I originally posted this article back in 2016 and a few things have changed since then in terms of editing software. In 2018, I think these are still the best photography editing programs/software out there right now. I have added a few more below. Here we go again.
As a professional photographer having a good command of photo editing software is essential. In the days of film the photographer would often send the completed shoot off to the lab and that was it. Now with the advent of digital photography post processing has become an essential component to any shoot. I could and still do argue that the better a photographer is in camera, the better the final result, but this article is not about that.
My Top Picks for the Best Photo Editing Software
Photoshop is still the king when it comes to photo editing. Adobe consisting does a great job with "upping" their "photo editing skills. The amount that can be done in Photoshop is down right amazing. From simple processes, to complex steps with hundreds of actions, Photoshop is a powerful tool that should not be ignored.
I strongly encourage all photographers and amateurs alike to get comfortable creating their own actions. This tool is powerful and literally will save you hours if not days in your workflows.
Adobe Photoshop CC, or creative cloud, is the latest version. Because the product is now delivered electronically there is a steady stream of updates and new technologies.
Unless you work in the photographic industry, you are probably not familiar with Adobe Bridge. Bridge is a raw file editor and photo management tool (camera raw included). As a professional photographer you will usually dump your files into bridge and then take them to Photoshop from there. I generally spend more time in Bridge these days than I do in Photoshop. My photography work has evolved to a place where I am more focused on the reality of the scene or circumstance than I am of a hyper edited finished photo. What better than reality I say?
Capture One by Phase One is a probably completely unknown if you don't work in the industry. If you shoot medium format digital cameras it is your standard. Capture One is basically Phase One's version of Lightroom. It is a great Raw processor that can give phenomenal results to the commercial photographer. The only problem is that for some reason I find it very temperamental with my landscape photography work. Sometimes I get great results other times, not so much...
Capture One is famed for it's life-like skin tones, and this is true. I notice a better gradation and even colours in skin when using the program.
Ah, Lightroom. You either love this program or not so much. I tend to lean a little to the right on Lightroom, it's a great program but it generally does not suit my needs. I think it is more so just a matter of style. I was trained on bridge, and I really like it. I also tend to go against the grain in life and in my photography work. For instance, I prefer PCs over Macs, I use Nikon over Canon, I don't like taking cell phone pictures, and quite time in nature makes me whole, compared to being a social butterfly.
Now Lightroom is a great program, though, and it is very useful and I still do use it on regular occasion. The tethering capabilities of Lightroom, in my opinion, are best in class. It's mostly the importing / exporting requirement that I tend to despise. If that was archived (or thrown away) I would probably use Lightroom every day.
Editing Software Honourable Mentions:
Here we have some programs and online resources that make editing fun and easy. They are better suited to the photo enthusiast, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking pictures for fun. I reiterate, there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WRONG WITH TAKING PHOTOS FOR FUN.
Instagram took over the world with their photo filters. It has influenced the whole industry and is worth a look if you just want to get something out there. It kind of introduced the world to the idea of photo editing in a way. Good or bad, it has changed things a lot. A lot of the filters mimic vintage camera looks from light leaks to flares and colour casts. It has kind of opened things up creatively, and indirectly created a greater freedom in pro photography.
Gimp is a free open source photo editing program. If you are an enthusiast it is worth a look. There is a lot of people and photographers who take advantage of gimp as a free photography editing tool.
This is an extremely light version of Photoshop for mobile devices. It is worth a look if most of your photos come from a mobile device. Most photos do not require a lot of editing, so elements should do the trick for most people.
I reiterate, there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WRONG WITH TAKING PHOTOS FOR FUN.
Check out some additional photo editing software right here.
New Additions to the List of Photo Editing Software
These are the software programs to keep on your radar. These photo editing software program are pretty good and should do the trick for most photographers.
Corel Paintshop Pro
This program is solid. It is almost as good as photoshop and has most of the same tools for a photographer to use. It unfortunately is about the same price as lightroom, so I wouldn’t recommend jumping ship anytime soon.
Affinity Photo Pro
My understanding is that basically this is a photoshop, and camera clone. It seems to have alot of good tools, and support. The price is right, and this does seem to be a pretty good option. I like the fact that they have a book for sale, right on their site. Remember the days when you got a free instruction book with everything you bought? Well, those days are gone, but at least this photo editing program manual is affordable.
While I wouldn’t use this for editing photos, I love the fact that it sends me photo animations of my dog. Also, form photos taken years gone by. I should elaborate that I like to take random photos of my family with my cell phone. I think everyone should. This is linked to my google photos account. It’s like getting presents every now and then. Tell me who doesn’t like a present.
Who cares…. Just kidding, I’m not a mac user. If you are tell me more about it below.
This one is pretty good for everything it does, and comes with high reviews. But, it has a large drawback and that is you have to use this photo editing app on a smart device. I wouldn’t care as much if they weren’t toting it as professional imaging software, it’s not. Editing photos on your phone just sucks, it’s cumbersome, slow and not user friendly. Snapseed is cool, but it is not a pro tool. The thing is, if it works for you go for it.
…the best photo editing software is the one that works for you.
Really the best photo editing software is the one that works for you. If you enjoy the program you use, that is great, and who am I to tell you any different. In my opinion, I still think the adobe tools are the best for my needs, and that won’t be the same for everyone. So I hope this list gives you some insight into what is out there right now.
Have anything to add? Am I completely wrong or right on point? Leave a comment below.