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12 Great Alternatives to Lightroom and Photoshop for Creatives

Best-Alternatives-to-Photoshop-and-Lightroom

This is a guest post by Ann Young, who is a NY wedding and portrait photographer and retoucher at FixThePhoto. She compiled a list of alternatives to Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop, mostly desktop applications yet also a few mobile apps as bonus. Enjoy!

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Is there a full-fledged Lightroom replacement that can provide such deep color correction, quick photo album management and support for all RAW formats? Is there a Photoshop equivalent, a program that will also work professionally with layers, masks and can offer advanced photo retouching tools? 

My answer is Yes. Today we’ll analyze a few great software and photo editors that can easily replace Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop.

To make this list, I’ve tested over 40 software, photo editors, and apps, so I’m ready to share my experience and the photos I got. Each of these programs can perform professional color correction, basic image editing, easily edit a bulk of photos, and quickly organize them.

1. Capture One

Alternative to Adobe Lightroom 

Capture One before after

Price: 30-days free trial or $20/month  

Platforms: Windows, Mac OS 

Pros:

  • Suitable for professional color correction and image editing
  • Effective photo management
  • Supports many file formats

Cons:

  • Complicated learning curve
  • More expensive than Lightroom

Professional photographers and retouchers call it the best Lightroom replacement because it provides deeper settings and is designed not only for color correction, but also for photo retouching. However, Capture One has two huge minuses compared to other professional software – its price and complex learning curve. 

Capture One ui

Capture One meets almost all the criteria of professional photo editors, including RAW support and batch image editing, cataloging, work with layers, local settings, album management, eliminating and correcting lens distortion and more. 

It includes all types of tools, from simple sliders regulating white balance, shadows and exposures, to curves, HSL, layers (you can even adjust the opacity of each layer). It is worth mentioning that Capture One is not limited to HSL 8-color panel – the Color Tool allows you to select any color or color scheme of the image. In such a way, you can adjust color range, hue, saturation, and brightness.

One of the distinguishing features of this Lightroom alternative is its cooperation with companies such as Fujifilm and Sony. If you have a camera from either manufacturer, you can get a huge discount on the software. 

Capture One Styles deserve special attention. This is somewhat similar to LR presets, but more universal. The Styles are more flexible and provide a great number of advanced settings. View more Lightroom alternatives here.

2. Affinity Photo

Alternative to Adobe Photoshop 

Affinity Photo before after

Price: 7-days free trial or $49.99

Platforms: Windows / Mac OS / iPad

Pros:

  • Unlimited layers
  • Tools aimed at professional image retouching 
  • Fast work and optimization for weak PCs

Cons:

  • May lag

This is the best Photoshop replacement if you like how tools and functions are arranged inside PS, but aren’t ready to break the bank for Adobe products. 

Note: If you’re interested in advanced photo editing image manipulations, Photoshop has more features to offer. 

Affinity Photo ui

This British photo editor supports RAW and allows you to perform all possible manipulations with a picture. There are sliders to adjust exposure, glare, white balance, curves, HSL, as well as Repair tools, focus merging, HDR, tone mapping, and a huge number of customizable effects. 

Mind that this Adobe Photoshop replacement supports batch image processing. You can also make changes to PSD files (the Photoshop file format). You can enhance a photo in the auto or manual mode. 

For deeper photo retouching, Affinity offers unlimited layers, filtering of layers and masks, filter editing, blending modes without destroying the image. 

Since the picture editor offers not only various modules, but also many brushes, you can use it as a drawing tool. It is possible to change, save and group them in the library. View more Photoshop alternatives here.

3. DxO PhotoLab

Alternative to Adobe Lightroom

DxO PhotoLab before after

Price: 30-days free trial or $129

Platforms: Mac OS/Windows

Pros:

  • Can be used as a plug-in for Lightroom 
  • Deep color correction
  • Automatic color correction works perfectly

Cons:

  • The database of supported files is too limited

This photo editor can’t be used for asset management, but it works great with Apple Photo and Lightroom’s platform. Some professionals also like to integrate it with Adobe Bridge. DxO PhotoLab is really powerful and suitable for deep color correction, it supports RAW format images from more than 400 cameras

DxO PhotoLab ui

DxO continues to improve its technology for automatic image correction based on the lens and camera. DxO Labs actually takes thousands of shots for test patterns under various lighting conditions to create profiles for each camera and lens that they support, and adjust them. If auto correction didn’t work as you wanted, you can manually change the exposure, contrast, color and any other parameters. 

One of the advantages of this Adobe Lightroom replacement is the Noise Reduction tool. It is suitable only if you edit RAW files. This means that you can shoot in low light or with higher ISO, and still keep the sharpness and details. 

The majority of photo editors simply compare adjacent pixels to define “noisy” ones. But DxO examines a larger area, thus determining more noisy pixels and saving more details.

4. ACDSee

Alternative to Adobe Lightroom & Photoshop 

ACDSee before after

Price: 7-days free trial or $99.99

Platforms: Windows

Pros:

  • Suitable both for image retouching and color correction
  • Handy management tools
  • Easy-to-use modules

Cons:

  • Difficult to master

ACDSee offers a comprehensive approach to digital photo management and image editing. The image editor is designed and available only for Windows. The app has a user friendly dashboard, a professional catalog, an advanced RAW files converter from Lightroom and Photoshop. 

ACDSee ui

ACDSee can be rightfully called the best replacement for Photoshop and Lightroom. 

If you previously used Lightroom, you will notice similar modules, but the layout is slightly different. For instance, in LR when you open one or another module, you get different tools, in ACDSee, you will see a separate interface. It is more convenient but works considerably slower.

As for image editing, there are 2 modes: Develop and Edit. Develop is somehow similar to Lightroom, as it provides mostly simple sliders for adjusting the color of your image: exposure, contrast, saturation – along with brightness and sharpness settings. 

The Edit mode can be called multipurpose. You will find pixel-level tools, such as watermarks, text overlays, and so much more. This mode may require some extra skills and knowledge for photo enhancement, yet a non-destructive approach compensates for difficulties. 

5. GIMP

Alternative to Adobe Photoshop

GIMP before after

Price: Free

Platforms: Windows, Mac OS, Linux 

Pros:

  • Free
  • Open source
  • Deep image retouching
  • Supports plug-ins from Adobe Photoshop

Cons:

  • No batch photo processing
  • The version for Mac OS works incorrectly

This cross-platform editor is built on open source and has professional tools for deep picture retouching. The photo editor is completely free, which makes it the best free Adobe Photoshop replacement. 

gimp-editor-ui

Once you open the program, you’ll see a familiar interface and tools if you previously worked in PS. The range of tools is rather impressive, as there are instruments to perform picture retouching, enhance colors, work with text, layers, brushes, etc. You will surely like that GIMP opens any file ranging from RAW to PSD.

The majority of photographers and retouchers, myself included, opt for GIMP because of open source. You can manually edit the lines of source code and improve the application, without waiting for the next update.

In other words, you can improve and change this Photoshop replacement according to your needs by fixing bugs, adjusting tools and even creating new ones manually. It is interesting to note that GIMP supports all available Adobe Photoshop plug-ins, so you can use overlays, actions, and brushes. 

6. ON1 Photo RAW

Alternative to Adobe Lightroom

ON1 Photo RAW before after

Price: 30-days free trial or $99.99

Platforms: Windows/Mac OS

Pros:

  • Perfect organizer
  • Supports layers
  • Lots of professional effects

Cons:

  • Lags on weak PCs
  • Complicated learning curve 

ON1 Photo RAW is positioned as an effective photo organizer and RAW files editor. The program combines several impressive features of Lightroom and Photoshop, such as the layer support function. Since the developers previously specialized in effects, they integrated their collections into the application. 

on1-photo-raw-editor-ui

This handy software combines some features of the non-destructive Adobe Lightroom photo editing with layers, masking and image retouching capabilities of Photoshop. However, ON1 Photo RAW may be slow, which is unacceptable if you are a professional photographer/retoucher.

This Adobe Lightroom replacement comprises all standard lighting tools: exposure, contrast, glare, midtones, shadows, whites and blacks. The “Structure” tool adjusts the micro-contrast, which can add clarity. You can save a setting as a preset and apply it to other photos. 

Like all the best photo editing apps these days, ON1 includes lens profile correction based on the lens profile. The lens database is impressive – with over 870 models. The tool also includes sliders to reduce noise, regulate brightness and color. Yet, they are not as effective as in Lightroom. 

7. Acorn

Alternative to Adobe Photoshop

Acorn before after

Price: 14-days free trial or $29.99

Platforms: Mac OS

Pros:

  • Lots of filters
  • Supports layers and masks
  • Customizable brushes

Cons:

  • No tools for color correction
  • Lacks batch image editing

Acorn is a budget-friendly software with many handy features and fast operation. 

Acorn ui

Some of its features include non-destructive filters, customizable brushes, layer styles, selection, resizing, cropping, brushes, and more. The application supports using layers, which saves the original photo file during editing. You can add text to your photos and create cool text effects to highlight words. 

There are about 140 creative filters inside the app. You can use them to change the color, texture and look of your photos. You can also adjust highlights and shadows in images, as well as dodge, burn and blur them. 

The batch photo processing feature will definitely please photographers. However, I don’t like that Acorn lacks a photo organizer. You’ll just have to accept it.

8. CyberLink PhotoDirector

Alternative to Adobe Lightroom & Photoshop

CyberLink PhotoDirector before after

Price: 30-days free trial or $69.99

Platforms: Windows/Mac OS

Pros:

  • Suitable for professional photo retouching and color correction
  • Supports adjustment layers
  • Embedded AI

Cons:

  • Not enough lens profile corrections
  • Inaccurate correction of chromatic aberration

CyberLink PhotoDirector is known as a reliable image editing program, with impressive AI-style tools, enhanced layers and a small collection of other options that will speed up your workflow. 

cyberlink-editor-ui

Previously, the image editor positioned itself as a great Lightroom alternative, but its developers expanded the functionality to Photoshop capabilities, including adjustment layers, masks and text kerning. 

PhotoDirector offers all the basic settings you can expect, including exposure, contrast, white balance and sharpness, local correction brushes and more. Among advanced tools, you can find curves and levels. 

The latter allows you to manipulate the high, low and mid-tones, using the controls on the three-color histogram, as well as additional quarter-tone controls. 

One of the advantages of CyberLink is the new AI style transfer tool. This is not just a set of filters – it uses in-depth study to recreate the style of a specific drawing or picture and apply it to your photo, using the same techniques as the original artist. 

Only a high-quality photo editing service can perform the same manipulations and offer such realistic results. Each effect is also customizable, so you can choose whether to use the original colors of the photo or select them from a style template, adjust the strength and even apply colors selectively.

9. RawTherapee

Alternative to Adobe Lightroom

RawTherapee before after

Price: Free

Platforms: Windows, Mac OS, Linux 

Pros:

  • Open source
  • Quick image management
  • Deep correction

Cons:

  • May lag

RawTherapee is a universal, cross-platform editor for deep color correction and controlling of your photos, built on open source. This is the best choice for Linux users, greatly resembling GIMP and Adobe Photoshop. 

rawtherapee-editor-ui

An interesting feature of this Lightroom replacement is that RawTherapee uses non-destructive image editing, so you can return to the original file at any time. The photo editor has many advanced features that make it easy to adjust noise, sharpness, color, and exposure. 

RawTherapee’s multi-core support system allows you to efficiently access your hardware, while the mosaic removal algorithm helps reduce artifacts of converted images. 

As in Lightroom, you can use ready-made presets or create your own, expanding the library. Although the functionality seems really powerful, the graphic editor is optimized for low-end PCs, making it the best alternative to Lightroom.

10. Corel PaintShop Pro

Alternative to Adobe Photoshop

Corel PaintShop Pro before after

Price: 30-days free trial or $95

Platforms: Windows

Pros:

  • Possibility to edit both vector and raster files
  • Curve consists of 16 control points

Cons:

  • No 3D modeling
  • The Text tool should be improved

PaintShop edits both raster and vector image formats, which makes it universal, unlike Adobe. The picture editor offers a simple learning curve and has many video lessons. 

corel-paint-shop-pro-editor-ui

As soon as you go to the Edit mode, you will see a complete set of tools. As in Photoshop, you can add layers, manage grouped objects, adjust curves and levels. The Curves tool is especially powerful, allowing you to use up to 16 control points. You can make use of a full set of customizable sliders, effects, filters, and brushes. 

It is the best Photoshop replacement, as it offers presets based on AI and one-click image fixes screenshot tools. The updated app that was advertised to appear in 2020 will have a new Smart Clone Tool that works according to the content-aware cloning technology and makes it possible to merge objects from several shots into one photo. The result will look very natural.

However, you won’t find the most advanced Adobe Photoshop tools, including 3D modeling, detailed typography, reducing camera shake, etc. 

Bonus: Mobile Alternatives to Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom 

Monitoring the market of mobile photo editors, I can say that they are getting closer to desktop versions, and there are already several excellent options. I have tested only a few of them. 

11. Snapseed

Snapseed before after

Price: Free

Platforms: Android/iOS

Pros:

  • Wonderful basic photo editing
  • HDR tool

Cons:

  • Paid content

Snapseed is one of the most popular and sought-after smartphone apps and the reason is simple. The application will be a great mobile option for both beginners and more experienced photographers.

Snapseed ui

There is a basic set of tools, among which you can find sharpness, exposure, shadows, brightness, contrast straightening and crop. Additional, selective tools and brushes allow you to edit certain parts of your image. 

The Healing tool works really remarkably. It naturally removes objects from your photos, while filling the space with a realistic background. Using the Portrait tool, you can easily smooth the texture of the skin and make eyes more expressive. You should also test the “HDR” tool. It will give your photo a special charm and professional look. 

12. Afterlight 2

Afterlight 2 before after

Price: Free

Platforms: Android/iOS

Pros:

  • Many filters/effects
  • Convenient UI

Cons:

  • Few tools for color correction

Afterlight 2 is a simple replacement for Photoshop and Lightroom mobile. The application works smoothly, with the exception of some sliders that lag from time to time. 

Afterlight 2 ui

The set of tools may seem extensive to you: exposure, sharpness, shadows, cropping, filters, cleaning, vignette, effects, text and more. There are also advanced tools such as curves and selective color. You can accurately adjust colors and shades in your photos to get the most out of them. 

The customizable text and illustrations are an interesting way to add graphics to your pictures. The Double Exposure Tool allows you to create unique combinations of mixed images.

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