Affinity Photo vs Photoshop which is Best

Wondering which of these powerful photo editors is best for you? Then I’m going to try to help in this comparison review of Affinity Photo V’s Photoshop. I’m also going to share which of these two editors is my own favourite.

If you’re wondering why my opinion counts, then I should explain that I’m a landscape photographer and extremely fussy about image quality. In fact, image quality and producing great photos is my number one concern. I’ve also had lots of experience using both photo editors. I started using Photoshop in 2002 and Affinity Photo in 2016, soon after its launch. I’ve also written several popular books about them, helping people learnt to use their most powerful features.

How to Compare the Affinity Photo and Photoshop

Although my priority is creating the highest quality photography, that may not be the same for everyone. So, I’m going to make the comparison of Affinity Photo V’s Photoshop for the following areas.

  • Cost of Ownership. How much does it cost to buy each package and how much is it likely to cost you over time?
  • Company Support. What happens if the software goes wrong or you have a problem?
  • Learning Resources. What books, tutorials and videos are available to help you learn the software?
  • Software Features and Maturity. Is the software powerful and how mature does it feel when you use it?
  • Image Quality. How good is the image quality of the edited images?
  • Ease of Use. How easy is it to use the software?

I’ll be rating each of these out of a possible 10 points and at the end of this review we’ll declare a winner.

Cost of Ownership

As of June 2019, you can’t purchase a Photoshop CC license, only rent one. Although there are a few options, the cheapest of these is the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan. This provides you with the latest version of Photoshop CC as well as Bridge, Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic. The cost in the UK is £9.98 per month or £119.76 per year but do remember that you’re contracting for a year when you take out this plan.

With the Adobe Photography plan, you can install the software to multiple computers, even if when they have different operating systems. For me, this means I can run the software on my Windows PC and my Mac without needing to pay for another version. The only restriction is that you can only have two active installations at any one time, but the Creative Cloud software now makes it easy to manage this. It’s possible to choose which installations to deactivate each time you hit the limit.

Finally, you also have access to some cloud-based versions of the software as well as Adobe mobile applications. If you use a tablet or iPad this can be useful, although I find the iPad versions limited.

Affinity Photo License Options

In contrast, Affinity Photo doesn’t have a rental option, you need to purchase a license. When you buy a license it’s to use the software on one computer. Having said that, the information on the Affinity website is a little vague about this. I’ve also read suggestions on the forum that you can install it to multiple computers providing you only use it on one at a time. But if you have a Mac and a PC you will need to buy a license for each platform.

In addition to the two desktop versions (Mac and Windows), there’s an iPad version. The only thing I’m going to say about this version is that it’s truly amazing. This is how iPad software should be.

To put the cost of ownership into perspective, the standard UK price for these Affinity Photo versions is £48.99 each for the Mac and PC and £19.99 for the iPad version. Serif who own Affinity Photo does have sales from time to time where it’s usually possible to buy these at 20% off. If you purchased all three versions at the regular price it would be £117.97. This is around the cost of renting Adobe Photoshop under the Creative Cloud Photography Plan.

Where the Affinity Photo pricing works well is over the longer term. It’s also cost effective if you don’t need to buy multiple licenses. Someone who only needs the Mac or Windows desktop version will be in profit after only five months. When you make a comparison over multiple years the savings add up quite quickly. I purchased my copy of Affinity Photo in 2016 and I’ve received multiple free upgrades since.

My scores for the cost of ownership are Affinity Photo (10) V’s Adobe Photoshop (7).

Software Support

Support is very important, especially if you run into problems once you’ve installed your software.  Typically, I would hope to find some or all the following when it comes to support:

  • Searchable knowledge base of support articles.
  • A way to report problems and log support tickets.
  • A user forum where users can help each other.

All the resources should be easily accessible from the company website and most important clearly “signposted”. It’s bad enough having a technical issue with software without struggling to find help.

Adobe Photoshop Support

Being honest, my expectations of Adobe in this respect were low. I’ve had some poor experiences in the past when I’ve needed support. At times I’ve found it almost impossible to report problems and it seemed for a while that they relied on other users to help people solve problems. But to be fair for this review, I decided to check the website.

The Photoshop Creative Cloud Help Centre

There are now clearly signed options in the menu for all the elements of support you might need, including contacting someone. If you use the “Contact us” button it opens a messenger window where you can enter your question. This first element appears to use AI automation to cut down needless requests. But after that, you can reach actual people.

I also spent time exploring the other knowledge base information (Help Centre) as well as visiting the Member Forums. The Help Centre was indeed helpful with lots of useful information presented clearly and easy to access. When it came to the user forum, I didn’t find the initial screen quite so easy to follow. But once you are past this, subsequent screens are easy to use and packed with information.

Adobe has clearly upped their game and invested in support. I’m very impressed.

Affinity Photo Support

I’ve never personally had to use the Affinity Support for any of application (I own all of them). They have all worked flawlessly on my Mac and Windows computers as well as my iPad. I was interested then to visit and judge their website.

The Affinity Photo website Help Centre

The first page you find when looking for Affinity Photo support is “Help & Support” which is accessed from the “Your account” menu. I didn’t find this well organised and it felt a little like an unstructured FAQ page. After reading the page it appears there are only two options if you want to get help. You can search the Community Forum or use Twitter and Facebook to contact Affinity.

I checked the Twitter and Facebook pages first, but they didn’t inspire me with confidence. At least not for reporting support issues. After this, I visited the Community Forum and surprisingly found it to be excellent. The software used to run the forum is very easy to use/navigate. It was also nice to see that the forum was popular with some 400 active members logged in when I visited. I also read a few of the problem threads and could see a real help mentality from the members. People were helping each other with very useful information. Importantly, there are also Affinity staff members using the forum.

My personal experience of community forums has been quite poor in the past. They seem to attract people who like to criticise rather than help, or they try to make others feel small. You see lots of people taking a thread off in different directions and just generally asking unrelated questions. Although I limited my time on the Affinity Photo forum, I didn’t see any of this usual poor behaviour. In fact, the forum was refreshingly professional.

My scores for support are Affinity Photo (7) V’s Adobe Photoshop (9).

Learning Resources

Learning resources are very important when you’re trying to develop your skills with new software. This is especially true with software like Affinity Photo and Adobe Photoshop. The resources I would expect to find are:

  • Written tutorials and articles accessible from the website.
  • Videos accessible from the website as well as on YouTube.
  • Third-party books and courses.
Adobe Photoshop Tutorials on the website

Viewing the websites for both Affinity Photo and Adobe Photoshop, both are well designed, giving easy access to tutorials. What surprised me is that whilst there was a good range of tutorials on the websites, there were less than I had expected. Adobe has provided both written and video content whilst Affinity is video only. My personal preference is the Adobe approach as I can usually skim read an article much faster than trying to find something in a video. The videos from both companies are to a very high standard and not padded with useless “content”.

Accessing the Affinity Photo learning material

When it comes to books and third-party materials, Adobe Photoshop has Affinity Photo beat. Photoshop has been around for such a long time and for much of this didn’t have any real competition. It stands to reason then that there will be more third-party resources although some resources (books and courses) are becoming available for Affinity Photo.

My scores for support are Affinity Photo (7) V’s Adobe Photoshop (9).

Software Features and Maturity

In comparing Affinity Photo and Adobe Photoshop, I want to re-emphasise that I’m looking from the perspective of a photographer. Both photo editors can do a lot more than just edit photography and the range of features and filters is vast. Rather than delve into the detail of which would be impossible in a comparison article like this, I will try to summarise my feelings.

Photoshop has a slightly more mature feel than Affinity Photo, which is understandable because it’s been around for a lot longer. It’s not that Affinity Photo isn’t good; it just has the odd quirk here and there. For example, if you’re using the sharpening feature and zoom in beyond 200% magnification, the sharpening preview isn’t accurate. Conversely, there are some very well-designed Affinity features like the Frequency Separation filter.

In terms of capability, you can pretty achieve the same things with either Affinity Photo or Adobe Photoshop. Where Adobe Photoshop pulls slightly ahead is with its wide availability of third-party plugins and extension panels. Affinity Photo needs further enhancement here as well as including developer support.

My scores for features and maturity are Affinity Photo (9) V’s Adobe Photoshop (10).

Image Quality

Image quality is very important, and I expect any photo editor to make a decent job of converting my RAW images and manage colours accurately. Again, both Affinity Photo and Adobe Photoshop are very competent performers in this area with plenty of powerful features. But as a Fuji user, I’m very disappointed with the RAW conversion capabilities of Photoshop (or should I say Camera RAW).

In recent months Adobe has finally admitted there’s a problem with the creation of false edges when processing Fuji XTrans RAW files. Their solution (which has been a long time coming) is the Enhanced Details conversion. This is an additional step in your workflow and results in very large DNG files. With this feature, the image detail is now at an expected level but as a solution, it feels clunky. Affinity Photo, in contrast, manages to produce excellent Fuji XTrans RAW file conversions.

Whilst it’s difficult to demonstrate, I feel the quality of the photos from Affinity Photo is slightly better than Photoshop. Certainly, for landscape photography, they have a more realistic feel. The Photoshop images can sometimes appear a little false, almost as if they are a very detailed drawing with slightly unnatural colours.

My scores for image quality are Affinity Photo (10) V’s Adobe Photoshop (8) because of the Fuji issue.

Ease of Use

I have heard quite a few people say that they find Affinity Photo much easier to use than Photoshop. Some have told me that they tried for years to learn Photoshop but as soon as they switched to Affinity Photo, they found photo editing much easier.

My own view is that neither Affinity Photo nor Adobe Photoshop is very easy to use. These are professional level photo editing tools and they expect you to have basic knowledge. Their interfaces aren’t particularly friendly to the new user and nothing in either will guide an inexperienced user through their editing.

My scores for ease of use are Affinity Photo (5) V’s Adobe Photoshop (5).

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Summary and Our Winner

Both Affinity Photo and Adobe Photoshop offer significant photo editing power. Once you know how to use these tools you can achieve amazing results with your photography. Each has its strengths and weaknesses and it’s very difficult to choose between the two.

Based purely on the scores from this exercise Affinity Photo comes out with a total of 48 points whilst Adobe Photoshop scores 47. But comparing photo editors is quite a personal and subjective thing and for me, I personally prefer using Photoshop. I would and do however use either photo editor, it’s just that Photoshop edges it for me. It’s hard to explain why but it’s probably because of the length of time I’ve used it and my familiarity with the tools.

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