The Best Photo Editing Software
Whilst good photography starts in the camera great photography is created by post capture processing. There are lots of software tools you could use but many are complex and difficult to learn. This page lists what I have found to be the best photo editing software packages. I own and use all these photo editors in my own work and in many cases have done so for years.
If you’re looking for great photo editing software that’s easy to use, these packages offer a good starting point. Be sure to download the demos before making any purchase. You need to be sure these packages will work for you and fit into your workflow. Remember, great photography is created, and you need to be using the best photo editing software to help you.
Some of the photo editors on this page run affiliate schemes. If you make a purchase using a link on this page I receive a small commission but it doesn't cost you anything more. These commissions go towards the running cost of Lenscraft.
Exposure by Alien Skin
Alien Skin has several software image editing products, but personally I find Exposure is the most useful. Alien Skin Exposure is an excellent editor for enhancing both colour and black and white photography, and not just landscapes. It comes with a huge library of film simulations which are very true to the analogue originals and can create beautiful signature look images. If you look on their website there are some truly superb examples of portrait work as well as a good selection of video tutorials.
What I’m particularly impressed by though is the Infrared simulations and especially the halation glow you can create. I use this package whenever I’m processing a digital infrared image and I recommend it to anyone who wants to produce infrared photography. It’s also nice to see that Alien Skin is actively developing and releasing new features, many of which are suggested by users.
If you’re not familiar with the Exposure image editing software I would recommend you download the free demo version of the software.
I am an Alien Skin affiliate.
Luminar by Skylum
For a long time, I resisted trying Luminar. For one thing, it was a Mac only program and I was a Windows user. Then I bought a Mac and decided to try the software, at the same Skylum released a Windows version. I now have and use both the Windows and PC versions and think the software is excellent.
Luminar features a very good RAW converter which produces very details and sharp results with all my RAW files. I’m particularly impressed by the results when converting Fuji RAW files from the XTrans sensor. The results far exceed those I can produce using Lightroom and have a very natural appearance. In addition to the RAW converter, Luminar has a wide range of filters you can apply, some of which I haven’t seen elsewhere. But where Luminar really excels is in bringing out the colours that are often hidden in your RAW files.
If you are a Lenscraft Member, please see the Lenscraft Member Discounts page for details of a Luminar discount.
I am a Skylum affiliate.
Photo RAW by On1
I have been a long-term user of On1 software and have witnessed many changes. Their latest offering (Photo RAW) draws together what was previously separate editing tools, into a single, integrated package. This is a great move, indicating the company’s desire to offer a genuine challenge to Adobe.
Although the breadth of the software sometimes makes it difficult to decide the best way to edit your images, it’s worth persevering. There’s a great RAW converter in here as well as excellent special effects filters. But possibly the best aspect of Photo RAW are the masking tools. These make it very easy to apply your adjustments selectively on a filter by filter basis. The resulting images are some of the cleanest I have seen from any of the editing packages.
Lumenzia by Greg Benz
A great deal has been written about the power of Luminosity Masking. This is an advanced technique which can be applied to images in Photoshop. It’s very power and can be used in many ways, from something as simple as correcting an exposure problem, to selective colour enhancement to blending multiple image exposures.
The problem with luminosity and other masking techniques is creating the masks. Often this can be time consuming and repetitive. That’s where Lumenzia comes it. It automates the creation of masks and can help you apply luminosity techniques more easily. As well as developing this excellent tool, Greg has a free (cut down) version available together with many free tutorials. It’s well worth visiting Greg’s site to see just what’s possible.
I am a member of Greg's affiliate scheme.
Topaz Labs & Topaz Studio
Topaz Labs produce a wide range of photo editing software. These can be used as standalone photo editors or as plug-in enhancements for editors such as Lightroom, Elements and Photoshop. Most recently, they have developed and released Topaz Studio, the basic version of which is free. Topaz Studio acts as a containing editor for all their software, allowing you to open and edit images without the need for software such as Photoshop.
Many of the Topaz photo editors provide image enhancement and can produce some very striking special effect, some of which are very attractive. Be careful though not to overdo the processing as it can sometimes appear repetitive.
The range of products offers great value for money. I particularly like the policy of buying for life. This means that if you buy a Topaz photo editor, you receive free updates for life. This is great value when you consider how often you might pay to update other editing packages.
You can download fully functional trial versions of the image editing software from their website as well as several good value bundled deals. Video training materials are available on their website and on YouTube. I have also written a couple of books on the Topaz image editors which include discount coupons for the software covered.
I am a Topaz affiliate.
PhotoWiz Photo Editing Tools
PhotoWiz has a range of photo editors which can be used either stand alone or as plug-ins to common photo editors. The software is developed by Harold Heim and sold through his site “The Plugin Store”. Not only does Harold develop great software, he provides excellent support.
The first PhotoWiz editor I used was Contrast Master and I was shocked at how good the results were. I quickly followed this with a purchase of the Focal Blade photo sharpening software which produces some of the best sharpening results I have ever seen. I now own all the PhotoWiz editors except for NoiseControl (I already own several alternatives).
Another plus for the PhotoWiz plugins is that they can be used with a wide range of editors, not just the usual Photoshop and Lightroom. For a complete and up to date list it’s best to check their website as there is always a lot of ongoing development.
If there is a downside to this software it’s possibly the interface, although even this is improving. Some of the packages offer different levels of complexity which the user can set, and which can change the interface. But if you use the software regularly you soon get to grips with the features.
Nik Collection by DxO
The Nik Collection from DxO is an excellent and comprehensive set of photo editing tools. Although the previous version from Google was free, it was plagued by bugs and problems. At the end of 2017, DxO purchased the Nik Collection and has been busy fixing it. The first release was available from DxO in June 2018 at a realistic cost.
If you want excellent photo editing software at a realistic price, you should consider the Nik Collection.
If you would like to know more about how to use and get the most from the Nik Collection, I have several books available on Amazon.