Photo editing is an art that you can only master over time. It takes a lot of trial and error to get your photos looking just the way you want them. Of course, a huge part of this process depends on the photo editing software you use. There are many available to cater for different kinds of needs at different prices – there are even very good free photo editors that you can use online. It’s important to check out some software reviews before making your purchase, because while programs like Adobe Photoshop are well-known and respected, others might give you similar functionality at lower prices.
For this purpose alone, we have compiled a list of the very best photo editors you can use today on your computer, making your selection a little easier.
The Kinds of Image Editors
Before we give you reviews of our recommended photo editors, it’s important to help you understand what different kinds are available. Generally speaking, there are three kinds of image editing software you’ll come across:
- For Casual Use – These programs will focus on speed and provide you with quick fixes for your photos. Filters, tilt-shift effects, selective coloring etc. are some of the most used features of such programs.
- For Professional Use – These will give you all the features and power you need to make your images stand out among the horde of others. Working in layers, altering individual pixels of your photos, changing color balance, and turning a photo completely into something akin to a painting is all possible in these editors.
- For Balanced Use – In our opinion, these kind of editors are the best. They not only give you and easy to use interface but also provide many of the professional grade tools you could want for serious photo editing. These are fast, simpler to understand, and usually inexpensive, making them the best overall choice for a variety of people.
The Obvious Choice – Adobe’s Photoshop and Lightroom
Anyone who is even slightly familiar with photography and photo editing must have heard of Photoshop and Lightroom. Adobe’s products have been around for a very long time and are used by a plethora of professional photographers around the globe.
Adobe Photoshop comes in two flavors: Photoshop Elements and Photoshop CC. The former is a more barebones version of the software catering to the needs of the casual photographer while the latter will open up a world of image editing before your eyes like you haven’t seen before. The sheer number of options and possibilities that Photoshop brings to the table when it comes to photo editing is staggering. However, the interface is notoriously difficult to wrap your head around if you are new to image editing software.
Photoshop gives you access to numerous editing parameters but can be difficult to master
Adobe Lightroom is simpler to operate, because it specializes in editing RAW images. It gives you easy to operate sliders that you can use to tweak your images’ white balance, exposure, sharpness, noise levels, and much more. Both Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom have a vast user base so you will have all the technical support you need.
Editing RAW files is a breeze thanks to the simpler interface of Lightroom
If you’re finding it difficult to choose between Photoshop Elements, Photoshop CC, and Lightroom, check out this article highlighting the differences in more detail.
The Lesser-known Powerhouse – Luminar
Remember when we mentioned that it is important to read software reviews because you might find something new that is pretty amazing? Luminar is the perfect example of that.
First surfacing on the photo editing scene just last year, Luminar by Macphun has quickly become one of the best overall photo editing programs you can use. It’s fast, it’s packed to the brim with features, it’s easy to use, and it’s cheap. For a one-time price of $69, you can have a powerful photo editor that has editing tools to rival Photoshop and Lightroom in a much lighter and easier to use package.
Check out the following video showcasing the features in the new version of Luminar:
Color and white balance, noise levels, exposure, detail, and many more such aspects of your images can be controlled with easy to use sliders and presets. You can edit RAW images just as easily as compressed ones. Luminar also uses smart algorithms to adjust multiple parameters of your photos to give a balanced results. For example, when you pull the Shadows of your image, Luminar automatically adjusts multiple relevant settings like saturation and sharpness in the affected portions of your image to create a pleasing outcome.
Much advanced features like local adjustments and layer masks are also easily available in Luminar. You also have access to a handy clone stamp tool like in Photoshop, so you can make fine adjustments and fix issues with your photos that cannot be fixed by pulling sliders.
All in all, Luminar is a very balanced, feature rich, and stable photo editor that has a vast array of photo editing capabilities for very little money when compared to rivals like Photoshop and Lightroom and their subscription-based models.
The Free Alternatives – GIMP, Paint.NET, and Fotor
For years, GIMP has been hailed as the free rival of Photoshop. The software is completely free to use and is the most feature-packed one in the free photo editing world. It boasts layers, curves, levels, masks, cloning, healing, and many more capabilities that you would find in the much pricier Photoshop. This is an open source program, which means users create plugins and important tools for it all the time.
However, GIMP does have its downsides when compared to Photoshop. To read about that in more detail, head on to this great comparison.
If you want something simpler to use than GIMP, then Paint.NET might be the editor for you. It’s very easy to use and quite fast, which makes it ideal for simpler edits. The interface is simple to wrap your head around. You can make use of the software’s layers and filters to quickly fix your images, or you can use some of these great plugins to make it even better.
Fotor is an app for those people who like to enhance their photos to make them look a certain way rather than dive into the pixels and make detailed edits. The app is famous for its professional grade filters that are easy to use and provide very pleasing results. You can tweak your photos’ colors either with the app’s menu system or via manual curves and levels adjustments. One of the best and most useful tools Fotor has is its batch processing capability. Let’s say you have a bunch of photos you took on the same day, and want to put the same filter on them, Fotor can help you do that in a single click.
So armed with this knowledge of the best photo editors, you can easily start learning the art of taking your photos to the next level. It takes time, as mentioned earlier, but it’s important to choose the right tool for the job and then stick with it so you can master the art.