11 Best Photo Editing Tools

By Emmanuel Dairo | December 19, 2019 |

greater than 15 minutes

Photography is an art, an art that captures the beauty in still form, representing living things and ideas on a digital canvas. Or at least, every photographer would like their work to be oohed and aahed at. Obviously, taking a fantastic snap with a fine gadget is half the battle. The other half? Photo editing.

Editing your photos is an essential part of digital photography these days. While professional photographers have already made their choices of digital photo editing tools, rookies in the business are generally more at sea regarding what applications to use to customize their photos precisely to their requirements. This guide comes to the rescue: we have rounded up the dozen or so best photo editing software tools for macOS and Windows in 2019.

Even if the pictures you took are truly average, that’s the bread and butter of a competent photo editing tool. By the time the so-so picture has been judiciously run through the myriad features of a tool like Adobe Photoshop, you might have succeeded in making photography lemonade out of a lemon. The point is, photo editing software can be used to bring an aspect of the photo into focus or give it just the right colour and texture.

However, there are a billion tools out there claiming to be the best editor the photography world can offer. Choosing the definitive best among them is an impossible task, but the correct combination of tools can be selected to complement the skills of the photographer.

Some tools are basically great. Canva, for example, has gotten a head of steam this year as the newish kid on the photography block. Others are paid but highly regarded mainstays like the offerings from Adobe — Lightroom and Photoshop. In between are many more tools that a lot of photographers will swear by. There are even some free but effective tools out there.

Trying to pick and choose the best among them all is a fool’s errand. We will gladly be the fools and gather 11 of the best photo editors around in 2019. You be the wise one and select from our list of the tools that best fit what you’re looking for at this point in your photography journey.

But Why Edit Photos?

There is a saying that the most accurate photograph is the one taken. So why edit photographs? What is the whole point of photo editing tools anyway?

  1. Photo editing software allows you to process your photo the exact way you envisioned the scene when you clicked the camera shutter.
  2. You can refine the default image captured by the camera’s native processor.
  3. You can massively reduce the size of your photograph.
  4. You can create thousands of effects, ranging from playful to somber, with just a few minutes of editing.
  5. Eliminate colors or objects you don’t like from the photograph.

If you’re a photographer, you will no doubt think of even more reasons to run that raw image through a competent photo editor. Without any more delay, here are 11 of the best photo editors you can get anywhere.

Skylum Luminar

It is amazing that Luminar from Skylum launched just three short years ago. This wonderful photo editing and image manipulation tool has quickly blown some of its more storied competitors out of the water with awesome features that have quickly engendered a community of dedicated Luminarians.

Whether you’re an Instagram addict, take photography as a hobby, or have rather more grand ambitions with your trusty DSLR, Luminar has basically everything you need. What’s more, you don’t have to worry about forking out tens of dollars on a monthly subscription. You pay a one-time fee to subscribe to the service, and you’re granted instant access to dozens of tools, including skin enhancement and an AI-powered sky replacement feature.

Skylum has gone to great lengths to make sure there is a version of Luminar for you no matter what you need. Users on Windows can easily download the Windows version, while those in bed with Apple have their very own version for macOS. And if you don’t want to give up Photoshop or Lightroom (or both), you can easily use Luminar as a plug-in to create a super photo editing app. The plug-in is available for Apple Photos as well.

Luminar 4 has a streamlined interface that makes photo editing super accessible to everyone – from laymen to pros. Its system of slides is intuitive and easy to grasp, letting users enjoy brightening, clarifying, toning, and other basic adjustments. If you’re looking for a tool that gives Adobe’s products a run for their money while saving you some of yours, look no further than Skylum Luminar.

What you get in Skylum Luminar 4:

  • Advanced sky replacement technology that lets you select a new sky for your image with one click or move of a slider
  • An intuitive and easy-to-use interface divided into five major categories — Tools, Essentials, Creative, Portrait, and Pro
  • AI portrait tools – Skin Enhancer and Portrait Enhancer – that combine to smooth skin, erase blemishes and make dozens of other skin-related adjustments
  • A one-time subscription

Requirements: PC: Dual-core CPU or better, 8GB RAM, Windows 7 SP1 to 10 | Mac: Dual-core CPU or better, 8GB RAM, OS X 10.11.6 or later | Minimum screen resolution: 1280×768 pixels

Get discounts on Skylum Luminar 4 Inspiration Edition, Plus Edition or Max Edition here.

Capture One

From the stable of Phase One, makers of high-end camera hardware, comes Capture One, one of the best post-processing tools around in the realm of photography. It offers excellent RAW camera file conversion comparable to what Lightroom is capable of and supports over 500 cameras, making it the gold standard in processing raw images.

Much like Luminar, the subscription model for Capture One is such that you can easily choose the plan that works for you. Those who want the full experience can fork up the hefty-looking $299 for a perpetual license or top it up with 13 style packs and splash out $448,00. Alternatively, you can get the full version for $20 a month. The special plan for Sony and FujiFilm users goes for $129 for a lifetime license and $9.99 for a monthly subscription. Sony and FujiFilm users can use the scaled-down Capture One Express for free, while everyone can get a taste of Capture One’s industry-leading layers and skin tone technology with a 30-day free trial of the pro version.

To add a fully customizable workspace experience, the interface of Capture One consists of panels that can be moved around in any way the user desires. They can be duplicated, resized, pinned, or set to float, giving the user incredible flexibility in workspace arrangement and convenience. Away from cosmetic customizations, Capture One allows for tethered shooting, letting you import images into the program as you shoot and set parameters for successive shots.

Capture One’s range of photo adjustments, layers, and masks is incomparable to basically every other product on the market. Layers can be stacked, and their opacity is controlled. And if you’re making the transition from Lightroom, the dedicated workspace setting in Capture One will make you instantly feel at home. Add support for a session-based workflow, luminosity, curve masking, and advanced spot-removal functionality, and it is easy to see why many are prepared to ignore Capture One’s lack of HDR and Panorama support.

What you get in Phase One’s Capture One 20:

  • The flexibility to organize workflow in sessions or catalogs
  • Easy migration from Lightroom
  • Advanced layer technology
  • Edit colors according to your needs with the Basic Color Editor, Advanced Color Editor, and Skin Tone tools
  • Multiple subscription models available

Requirements: PC: Dual-core CPU or better, 8GB RAM, Windows 7 SP1 to 10 | Mac: Dual-core CPU or better, 8GB RAM, OS X 10.11.6 or later | Hard drive: 10GB | Minimum screen resolution: 1200×800 pixels.

Click here to download Capture One 20.

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate

Among the expanding number of contenders in the photo editing field, a few still fly under the radar despite several years of continuous excellence. ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate is as good as Lightroom in several respects and surpasses its more famous rivals in areas like the customizability of the user interface and speed of everything, from generating RAW file previews to batch processing.

Arguably, what sets ACDSee apart is its import function. Unlike Lightroom and most other photo processing programs out there, it doesn’t need to import image files into its own catalog or database. It accesses the user’s hard drive and does everything from there. Even when it has to copy files from an external source such as a card reader, it imports those directly into the local hard drive.

With ACDSee, you can easily and quickly categorize your images through advanced face detection and facial recognition. This way, you can always group your photos according to the people in them or quickly search for specific people. The presence of every kind of editing tool you can ask for is supplemented by an easy-to-use interface through which you can quickly find what you need to give your image the desired look.

ACDSee has a version for Mac users, and a full license on Windows or macOS entitles up to 5 users to its complete range of tools along with 500GB of cloud storage hosted on SeeDrive. Add in the ACDSee Web Gallery for online showcases and the option to use it as a plug-in to Photoshop, along with such underrated tools like Smart Erase, Liquify, and Color LUT support, and ACDSee is easily in the conversation of the best image processing tools available now.

What you get in ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate:

  • A friendly and intuitive interface
  • No need to import images into catalogs
  • Customizable keyboard shortcuts
  • Face recognition, giving you the ability to quickly index images
  • Options for a lifetime purchase or monthly subscription

Requirements: PC: Dual-core CPU or better, 8GB RAM, Windows 7 SP1 to 10 | Mac: Dual-core CPU or better, 6GB RAM, OS X 10.12 or later | Hard drive: 2GB | Minimum screen resolution: 1024×768 pixels.

Click here to download ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2020.

Canva

What is better than a lifetime license or a low-cost monthly subscription model? High-quality freemium, that’s what. Canva offers this pricing model, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In comparison to photo editing behemoths like Lightroom and Capture One, Canva is simpler but also more expansive. It goes beyond a mere image editor to encompass the whole gamut of graphic design.

With Canva, dragging and dropping files has never been more colorful or enjoyable. It comes with an exciting suite of features that turn ideas into stunning designs within just a few cursor movements. You can use your own images or borrow from Canva’s collection of professional photographs grouped by subject.

If you haven’t yet caught on by now, photo editing is just one aspect of Canva, but it isn’t an aspect to be scoffed at. Though it isn’t as robust as the more mainstream offerings, it isn’t meant to be. Gone are the confusing UI and mishmash of options in other tools. With Canva, simply drop your image and get to work using the customizable filters to get the perfect brightness, contrast, and saturation.

Canva is available online and runs on Windows, macOS, and mobile platforms, giving users the ability to do what they want to their images from practically any device on earth. Since 2012, the app has become the go-to for those who wish to do a little bit of refining to make sure that their photos stand out from the pile.

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With Canva, you can easily upload a photo, choose a design, edit the image to your heart’s content, add descriptive text, and upload the finished product to Instagram or your website — all without breaking a sweat. You can get all these options and more with a monthly subscription of $9.95. With its array of features perfectly suited to the social media age, Canva is a design enthusiast’s dream.

What you get in Canva Pro:

  • Freemium software, usable for free online
  • Thousands of customizable templates to choose from
  • An ability to add stickers, badges, and bubbles
  • Drag and drop functionality
  • Seamless integration with social media, chat, cloud storage, and productivity applications

Requirements: Web Browsers: Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Safari or Edge | Android Phones: Android 4.1 Jellybean or later | iPhones: iOS 10 or later | Stable internet connection on all platforms

Visit the Canva website to get started or download Canva for Android.

PicMonkey

Like Canva, like PicMonkey. Both products were established to be a yawning divide between photo editing and the larger world of graphic design. With the increased focus on visual communication through the web, PicMonkey emerged to offer an extensive suite of graphic design and photo editing tools.

With PicMonkey, the world is literally your oyster. You’re totally free to begin that great visual idea in your head in any way you want. You can start with a blank canvas and a digital pen, import a photo and get to work, or dive into the program’s array of templates, pick the one you like and add the finishing touches. And if you happen to be in a hurry, PicMonkey will save your work in the cloud so you can get back to it anytime.

Whether you’re looking for a particular graphic, nice-looking font, or fantastic logo to match with your brand colors, PicMonkey has everything you need. With a one-time payment of $120 or a monthly subscription of $12.99 for PicMonkey Pro, you can export your work in JPG, PDF or PNG format as the occasion demands.

Hard-nosed professionals might scoff at PicMonkey’s basic filters or its lack of a dedicated Windows app. But for enthusiasts and those who wish to work on the go, PicMonkey offers a canny online graphic design package, which can also be accessed through the mobile app.

The best part? You can try the full features of the app for free before you make any purchases.

What you get in PicMonkey Pro:

  • An ability to export your workflow in PDF format
  • Start with a blank canvas and do anything you want from there
  • Thousands of templates and tons of collage effects
  • Smooth integration with social media platforms like Instagram

Requirements: Platforms: Windows 7 and later, macOS X 10.9 and later, Chrome OS

Browsers: Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Safari 11.1+

Visit the PicMonkey website to start editing or download the Android app from Play Store.

Snappa

Paying through the nose for Adobe Lightroom or Capture One Pro is all well and good, but what’s the point if they can’t work as quickly as you’d like? Not everyone has the time to sit down in front of a PC to process every facet of an image. If you’re after a quick fix for your graphic design and editing needs, you can do worse than take a chance on Snappa.

Snappa is designed for fast and easy editing and helps you create online graphics in a snap. If you want to make a quick image for Facebook, Twitter or Instagram or perhaps you need a YouTube thumbnail or channel art pronto, Snappa has the right image size for you, which you can select from its list of clickable presets.

What about creating that leaflet or invitation card for your best friend’s birthday? Snappa has tons and tons of pre-made templates that you can use and skip the tortuous process of starting from scratch. You just need to apply your own customizations and you’re done. You can add texts, shapes and photo effects until you get just the right blend for your image.

And if you’re a professional designer, you don’t always have to jet across the Atlantic in pursuit of that oh-so-perfect view of dusk. Snappa is chock-full of professional-grade stock photos that you can use without paying for. If you use Buffer, you can even schedule that social media ad right from Snappa. What’s not to love?

For $10 a month, you get the full features of Snappa, such as unlimited downloads, thousands of HD photos and graphics and social media sharing. The Snappa team gets you everything plus team collaboration between up to five users for $20 a month. You can still sign up for free to get a taste of Snappa’s goodness.

What you get in Snappa Pro:

  • 1,000,000+ HD photos & graphics
  • Unlimited downloads per month
  • Social media sharing
  • Buffer integration
  • Custom font uploads

Get started on the Snappa website.

PortraitPro

Portrait Pro is for those who have sworn an oath to be faithful, loyal and honest to portrait mode. The name itself is a dead giveaway. If you need to retouch your portrait photos and go beyond the surface, PortraitPro will give you everything you need.

Run your image through PortraitPro’s editing software, and your client, if not you as well, will be wowed by the results. The software detects absolutely every feature of the subject in the image — be it skin, hair, face, age, or gender. It edits everything according to your specifications and brings out just the right effect. You can use it to erase blemishes, lighten up dark areas or smoothen skin with its revolutionary ClearSkin 5 tool.

PortraitPro uses the latest advances in deep learning, image recognition, and artificial intelligence to create effects that are true to life. You can even apply digital makeup like false eyelashes, eyeliner, eyeshadow, and mascara to improve how the subject looks. You can edit the hairstyle, apply contact lenses to the eyes, and use Smart Filter to streamline your work between PortraitPro and Photoshop.

With PortraitPro Studio Max, you get everything available, including RAW file processing and batch processing. PortraitPro Studio doesn’t include RAW processing but still has enough goodies to warrant its $69.95 discounted price. The standard edition goes for $44.95 and includes online support, advanced image retouching, and JPG/TIFF r/w support.

What you get in PortraitPro Studio Max:

  • Advanced makeup tools for both male and female subjects
  • Advanced detection of image characteristics
  • Customizable presets
  • Slider-based editing

Requirements: PC: Windows 7 or later | Mac: MacOS 10.10 or later

Click this link to download PortraitPro.

Fotor

Fotor gives you the flexibility to edit your photos online or with its desktop app. And it allows you to start in one medium and finish in the other thanks to its cloud technology, which has made Fotor the favourite for more than 300 million users.

You can edit a photo you upload, make a collage or create a design. You can give your creations an artistic feel with the software’s wide selection of beautiful collages. And should you find yourself at a loss for what to say to your loved ones at Christmas, Fotor will come to the rescue with its selection of beautiful greeting cards and Christmas collages.

It is in online photo editing that the app really excels. It gives you everything Photoshop does without the hassle of downloading a program to use it. You can try Fotor Pro with a 7-day free trial.

What you get in Fotor Pro

  • Online photo editing tools comparable to Lightroom
  • Windows, macOS, and mobile versions, alongside the web interface
  • Loads of templates and presets for easier editing
  • Advanced filters and beauty retouching

Click here to start using Fotor.

DxO PhotoLab

DxO PhotoLab is a worthwhile option if you’re searching for a solid alternative to the mainstream photo editors. It certainly offers something different in terms of interface and how images are edited, but the results can be equally satisfying.

With the HSL (Hue, Saturation, and Luminance) tool, managing image colors gets more fun and visually satisfying. And with ClearView, you can erase haze and smog from your image, ensuring a clean look.

What you get in DxO PhotoLab 3:

  • Advanced correction tools
  • DxO ColorWheel to fine-tune and replace colors
  • DxO ClearView for contrast optimization
  • A free 30-day trial

Start your free trial of DxO PhotoLab here.

Serif Affinity Photo

Serif Affinity Photo allows you to make nondestructive edits to your RAW photos. You don’t need to download any extras as the program is fully loaded with everything required, meaning you can fully immerse yourself in the experience. There are tools aplenty to serve your specific needs whether you want some retouching or detailed post-processing.

With Serif Affinity Photo, you can bring out your inner painter, stitch different images together through the advanced image alignment algorithm, and blot out undesired sections with extraordinary ease. And you can get all this and much, much more for a one-time fee of $49.99, making it one of the cheapest offers on the market.

What you get in Serif Affinity Photo:

  • RAW file processing, full HDR support, and focus merge
  • Support for masks and layers
  • Dodge, burn, clone, patch, and blemish removal tools

Buy the software or start a free trial.

InPixio Photo Editor

InPixio Photo Editor is designed for everyone — not just career photographers trotting the globe with DSLRs in their hands. Unlike other programs, InPixio lets you create professional-grade images on your very first day of diving into digital graphic design. The learning curve is practically nonexistent thanks to the simple and intuitive interface that still lets you add a wide range of effects to stock photos or uploads.

InPixio is both user-friendly and family-friendly. You can choose from lots of frames to encompass a lovely family photo, bring out the vintage feel with black and white filters, or apply the correct tone curve to give the perfect image lighting.

You can make a customization and use batch mode to apply the same to a set of images or save it as a preset for future use. And when you’re done, you can share your images on social media with a click or email them as postcards to loved ones. You can access the tool’s basic functionality with the free version of InPixio Photo Editor or unlock everything by paying $19.99 a month.

What you get in InPixio Photo Editor Pro:

  • Lots and lots of customizable frames in different themes, colors, and designs
  • Vintage filtering technology
  • Blurs and textures
  • Batch mode and presets

Click here to download InPixio Photo Editor Pro.

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