Here Is The Best Photo Editing Software of 2019 | Light Stalking

Here Is The Best Photo Editing Software of 2019

When it comes to photography, even if you believe you've taken care of everything in the camera, before you present your photos to your clients, share them online or use them for any other purpose, it is always important to process your images to bring the best out of what you spent a lot of time creating. In this article, we will look at the best photo editing software of 2019.

Amar Saleem

In order to make your images look more professional, you will need to make some adjustments to your images. When you shoot raw, you will need to digitally develop your file, this is the same as how analogue film needs to be developed in the dark room. It is during this process, you bring out every bit of detail including the colours and other information from your raw file, making it presentable.

Every photographer works differently, which means, their workflow, the edits they are looking for, tools (for example, different tools required for portrait and landscape photography) will be different and as a result, their expectations from a post-processing software will be quite different.

For any photographer who deals with a large number of photographs, like a wedding, travel or event photographer they will need a post-processing software that will help them keyword, label, organise files, batch process whereas a hobby photographer may look for something different.

So the question is, how do you choose the right photo editing software based on your requirements?  We have presented here a few photo editing software packages both paid and free that we thought were the best based on certain criteria like ease of use, editing options, advanced tools and other unique features which will be presented for each software. The focus here is on the “best photo editing” part.

Based on the various factors, here is the round up of the best photo editing software of 2019 that includes one free and one online photo editor. Some of the software reviewed has great features and is easy to use, but they have gone down on the overall score due to low scores in terms of community.

SoftwareEase of UseFulfils PromiseFeaturesCommunityOverall Score
Adobe Lightroom9991037
Adobe Photoshop51091034
Luminar 3.1.01097632
Aurora HDR1096631
Capture One Pro 12888428
DxO PhotoLab698.5427.5
On1 Photo Raw 2019.28.587.5327
ACDSee PhotoStudio Ultimate 2019776727
Exposure X4797326
Affinity Photo896326
PortraitPro Professional787426
Paintshop Pro 2019 Ultimate6.587425.5
PhotoDirector 365767.5525.5

1. Adobe Lightroom:

Adobe Lightroom has high standards to be one of the best photo editing software out there but with the recent updates, the all in one program has been split into Lightroom Classic CC and Lightroom CC making things a bit more confusing especially for beginners in Lightroom. By this, we mean that some new users get confused over which version to use and/or are not aware of the two different versions and their functionalities. Some of its features are,

  • Lightroom Classic CC is the best of the both and it lets you organise images, keyword them, label them, enhance images using advanced tools like gradient tools, brushes, spot removal, healing, tone curves, split toning, use of camera profiles, lens profiles, removing chromatic aberrations, transform and so on.
  • The user interface although may seen a bit confusing at first, once the user understands the basics, Lightroom Classic CC can be a breeze to use if one knows what the different tabs, panels and sliders do to a photo in Lightroom. One can easily use the various advanced editing features to create outstanding images from raw files in a few minutes time and batch processing helps working on huge catalogs easier.
  • On the other hand, Lightroom CC is more like the mobile version of Lightroom and does not support the use of brushes. It is cloud based and helps with syncing photos, edits and presets between devices via cloud. It is a lighter version that can be used for some quick edits.
  • Adobe Sensei uses machine learning to recognise people's faces and other elements and then applies searchable keywords automatically.
Lightroom Classic Interface
  • Ease of Use: 9
  • Fulfils Promise: 9
  • Features: 9
  • Community: 10

Overall Score: 37

Adobe Lightroom can be purchased here as part of the Adobe Photography plan via creative cloud subscription along with Photoshop.

2. Adobe Photoshop:

Adobe’s Photoshop is also one of the best photo editing softwares available, but it can be hugely confusing and difficult for beginners to start with. It is a brilliant tool designed for professional photo editors looking for highly advanced tools and for artists looking to create illustrations, graphic designs, digital art, etc. but if you are looking to use photoshop solely for photo editing purposes, we think that would not be the best decision.

  • Photoshop comes with advanced retouching, masking and layering tools and has been a great software for a long time
  • A new, dedicated Content-Aware Fill workspace provides interactive editing experience to achieve seamless fill results. All thanks to Adobe Sensei technology
  • Opening raw files in photoshop need to be done via camera raw and there are a lot of tools in photoshop that you will never be using as a photographer.
  • The new version comes with multiple undo mode and it is enabled by default
  • Photoshop can now transform most layer types proportionally by default, it comes with live blend mode preview, colour wheel to choose colours and a lot more new features are packed into the new version.
Image via Adobe
  • Ease of Use: 5
  • Fulfils Promise: 10
  • Features: 9
  • Community: 10

Overall Score: 34

Similar to Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop needs to be purchased as part of the Adobe Photography plan via creative cloud subscription and comes as a package of Lightroom and Photoshop. You can purchase it here.

3. Skylum’s Luminar 3.1.0:

Although Luminar hit the photo editing market quite late compared to Adobe, it has quickly become one of the most popular photo editing softwares out there that many professional photographers use these days. It also provides  the facility for photographers to organise and edit the photos effectively. Some of the best features of Luminar 3 are,

  • Luminar comes with unique AI tools and signature look presets that can be applied to images quickly making them look the best.
  • One of Luminar’s most popular features is the Accent AI 2.0 which is the new generation of AI image enhancement where the AI slider lets a photographer make very quick fixes to the basic adjustments in an image with just one slider.
  • It also comes with some inbuilt presets (over 60 of them), for specific shot types and other filters like rays, light leaks and the Orton filter. You can make your images look best in a second’s time.
  • AI sky enhancement uses AI to make the skies in your image look incredible and this is done automatically.
  • Another advantage of purchasing Luminar is, you can either use it as a standalone software or as a plugin with Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. This way, if you have both softwares and would love to make use of the features that you have in both the softwares, then Luminar lets you just do that.
  • Luminar also is a friend to photographers who like working with adjustment layers.
Image via Skylum
  • Ease of Use: 10
  • Fulfils Promise: 9
  • Features: 7
  • Community: 6

Overall Score: 32

If you like Luminar’s features and are looking to purchase a copy, it can be bought here

4. Skylum’s Aurora HDR:

For anyone who focuses mostly on creating HDR images, Skylum’s Aurora HDR is one of the best software focusing mainly on HDR merging and processing. The software is powered by AI and it is well known for having no halos, artefacts or chromatic aberration in the final image. Some of its best features are,

  • Powered by artificial intelligence means, this software enables the highest quality of bracket merging and very high level of colour enhancement.
  • There are various advanced tools for editing like LUT mapping, polarising filter, colour toning, dodge, burn, and so on.
  • HDR Denoise feature automatically detects noise in the HDR images and removes them while still preserving quality and details in the image.
  • Aurora HDR can be used as a standalone version or as a plugin with Lightroom and Photoshop.
  • It also comes with some inbuilt presets and has the option to expand the dynamic range from single images.
  • Besides the above, it supports layers, masking, batch processing and raw files.
Image via Skylum
  • Ease of Use: 10
  • Fulfils Promise: 9
  • Features: 6
  • Community: 6

Overall Score: 31

Aurora HDR can be purchased here.

5. Phase One’s Capture One Pro 12:

Capture one pro is an application developed by Phase One and comes packed with some amazing features similar to photoshop. The software comes with customisable interface so the user can personalise it the way they want it to be. Some of Capture One Pro’s advanced features are,

  • Accurate and rich colours, faster processing, import and export, tethered shooting, powerful tools for organising, etc.
  • Layers are another fantastic feature of this software and there are many adjustments one can make to a layer.
  • Capture one pro supports more than 500 cameras and it has full featured support for Fujifilm and Sony cameras.
  • More features of Capture One Pro are advanced colour editing, annotations and the speed with which it can handle raw files, film curves, high dynamic range, luminosity masking, greyscale mask, PSD round trip support, rating, key wording, lens corrections, noise reduction and so on. It can also can be used as a plugin
Image via Capture One
  • Ease of Use: 8
  • Fulfils Promise: 8
  • Features: 8
  • Community: 4

Overall Score: 28

You can purchase it for either a one time fee or on a subscription basis and so there is greater flexibility in how you want to purchase the software. You can purchase Capture on pro here.

6. DxO PhotoLab:

DxO PhotoLab is a replacement for DxO Optics Pro and is an advanced photo editing software that is designed keeping professional standards for photographers in mind. Some of the best features of DxO PhotoLab are,

  • U point local adjustment technology that helps to apply local adjustments automatically to all similar points within the area you have selected without having to spend hours on complicated masking processes.
  • Moreover, DxO PhotoLab comes with customised profiles where the software can detect and correct flaws based on the lens that you used. The optical corrections feature helps correct flaws in lenses with a single click
  • Denoising technology helps maintain colours and details in your image even if they were shot at high iso. This is helpful for night sky photography and other night photography in very low light where shooting at high iso is required.
  • Settings in the software can be switched to manual or automatic depending on how you want to make adjustments to various features in the software.
  • Besides the above, other important features are photo library, graduated filters. brush tool, automatic repair to remove specks and unwanted objects, advanced colour management, smart lighting, etc.
  • If you want to apply perspective corrections to your image, then you will need to buy DxO Viewpoint which will have to be purchased at an extra cost.
Image via DxO
  • Ease of Use: 6
  • Fulfils Promise: 9
  • Features: 8.5
  • Community: 4

Overall Score: 27.5

DxO PhotoLab can be purchased here and does not have a subscription option.

7. On1 Photo Raw 2019.2:

On1 photo raw is an easy to use software that comes packed with hundreds of presets and filters, textures and borders, that you can use to beautify your images in a single click if that is what you are looking for – a quick edit before presentation. It is a very good photo organiser as well as a photo editor and has advanced features like use of brushes, masking tools, and any tool a professional photographer will be looking for. Some of its advanced features are,

  • The workflow in On1 Photo raw is quite efficient, powerful and at the same time simple. It almost has features of Lightroom and Photoshop and so if you are looking on leaning towards a photo editor other than Lightroom or Photoshop, then On1 Photo Raw may be your go to software for photo editing.
  • You can quickly browse, organise, manage and edit your images.
  • The use of layers lets the user create composites using multi layered photos while helping maintain a non-destructive workflow.
  • The filters and presets are stackable and customisable
  • There are other advanced editing features like retouching, masking, blending and use of brush tools.
  • Other very important features that photographers would be happy about is the HDR merge and panorama stitching.
Image via On1
  • Ease of Use: 8.5
  • Fulfils Promise: 8
  • Features: 7.5
  • Community: 3

Overall Score: 27

On1 photo raw is without a doubt one of the best softwares available and can be purchased here. On1 Photo Raw 2019.5 releases mid May.

8. ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2019:

ACDSee Photo Studio is another software package that has recently gained popularity amongst professional photographers. The interface of this software is simple and it comes with some advanced features like face recognition that help with sorting files. Some of the best features of ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate are,

  • This software allows you to make edits directly on the source files without the need to import them.
  • It is renowned for its performance based adjustment layers that let you do the editing faster and spend more time behind the camera.
  • Facial recognition feature lets the user non destructively target specific areas in the image.
  • The media buzz is that the develop module for this software has more choices compared to Lightroom.
  • Layered editing helps to make individual adjustments and effects that can be tweaked anytime later.
Image via ACDSee
  • Ease of Use: 7
  • Fulfils Promise: 7
  • Features: 6
  • Community: 7

Overall Score: 27

The software offers flexibility in terms of payments where you can go for either a one off payment or opt for monthly subscriptions. You can purchase it here.

9. GIMP:

GIMP is a very good software package with advanced features and tools almost similar to most advanced photo editing software and above all, it is free. Gimp comes loaded with advanced features like file management, retouching, cloning and even supports plugins that it can be considered as a free alternative to photoshop. Some of Gimp’s best features are,

  • It provides top-notch colour management features to ensure highly accurate colour reproduction.
  • Similar to advanced software, GIMP provides tools for high-quality photo manipulation like retouching, image restoration, composites, etc.
  • GIMP is also a great resource for artists looking to create digital art and other graphic designs.
Image via GIMP
  • Ease of Use: 6
  • Fulfils Promise: 8
  • Features: 6
  • Community: 7

Overall Score: 27

Moreover it supports all operating systems, has the ability to edit photos of all formats and it can be downloaded here.

10. Alien Skin Exposure X4:

Exposure X4 is a very good photo editor and photo organiser that can help a photographer create stunning images from raw files. The interface and features of this software have improved over the years and is truly famous for its over 500 vintage and film look presets. Some of the best features of Alien Skin Exposure X4 are,

  • Exposure’s raw processing engine is one of the best and helps get the best out of the raw files. Features like highlight and shadow recovery, noise reduction, sharpening, colour tone, white balance, HSL, work with outstanding performance.
  • The beautiful presets that can further be customised to create your own, help with creating beautiful images in a single click. You can also use exposure’s layer features and brushing tools to blend different edits.
  • Advanced view and audit features help to cull and edit images. The copy tool can be used to copy images from source and organise them with keywords or create collections. This way one can quickly categorise their photos.
  • Exposure is the only top and advanced photo editor that can help with accurate film emulation and other creative effects.
  • Exposure X4 is a non-destructive photo editor and can be used as a standalone software or as a plugin for Lightroom and Photoshop.
Image via Alienskin
  • Ease of Use: 7
  • Fulfils Promise: 9
  • Features: 7
  • Community: 3

Overall Score: 26

Alien Exposure can be purchased as a one time payment with no subscription options here.

11. Serif's Affinity Photo:

Affinity Photo is emerging to be one of the best photo editing software systems with its powerful features and better performance. It comes with a huge toolset that is aimed at creative artists and photographers and has most of the features to compete with most advanced photo editors in the market. Some of the best features of Affinity Photo are,

  • Professional corrections and adjustment tools that help you to enhance your images using levels, curves, HSL, lens correction and a lot more other non-destructive adjustments.
  • The retouching tools aid with cloning, dodging, burning, patch, red eye removal, recolouring, liquefy, healing, frequency separation, etc.
  • You can develop raw files and it comes with inbuilt profile corrections for hundreds of lenses.
  • HDR merging with tone mapping feature allows you to merge unlimited number of source files, automatically aligns them while providing a full range of tone mapping.
  • Helps with precise selection of objects while cutting, masking or selectively applying adjustments.
  • Supports import of .psd files while keeping the adjustments and layers intact.
  • Allows for batch processing and application of real time filters.
  • Besides the above it supports unlimited layers, adjustment layers, layer effects, blend modes, mask layers, layer groups, photo stitching, focus merge, recording macros, and so much more.
Image via Serif
  • Ease of Use: 8
  • Fulfils Promise: 9
  • Features: 6
  • Community: 3

Overall Score: 26

Affinity photo is available to purchase via a one off payment and can be bought here. Subscription options are not available.

12. PortraitPro Professional:

PortraitPro is a fast and easy portrait editing software and if you are a professional portrait photographer, then PortraitPro is one of the best softwares that has all the features required by professionals.  Some of the best features of this software are,

  • It allows working with layers, skin tone adjustments, removing wrinkles and blemishes, makeup tools and various other adjustments for perfect portrait retouch.
  • This software uses artificial intelligence and detects all facial features like skin, hair, etc., comes with fully adjustable sliders for retouching, lets edit and replace backgrounds, lets you reshape the face, enhance eyes and mouth, change lighting and so on.
Image via PortraitPro Professional
  • Ease of Use: 7
  • Fulfils Promise: 8
  • Features: 7
  • Community: 4

Overall Score: 26

PortraitPro comes as three editions – standard, studio and studio max and can be used as a plugin with photoshop. You can buy PortraitPro here.

13. Corel Paintshop Pro 2019 Ultimate:

Corel Paintshop Pro is a software system very similar to On1 photo raw and Photoshop and is one that lets the user quickly make some edits and/or apply presets/filters to their images so they can be shared. It comes with some advanced features necessary to post-process images, and some of its advanced features are,

  • AI presets, retouching features, hundreds of creative filters, textures, backgrounds, brushes, 360 degree photo editing feature, graphic design templates and other options like blur, clone, heal, background replacement, etc. that are some of the top reasons to try Paintshop Pro.
  • The latest version comes with enhanced performance, speed and quality so photographers can work more efficiently and achieve better results faster.
  • The user interface is quite simple and there are options to migrate your plugins from previous versions during the upgrade.
  • Intelligent photo adjustment feature lets you enhance photos using a single click and you can quickly sort, select and edit your raw files.
Image via PaintShop Pro
  • Ease of Use: 6.5
  • Fulfils Promise: 8
  • Features: 7
  • Community: 4

Overall Score: 25.5

The starting price for this software at the time of writing this article is $60 and can be purchased here.

14. CyberLink’s PhotoDirector 365:

PhotoDirector 365 comes with professional quality tools and easy to use features that can help a photographer turn their photos into creative works. Some of the advanced features of this software are,

  • Photo management with AI facial recognition where you once tag a face in a photo, and the next time, PhotoDirector automatically detects and tags that face for you.
  • The touch-up tools are easy to use and help portrait photographers to remove blemishes and other imperfections from images.
  • Photodirector comes with other features like dehaze, tethered shooting, advanced layer editing, content-aware editing, one-click photo presets, and so on.
Image via Cyberlink
  • Ease of Use: 7
  • Fulfils Promise: 6
  • Features: 7.5
  • Community: 5

Overall Score: 25.5

Photodirector 365 can be purchased here.

15. Fotor:

Fotor is a cloud-based photo editing software that has both a free desktop version and the online version. Some of the best features of this software are,

  • The user interface is simple, has the option to use layers and allows you to edit raw files. It almost looks like an online version of Photoshop.
  • Besides the photo editing suite, there are advanced tools for creating HDR effects, image touch up, portrait retouching and also options to make use of fonts, shapes and stickers.
  • There are a large selection of filters to give your images a magical touch.
Image via Fotor
  • Ease of Use: 7
  • Fulfils Promise: 6
  • Features: 5
  • Community: 7

Overall Score: 25

The premium content in Fotor are not free and need to be purchased. Fotor can be downloaded here.

Final Thoughts On Photo Editing Software:

There was a time when Photoshop was the only word that came to mind when there were discussions about image editing software, but in the recent years, there is a lot of other software that is as good as or even better than photoshop for editing images. Photoshop is excellent, but other programs deserve to be looked into that are cheaper, more straightforward and powerful.

What photo editing software do you use? Do you think that a particular software should have made it to the list here? If yes, please leave a comment below with the reason why.

Additional Resources For Photo Editing Software:

  1. The 100 Best Free Photo Editing Software and Management Tools
  2. The Best Photography Software for 2019
  3. What is Really the Best Post-processing Software?
  4. 17 Best Affordable & Free Photo Editing Software In 2019
  5. 10 Best Photo Editing Software for PC [2019 List]
  6. The Best Photo Editing Apps You Need to Try
About the author

Dahlia Ambrose

Dahlia is a stock photographer and full time educator at Light Stalking. You can find her on Gurushots and see some of her more popular articles at The American Society of Media Photographers. Get to know her better here.


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