So you’ve just taken the perfect photo of your cheese croissant at your favorite diner down the street but in a horrible mistake, you accidentally included the spot where you spilled your hot coffee on their table and you really don’t want to include that in the photo or maybe you just won a Jackpot Capital Bonus and want to take a picture of it to show off to everyone you know but included on the screen is just a little too much personal info for you to share.
Maybe you just have a picture of a weird funny cat that you want to edit onto the body of an American Bullfrog. I’m not judging.
But whatever the reason you need a photo editing program. Finding a good one out there can actually be quite hard. Mostly because there’s actually a lot of them out there. There are just a lot of people who want to edit photos I guess.
I’ll be trying to rank these based on which ones I’ve actually tried. There might be some really amazing perfect photo editing program out there but I might just not know of it or have used it. Like I said before, there’s a lot of photo editing programs out there!
Paid photo editing programs
I’ll be starting off by going through all the photo editors that you have to pay money for. I know some people out there really don’t like having to pay for stuff, especially on a computer, but if you want the programs with the best user environment, advanced capabilities, and unique features then you’re going to have to fork out some money.
You can’t have a list of programs for photo editing and not include the one that created a word people practically use for the act of editing photos. Photoshop is the old reliable program that just can’t be beaten if you want something you know will be powerful, advanced with an amazing user interface.
There really isn’t a limit to what you can do with Photoshop when it comes to anything to do with photos. The only real downside is its price. Photoshop has been steadily rising in price for the past decade and is quite pricey now.
To add to that you can’t even buy the program outright, you have to get their subscription. And that subscription can be as high as 50$ a month depending on what level you get. The only plus side to that system I can think of is that you get access to all of Adobes programs through the one subscription, you don’t have to buy them all separately. Although some could argue they’d rather buy them all separately than have to pay a subscription each month.
While on the topic of Adobe products I thought I should at least mention Illustrator. While it wasn’t originally created for photo editing if you want to draw something custom for a photo it’s amazing. Its major selling point is that everything is vector graphics, which means they can be scaled up or down flawlessly.
If you’re already planning on paying the subscription for photoshop you should definitely check out Illustrator.
And I promise this isn’t just going to turn into an Adobe list but I just can’t mention those other Adobe programs without at least mentioning Lightroom.
Lightroom is like Photoshop but only for photo editing and is designed for ease of use. While Photoshops interface (as amazing as it is) can have a lot of clutter for someone who just wants to make simple professional-level photo edits that you really should look into Lightroom.
To add on top of that it also has some great features that even photoshop has, like the ability to organize your photos in the program itself so you don’t have to worry about getting some other program to organize all your photos. It even lets you organize them based on any system you want pretty much. With built-in features for setting stuff like due dates for editing photos where it’ll remind you about them and other great things.
Finally moving away from Adobe products I present an alternative program to Adobe. Skylum Luminar is definitely a newer program from any of Adobes but that doesn’t mean it’s any worse.
Luminar is getting more popular by the day and for good reason. Easily almost as powerful as Lightbox it contains much of the same features with even some that Lightbox doesn’t have, like automatic AI editing. The big thing that it lacks in the photo organization that Lightbox has but that can easily be forgiven, that’s less of a requirement for a photo editor and more of a nice added bonus.
Along with AI editing it has loads of preset filters that you can just throw onto any photo and then just touch up. I would list them but there are too many for me to even bother trying. But all you need to know is that it ranges from everything to making a photo look like it’s taken during golden hour to automatically making drone shots beautiful.
On top of all that, it isn’t a subscription service like Adobe but a flat fee you pay and you own the program. Some would argue that by itself is enough reason to switch.
Free alternative photo editors
Of course, you might just be getting into the hobby of taking your own photos and editing them and you don’t want to fork out too much money just yet. Or maybe you just don’t want to fork out that much money regardless of why you’re taking photos.
But either way, you don’t need to worry. I have a few amazing alternative free photo editing programs that you can just download and use within an hour without needing to pay a single cent.
Gimp is almost as old as Photoshop. Well for younger people maybe, but they were actually made almost a decade apart. But even so with the program that is old yet still used by many today, you might realize just why people say it’s one of, if not the greatest, photoshop alternatives.
Made with Unix operating systems in mind Linux lacks some of the obvious masterful work that went into the user interface in a lot of the bigger expensive photo editing programs. But can you really blame it, it’s a free open source project that countless people have contributed to for the almost two and so decades that the program has been available. I’d be beyond impressed if they were able to manage a beautifully intuitive user interface on top of that.
But what it lacks in UI, Gimp completely makes up for in power. I doubt there’s really anything at all that Photoshop can do that Gimp can’t. And if somehow there is a feature that Gimp isn’t able to do that Photoshop can do then there are countless (read: endless) plugins for Gimp that do literally anything you would ever need.
So the end verdict on Gimp; If you want a program that can do anything Photoshop can for free then choose Gimp. Of course, bear in mind Gimp is going to have a much higher learning curve trying to figure out all the different features than Photoshop will.
Paint.net is very far from being as powerful or fancy as literally anything else on this list but that doesn’t mean it can’t be as useful as anything else on this list.
Its interface is quite simple and straight to the point. It doesn’t do that much but what it can do it does exactly as it should. While it misses some of the fancier features that you would need to make truly high-quality photos Paint.net can easily edit and touch up photos quickly and without you needing to figure out pretty much anything
Definitely recommend at least having it installed, who knows when you’ll just want to crop out something or edit some stuff in and don’t want to wait to boot up one of the bigger fancier programs.
On top of that just like Gimp, Paint.net is open-sourced and there are a plethora of free plugins you can download to add a metric buttload of more advanced features to it.
Barry Lachey is a Professional Editor at Zobuz. Previously He has also worked for Moxly Sports and Network Resources “Joe Joe.” he is a graduate of the Kings College at the University of Thames Valley London. You can reach Barry via email or by phone.