There have been hundreds and thousands of articles written about the best software that any photographer should use. They’ll tell you why you should use this software, and how it makes you a better editor of photographs. What this article well set out to achieve once and for all, is the best piece of editing software for you and your needs.
What’s Out There?
Before we can begin to decide what the best editing software is for you, you need to understand that there are two distinct categories available that will be critical in your decision of what you will use.
Photoshop & the like…
Firstly, there are the Photoshop type editing programs. There offer powerful image manipulation, and although not as easy to use as dedicated photo editing software, many people will use them either as a solo photo editing program or as an additional step.
These programs include the already mentioned Photoshop, which is the Gold standard in photo manipulation, and the only things that put people off buying it are it’s steep learning curve and subscription model which ensures that Adobe will always have a grip on you and your images.
Secondly for the Photoshop type editing program you have Gimp, which is the leading free Photoshop replacement, and in many respects just as usable, although it is missing non-destructive editing for a lot of its components. You also have other programs such as Affinity Photo which people enjoy. Affinity is cheap, you only pay once and keep it, and it is great for everyday use, is a bit more complicated than other programs.
Lightroom & the like…
The second category is the Lightroom type editing program. These are more specifically for editing photographs, they have a light table feature which displays rows of photos which you can view, bulk edit etc and see side by side comparisons of many different images.
Lightroom is of course the offering from Adobe that has set the gold standard. It’s an all encompassing photo editor that is used by most professional photography editors. It’s drawback for many is that it’s a subscription service, but there are plenty of alternatives.
Darktable is the leading Lightroom alternative, and in many ways is much more powerful, but had a very steep learning curve. It offers everything and more that Lightroom does, but it’s completely free.
We also have Capture One which is great and a one off fee (although they do offer free versions for Fuji, Nikon and Sony users), plus ON1 Photo Raw which again is a one off payment and a very powerful program to boot! Currently Luminar 4 is the talk of every photographer, and it’s an amazing program.
Which is the very best to use – let’s settle this once and for all…
Above was an outline of various software, they all perform amazingly, they all offer various models of payment and in reality they will all get the job done.
The best thing of all is that they each offer free trials of their software!!! Unlike other reviewers or bloggers, I’m not going to say you should use this or that software, I’m going to suggest you download and software that has taken your eye and try the free trial!
The best software that money can buy is the software that suits your needs best, and for the most part it’s all about the user interface and learning curve. There is no right or wrong answer to this!
What software do I use?
As someone who holds classes, runs photography groups and is heavily involved in photography, I am lucky to have a lot of software which I need to know in order to help others. However, I do have my favourites. I really enjoy Darktable and Gimp for my main processing, although I also enjoy Luminar 4, Photoshop and a little program called Photoscape X Pro, which I use probably more than any others when just sorting through jpegs ready to put up on the internet.
Take advantage of these free trials and also help me out!
I am an affiliate for Luminar, and if you’d like a special deal on this software, plus have £10/$10/$10 of your software, use code GPWNPT and go through this link.
If you’d like to try ON1 for an exclusive trial, use this link.
— I do not make money from these links, but it gives me the opportunity to try the latest versions so that I may pass on my knowledge to the photography groups I run online and in person.