The Best Photo Editing Software for Photographers

This page started as a short article in which I shared what I believed to be the best Photo Editing software on the market. Since then, I’ve revised it a few times as photo editing software has developed and improved. Today, the list is quite extensive, and this latest update was produced in May 2024

Before we look at my recommendations for the best photo editing software, I want to stress that all the photo editors mentioned are software packages I’ve purchased and used. This isn’t a list put together blindly to promote software. I purchase and regularly use the photo editors I recommend for my photography (unless stated otherwise).

I also realise that photographers looking for the best Windows PC photo editor probably don’t want to read through Mac-only recommendations and vice versa. Therefore, I’ve tried to keep to software that can be used on both platforms. I’ve also done my best to categorise the photo editors logically in the listing at the bottom. This will help you find the best photo editor to meet your needs without reading the entire article. If you think there is a better way to do this, please let me know using the Contact page on this site. I would be happy to hear from you.

What is a Photo Editor?

When discussing Mac and PC Photo Editors, I use the term broadly to cover any software that allows us to manipulate a photographic image. Examples include RAW converters, editing tools, image enlargement and Photoshop plugins. In fact, you might not even consider some of my recommendations to be photo editors.

Does that mean you should ignore them? Absolutely not.

The best photo editors reviewed

Photo Editing Software Suggestions

Below, you will find my list of recommended Mac and PC photo editors. Some of the links are affiliate links, where I receive a small commission if you decide to buy the software. These commissions help pay for the Lenscraft site and keep the content free from advertising. If you decide to make a purchase, please consider doing it using one of the links in this article.

Finally, I would always encourage you to try any software before you decide to buy it. While these photo editors are what I consider to be the best available, they may not meet your requirements. Features that I find important may not matter to you, and vice versa. Always be sure to download and try the trial versions of the software for yourself.

For a complete listing of the photo editors in this article, please see the listing at the bottom. This also summarises the best software by feature.

DxO Software

At the time of writing, DxO has five software packages for photographers. These aim to produce the highest quality digital photography in a range of situations. Their photo editing packages are summarised below and highly recommended.

DxO website containing the DxO photo editors

DxO PhotoLab

DxO PhotoLab provides photographers with photo management, RAW conversion, and photo editing. The PhotoLibrary module can be used to organise, sort, rate, keyword, and search photographs on your computer. It supports the RAW, DNG, TIFF, and JPEG formats. Unlike Adobe Lightroom, it doesn’t require you to import photos to a Catalog to manage them but will read the folders and files on a hard drive or drives. The PhotoLibrary features aren’t as advanced as Adobe Lightroom, but they are more than sufficient for most photographers.

The RAW developer in PhotoLab is one of its major strengths and is, in my opinion, currently the best on the market. Since the introduction of support for the Fuji XTrans RAW file, I’ve switched to using DxO PhotoLab and DxO PureRAW for all my RAW file processing. The RAW converter also includes excellent Optical Lens correction and DeepPRIME demosaicing (including noise reduction). These can produce substantial improvements in image quality with many RAW files.

Recently, I’ve begun adding DxO PhotoLab tutorials to the Lenscraft website as well as publishing tutorial videos on YouTube.

Download a PhotoLab trial from the DxO website.

DxO PureRAW

DxO PureRAW is a RAW pre-processor. It processes RAW files using DxO image optimisation technologies like DeepPRIME and Optical Corrections. The resulting images are then saved in different formats, including DNG. The DNG format is an excellent choice for users of Adobe Lightroom as the DNG files can then be processed and managed in Lightroom like other RAW files. The difference is that the DNG files produced by DxO PureRAW are often optically superior to the results produced when editing the original RAW file in Lightroom.

DxO PureRAW also has a host of workflow features that make it easy to use and integrate with Adobe Lightroom. To learn more, see my DxO PureRAW 4 Review video on YouTube.

Download a PureRAW trial.

DxO Nik Collection

Nik Software originally developed the Nik Collection before selling it to Google, who then sold it to DxO.

The Nik Collection is a set of applications for editing photography that can also be used as plugins for DxO PhotoLab, Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Affinity Photo, and others. The applications in the Collection include:

  • Dfine – for noise reduction.
  • Sharpener – for photo sharpening.
  • Viveza – to manipulate colour and light.
  • Color Efex – special effect and colour adjustment filters.
  • Analog Efex – special effects based on film photography.
  • Silver Efex – probably the best black-and-white conversion software available and certainly the most extensive.
  • HDR Efex Pro – for HDR imaging and tone mapping.

You can use these photo editors standalone or in any photo editor that supports Photoshop plugins. The standalone Nik Collection applications only work when editing TIFF and JPEG images. The results and ease of use make them well worth considering. I use them with almost every photo I edit. You will also find many free tutorials and videos on Lenscraft to help you learn to use the Nik Collection.

The Nik Collection is available for both the PC and Mac, and you can download a trial version from the DxO website.

DxO FilmPack

DxO FilmPack is designed to reproduce the look and feel of analogue film photography in digital images. It has a large library of film simulations inspired by iconic analogue films from manufacturers like Kodak, Fuji, and Ilford. In addition, you can produce your own film-based Presets to combine the different characteristics of various film brands.

DxO FilmPack is based on carefully crafted film renderings that faithfully reproduce the characteristics of classic film stocks. These include iconic names like Fuji Velvia, Kodak Tri-X, and Ilford HP5. There’s also a helpful TimeMachine feature to help identify popular film stocks based on historical events and times.

In addition to an extensive library of film simulations, DxO FilmPack provides a range of powerful editing tools and features for editing photos. From characteristics of film grain to precise control over colour and tonal adjustments. You can adjust every aspect of a digital photo to achieve your desired look.

DxO FilmPack integrates closely with popular photo editing software such as Affinity Photo, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom, and DxO PhotoLab. This makes it easy to incorporate film emulations into your workflow. In addition, it can be used as a standalone application for editing and applying film effects.

Overall, DxO FilmPack is a powerful, versatile, and intuitive photo editor for Mac and Windows. Consider this software if you want to incorporate high-quality film emulations into your workflow.

Download a FilmPack trial.

DxO ViewPoint

DxO ViewPoint is powerful software designed to correct perspective distortions and geometrical aberrations in digital photographs. Features include the correction of converging verticals, keystoning, fisheye lenses and other forms of distortion in a wide variety of situations.  Its intuitive tools make correcting these issues intuitive and easy.

ViewPoint uses advanced geometric correction technology to analyse a scene and automatically apply corrections. Its simple yet powerful interface allows you to fine-tune the corrections applied to achieve pleasing and accurate results.

DxO ViewPoint also offers tools for correcting lens optics and volume deformation, such as barrel and pincushion distortion. There’s even a local correction tool which can be used to target adjustments onto localised areas of the image. These features can help you to achieve straight and balanced compositions that are free from distracting distortions.

ViewPoint can be used as a standalone photo editor or integrated as a plugin with popular photo editing software like Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, and DxO PhotoLab. Consider this software if you are an architectural photographer seeking to achieve accurate distortion correction.

Download a ViewPoint trial.

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Topaz Labs

Topaz Labs is a software company specialising in AI-powered photo editing tools. Its products are widely recognised as innovative and class-leading.

Over the years, their product list has changed as technology has evolved. At the time of writing, their paid photo editors include Gigapixel AI for enlargements and Photo AI, which automates and combines noise reduction, sharpening, and image enlargement. Two popular products, Sharpener AI and DeNoise AI have been recently discontinued and replaced by Photo AI.

Although not covered in this review, their Video AI software is also excellent for enhancing low-resolution video.

Topaz Labs professional grade photo editors

Topaz Gigapixel AI

Topaz Gigapixel AI offers powerful image enlargement. Using advanced artificial intelligence algorithms, Gigapixel AI allows you to upscale and enlarge images by up to 600% without sacrificing quality or detail.

The software analyses the content of the image and adds new information to increase its size. This produces a high-resolution image that retains sharpness, clarity, and fine details. Gigapixel AI is particularly useful for photographers who want to upscale their images for large-format printing. I’ve also had good success enlarging relatively small, low-resolution images to sizes suitable for printing.

Topaz claims that with Gigapixel AI, users can upscale images by up to 600% while maintaining stunning clarity and sharpness. While this is true, please temper your expectations, although the results can often be spectacular.

Gigapixel includes an intuitive batch processing capability. This can save a lot of time when enlarging multiple images, as you do not need to wait for each image to process before you start the next.

If you want to achieve the highest-quality enlargements for photo printing, I recommend testing out Gigapixel. You may also like to read my review, where I compare it to On1.

Download a Gigapixel AI trial.

Topaz Sharpen AI & Topas DeNoise AI

I have reviewed both products in the past and have been extremely impressed by their performance. Unfortunately, Topaz has recently seen fit to discontinue them despite being class-leading products. Their replacement is the Topaz AI software outlined below. While this software is good, in my previous side-by-side tests, both DeNoise AI and Sharpen AI performed better and had a better workflow if you wanted to use them as a plugin.

As a licensed owner of both products, I am fortunate that I can continue to use them and intend to do so for as long as possible.

Here are the links to my review for Topaz DeNoise AI and Topaz Sharpen AI.

Topaz Photo AI

Topaz Photo AI is a relatively new photo editor from Topaz Labs and has now replaced the excellent Sharpen AI and DeNoise AI products. It uses advanced artificial intelligence and automation and includes automated subject recognition.

Personally, I have a love-hate relationship with this product. This may be that it just isn’t great for processing and handling landscape photography, and I often need to refine the subject selection. I can imagine it will work much better for photos containing people. Interestingly, where I have found that it excels is in processing my iPhone images, especially enlargements.

Download a Photo AI trial.

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ON1 Software

ON1 is a software company specialising in photo editing software for both Mac and PC. Their flagship product is ON1 Photo RAW, a comprehensive photo editing software that offers a non-destructive workflow, advanced editing tools, and a wide range of presets and filters. Photo RAW features include layers, masking, AI-powered editing tools, and support for RAW image processing. This product provides a possible Adobe alternative if you are searching for something to replace Lightroom and Photoshop.

On1 website and photo editors

In addition to the Photo RAW product, ON1 sells a range of AI-powered tools covering a variety of photo editing needs. These include tasks like sharpening, noise reduction, and keywording. Many of these products are also tightly integrated into the Photo RAW product, so if you have that, you should check its features before investing in the stand-alone products.

ON1 also offers a wide range of products that work as Photoshop/Lightroom plugins. This can be useful if you want to integrate them into your existing workflow rather than using Photo RAW.

If you decide to purchase an ON1 product, review their plans and pricing options carefully. With so many options and products now available, it can be confusing and easy to purchase the wrong thing. You can use my discount code LENSCRAFT20 at the checkout for a valuable saving.

Visit the ON1 website.

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Exposure Software

Exposure Software, formerly known as Alien Skin, focuses on providing photo editors for digital photographers and artists. Their flagship product, Exposure X7 (the latest at the time of writing), offers a comprehensive suite of editing tools, presets, and creative effects to enhance digital images.

Exposure software website

Exposure X7 has a wide range of features for editing photos, including RAW files. But its real strength is the large library of film presets that it comes with. There are some very unusual film emulations as well as all the familiar brands and products. Most of the time, applying one of these can transform your images with little effort.

Other standout features are the selection tools, support for layer-based editing, and the ability to use all of these as a Photoshop plugin or standalone photo editor. There’s even a photo organiser, with capabilities similar to Lightroom, for managing your image library.

I’ve long been a fan of Exposure Software, but Exposure X7 is now a couple of years old. At one point, the company was publishing regular videos, tutorials, and news stories, but it has now gone quiet. I have contacted the company (Feb 2024), and they are still providing support and confirmed they are working on a future version of the software.

Visit the Exposure Software website.

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Skylum Luminar Neo

Luminar Neo is an advanced photo editing software developed by Skylum. Building upon the success of previous versions of Luminar, Neo introduces new AI-powered technologies with the objective of freeing users to think creatively about their photo editing.

Skylum photo editing software website

Luminar Neo relies heavily on its AI engine to analyse images to apply adjustments and enhancements. These are designed to improve aspects of the photo like exposure, colour, tone, and detail. This AI-driven approach streamlines the editing process and enables users to achieve professional results with minimal effort. This makes it suitable as a photo editor for those new to photography or who don’t want to take control of every aspect of their workflow.

In addition to its wide range of creative filters for photo editing, Luminar Neo offers additional AI-based tools that you can purchase to extend its capabilities. These include tools for HDR, Noise Reduction, Sharpening, Panorama Stitching, and more, with others being added regularly.

Luminar Neo can be used standalone or as a plugin for Photoshop and Lightroom. It also has a simple photo browser that can be used to browse and select photos for editing. However, this has limited functionality and can’t match the library management features of some of the other photo editors mentioned in this review. Despite this, it’s a great choice if you want to produce great-looking photos but don’t want to spend hours on editing.

Visit the Skylum website to learn more about Luminar Neo and its extensions. Please apply the promotional code LENSCRAFT when purchasing to receive a valuable discount.

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Affinity Photo

Affinity Photo is a professional-grade photo editor developed by Serif. It offers a comprehensive suite of tools and features and is a powerful alternative to Adobe Photoshop.

Affinity photo editing software

Affinity Photo provides a robust set of photo editing tools, including advanced selection and masking capabilities, non-destructive adjustment layers, and precise retouching. These features enable photographers and digital artists to achieve precise and high-quality edits while maintaining full control over the editing process. It also boasts a wide range of creative filters, effects, and blend modes, allowing you to produce different styles to enhance your photography.

Affinity Photo supports a variety of file formats, including PSD, RAW, and HDR, ensuring compatibility with existing workflows and enabling seamless integration with other software tools. It’s very responsive when editing and performance is excellent, often faster than Adobe Photoshop.

Although some people claim Affinity Photo is easier to use than Photoshop, it still has a challenging learning curve. In my opinion, it’s on a par with Photoshop and can be challenging to learn. It does, however, offer an affordable alternative to Adobe for those who would rather purchase than rent their software. There are several license options, and all provide good value, so do read up on these before purchasing a product.

Other products in the Affinity range include Designer and Publisher, both of which I have and use. These are direct competitors and alternatives to professional Adobe Products. If you own and like to use an iPad, you will find iPad versions of all three Affinity products are available. It’s quite amazing what these products can do on an iPad, and they offer extremely good value.

Recently, Serif sold Affinity to Canva. While Canva has issued a statement making clear its commitment to developing Affinity and keeping it affordable, there will no doubt be some changes.

You will find a library of free Affinity Photo tutorials on the Lenscraft website.

Visit the Affinity Website to learn more and download a trial.

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Adobe Photo Editing Software

Adobe Inc. is a multinational software company renowned for its creative software products and digital experience solutions. Established in 1982, Adobe has become a leader in the digital media industry, offering tools like Photoshop, Illustrator, and Premiere Pro, which are widely used by professionals and enthusiasts alike for image editing, graphic design, and video production. Many of its products are the industry standard, so no review of photo editors would be complete without including Adobe. That said, many users strongly dislike its move to a rental model for much of its software.

Adobe software website

Adobe Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop is a raster graphics photo editor developed by Adobe. It is considered the industry standard for digital image editing. Photoshop offers a wide array of powerful tools and features for retouching, compositing, and enhancing images.

More recently, Adobe has been releasing a significant number of AI-based tools that aim to make photo editing easier. Depending on your view, their AI image generation can be considered revolutionary but equally worrying for traditional photographers.

In addition to Photoshop Desktop, there is a mobile version that can be used on phones and tablets, though the range of applications is constantly evolving. I have struggled to keep up with the developments in this area, so I recommend reviewing the Adobe website for full details.

When it comes to editing RAW photography, Photoshop uses a separate application called Adobe Camera RAW (ACR). However, because ACR is integrated with Photoshop, many users mistakenly think it is part of Photoshop. ACR is a powerful editor that can also be accessed as a filter from within Photoshop and provides the same editing features as Lightroom.

I personally use Adobe Photoshop for most photos I edit and have for many years. I also make extensive use of Photoshop extensions and plugins, many of which are listed in this article.

The Photographers Plan provides rental licenses for Photoshop and Lightroom, and you can no longer purchase a perpetual license for these products.

You will find a library of free Photoshop tutorials on the Lenscraft website.

Adobe Lightroom

Adobe Lightroom is a comprehensive software suite designed for organising, editing, and managing digital photography. It offers powerful tools and features tailored for photographers of all levels, from hobbyists to professionals. Lightroom provides a streamlined workflow that enables users to import, organise, and search their photo libraries, making it easy to find and access images.

The Lightroom Library module is a centralised hub for managing photos. It offers tools for keywording, rating, and categorising images, as well as powerful search capabilities to find the photo you need.

In addition to organising your photos, Lightroom provides powerful editing tools for enhancing and retouching them. The Develop module offers a wide range of adjustment controls for adjusting exposure, colour, tone, and detail. All editing is non-destructive and stored in a database called the Lightroom Catalog.

I have personally used Lightroom since the first version was released and use it to manage my entire photo library. Most of its tools are excellent, but I have found that it performs poorly with some types of RAW files. Those from my Fuji X-Trans cameras are a particularly good example, and so I like to pre-process these using either DxO PhotoLab or DxO PureRAW. This produces a DNG file, which I can process in Lightroom to produce excellent image quality.

The Photographers Plan provides rental licenses for Photoshop and Lightroom, and you can no longer purchase a perpetual license for these products.

You will find a library of free Lightroom tutorials on the Lenscraft website.

Adobe Photoshop Elements

Adobe Elements is a user-friendly software suite designed for photo and video editing. It offers a simplified, yet powerful set of tools tailored for enthusiasts and hobbyists. The suite consists of two main applications: Adobe Photoshop Elements and Adobe Premiere Elements, and individual product licenses can be purchased.

Adobe Photoshop Elements provides an easier photo editing alternative to Photoshop, which it’s loosely based on. With features like Guided Edits, users can achieve professional-looking results with step-by-step instructions for various effects and techniques.

Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements come with Elements Organizer, a hub for managing media files. Elements Organizer allows users to tag, rate, and categorise photos and videos, making it easy to find and access them.

I personally only use Adobe Photoshop Elements occasionally, but I decided to include it in the review for two reasons:

  1. It offers a viable alternative to Photoshop for those who don’t like to rent their photo editors. In fact, you can only purchase a license, and there is currently no rental option.
  2. It is significantly easier to learn to use than Photoshop, in my opinion, although it can still be challenging.

Visit the Adobe website to learn about the latest features and download a trial.

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Capture One

Capture One is a professional-grade photo editor developed by Phase One. It offers a comprehensive suite of features for importing, organising, editing, and exporting digital photography.

Capture One website

Capture One offers an excellent RAW processing engine that delivers exceptional image quality and colour accuracy. Before DxO offered support for Fuji X-Trans RAW files, Capture One was my go-to solution for Fuji RAW processing. The software offers extensive control over exposure, colour balance, contrast, and sharpness. Its intuitive interface and customisable workspace allow for an efficient workflow.

In addition to its editing capabilities, Capture One offers advanced features for tethered shooting. This feature allows photographers to capture images directly into the software and instantly preview and adjust settings in real-time. This feature is particularly useful for studio photographers who require precise control over their shooting environment.

There is extensive support for colour grading and colour management, with tools for creating custom colour profiles, applying film simulations, and fine-tuning colour adjustments with precision. It also offers an integrated workflow with Adobe Photoshop and other third-party applications, so it should be able to support your existing workflows.

Overall, Capture One is a versatile and powerful solution for professional photographers seeking uncompromising image quality and efficient workflow management. My only reservation with the product has been the way Phase One (who developed it) changed its pricing model. I now find this quite expensive and haven’t upgraded my software since version 21.

Visit the Capture One website to download a trial of the latest software.

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Boris Optics

Boris Optics is a comprehensive plugin suite of photographic and cinematic effects for Lightroom and Photoshop. Although I don’t currently use these plugins, I am evaluating them to decide whether to purchase them. So far, I’ve been extremely impressed by the range of effects and the editing tools.

Boris Optics website

There is a huge library of filters and presets, including lens effects, lighting effects, colour-grading tools, and creative overlays. These filters are designed to replicate the look and feel of real-world optical effects, allowing you to add depth, atmosphere, and visual interest to your photos.

My only reservation about Boris Optics is the sheer number of options that are available. I often find myself feeling somewhat overwhelmed by the choice of filters. Even after choosing a filter, many offer many adjustment options. It’s entirely possible my overwhelm results from my lack of familiarity with the software, and where I have used it, I do like the results.

You can download a free trial of Boris Optics from the website if you would like to test it yourself.

If you are still unsure which photo editor to invest in, read my article discussing how to choose photo editing software.

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Photo Editor Review List

Below is the list of the photo editors reviewed in this article. The links in the list take you to that section of the document, or go to the start of my suggestions.

I’ve also produced a section summarising the different photo editors by their purpose or features. For example, if you are interested in sharpening or noise reduction software and don’t know what your options are, start with my summary list of photo editors.

The reviews are also arranged in company order. If you would like to jump to a company to review their products, use the following list:

Photo Editors by Purpose

In this section, I’ve tried to categorise the different photo editors by their purpose. Then, I’ve listed the editors you should consider for each, together with a link to the review of that product. Some products may include features that I haven’t listed them for. This is because I don’t consider that feature to be well-developed in the product or as extensive as some of the alternatives.

I recommend always downloading and testing a trial version of any software you are considering before making a purchase. Be sure to test it over at least a week before making any decision. You may also find my article discussing how to choose photo editing software helpful.

Photo Editing & Compositing

Lens & Optical Correction

RAW Processing

Noise Reduction

Image Sharpening

Photo Management & Organisation

Special Effects

Image Enlargement

Film Emulation

Panorama Stitching

HDR

Photoshop Plugins

The following can all be used as Photoshop Plugins. Some Photoshop Plugins will also work with Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop Elements and Affinity Photo. It’s best to download the trial version of the plugin you are interested in and test this works with your software.

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