools for Mac.
- The top photo editing picks for PC and Windows.
- The easiest photo software for beginners.
- The best portrait editing software.
Let's get started.
Here are my picks for the best photo editing software to try this year:
Best Overall Photo Editor for Mac and PC.
Adobe Photoshop deserves a special mention in any article about the best editing software. After all, the name “Adobe Photoshop” is pretty synonymous with photo editing by now.
It is one of the most popular photo editing software tools on the market. Photoshop is the primary tool for its legions of fans across the world, including designers, artists, and illustrators.
Unlike Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Photoshop is meticulously designed for professionals who need all the advanced features in one package. You name an editing feature, and the chances are Photoshop will have it.
It is practically impossible to include all the features that Photoshop offers. Here are some key features that would help you to make a better decision:
- Its masking and selection tools are the best in the business
- Incredible cloning and retouching capabilities
- Photoshop is incredibly fast even with larger size images
- It comes with depth map support for HEIF files and 360 editing tools
- Photoshop supports all of the main file formats like JPG, PNG, GIF, as well as raw files
- It uses adjustment layers for non-destructive editing to enhance the appearance of your image
Initially, you get a 1-week free trial. Adobe Photoshop comes bundled with Creative Cloud storage of 100 GB. Its annual plan costs around $20 per month.
The Creative Cloud Photography plan includes Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom for photo management.
Sign up for Adobe Creative Cloud and get started with Adobe Photoshop.
Best Easy Photo Tool for Beginners.
Corel PaintShop Pro is a capable and one of the most inexpensive photo editing software tools out there. Some photographers call it an Adobe Photoshop alternative, but it lacks Photoshop's most advanced flagship features, including Camera Shake Reduction, 3D modeling, Faces Liquefy, detailed typography, among others.
However, if you want a software for basic yet effective image editing, then Corel PaintShop Pro is not a bad option. Just don't expect it to be as shrewd as its other more advanced counterparts.
Some of its unique features which make it worth trying are as follows:
- Perfect for beginners
- 360-degree image editing capability
- User experience is crisp and smooth
- Designers can start working from pre-existing graphic design templates
- Extensive library of gradients, picture tubes, colors, pallets, among others
Its offers two paid versions – PaintShop Pro 2018 version is $63.99 and The PaintShop Pro 2018 Ultimate costs $79.99, for a one-time purchase. It also offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.
- PaintShop Pro is only available on Windows. No Mac version is coming in the near future
Get started with Corel PaintShop Pro 2020.
3. Skylum Luminar.
Best HDR and Filters for Photographers.
Skylum Luminar is an excellent alternative to Adobe Lightroom. As a result, it has been gaining massive popularity among photographers.
It comes with powerful image editing capabilities with more affordable pricing. Its latest version, Luminar 4, is faster and provides a perfect blend of both Lightroom and Photoshop. With one single software, you get the best of both worlds.
Some of its notable key features include:
- Adjustment layers and masks
- Offers 24/7 Technical and Sales Support
- Fast editing controls with a lesser lag time
- Clever shortcuts for automatic management of photographs
- Folders are always updated with the content available on the hard disk
- Viewing options include filmstrip view, gallery view, and single image view
- AI-powered sky enhancer, and accidental AI and sun rays
Unlike recurring payment for Adobe editing tools, Luminar comes with a more affordable one-time payment plan of $70. You also get a 60-day money-back guarantee.
- Healing and cloning tool is not always reliable
- Handling of workflow and organization could use improvement
Get started with today and order the brand new Skylum Luminar 4.
4. Adobe Lightroom.
Best Online Photo Editing Tool.
Adobe needs no introduction in the world of photo editing. In fact, it continues to be a pioneer in releasing cutting-edge photo editing software updates over the years.
Adobe Lightroom is another powerful editing software by Adobe. Ideally, it is perfect for photographers who want a more straightforward yet capable tool to edit their images.
Unlike Photoshop's complicated and intimidating user interface, both Lightroom Classic and CC offer a more intuitive and user-friendly interface for image editing.
Some of its incredible features include:
- Sliders are customizable
- Blurring and fixing tools
- It syncs with multiples devices
- Cam and lens-based corrections
- Gradient and brush adjustment tools
- Professional filters along with numerous presets
- Its face detection capability helps in organizing the photographs more efficiently
The cloud-based photo editing tool offers seamless editing capabilities across mobile, web, and desktop through a single subscription plan. The annual subscription of its Basic plan starts at around $119.88 and ranges up to $239.88 for up to 1 TB of Cloud storage.
- Limited editing options
- Absence of layers or blend modes
- Fewer graphics designing elements
Get started with Adobe Lightroom.
“The word's most advanced HDR photo editor for Mac and Windows.”
Skylum Aurora HDR facilitates the efficient merging of imagery to create final shots that look both natural and stunning at the same time. It operates as a standalone app and can be plugged-in right into other tools like Adobe Photoshop.
You can also integrate it as an Apple Photo extension. Aside from the traditional methods to create HDR images, Aurora enables photographers to create HDR images from a single file through its AI-based neural network.
Aurora HDR is a boon for HDR photography as it offers several leading-edge features to create cutting edge images. Here are some of its key features:
- It comes loaded with 20+ tools that help you create stunning HDR images
- It smartly cleans noise and enhances depth & details
- Its HDR clarity feature optimizes clarity and enhances localized contrast for better results
- You can leverage its 80 unique presets to create RAW images into creative masterpieces in a few seconds
- You can also use manual mode to take all the control in your hands.
It costs around $99 and comes with a 60-day money-back guarantee.
Get started with Skylum Aurora HDR.
Best Tool for Business Templates and Designs.
Canva is one of the most popular tools to help you design stunning photo templates. Its simplistic user interface has enabled millions to edit graphics without any substantial technical knowledge.
Its user-friendly drag and drop editor can be used to add several layers to your photos. Plus, it allows you to easily add fonts and other graphics to your photos for publishing on social media or your website.
Canva is a go-to tool for professionals who want to create photo designs for websites, social media, flyers, brochures, and marketing collateral.
Here are some of its key features:
- You can download its mobile app to edit photos and create designs on the go
- It offers more than 8,000 templates, photos, icons, and cards for easy creation of visual content
- Straightening and image cropping
- Offers speech bubble maker
- It is online and can be used on any decent computer
- Get access to its massive library of images and designs
- Stores your photos and designs in the cloud
Canva operates on a freemium model. The Pro version comes at a subscription price of $12.95 per month. Canva also offers a quote-based version for teams with more than 20 members.
Get started with Canva today.
Best for beginners with no graphic design skills ($9 per month).
Stencil is a web-based graphic design and photo editing tool that helps you create and edit images for your social media and website. It comes with a user-friendly interface and is suitable for social media marketing professionals, bloggers, and small business owners.
It helps you easily design social media images, including ad banners, headers, profile pictures, posts, and more.
Some of its key features include:
- Instant image resizing.
- Ability to store and upload multiple logos.
- Easy to use addons for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari.
- Identify safe areas to put content in your image.
- Share images on different social platforms directly from your dashboard.
- Keep all your ‘favorite’ icons, logos, and images separately for quick access.
Stencil comes with a bank of over 5 million royalty-free images in high resolution that you edit within your Stencil dashboard. Besides, you get over 1400 templates to create different designs like quotes, banners, etc.
With over 3,300 Google fonts and the ability to upload your custom fonts, you won’t lack options to design and customize your images.
Other elements include over 3 million unique icons for commercial and personal use, and 140+ custom size presets to design images for different requirements. However, it also allows you to design images with a custom size. After you’re through with the final measurements, you preview the designed image to get a precise idea of how the final cut would look like.
Additionally, Stencil offers multiple filters to beautify images and download them in high resolution. You can also share your designs as a Bit.ly link with anyone across various platforms.
Integration with social platforms helps you share images directly to social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Buffer, and more. On top of that, it enables you to schedule your posts with Buffer.
Stencil comes with three subscription plans:
- Free: $0 per month (always free)
- Pro: $9 per month (when paid annually)
- Unlimited: $12 per month (when paid annually)
The Free plan lets you save up to 10 images/month; the Pro plan allows you to save 50 images per month, while you can save unlimited images with the Unlimited plan. Plus, all paid plans come with a 100% 7-days money-back guarantee.
Make sure to use my promo code ENFROY10 to get a 10% discount on any plan.
Best for Online Ads and Social Posts.
PicMonkey is recommended for starters who want to brush up their design and photo editing skills. It offers a complete range of photo editing tools including touch up, crop, collages, and many more.
You can leverage its free trial version to test its photo editing capabilities before going for the paid version. One of the best parts about PicMoney is its user interface, which is straightforward and easy to use. It is also a perfect alternative to professionals who are overwhelmed by complex features of other heavyweight photo editing software.
- A good selection of templates
- Advanced touch-up tools for stunning images
- Addition of features and tools through constant updates
- You can edit images easily through its feature-rich smartphone app for iPhone and Android
- Sophisticated graphic design tools to create images for online publishing
- You don’t have to be an editing wizard to use this photo editing software
PicMonkey offers a 7-day free trial, which allows you to test out the product before upgrading to a paid version. The Basic plan is $7.99 per month; the Pro plan is $12.99, and the Team plan is $33.99.
Get started with your free trial of PicMonkey.
9. Capture One.
Most Powerful Tool for Advanced Users.
Created by a camera company called Phase One, Capture One is a great addition to this list. At first glance, this RAW image editor looks like any other image editing software, but it actually offers a lot of unique features. If you are a photographer who is mostly interested in enhancing RAW images, then this is a better option than Adobe Lightroom.
Capture One offers a lot of robust features to make image editing a total breeze.
Here are some of its key features:
- Its masking capabilities eliminate the requirement of using Photoshop
- Performance is faster and slick even with massive images
- Advanced Color Editing feature offers greater flexibility to adjust colors and white balance
- You can customize the interface as per your preference
- Allows you to make several adjustments on each layer without getting sluggish
Its monthly subscription plans start from $20 per month. You can also purchase it outright by paying $299, which includes 500+ camera support. Other premium plans can go as high as $417.
- You can’t export an image without a watermark. You will have to process it to remove the watermark.
- Dehaze tool is absent
- No cloud storage option
Best Library of Image Templates.
DesignWizard is a tool that has thousands of pre-made image design templates suitable for everything from social media posts and YouTube Channel Art to birthday cards and gift certificates.
- A library of over one million images, thousands of high-quality videos, graphics, and illustrations
- Every image and video is licensed for commercial use
- You can share content instantly on social media
- Marketing templates, including Facebook Ads templates, LinkedIn Ads, sale posters, loyalty cards, and more
- A simple photo editor where you can resize images, add text, logos, and more
DesignWizard's pricing includes a free plan and two paid plans at $9.99 and $49.99/month.
Their free Basic Plan allows you to view their entire library, but you have to pay $1 for each image design download. You can also add text and resize images and download your designs in JPEG, PNG, and PDF.
Their $9.99/month Pro Plan gives you up to 60 image downloads per month, plus the ability to upload your own custom images and custom fonts.
Finally, their most popular Business Plan at $49.99/month gives you access to unlimited image downloads and opens up all of their video features. You can download unlimited standard videos, upload your own videos to edit, and add text, images, and logos to your video assets.
Ultimately, your choice depends on how many images you need each month and whether or not you want to get involved in video marketing.
Overall, DesignWizard is a great tool if you're looking for thousands of templated designs to use for personal or business use.
Best Photo Editor for Creative Features.
ACDSee Photo Studio has been in the photo editing software market for a long time. This multipurpose photo editing tool offers impressive features, which make it a reliable alternative to Adobe Photoshop. Moreover, it comes in handy to beginners as well, thanks to its user-friendly interface.
The newly released version, ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate, offers the latest capabilities and advanced tools for better photo editing experience.
Let us take a look at some of the key features which make this photo editing program worth considering:
- Facial recognition capability that helps in better management of photographs
- You can use the Black and White tool in “develop and edit” modes
- Leverage powerful LUTs presets for different color looks
- No need to import the files. Edit source files directly
- Distorts objects in the image through Liquify tool without compromising its quality
You can purchase its lifetime license at $224.98. ACDSee is also offering one year of free updates and technical support along with the plan.
- Skin Tune in develop mode faces lags
- This tool is not the perfect option for high-end professionals
- The user interface looks a bit dated and needs improvement for better performance
12. On1 Photo RAW.
Best Software That Includes Skills Courses.
Photo RAW is quite a popular option among photographers because it offers cutting edge photo editing capabilities for free. The software comes with a free trial version for 30 days, which can be upgraded later on.
Photo RAW is an efficient tool for photographers who want to create stunning images without spending too much time on the editing table. It can be either used as a photograph organizer or as an editing tool.
Some of its key features are unique from other popular photo editing programs present in the market.
Here they are:
- Its dual-mode is boon for photographers as it allows them to browse or edit pictures from the same tool
- You can view each and every editing step in its Edit History feature
- It is integrated with Apple Photos to support full RAW data for stunning results
- You can execute live adjustments and previews
- Available for download on any device
On1 Photo RAW is priced at $79.99 for its new customers and $63.99 for the customers who have used any On1 product before. You can also try out its 30-day free trial version; no credit card details required.
- Online sharing capability is absent in Windows
- No Face and the geotagging feature
- Some features react slowly
13. Pixlr Editor.
Best Easy Online Photo Editor.
This powerful online photo editor is more capable than several desktop photo editing apps. Pixlr is a full-fledged photo editing web-app that offers impressive customization capabilities with a simple user interface.
Though it is a browser-based application, you can make simple changes to its images from anywhere.
Pixlr comes with some amazing key features, including:
- You can use this web-based photo editing app from anywhere and any computer
- Its supports masks and layers
- Allows you to choose from over 2 million effects
- You can also download its desktop photo editing software or mobile app
- You can customize the user interface as per your preference
- Allows you to open pictures from desktop, URLs or simply import directly from social media platforms
Pixlr offers a free version. However, it is cluttered with ads, which is a major distraction for any photo editing professional. Pixlr is right now offering substantial discounts on its pro subscription plans. You can get a monthly subscription at $5 and quarterly at $12.
- It requires flash
- A brand new photo editing software might replace it soon
- The help section of Pixlr isn't efficient and doesn't provide solutions to all the problems
Best Free and Open-Source Photo Editing Software.
Gimp stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program. This free and open-source image editing software comes loaded with pro-level features that can help you create stunning images. It also allows the developers to change the source code and distribute the updated version. This means that they keep on releasing the improved version frequently.
This free photo editing software is excellent for designers, illustrators, and photographers who are just starting out.
Gimp is free, but it offers pro-level features to meet all essential photo editing requirements.
Here are some of its key features:
- Its high-quality photo manipulation capabilities help you retouch or restore the images efficiently
- You can create stunning original artwork
- Allows you to create pro-level graphic design elements
- Offers a greater level of customization through integration with several plugins
- You can integrate with several programming languages including Perl, Scheme, Python, and more
Entirely free of cost.
- You might face bugs and errors due to community development
- It is a bit slower than other professional options
- Gimp is good for starters and professionals with limited requirements. However, it is not an ideal option for pro-level editing work
Best Professional RAW Photo Editor.
Alien Skin Exposure comes equipped with a fantastic range of tools for professional photo editing. It is also touted as a perfect combination of Photoshop and Lightroom CC.
From its support to layers and masks to several one-click presets, it has a lot to choose from.
It comes equipped with a host of key features to enable photographers to achieve desired results.
Here are some of the key features:
- Clean and user-friendly interface
- Loaded with several one-click presets and filters
- Facilitates faster transfer of images
- Offers an efficient printing option
- Offers Smart Collection features to organize library more efficiently
- Enhanced light effects for better exposure
You can buy Exposure X4 for about $119 or the entire Exposure X4 Bundle for about $149.
- No Auto-correction tools
- No Face or geotagging feature
- Lens-profile correction feature is not up to the mark
- Chromatic Aberration correction feature is absent
Best Simple Image Editor for PC.
If you are a non-professional or beginner who wants to enter Adobe’s photo editing ecosystem, then Elements is an excellent option. Adobe Photoshop Elements is specially designed for beginners and comes with crisp and easy to use UI and powerful photo editing capabilities.
You can execute pro-level photoshop effects with Elements without having any professional skills. It also performs basic photo editing tasks at a great pace.
- Its “Auto Curate” feature leverages the power of AI to categorize best images in your gallery
- The “Open Closed Eyes” feature is capable of fixing a closed eye, a common problem in photography
- It is capable of more guided edits, including replacing the background, double exposure, shape overlay, watercolor, and more
- Create professional collages in a few steps
- Its “Guided Edits” feature helps in creating part-image sketches, memes, and multi-photo text
- Its AI-capabilities cover a lot of editing tasks on its own
You can buy Adobe Photoshop Elements for $99.99.
- It takes a lot of memory space on the hard disk
- HEIF support is not available on Windows
- Social sharing outputs are limited
- Lens geometry profile or chromatic aberration removal is absent
Best for Creating Quick Online Graphics.
Snappa is a cloud-based photo editing tool. It perfectly meets the requirement of professionals who typically need images and designs for social media postings, marketing, and personal purposes.
The image editing tool offers collaboration with different professionals to help you complete a project at a faster pace. Moreover, Snappa’s user-friendly interface enables photographers to transform their images into stunning art. It also allows you to add unique effects and new dimension to your images.
Snappa’s key features provide professional photo editing capabilities.
- Edit pictures using its powerful drag and drop editor
- Start editing quickly on image dimension templates meant for social media, blog, and other online postings
- Leverage thousands of free stock photos to create stunning designs
- Share edited pictures directly on social media
- Crisp and fast editing
- Custom font uploads
Snappa works on a freemium model that allows 5 free image design downloads per month. You can buy its 1-user monthly subscription for $10. Subscription for teams is priced at $20, which allows 5 users to work from the account.
- No autosave option
- No-undo feature makes editing somewhat frustrating
- The font search feature is not reliable as it only searches by its first letter
Best Portrait Editing Software.
PortraitPro is one of the best photo editing software tools on this list. It is created specifically for professionals who specialize in portrait photography. The software is powered with all the bells and whistles you would need to create stunning portraits.
This photo editing software allows you to correct skin tone, remove wrinkles, fix sagging cheek or blemishes, add eye shadow, among others. It also allows you to fix the poor lighting error.
- PortraitPro comes equipped with advanced features to ensure stunning portraits, such as:
- It allows manual adjustments to fix almost any facial feature
- It comes equipped with advanced layering option
- Advanced makeup tools can transform a face efficiently
- Skin smoothening and wrinkle remover features help in creating stunning portraits
- All the adjustments are made in real-time without any lag
PortraitPro is offering a 50 percent discount right now, which brings the cost down to $59. You also get a free trial initially.
- No option to reset the image to its original form
- It takes some time to wrap your head around the UI
Best Collage Maker and Designer.
Fotor is a perfect option for photo editing enthusiasts and beginners who usually edit images for their personal use. This online photo editor and collage maker also comes in a full-fledged desktop application. Moreover, it supports RAW photo conversion, which is a valuable feature for free software.
The software also comes loaded with image enhancing tools, including numerous filters to create stunning images. Its user interface is quite simple to use and offers stunning one-click filters, which can enhance your images instantly.
Fotor can rival some of the best-paid photo editing software, thanks to its smartly packed features. Some of its key features include:
- Its stunning filters, including portrait, theatre, landscape, and sunset help you enhance the quality of pictures
- Enables you to add frames or borders and apply special effects to improve the quality of the image
- Leverage its smart photo collage tool to create intuitive collages in a very less amount of time
- It supports popular RAW formats and also offers a tilt-shift algorithm in an improved version
- Fotor’s free version will not bug you aggressively with ads
Fotor’s annual subscription costs $39.99. You will have to shell out $8.99 per month for a monthly subscription.
- It is not as feature-packed as a professional photo editing software is expected to be
- Not the most capable app to design artwork from scratch
Best for Linux and Vector Graphics.
Inkscape is mainly built for vector illustration and is free to download. It is a perfect software tool for budding designers and illustrators who don't want to invest in expensive software at the start of their careers.
Moreover, it is an open-source photo editing software where coders are allowed to develop it further and upgrade its features.
Despite being an open-source photo editing software, Inkscape offers a lot of value for designers.
Some of its key features are:
- Converts bitmap images into vectors through a variety of different ways
- It is available on Windows, Mac, and Linux
- Multiple text formats and color picker
- It offers a vast extension eco-system and large community which is working on its continuous development
- Its placement and path tools function like a professional software
- You can choose or remove tools as per your requirement
It is entirely free of cost.
- Its interoperability is weak
- It requires a very steep learning curve to run the software efficiently, especially for Mac users
- The user interface is dated and hampers the performance
- Text formatting tools need improvement
Photo Editing Software FAQ.
Professional photographers typically use Adobe Photoshop to edit photos. The software is very intuitive and has all of the tools and features needed to edit high-quality photos for any business.
Photo editing is a pretty easy process and allows beginners to crop, rotate, resize, and save images. Software also allows users to do a lot of image customization, including adding layers, text, shapes, and filters to enhance their photos.
If you are a beginner, the best photo editing software to use is Adobe Photoshop. It is an easy-to-use tool and there are thousands of guides and tutorials online to help beginners edit photos.
Photoshop offers a 7 -day free trial but is not free. If you sign up for Adobe Creative Cloud, you get access to all Adobe tools and it costs $52.99/month. If you just want Photoshop, it will cost you $20.99/month. There are some free alternatives to Photoshop like Gimp and Pixlr, but they are not as powerful.
Adobe Photoshop is a tool that lets you edit and make detailed adjustments to any image. On the other hand. Adobe Lightroom is the platform that allows you to organize, import, and export photos. Both tools can be used in unison and are a part of Adobe Creative Cloud (CC).
Gimp is not as advanced as Photoshop, but does offer layers, filters, curves, and more great features. However, Photoshop is the industry standard.
Windows 10 has a Photos app that displays photos and also has basic editing capabilities. The tool can enhance, crop, and rotate images, and organizes your pictures based on the date taken. Additionally, the free Photos app allows you to share your photos via email and social media.
OS X has a new Photos app, which packs some good photo editing features. You can do simple tasks like rotating, cropping and sizing images. It also allows you to add fonts and custom shapes, and export your photos. One nice feature is that all images are “nondestructive”, meaning old versions of your images can always be reverted.
All these photo editing software tools mentioned above are impressive in their own right.
However, to decide which photo editor is perfect for you depends on your preference, budget, photo editing skills, among other things.
For instance, GIMP could be the most suitable option for professionals who are looking for a powerful photo editing tool for free.
However, to get the best photo editing features, I recommend you go with one of my top picks:
So, which photo editing software did you choose? Let me know about your experience in the comment section below.
Also, since most of these photo editors offer free trial plans, there’s no harm trying out a few of them before making a final decision.
Last Updated on July 13, 2021 by Adam Enfroy