Photo editing or post-production is now an integral part of photo hobbyists’ and pros’ workflows, and is often the second most critical step to producing a photograph after taking the shot itself. With such importance, it is crucial for photographers to find editing software that can fulfill and support all of their needs, ranging from basic editing control to adjust brightness and contrast, to more complex solutions for performing non-destructive edits with layers and masks, as well as manage an entire library of images. Here’s a look at some of the most popular options available for handling your photographs post-capture.
Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan
Beginning with the most recognizable photo-editing software around, Adobe Photoshop is a product so well known that its name has been transmogrified into a verb. There is little to say that hasn’t already been said for years about the king of photo-editing software; Photoshop is an incredibly well-rounded application that covers anything from making slight brightness and contrast adjustments, processing raw files, or retouching images all the way up to producing multi-layered, stitched image composites rife with selections and masks. Photoshop is available as part of a full-fledged Adobe Creative Cloud subscription; however, for photographers, the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan bundles Photoshop with its younger brother and second most well-known photo-editing software, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.
Introduced almost exactly 16 years after the birth of Photoshop, Lightroom (technically called “Photoshop Lightroom”) is a slightly scaled-down, more specialized image-editing application. Intended more for photographers than all creatives working with “imagery,” Lightroom is best-known for its non-destructive editing environment, raw file processing capabilities, and file organization and management capabilities. Lightroom is also better tailored to digital photographers in particular, due to the inclusion of several tools for performing batch, repetitive, and synchronized edits. Since the introduction of the Creative Cloud Photography Plan, and Lightroom’s inclusion within it, this software has also bifurcated into Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic CC. Lightroom CC is designed to exist within a cloud-based editing workflow, with automatic syncing and backups, while Lightroom Classic CC is a desktop-focused version supporting local storage methods.
Adobe Photoshop Elements 2023
For those who don’t need the huge power that the full version of Photoshop provides, Adobe is continuing to release the light version of this application: Adobe Photoshop Elements 2023. One of the key differences between elements and Creative Cloud-based applications is that Elements applications are not subscription based; you will own this software indefinitely. Besides that difference, it’s really up to figuring if the lighter feature set can benefit the way you work with photographs. It is a much simpler interface and won’t be the best choice for complex selections and masking, but if you’re the photographer looking to just spruce up the contrast and color of a photo and then make a small print to gift to someone, Elements 2023 might be all you need.
Capture One Pro 23
One of the strongest competitors to Adobe’s offerings, in terms of professional workflows and file management, Capture One software gained popularity early on as an apt solution for shooting tethered. Beyond its vast support for various cameras and raw file types, Capture One is also a very capable image-editing solution, especially in regard to color management, as well as file organization through the use of Catalogs and Sessions. Now in the aptly named “23” edition, Capture One Pro is becoming a more well-rounded software with each release, and is complementing more general photo-editing needs with updating and new tools, layered workflows, and improved color handling.
Skylum Luminar Neo and Aurora HDR
One of the younger entrants in the world of photo editing software, Skylum’s Luminar has quickly become a popular choice for general editing, raw processing, and file organization needs. Now called Luminar Neo, one of the key distinctions of this software is the use of AI processes throughout the editing workflow. AI can be faster and more efficient, and sometimes can be a useful tool to help resolve creative blocks. Whatever the case, the multitude of AI capabilities in Luminar makes it a smart and easy-to-use application that can, of course, be used manually for full personal control.
Complementing the versatility of Luminar is the specialty of Aurora HDR, which is a purpose-built software for achieving an increased dynamic range. It’s suitable for compositing multiple frames into an HDR composite or can work with single-frame images.
Serif Affinity Photo 2
Another well-rounded alternative, Affinity Photo 2 is a versatile program characterized by its layer-based, non-destructive editing workflow. Beyond the standard editing tools you’d expect from most applications, Affinity ups it with support for raw file processing, HEIF file support, and the ability to composite HDR and focus-stacked images. It’s also especially flexible, with compatibility with Mac, Windows, and iOS for iPad.
Corel PaintShop Pro 2022 Ultimate
Last in our look at editing tools for photographers is a bundle from Corel: PaintShop Pro 2022 Ultimate. The base of this suite, PaintShop Pro 2022, is a non-destructive editing application fitted with raw file editing capabilities, a layers-based workflow, and numerous templates and other creative assets to kick-start your creative process. A range of text tools allows you to introduce elements of graphic design to imagery, and photographers also benefit from HDR tools and content-aware fill technology. In addition to PaintShop Pro, this bundle also includes Highlight Reel, MultiCam Capture Light, Painter Essentials 8, Sea-to-Sky Workspace, Corel AfterShot 3, and Corel Creative Collection.
Have you a favorite photo-editing program? Tell us about it in the Comments section, below.