Choosing the best image editing software is complicated, not just because there are so many alternatives, but because they all do different things. It all depends on what you look for most in your photo editing software. Here are ten programs with ten different approaches.
Life after Photoshop software reviews
Choosing the right software isn't easy and you often have to try quite a few different applications to find the ones that suit you. We're all looking for different things, and quite often a single piece of software won't do everything that we need.
Some people simply want a Photoshop replacement without the subscription payments, some want an image cataloguing tool that can also carry out photo enhancements, some primarily want an image effects tool for crafting a very particular 'look'. Most of us want a bit of all of these things.
• Always download the trial version if there is one. My best guess at what photographers need is not necessarily right for you.
These reviews are designed not just to see whether the software out there is any good or not, but to explain exactly what it does and how it might fit into your workflow.
I don't review every program out there, only those which I personally consider add something significant to the image-editing process. There are some notable and quite possibly very popular programs not in my review list but that's because – and I don't want to upset any publishers out there – I don't think they're different enough, interesting enough or just plain good enough.
Verdict: 5 stars Capture One just keeps on getting better. The new basic color editor, improved high dynamic range options and numerous other tweaks are all worthwhile and well thought out additions to a program that’s already at the top of its game.
Verdict: 4.5 stars DxO PhotoLab is the new name for the program previously known as DxO PhotoLab. Its legendary RAW processing and optical corrections are made even better now with its very good local adjustment tools.
Verdict: 4.5 stars Skylum Luminar Flex is the ‘plug-in’ version of Luminar 3, so why is it being sold separately? Find out why, and how this could be the better choice.
Verdict: 3 stars Sharpener Pro’s output sharpening tools are a reminder that images need to be optimised to look their best on different printers, and at different sizes. However, its ‘capture sharpening’ tools feel like they’re just a little too late in the workflow, when most of us would apply sharpening during RAW processing, or in the ‘host’ application used to launch Sharpener Pro.
Verdict: 2.5 stars Dfine feels like an old-fashioned solution to a problem that has changed. There are now many ways of controlling noise in-camera or in RAW software, and the real issue these days is not just finding a tool that can do it well, but doing it at the right point in your workflow.
Verdict: 3.5 stars Viveza is a great tool for making fast and effective adjustments to colour images, but it now feels a bit redundant. The Nik Collection’s other creative plug-ins come with equally powerful control point corrections of their own, as does DxO PhotoLab Essential, the Nik Collection’s new ‘host’ program.
Verdict: 4 stars HDR Efex Pro 2 manages to make HDR relatively easy, and it produces ‘good’ HDR which is dynamic, rich and exciting. It still wraps it up in a bit too much jargon, but it does produce a good variety of ready-made HDR presets so that you don’t have to get caught up in the manual adjustments if you don’t want to.
The name is the same, but despite the apparent similarities, these are two very different programs. So what are the key differences between Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic CC, and how do you choose which one to use?
Verdict: 5 stars . Colour Efex Pro initially looks a little dated, but dig deeper and you’ll find its best filters are very useful indeed and the ability to combine filters into Recipes dramatically expands its potential.