The Best Photo Editing Softwares 2017

best photo editing softwares

It doesn’t matter whether you are a pro-photographer, a keen hobbyist, or an occasional selfie-taker: at some point you’re going to want to organize and edit your images.

Anybody with even a passing interest in photography knows that camera technology is improving at a shockingly fast rate, and even smartphones now have the ability to take professional-standard imagery in the right hands. Well, the same is happening with photo editing software, and retouching pictures is no longer only available to pro-photographers and art directors.

It goes without saying that a pro-photographer shooting on $50,000 worth of camera will probably want different software to someone snapping away on their iPhone, and it’s all about finding the right program to suit your personal photography needs. With so much choice on offer, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite software for every level of photographer.

How to buy photo editing software

Here are the things you need to consider when buying photo editing software:

  • Features – does the software have a comprehensive enough selection of tools and features for your requirements? High-end software will do everything you could ever image to your photographs, but cheap (and free) software might only offer basic tweaking tools.

  • Organization – some editing software shines when it comes to organizing files and maintaining workflow, but others lack in this area. If you’re working with multiple images at once, choose a program that offers keyword tagging, color-coding, geo-tagging and/or face recognition to make your life easier.

  • Input – can your software of choice work with raw files? These will include every bit of data from your camera, which is imperative if you want pro-grade manipulation. Most camera manufacturer has its own file extension (Canon uses CR2 and Nikon uses NEF, for example), so double check that the two are compatible.

  • Output – how does your software treat the images once they’re imported and edited, and what can it do with them? If you plan to share your images on social media, pick a program which does it for you. Non-destructive editing is a great thing to have and means that the original image file isn’t touched, so you’ll always have it as a backup. Also, look out for soft-proofing if you plan to print, as this will show you how your images will actually look by taking into consideration your media, settings and printer.

  • Interface – is your chosen software easy to use, or is it too advanced for your skills or your level of interest? Also look into whether tutorials are available from your chosen manufacturer if you’re looking to expand your knowledge.

  • Cost – there are still plenty of options available for free photo editing, and online apps like Instagram do a decent job of giving photos a more creatively professional feel. But, consider paying for specialist software if you’re in any way serious about improving and tweaking your images. Also consider whether a subscription-based package which includes upgrades is best for you, or if you’ll be happy in five years’ time to still be using the exact same package that you bought for a one-off fee.

5 Great Photo Editing Software Choices

Honestly, selecting Photoshop as our best all-rounder was a bit of a no-brainer. Adobe’s image editing software has no real rival and has fairly earned its status as the industry standard. Created back in 1988, there have been over 30 versions of the package, and each one has been received with open arms by photographers all over the globe.

Offering layered editing, typography, drawing, and 3D-tools, this software has all the tricks needed to bring your photos to life. Most photography aficionados will be at least a little familiar with Photoshop’s iconic tools, including the Clone Stamp which allows you to duplicate one part of an image to another area of the same image, and the Pen Tool which creates precise paths using anchor points for isolating sections of images.

You’ll also find all of Adobe’s latest and best technology in Photoshop, and a lot of these new features are what dreams are made of for amateurs and hobbyists. Camera Shake Reduction will take the edge off any beginner-style camera errors, so you don’t lose out of the shot of a lifetime because of an unstable tripod or accidental movement. Content-Aware Crop fills transparent areas with computer generated information after a photo has been straightened or a new canvas area has been added, so you don’t need to work out how to create additional parts of an image manually (this can be very tricky if you haven’t had the chance to practice doing so). The Perspective Warp tool is like magic, and can adjust the perspective in your image by straightening and rotating objects such as buildings. Artboards and Design Spaces are both used widely in photography and design industries, so if you’re craving pro-level design tools and the most innovative image manipulation, look no further. Also great touching up your photos before you upload them onto your digital photo frame.

You can edit raw images with ease in Photoshop, and the program supports several color models including RGB, CMYK, and CIELAB. It’s also able to handle several graphic file formats, so you can be confident that this program can cope with pretty much anything you throw at it. There are also an unbelievable amount of plugins available that will further extend Photoshop’s capabilities: from filters and brushes, to workspace and panel upgrades.

Adobe know the importance of organization, and so they include Lightroom in the subscription package that Photoshop comes in. We’ll go into further detail on Lightroom shortly, but it’s a brilliant tool for amateurs and professionals alike.

As wonderful as Photoshop is, there are a couple if minor issues. It isn’t always the simplest tool to use, and to get the most from it you’re going to need to spend lots of time getting to grips with the software. Output-wise, there’s no option for non-destructive workflow, and on top of that some users are irritated by the fact that Adobe have gone subscription-based, but in our option the software is worth the relatively low monthly fee.

CyberLink PhotoDirector 9 is our second favorite all-rounder, and its friendly and navigable interface is perfect for those learning their trade. Pro-users aren’t forgotten though, and there are some powerful tools available, including extremely effective noise reduction and beautification tools. You can also upload your creations straight to Facebook and Flickr, which is a fun consumer-focused tool. There are a few flaws, including a lack of geo-tag maps and no support for tethered shooting, but it’s not a bad bet if for some reason Photoshop doesn’t float your boat.

If you’re a professional, the main weapon in your software arsenal will most likely be Photoshop. But, you’ll need a little something extra to back it up, and that’s where Lightroom comes in. Organization is what this program does best, and it’s easily the best photo management software available right now. Lightroom uses metadata to create categories for your images, and depending on which camera you’re using, the software can read this data and automatically place your images on a map via geo-tagging. This feature is especially handy for location photographers, and even if your camera doesn’t support geo-tagging you can manually tag your images and enjoy the same mapped layout. In addition to this, you can flag or color code images to keep them organized.

As well as being brilliant for organizing your images, Lightroom is also very well equipped to edit them. The tools on the easy to use interface are best suited for retouching images and removing imperfections like blemishes or stray hairs; for any complex edits you can take images into Photoshop, which is exactly why Abode sell the two programs in a single subscription. Batch processing is a fantastic time saver which allows you to make uniform changes, such as adjusting brightness, to a series of images. Inbuilt filters make for easy image polishing, and you can also create and save your own filters to make light work of big batches of similar images. Equally important as well for those of us who plan to make physical copies of our photos with a printer.

Output is in no way lacking, and you can share or print with ease. Direct sharing to Flickr or Facebook is easy, and you can email images from Lightroom, too. Standard printing is, of course, possible, but you can also create slideshows and photobooks using customizable tools and templates. Themes include travel, weddings, and portfolios, so you’ll easily be able to find the right one for your work. Unlike Photoshop, Lightroom offers non-destructive editing, so your originals are always preserved and restorable while you play around with your images. Lightroom also features mobile apps on its CC version, allowing you to get work done on the go if you don’t have your computer with you.

If you’ve chosen not to go with Adobe, Phase One Capture One Pro is another stunner. Capture One allows tethered shooting so you can get your hands on your images whilst in the studio or on location that bit quicker and see your potential output in real time. Phase One’s raw-file capability is as impressive as you’d expect from the brand, and there are lots of options for conversion. In fact, that’s where Capture One beats out Lightroom: Adobe’s software is slow to import raw conversions, so you’ll need to decide whether speed or organization is most important to you before you commit to one software or the other.

If you identify as more of a prosumer – not a professional but very much into photography - Adobe’s Photoshop Elements is a great choice. As an enthusiast, you’re probably going to want to work with raw images and to do a fair bit more than just organize them: Elements allows you to do exactly that, but without the difficulty associated with Photoshop.

Before we get to the fun stuff, let’s talk about organization. The Organizer app is a godsend for keeping images in check, and allows you to tag and search via a combination of people, events, places, and other subjects.

photoshop elements

2018’s version also has a new smart feature called Auto Curate, which uses AI technology to find the best shots in your collection of images. This is brilliant for sifting through hundreds of holiday snaps without having to check each one manually.

Speaking of effortlessness, there are so many smart edit features that make light work of your images. There are plenty of clever tricks such as the open Closed Eyes feature, which fixes images where one person has their eyes closed (there’s always one). There are also plenty of Instagram-style options in Elements Effects, which will give you pro-looking images with ease. The Smart Looks tool selects an effect from four variations which are based on image analysis, giving you the best result for each specific image without having to spend loads of time tweaking it.

As you might have noticed by now, the real selling point of this Adobe software is that it’s incredibly easy to use. Guided Edits take you step-by-step through the process of creating special effects such as motion blur or color splash (this is when a single color is shown in an otherwise greyscale image). Of course, there are plenty of Photoshop tools included too, including the spot healing brush and basic features like crop and sharpen.

Once you’ve finished your edits, you’ll find output equally as easy and fun. Elements’ new slideshow creator can automatically put together your best images in a fun and personal way. Sharing to Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr is easy, and the Facebook Cover tool can automatically blend your profile and cover photos using one of ten themes.

Unlike Photoshop, Elements is subscription-free, so it’ll only cost you a one-off fee. You’ll miss out on automatic updates because of this, but if you outgrow Elements’ capabilities you can also upgrade to Adobe’s pro-focused software.

It’s worth bearing in mind that the app’s installer is pretty huge at 2GB, and the actual installed program will need 2.5GB of space on your hard drive, so make sure you have enough space to run this beast before you buy it.

DxO OpticsPro 11 is another great choice for prosumer level photographers. It’s easy to use and is fantastic at reducing noise in images, as well as auto-correcting images based on camera and lens characteristics. Where it’s lacking though is organization, so you might want to give DxO a miss if you tend to work on lots of images at once.

If you’re just getting started in the world of photo editing, you’re not going to want to shell out on a pro-level program. For one, it will cost you more than you’re probably wanting to spend, and the features may be too advanced for you to get the most out of them. Our best entry-level software is Corel’s PaintShop Pro, and is a great Photoshop alternative.

There are two modes to choose from when you open up a new workspace in PaintShop:

Edit and Manage. Edit is, well, where you edit. There are plenty of auto-correction tools, including One Step Photo Fix which corrects lighting problems without the need to tweak the image manually. There’s also the usual histogram with lighting and color controls though, if you prefer to be a little more hands on, and you can create layers and manipulate images just as you can in Photoshop. If you’re looking to learn more about editing your images, Corel’s Learning Center panel on the user interface can guide you through a variety of editing tasks

Organization of your images is completed in Manage mode. In the same way that Photoshop isn’t an imaging management program, there are also limitations to this software when comparing it to the likes of Lightroom. It’s not possible to preview or tag images during importing, but once they’re showing in your workspace you can start to mark and categorize them. A real organization plus-point of this software is the Smart Collections feature, which allows you to create groups of images based on specified criteria such as the date or a certain tag.

Raw images import just fine, but do bear in mind that newer raw image file formats tend not to be supported by PaintShop as quickly as they are in other higher end software packages.

You are able to output in all the usual file formats (jpeg, gif, png), and you can directly upload either full-size originals or more compressed versions of your photos to Flickr and Facebook. Print options are pretty impressive for a lower end software such as PaintShop, and you can take advantage of CMYK separations and standard layout presets. We also love that you can soft-proof your images before you print, and there is a huge variety of printer profiles to choose from in the Color Management settings.

The interface isn’t the best of the bunch, and it can feel a little cluttered and confusing at times. But, if you can see past the messiness, this software really is very usable: no matter how little experience you’ve had in photo editing. Another potential downside is that many of Adobe’s flagship features such as typography and camera shake reduction are noticeably missing. But, if you can live without them, you can’t go far wrong with this affordable and flexible software.

ACDSee Ultimate is more expensive than Corel’s offering, but the customizable interface might be more appealing if you like to keep your workspace nice and streamlined. There’s a lack of pretty common features such as facial recognition, but plenty of adjustable effects just about make up for this. 

If you want a little more than apps like Instagram have to offer in the way of photo editing, but you don’t want to pay for the privilege, our best free software is Microsoft Photos.
Ok, so this is in no way a comprehensive editing tool, but if you want to take them up a notch before sharing them with the world, Microsoft’s free application will do the job just fine.

microsoft photos

You are able to edit an image in all the ways you’d expect, from cropping and straightening to adjusting lighting and contrast. It’s also possible to perform minor retouching tasks such as removing redeye from images. There are also lots of filters to choose from, so you can quickly and easily improve images without having to become a pro-editor first. If you want to get a little more creative, you can draw on your photos and create fun aminations from your artwork.

Organization is in the capable hands of OneDrive, where all your images will be stored in automatically created albums which you can then manually adjust. You can browse images by date or album, but there’s no option to tag images, so you’ll have to spend time arranging your folders if you want to stay super organized.

When it comes to sharing images, OneDrive is again at the heart of this. Invite people to view your new and improved albums. To ensure that you don’t lose your original images, you can compare the newly enhanced version to see if you’re happy with your work before you save the new version.

The touch-friendly interface is as user friendly as you’d expect for such a simple app, and it’s really quick and easy to browse your images to find the one you want to work on. Tools are laid out in an organized and logical way, so you’ll be able to navigate your workspace without any problems at all.

If you’re an Apple user, Apple Photos is the equivalent and is equally as good for making basic image adjustments, and its cloud-based storage system saves space and gives you access to your images wherever you are. As with all things Apple, the interface is slick and stylish, and it’s fun to use.

The downside of both of these software packages is the lack of complex edit tools. But, for apps that won’t cost you a penny, it’s hard to complain about that too much.

Conclusion

There’s a reason that Photoshop is one of the most iconic pieces of software in the history of computing, and that reason is that it sits head and shoulders above any other similar package that’s ever been available.

The amount of tools and features on-board is truly astounding, and even the most top-level photographers and designers will find everything they need in this neat and usable package. Newer users will need to hone their skills, but Adobe’s widely available tutorials will have beginners mastering it in no time. Each new version promises even more possibilities, and plugins mean that specialists can tailor their Photoshop to them, which is great for professional users.

The subscription might be annoying to some, but at $9.99 per month we think it’s a small price to pay for one of the best programs to have ever been created. If you’re serious about photography, go buy Photoshop immediately. 

About the author

John Thatch

John Thatcher is a computer science educated artist. He uses technology to solve artist problems. His friends don't like it when he speaks of himself in the third person. But John does it anyway, because he's a rebel.

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