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  • February 10, 2020
  • 33 min to read

Best Photo Editing Software in 2020

Best Photo Editing Software in 2020

Modern digital photography goes hand in hand with post-processing software. Although today the photo editing software market offers an unlimited number of options for photographers of all levels, most of the community sticks to tried-and-true Adobe Photoshop. It indeed is a universal app equipped with tools that a professional photographer would wish for, but it’s time to make way for the new. 

For the past decades, a lot of new and worthy photo editors entered the market bringing revolutionary technologies into the mundane editing process making even the most complex editing tasks doable for novices and streamlined for pros. Here we listed some of the best photo editing apps on the market including both old and new for photographers of different needs and skill levels.

1. Luminar 4

Luminar The Best Photo Editor.png

Completely revamped Luminar 4 is finally here to shake up the world of photo-editing software. Improved to be even more intuitive, Luminar 4 also brings a ton of brand-new AI editing tools designed to speed up the photo editing workflow. 

- AI Sky Replacement automatically changes the sky and relights and recolors the entire photo to match the new sky. 

- AI Skin Enhancer & Portrait Enhancer do all the retouching for you with just one click.

- AI Enhance automatically enhances your photo by making numerous adjustments of different complexity.

- AI Structure brings details up or down depending on your needs.

- Sunrays adds realistic sun rays to your photo that you’re free to tweak as you please.

- Smart Contrast was improved to produce a more detailed and textured image.

Luminar 4 can not only be used as a stand-alone app but also as a plug-in for Adobe’s Photoshop and Lightroom to make the best of your tools.

✅ Pros:

  • Non-destructive editing
  • Intuitive interface
  • Improved performance
  • In-depth customization
  • Available as a plug-in as well

✖️ Cons:

  • Mediocre library functions
  • Limited exporting options

2. Adobe Lightroom 

Adobe Lightroom has been the app of choice for professional and amateur photographers alike for many years now. It offers a well-thought-out set of features for managing, organizing, processing, and exporting your photos. With the advanced library features, like labels, keywords, collections, and search filters, the app makes it easy for you to keep track of large numbers of photos. Lightroom comes with a good selection of RAW profiles to define colors in your photos for more precise editing. Tweak your photos to perfection with adjustment sliders, perspective and lens correction tools, retouching tools, filters, profiles, and presets to speed up your workflow. 

✅ Pros:

  • Built-in file management system
  • Face detection and tagging
  • Color and luminosity masking
  • Plug-in support

✖️ Cons:

  • Not the best choice for beginners
  • A bit too taxing for Windows
  • No auto-tagging
  • Comparatively slow importing


What photo editing software do you use and why? Let us know in the comments, we’d be very interested to know!

3. ACDSee PHOTO STUDIO ULTIMATE 2020

Photo Studio Ultimate 2020 is a one-stop photo management and post-processing tool for Windows. It comes with everything you need to handle your files, like categories, keywords, face detection, ratings, color labels, metadata, geolocation, and more. It’s quite powerful when it comes to photo editing, too, offering a broad set of tools for a variety of different purposes. It allows you to process your RAW, JPEG and other types of files in a non-destructive way in Develop Mode and perfect them in Edit Mode by adjusting color and lighting, bringing out details, removing flaws, and adding final touches. The user interface is completely customizable to suit your preferences.

✅ Pros:

  • Excellent built-in file management system
  • Powerful post-processing features
  • Fully customizable interface

✖️ Cons:

  • Available only for Windows
  • Too overwhelming for beginners
  • Subscription-based online storage gallery

4. GIMP

GIMP is a free and open-source photo-editing tool that has been around for more than 20 years. It boasts a limitless number of state-of-the-art features that you wouldn’t expect to see in a free photo-editing app. The interface has been recently updated to be easier to use, however it still can be quite confusing for novices. GIMP offers a broad set of tools suitable not only for basic but for advanced editing, too. Here you can enhance colors, adjust hue and saturation, fix composition, adjust sharpness, reduce graininess, remove unwanted objects, work with masks, layers, and more. 

✅ Pros:

  • 100% free
  • Open access to the source code
  • Has a broad selection of tools for different purposes
  • Plug-in support
  • Available for the main operating systems

✖️ Cons:

  • Non-intuitive workflow
  • Difficult to get the hang of
  • Lack of HDR support

5. Aurora HDR

Aurora HDR is a powerful HDR tool that brings innovation and simplicity together. The most recent update introduced a new Quantum HDR engine with AI-powered tone mapping technology which allows for more intelligent photo merging to produce vivid yet natural-looking photos. Whether you’re creating an HDR photo from bracketed shots or a single image, the app’s neural network enhances the photo and makes sure that no halos or ghosting spoils the final result. The brand-new Smart HDR Structure feature boosts details and sharpness without creating undesired artifacts that can make a photo look unrealistic. With over 80 distinctive Looks, you can make your photo look stunning in just one click.

✅ Pros:

  • One of the best HDR photo editors
  • Swift performance
  • Corrects badly taken single shots
  • Doesn’t create artifacts, halos, or noise
  • Available as a stand-alone app and plug-in
  • Plug-in support

✖️ Cons:

  • None worth mentioning

6. Adobe Photoshop Elements 

Developed for beginner and hobbyist photographers, Photoshop Elements’ functions are naturally more limited than Photoshop’s but it has all the essentials for achieving astonishing results. It offers three editing modes:

The Quick mode includes the simplest tools for straightening and cropping photos, removing unwanted objects, enhancing portraits, and applying filters. 

The Guided mode uses step-by-step wizards to take you through more complex edits like removing objects, replacing the background, merging multiple photos, creating double exposures, and more.

The Expert mode gives you access to more complex Photoshop-like features including layers, masks, and filters.

✅ Pros:

  • Excellent for entry-level photographers
  • Simple and straightforward interface
  • One-time purchase
  • A bunch of Photoshop-like features simplified for nonprofessionals
  • Dozens of clear guides

✖️ Cons:

  • Too limited functionality
Are you a Lightroom, Luminar, or Photoshop user? Then you'd probably want to see our collection of the best free and paid presets for them.


7. ON1 Photo RAW 2020 

ON1 took the best of Lightroom and Photoshop to create Photo RAW 2020 that’s brimming with professional-grade tools for editing, correcting, and enhancing photos. Here you can work with layers, masks, and blending modes, which give you more control over the final result as well as tweak numerous adjustment sliders to make your photos look more polished. With the abundance of various tools and panels, however, the interface looks a bit crowded and is somewhat difficult to navigate, which can significantly slow down the workflow. 

✅ Pros:

  • One-time payment
  • Uses layer-based editing
  • A large collection of presets
  • Uses fractal technology for resizing
  • Panorama stitching
  • HDR merging;
  • Focus stacking;

✖️ Cons:

  • A bit too crowded interface
  • Not very intuitive to navigate
  • Limited exporting options

8. Exposure X5

Exposure X5 looks like a refined version of Lightroom that inherited only the features that photographers liked and used the most. Some of the most hated features were eliminated or improved. Thus, there’s no time-consuming import process in Exposure X5 - you can get straight to editing by adding a folder with your photos in a few clicks. The interface is very well-organized and can be customized to suit your editing purposes. Besides non-destructive layer-based editing and cutting-edge tools that are crucial for the professional photo-manipulating process, Exposure X5 offers a mind-blowing collection of over 500 presets that you can customize to your liking. 

✅ Pros:

  • Beginner-friendly
  • Well-organized and customizable interface
  • No power-draining import process
  • Non-destructive layer-based editing
  • A broad selection of free presets
  • No subscription

✖️ Cons:

  • The interface design looks a bit outdated
  • Lack of panorama and HDR tools

9. Capture One Pro

Capture One Pro is a full-fledged pro photo editor created for experienced photographers and serious hobbyists. Originally designed for tethered shooting, Capture One Pro is the fastest and most flexible tethering tool for photographers of all genres. It also offers top-notch RAW photo-editing functionality, smart photo organization tools, layer support, powerful adjustment tools, and plenty of other features you’re looking for in professional-grade photo software. 

✅ Pros:

  • Exceptional rendering of RAW files
  • Numerous adjustment tools for different needs;
  • Layer-based editing
  • Industry-leading tethering features
  • Fast and smooth spot removal
  •  Annotations feature

✖️ Cons:

  • Lack of third-party plug-in support;
  • Lack of panorama and HDR tools
  • Limited organization features;
  • Absence of history panel

10. Affinity Photo

Even though Affinity Photo can’t boast any organization or management tools, it’s well-packed with all kinds of editing features for photographers of all levels. The workflow includes several Personas, or modes, focused on different editing stages. Develop Persona focuses on RAW file processing, Photo Persona is used for boosting your photos using layers, lighting and color adjustments, curves, LUTs, etc. Tone Mapping Persona is for HDR editing, Liquify Persona for bending photos, and Export Persona for exporting finished photos.  

✅ Pros:

  • Layer-based editing
  • RAW editing tools
  • Panorama, HDR, and focus stack merging tools
  • No subscription

✖️ Cons:

  • No lens-based corrections
  • Lack of organization tools
  • No ability to save custom workspaces
  • Poor noise reduction

11. Pixlr 

One of the most powerful online photo tools, Pixlr has become a popular choice when it comes to making quick photo corrections. Since it’s a web app, it doesn’t take up any room on your computer and is compatible with all operational systems. Pixlr features a clean and intuitive interface with many tools for cropping, selecting, transforming, removing objects, retouching and adjusting your photos using numerous sliders for brightness, contrast, vibrance, saturation, shadows, and more. It also offers a vast collection of filters and effects that will enhance your photos in a snap!

✅ Pros:

  • Beginner-friendly
  • Great for quick editing
  • Online
  • 100% free
  • Has a clean interface
  • Offers a nice collection of filters and effects
  • Mobile version available

✖️ Cons:

  • Limited functionality
  • Advertising can be annoying
  • Can be laggy sometimes

12. Paint.NET

Developed to replace the iconic Microsoft Paint, Paint.NET has grown into a full-featured yet simple photo-editing tool for WIndows. The app offers a user-friendly interface that’s very easy to navigate. Paint.NET is packed with a nice set of tools for making your photos look beautiful in the most effortless way. Here you can play around with various adjustments, such as levels, curves, contrast, brightness, saturation, and more, selecting and removing objects, resize and crop your photos, and so much more!

✅ Pros:

  • 100% free
  • Unlimited history
  • Layer-based editing
  • Tons of creative filters and effects
  • Suitable for beginner and intermediate users
  • User-friendly interface
  • Plug-in support

✖️ Cons:

  • Only for Windows
  • Interface design looks a bit outdated
  • Limited functionality


Do you agree with our opinion in this article? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

FAQ:

Q: Which one is the best photo editing software?

A: Luminar 4 is the best photo editing software because it offers the most powerful collection of features and tools for different editing needs. 

Q: What is the easiest free photo editing software?

A: Paint.NET is the easiest free photo editing software, however, it has a very limited number of features suitable only for basic editing. 

Q: Which photo editing software is the best for HDR photo editing?

A: Aurora HDR is the best HDR photo editing software with a broad set of tools for creating and correcting HDR images.

Q: How can I edit pictures on my computer for free?

A: GIMP free photo editor is the best way to edit pictures on your computer for free. It’s well-packed with features and is suitable for beginners and pros alike. 

Q: Which photo editing software can be used as a plug-in for Photoshop/ Lightroom?

A: Luminar 4 is the best Photoshop/ Lightroom plug-in that allows you to use its unique features in your go-to photo editor. 

Whether you take photos for fun or business, it’s not an easy task to find a photo editing software that can best fit your photo editing needs with so many different options on the market. We believe that it’s easier to find something when you know what you’re looking for, so we came up with three criteria that you should take into account when looking for your one and only photo app. So, we recommend you to make your choice based on the features you want your app to have, the platform you’re going to use it on, and the price that you’re ready (or not) to pay for it. This will help you to filter out the irrelevant options and narrow your choices down to a few most suitable ones. 

Features

We believe that all photo editing apps can be divided into several categories based on what they have to offer to users of different levels and needs. These categories are:

  1. Photo editing software for beginners. If you’re just starting out in photography or need to apply quick corrections to your photos once in a while, you should opt for a beginner-friendly photo editor like Paint.NET or Pixlr. Such editors usually have a clean and straightforward interface without too many tabs and icons, and a decent set of tools for applying basic corrections. 
  2. Professional photo editing apps are designed for professional photographers and advanced hobbyists and give more control over photo processing and editing. Their use requires more specialized knowledge of photography and high photo-editing skill. Pro-grade photo editors like Adobe Lightroom or Capture One Pro often come with an in-build photo management system, provide support for RAW files, tethered shooting, and presets.
  3. Software for creating and editing vector graphics. As you probably know, there are two types of graphics: raster and vector. Raster graphics represent images as a pixel grid, while vector graphics use lines and curves. Vector software can’t change pixels and thus is ineffective for photo correction. However, you can use vector software to add graphics to your photo such as text, shapes, lines. Many raster photo editors include a handful of vector tools, like GIMP or Photoshop. 
  4. AI photo software uses AI-based technology that allows reducing manual photo editing to a minimum - even the most complex editing tasks such as retouching or removing objects can be done with just a few clicks. Such apps are a popular choice among beginners and pros alike as they substantially speed up the editing process without affecting the quality. Luminar 4 is one of a few decent AI photo editing tools on the market. 
  5. Open source photo editing apps are apps for which the source code can be viewed and changed by any user, like GIMP. It means that any user can interact with the program code to correct bugs, improve the exciting features and add new ones. Open-source software is usually completely free and for this reason much beloved by users of different levels of expertise. 
Platform

There is another thing you should take into account when looking for your perfect photo-editing app - the platform you’re going to use it on. If you’re a Mac or Windows user, you’ve got a wider choice of options unlike, for example, Chrome OS users, who have a much more limited choice. Let’s take a closer look at what we have here.

  • Windows is the most compatible with most of the photo software you're going to want to use. If you’re a Windows user, you have a great number of options to choose from including most widely-used apps like GIMP, Luminar 4, Lightroom, Paint.NET, and more. 
  • As Mac is the second most popular operating system, you won’t have any troubles finding a photo app compatible with it. Here you still have a vast number of options including Lightroom, Aurora HDR, Luminar 4, etc. The popular GIMP, however, isn’t compatible with Mac. 
  • If you’re a Chromebook user, your choice is limited to Google Play apps. Those, however, include a pretty good number of options, such as GIMP, Photoshop, Lightroom, and others. If you have strong programming skills, you could try installing external apps as well. 

It doesn’t matter what platform you’re using if you choose to work in an online photo editor. It runs in a browser and doesn’t need installing. 

If you’re looking for an app for your Android or iOS device, you should check what your app store has to offer. Some web and desktop apps, like Pixlr or Lightroom, however, have mobile versions. 

Price

No matter how good the software is, its price can be a real dealbreaker. Luckily, not all photo editing software is paid for. There are such apps as GIMP and Paint.NET that are completely free. Paid options include subscription-based (Photo Studio Ultimate 2020, Lightroom) and one-time-fee (Luminar 4, Photoshop Elements, Affinity Photo) software. Some paid apps though have free trial versions, so you can test an app for free for several days to see if it’s worth the money.  

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