Is Affinity Photo Easy to Use?

by Robin WhalleyMar 11, 2022Photo Editing Tutorials

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Is Affinity Photo Easy to Use?

In recent years, Affinity Photo has captured many once dedicated Photoshop users. But there are still many people who are undecided about the newcomer, wondering is Affinity Photo easy to use. Although this is a subjective question, I’ll be sharing my view in this article. I’m hoping it will help a lot of people who are unsure about trying Affinity Photo.

My Quick Answer

My quick answer to the question “is Affinity Photo easy to use” is probably no. Although I do need to qualify my answer a little as it can depend on a lot of things.

When I first looked at Affinity Photo, I’d already been using Photoshop for some 15 years and I knew it inside out. This allowed me to quickly understand many of the Affinity Photo tools, but at the same time it caused me lot of frustration. Usually, things that I knew how to do in Photoshop didn’t seem to work as I thought they would in Affinity Photo. That said, without this initial Photoshop knowledge I would probably have experienced a similarly steep learning curve as I did with Photoshop.

Whilst many enthusiastic Affinity Photo users may tell you that it’s easier to learn than Photoshop, I would say that it’s probably similar in difficulty. If you don’t know how to use Photoshop, you will probably find it slow to learn initially. But if you know Photoshop, it may speed up your learning, but also leave you a little frustrated at times.

Why you Find Affinity Photo Confusing

While some people reading this article may say “I don’t find Affinity Photo confusing” I suspect many will. At least initially.

There are two reasons that I say this:

  1. Much of Affinity Photo mirrors the design of Photoshop. And let’s face it, Photoshop isn’t renowned for being easy to use.
  2. The design of Affinity Photo has some quirks that make it extremely flexible, but this can also make it confusing.

Let’s look at this second point in more detail and I’ll give you some examples.

Confusing Affinity Personas

In most software editing packages, you do everything in one screen, with dialogs opening to reveal additional features. In Affinity Photo you have Personas which are a way of grouping together tools and features with a similar purpose. You can access these Personas using the icons in the top left of the Affinity Photo toolbar as highlighted here.

These five icons provide access to the different Affinity Photo personas. Looking left to right they are:

  1. Photo Persona. This is the default persona where you carry out most editing tasks.
  2. Liquefy Persona. This has tools to help you stretch and deform images and is problem most useful for retouching portraits and fashion work.
  3. Develop Persona. This is a little like the Develop module in Lightroom and is the default Persona when editing RAW files. In fact, this is the only Persona where you can edit the RAW file and so Affinity automatically switches to this when you open one.
  4. Tone Mapping Persona. Used for HDR photography and manipulating 32-bit images.
  5. Export Persona. Contains tools to help you export images or portions of an image. It’s probably most useful if you are involved in activities like graphic design and website layout.

What many new Affinity Photo users find confusing is that these Personas all look similar but with differences. The have slightly different layouts and tools, although you will find some elements in other Personas.

The good news is that you don’t need to use these Personas. It’s only the Photo Persona that’s essential, unless you’re going to edit RAW files, in which case you also need the Develop Persona.

Affinity Photo’s Flexible Layout

As mentioned, the layout of the different Affinity Personas often confuses new users. When you switch between Personas you often see different arrangements of tools. Some of these tools may be unique to a Persona whilst you’ll find others in multiple Personas.

What makes the layout of Affinity Photo so flexible (and at the same time confusing) are the Studio Areas and Studio Panels. The Studio Areas are invisible areas on the left and right of the interface. You only realise they are there when Studio Panels are docked into them. The Studio Panels themselves tend to group tools and display information, for example the Histogram.

Look at this screenshot of my Photo Persona.

I’ve highlighted the position of the left and right Studio Areas with red rectangles. The area on the left looks like an empty space because it doesn’t have any Studio Panels docked in it. Compare this to the area on the right which has several Studio Panels arranged into groups.

It’s possible to move the Studio Panels between groups by dragging them with your mouse. You can do this with individual panels or a group of panels, including moving them to the opposite side of the interface to dock into that Studio Area.

In addition to rearranging the Persona interfaces in Affinity Photo, you can choose to hide or display each Studio Panel. By default, not all the available panels for a Persona are visible. If you want to see the complete list of panels in a Persona, click on the Affinity Photo main menu, selecting View and then Studio. This displays all the panels in the current Persona, with a tick mark to the left of those that are visible. Clicking a Studio Panel in the menu list toggles the visibility off/on.

At the bottom of the same menu, you will see options to show or hide the left and right Studio Areas as well as hiding all Studio Panels. This flexibility means that the same Persona on two different computers look entirely different.

More Confusing Features

So far in this article we’ve looked at a couple of features that can make learning Affinity Photo difficult. I could continue to list other areas that frequently cause confusion but instead I’ll share a short video. In it I demonstrate and explains several areas that often make learning Affinity Photo difficult for new users, including those mentioned above. It isn’t a long video so do please take the time to watch it in full.


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You can also watch this video on my YouTube channel. I publish new videos regularly, often based on subscribers’ requests and feedback. Subscribe to my YouTube channel now and be sure not to miss future videos.


 

Now that you know some of the tricky areas which can make learning Affinity Photo difficult, let’s look at a few ways you may want to use to learn the software.

How to Learn Affinity Photo

Before trying to learn Affinity Photo, if you don’t already own the software, you should download a trial version https://affinity.serif.com/en-gb/photo/#buy. When I wrote this article the trial period is only 10 days although this does change from time to time.

One problem you may run into when trying to learn Affinity Photo is access to good materials. Unlike Photoshop which has been around for many years and has a large following, there aren’t many books covering Affinity Photo.

One source of quality material is the official Affinity Photo Workbook. Unfortunately, this isn’t a cheap purchase and, in my opinion, suffers from trying to cover all levels of expertise. Initial chapters start off with some basics for new Affinity Photo users but then the book quickly jump to complex editing examples.

One alternative to the Affinity Photo workbook are my two books. The first is Essential Affinity Photo which is aimed at the beginner who is new to Affinity Photo. If you have a little more experience with Affinity Photo and want to broaden your knowledge and skills, then consider my Affinity Photo How To.

Another way to learn Affinity Photo is by watching YouTube videos. You’ve already seen one of my YouTube videos in this article, but I have many more and frequently publish new material. If you have some experience with Affinity Photo you’ll find all my affinity videos in a single Affinity Photo playlist.

If you’re relatively new to Affinity Photo watch my beginner’s course. This is called Learn Affinity Photo Fast and is being released as a series of lessons over several months. Start by watching the first lesson in the series and be sure not to skip anything, even if you think you already know that subject.

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More Affinity Photo Tutorials

You’ll find more high quality, free tutorials on my Affinity Photo Tutorials page.

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