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Top 8 Best Photo Editing Tools

Top 8 Best Photo Editing Tools

Editing photographs in simple corrections or complex composites involves a variety of approaches to enhance and change electronic pictures. Photo editing has become integral to professional photography’s digital age since its inception into the modern generation.

It may take you time and effort to choose from several options available for photo editing tools. The best editor should be such that it will suit your budget and requirements as it depends entirely upon one’s needs. To assist you in making a perfect choice, we have developed a list of top photo editing tools for 2024 based on performance, features, user experience and value. 

So, let’s delve into our recommendations. Hopefully, you will discover the editor most suitable for your photo editing adventures!

1. Adobe Photoshop – The Industry Standard for Professionals

Adobe Photoshop Review

As the market leader for over 30 years, Adobe Photoshop remains the premier photo editing software across various industries. Though considered overkill for basic edits, Photoshop provides the most robust toolset for intensive editing tasks.

Key Features:

  • Layers for non-destructive editing
  • Advanced selection tools like Refine Edge
  • Content-aware editing with Content-Aware Move and Fill
  • Camera Raw for processing RAW files
  • Advanced compositing capabilities

From magazines to movie posters, Photoshop delivers professional-grade image editing capabilities. However, the expansive feature set comes with a steep learning curve. Photoshop’s subscription plan also makes it a pricy option for casual users. Still, for creative professionals and photography enthusiasts, many free Adobe Photoshop actions, overlays, textures, etc., make Photoshop the gold standard in photo manipulation, even for beginners.


  • Robust tools for endless editing possibilities
  • Great for print, web and multi-media projects
  • Integration with other Adobe apps
  • Supports third-party plugins for added functionality
  • Industry-standard software recognised by employers


  • Expensive subscription model
  • The steep learning curve for beginners
  • Overkill for basic editing needs
  • Requires a relatively powerful computer

Ideal for Professionals, aspiring professionals, creative hobbyists

2. Adobe Lightroom – The Photographer's Choice

Adobe Lightroom For Photographers 2024

Whereas Photoshop focuses on pixel-level edits, Adobe Lightroom specialises in holistic photo enhancement and workflow efficiency. As the go-to solution for photographers, Lightroom combines cataloguing tools with standardised editing controls like colour balance, tone curves, and profile corrections.

Key Features:

  • Import, organise and search extensive collections
  • Batch editing streamlines global adjustments
  • Preset profiles apply consistent looks
  • Parametric editing avoids quality loss
  • Cloud syncing enables editing across devices

Lightroom's parametric workflow preserves original photo integrity for lossless, non-destructive editing. From capture to output, Lightroom allows photographers to import, process, manage, print and publish photo collections with incredible efficiency. Lightroom's streamlined organisational tools and batch processing deliver substantial time savings for photographers producing a high volume of images.

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  • The perfect complement for Camera Raw and Photoshop
  • It helps streamline the organisation of large batches
  • Customisable and tuned to suit specific needs
  • Useful mobile companion apps
  • Subscription includes Lightroom and Photoshop


  • Requires Cloud subscription, unlike standalone
  • Not suitable for extensive retouching like on pixels
  • Slower than Capture One at RAW file conversion
  • Fewer tools than Photoshop

Ideal for Portrait, event, stock and professional photographers

3. Affinity Photo – A Lightroom Alternative

Download Affinity Photo Software

For photographers turned off by Lightroom’s subscription model, Affinity Photo represents a compelling low-cost alternative. With a one-time purchase, you unlock Affinity’s full suite of editing tools, including RAW processing, HDR merge, panorama stitching and end-to-end retouching.

Key Features:

  • Excellent value with a one-time purchase
  • Speedy performance even on older machines
  • RAW editing with lens corrections
  • Parametric adjustment layers
  • Compatible with Photoshop plugins

While falling short of Photoshop’s compositing prowess, Affinity matches Lightroom for a photographer's end-to-end workflow, adding more sophisticated editing tools. For hobbyists seeking premium software at a budget price, Affinity Photo packs immense editing potential.


  • Excellent value for money
  • No subscription – one-time payment
  • Fast processing and operation
  • Great tools for photography and graphic design
  • Available for Windows, Mac and iPad


  • It can’t open some PSD files with layers intact
  • Limited third-party support compared to Photoshop
  • No animation or 3D image editing

Ideal for Beginners, hobbyists, photography enthusiasts, graphic designers

4. Skylum Luminar – AI-Powered Photo Enhancement

Skylum Luminar Photo Editing Tool

Harnessing the power of artificial intelligence, Skylum Luminar utilises machine learning algorithms to streamline complex edits with one-click solutions. Luminar’s standout AI Suite automates tedious retouching tasks alongside essential adjustment tools.

Key Features:

  • One-click AI adjustments for portraits, landscapes, architecture, etc.
  • Quickleplace customisation controls
  • AI-based content-aware healing brush
  • Layer support for advanced editing
  • Available as a plugin for Lightroom & Putilises

machine-learning mavens and online content creators, Luminar accelerates workflow with clever AI tools that instantly enhance photos. Luminar also plugs into Adobe apps as a plugin, providing the best of both worlds. For rapid results with minimal effort, Luminar's AI editing shines.


  • Intuitive for new photo editors
  • Excellent automatic correction and creative tools
  • Clever use of AI for artistic effects
  • Affordable compared to advanced rivals
  • Available for Windows and Mac


  • Fewer tools than full Luminar software
  • Not suitable for extensive editing workflows
  • Maximum export resolution capped at 8K
  • No native external editor support

Ideal for Beginner and intermediate hobbyists looking for quick but effective editing

5. Capture One – Tailored RAW Processing

Best Tools For Designers Capture One

Designed expressly for RAW files, Capture One delivers meticulous colour rendering, bespoke camera profiles, robust adjustment tools and a streamlined workflow. While costing nearly as much as Lightroom, Capture One's excellent RAW conversions and precision editing appeal strongly to professionals.

Key Features:

  • Camera-specific color profiles
  • Advanced colour editor for greater accuracy
  • Exceptional fine-tuning of RAW files
  • Robust image organisation tools
  • Seamless stacking of adjustments

Capture One boasts unrivalled RAW processing chops, primarily catering to high-end commercial and fashion photographers seeking perfection. For best-in-class RAW editing with fine-grained precision, Capture One sets the bar for pure image quality. Just be prepared to pay a premium for the advanced features.

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  • Stunning image quality, particularly for RAW files
  • Great customisation options
  • Seamless session organisation
  • Versions tailored to specific cameras
  • Continually evolving via free updates


  • No pixel-level editing or compositing
  • Expensive compared to rivals
  • Steep learning curve
  • macOS or Windows only – no mobile or web

Ideal for professional photographers, especially portrait, architecture, commercial, and product photographers.

6. GIMP – A Free & Powerful Alternative

Gimp Alternative To Photoshop

As a no-cost open-source solution, GIMP offers an astoundingly robust editing toolset at absolutely zero expense. While the learning curve proves steep and the interface less refined, GIMP still empowers users with Photoshop-grade tools for extremely advanced editing.

Key Features:

  • Completely free and open-source
  • Support for layers, masks, filters, etc
  • Scripting for task automation
  • Cross-platform functionality
  • Huge range of plugins

For users with extensive editing needs but limited budgets, GIMP delivers professional quality results without spending a dime. If you can get past the rough edges in UI design, GIMP puts astonishing editing prowess in your hands. The ability to script workflows or tap plugins makes it endlessly adaptable, too.


  • It costs nothing to download and use
  • It comes packed with features rivalling paid options
  • Constantly updated and fine-tuned
  • Customisable interface to suit needs
  • Caters to all user levels once mastered


  • Dated user interface with a learning curve
  • Manual work is required for excellent results
  • Less intuitive than modern counterparts
  • Limited RAW camera file support
  • Lacks in-built cloud capabilities

Ideal for: Users wanting full control of a budget, graphic designers, plugin developers

7. ON1 Photo RAW

On1 Photo Raw Photo Editor

Offering a well-rounded feature set combining photo browsing/organisation, editing tools and effects, ON1 Photo RAW is an affordable Adobe Photoshop alternative for many needs. It also incorporates filters and presets inspired by those in Luminar for unique results.

Key Features

  • Complete RAW file editing workflow
  • Non-destructive editing
  • Presets, filters, borders and textures
  • HDR, pano and focus stacking
  • Retouching tools
  • Fast browsing of photos
  • Catalogue system for managing media
  • Available as standalone and for Photoshop/Lightroom


  • Excellent value for the price
  • No need to export out for editing
  • Great for experimenting with effects
  • Decent selection of tools for critical adjustments
  • Suitable for editing DNG and Drone photos


  • No face recognition or AI masking
  • Not as fast as slimmer apps
  • Requires more resources than lighter apps
  • No collaboration or cloud sync features

Ideal for Enthusiast photographers on a budget

8. Pixelmator Pro

Pixelmator Design App

Exclusively for Mac, Pixelmator Pro impresses with its combination of a user-friendly interface, machine learning features, great colour tools and broad file format compatibility. Support for the Photos library and iCloud sync capability makes it a great fit into a Mac and iOS-centric workflow.

Key Features

  • User-friendly single-window interface
  • Integration with Mac Photos library
  • Uses Core ML machine learning
  • Advanced colour adjustment tools
  • Non-destructive image editing
  • Wide range of filters and effects
  • Good selection tools
  • Batch processing capability
  • Supports most common file types


  • Intuitive and easy to use
  • Syncs with iCloud for working across devices
  • Capable selection and masking tools
  • Powerful colour adjustment capabilities
  • Great value for the features offered


  • Mac-only app – no Windows version
  • Can’t open CMYK images
  • No lens correction capability
  • Smaller community than Adobe Photoshop or Affinity
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It is ideal for Mac users, especially those with existing Apple ecosystem and workflows

Closing Thoughts

The “best” photo editing software ultimately depends on your skill level, editing needs and budget considerations. From hobbyists to professionals, our top picks cover various options, advanced features, capabilities, platforms and prices.

At the apex, Adobe Photoshop undeniably reigns supreme but requires extensive expertise. For batch workflow efficiency, Adobe Lightroom excels for photographers, while Capture One offers superior RAW file processing. Competent yet affordable alternatives like Affinity Photo, Luminar and GIMP rival premium packages, just with steeper learning curves. Meanwhile, PaintShop Pro and PhotoDirector Ultra provide solid prosumer-grade functionality at reasonable costs.

Moving forward, expect machine learning to infuse nearly all photo editors with some degree of automated smarts. But sophisticated editing still requires foundational knowledge – so rather than search for shortcuts, invest time to learn tools that best match your goals appropriately. With patience and practice, photo editing mastery lies within reach!

FAQs on the best Photo Editing Tools

What photo editor is best for beginners?

For beginners, user-friendly options like Adobe Photoshop Elements, PaintShop Pro or PhotoDirector provide approachable tools to learn photo editing foundations. Adobe Lightroom also offers an intuitive starting point explicitly focused on photography workflows.

Should I pay monthly or a one-time fee?

This depends on your budget and anticipated usage. Subscription models make sense if you plan to edit photos regularly and always want to access the latest features. However, a one-time purchase is more affordable if you edit only occasionally. Affinity Photo, PaintShop Pro, and PhotoDirector Ultra offer full-featured packages for a single purchase fee.

Is GIMP a viable free alternative?

Despite its lack of polish, GIMP provides professional-level editing tools rivalling Photoshop in capability. With enough dedication to navigate its learning curve, GIMP delivers incredibly powerful (and free!) photo editing. An engaged user community also provides tutorials and scripts to ease the process.

How important are layers for photo editing?

Adjustment layers let you apply edits non-destructively for non-permanent changes – an essential technique for serious editing. All premium packages featured support layer-based workflows. Beginners can start with Elements or PaintShop Pro and upgrade later as their skills progress.

Does macOS or Windows offer better choices?

Historically, Windows boasted superior photo editors, but options have converged across platforms lately. Standouts like Affinity Photo and PhotoDirector Ultra now work on macOS and Windows. However, a few, like PaintShop Pro, remain exclusive to Windows, while Apple Photos only exists on macOS.

What about mobile photo editing apps?

While expanding in sophistication, mobile apps generally need more than desktop editors regarding layers, filters, batch processing, etc. However, shoot-to-edit solutions like Lightroom Mobile offer some desktop-class tools adapted for mobile workflows. For advanced techniques, though, a desktop editor remains essential.

Photo of author

Stuart Crawford

Stuart Crawford is an award-winning creative director and brand strategist with over 15 years of experience building memorable and influential brands. As Creative Director at Inkbot Design, a leading branding agency, Stuart oversees all creative projects and ensures each client receives a customised brand strategy and visual identity.

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