Remember the time when you were scrolling through your Instagram feed and you stumbled upon that random image that made you wonder, “Why doesn’t my uploads look that good?”
Well, it has a lot to do with the camera, equipment, and much more to do with expertise with photography. But never underestimate the power of post-processing or image-editing software.
Image-processing software the likes of Adobe Lightroom allows you to craft your photos the way a potter sculpts a vase on a potter wheel.
For most professionals, Adobe Lightroom is considered to be the gold standard for editing pictures. It can cater to almost all your photo editing needs, but it might not be everyone’s cup of tea.
In this post, we would be looking into photo-editing software that can prove to be a great Adobe Lightroom alternative.
We would also try to speculate why some people steer away from Adobe Lightroom and seek other alternatives to Lightroom.
Adobe Lightroom at a glance
Since its launch in 2007 Adobe Lightroom has been a cult favorite among professionals and hobbyists alike.
But since they switched to a subscription pricing model for all their products there was dampened turmoil within their fanbase.
Now, getting down to the brass tacks, Adobe Lightroom is a great image-editing software.
You can edit, retouch and apply your signature color tone to all your images, at the click of a button. It is mostly used for creating a workflow for your post-processing tasks.
It is compatible with Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android devices, and lets you edit your images on the go.
So photographers can click their images on their mobile phones or DSLR and can use any of their signed-in devices to process their images.
Thanks to their cloud-based project backup service, syncing your projects on multiple devices is effortless. Their strong community support and in-app tutorials can help aspiring photographers get up to speed with image processing at a fast pace.
No, there is no free version of Lightroom available right now. But you can definitely download and use Lightroom for free on a trial basis for 30 days. After which you have to select from different Lightroom subscription options.
The subscription model of Adobe Lightroom is one of the primary reasons why users seek out other Lightroom alternatives.
You can’t get a one-time perpetual license for Lightroom anymore. You have to either subscribe to an annual plan paid monthly for $9.99 per month or a prepaid annual plan of $119.88.
So for aspiring creative photographers and content creators, they have to keep sheeling money every month.
That’s why in the subsequent sections we would be talking about other best alternatives to Lightroom and also list a few free alternatives.
You should go for Skylum Luminar if you want an alternative to Lightroom which is easy to use and doesn’t have much of a learning curve. Its AI-powered image-processing engine makes styling your images easy and fast.
Those days of trial and error to select the best styling option is behind you. Luminar is available on Windows and Mac platforms along with a one-time purchase option too.
AI-Assisted templates – Luminar’s AI assistance would be its USP. With the help of AI, Luminar figures out the elements in your photo, the objects in focus, and the overall lighting condition of the whole shot. Then, it provides you AI-assisted templates that are tailor-made for your picture. In this way, you need not start editing from scratch and make the most of the suggested templates for your images.
Unified styling – When you are taking multiple shots from a single location, it is better to apply similar styles to different perspectives. So to achieve similar editing styles to multiple images you should use unified styling. Unified styling comes in handy when you have images of mixed quality from different devices.
Smart landscape tools – The smart landscape tools allow you to transform different elements of a landscape. You can edit the atmospheric light, or sky background and replace it with existing templates.
Portrait enhancement – You can perform skin, lip, eyebrow, smile enhancement, and many such facial enhancements using Luminar. Simply select the type of enhancement you want in your image and its AI-power image processing engine will take of the rest.
Pricing – You can get a perpetual license for 2 machines at $99. You can also opt for an annual subscription plan at $59.00 per year. Check out their available license here.
With On1 Photo RAW, you would get the best of both worlds. On1 brings together the classic cataloging and workflow creation feature of Lightroom and the extensive masking and pixel-level editing of Photoshop.
With the help of its AI-powered editing preset options, editing your images would be faster and less hectic.
They also have different subscription options depending on your cloud backup needs and also provides lifetime license purchases too.
Effortless syncing across devices – On1 Photo RAW lets you sync your projects with ease. This allows you to access your projects and edit your images on the move on any Android/ iOS smartphone or Windows/ Mac machine.
Predefined presets and filters – The predefined presets and filters come with a specific color and tone-setting which you can directly use for your images. Such AI-powered options and tone suggestions can save a lot of processing time.
Smart photo management system – On1 Photo RAW flaunts an amazing photo management library system. It allows you to organize and search your photos on the basis of image metadata too. That means you can search images on the basis of ISO settings.
Pricing – You can use the On1 Photo RAW on a trial basis for 14 days. After that, you can select from either licensing or subscription options. You can get a lifetime license for $63.99. If you are more inclined towards a subscription plan, you can opt for a monthly subscription starting from $7.99 or an annual subscription starting at $89.99.
Two adjectives that define AfterShot Pro are “Lean” and “Powerful”. The software’s architecture has better performance than Adobe Lightroom and allows you to organize, edit, and do intricate corrections to your images with ease.
Its lens correction kit and image preset library can help you reduce your image-processing turnaround time.
Ultra-fast workflow – AfterShot Pro 3 boasts to be 3 times faster than Adobe Lightroom. Its software architecture allows you to create ultra-fast workflows and provides powerful batch-processing capabilities. Also, it has a smaller installed footprint that enables you to use AfterShot Pro on notebooks too.
Hassle-free photo management – AfterShot Pro doesn’t force you to import images in the catalog. All you need to do is specify the path of the network drive, memory card, or folder. Its powerful digital asset management tools can help you organize your images as it grows.
Easy integration – It has a dedicated “Send to external editor” button to quickly export your items to Photoshop or other editors.
Pricing – Corel AfterShot Pro is reasonably priced given the features it possesses. You can get a one-time license of the AfterShot Pro 3 for $63.99.
Download Link – Before your purchase your copy, make sure you try out the trial version here.
4. Raw Therapee
Raw Therapee is one of the best free Lightroom alternative. It gives you complete creative freedom when it comes to image processing.
For starters, the UI might be a bit complicated to get used to, but it definitely has more features than Lightroom. It’s free and supported on Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms.
History Panel and snapshot – One cool feature of Raw Therapee is its ability to grab a snapshot of the edits that you are making. While editing your images, all your actions and image manipulations are recorded in history. So you can undo them anytime.
Open-source – It’s free. Yes, it’s an open-source image processing platform. You can download Raw Therapee and use it as your desire.
Linux support – Yes it is supported on Linux systems and works flawlessly with heavy RAW image editing.
Pricing – It’s free. No subscriptions or licensing costs are involved.
DxO PhotoLab is known for its powerful RAW-processing engine. You can use it to set up your workflow, using smart-search options.
Its AI-powered presets and filters suggest the best tone and correction settings for your images. It comes in variants, the Essential and Elite, and can be used on Windows and Mac systems.
Customizable Workspace – Not only does DxO PhotoLab have a user-friendly UI, but it also lets you customize the application according to your needs. Depending on your image-processing demands you can organize and group the tools that you would be using frequently and arrange them accordingly. You can even hide/ unhide rarely used tools whenever you desire. The end result, a clean workbench for image-processing.
Optical Correction – DxO PhotoLab has analyzed thousands of lenses and camera combinations. They use this data to support automatic optical correction and suggest presets that best suit your image.
Selective retouching – Selective retouching allows you to add filters and edit the tone/ contrast/ saturation of a particular portion or element in the image. Simply select the area where you want to retouch and all your changes would be applied to that portion and nowhere else.
Pricing – DxO PhotoLab is available in two variants. The Essential edition would cost you $99.99 and can be used on 2 machines. While the Elite edition can be bought for $149.99 and can be simultaneously used on 3 machines.
With the Elite edition, you can get a lot many AI-powered adjustments, filters, and presets that can speed up your image processing and editing tasks.
Apple Photos is a free Lightroom alternative for Apple product owners. It is also a decent Lightroom alternative for Mac. Even though you can’t have advanced editing options like Lightroom, Apple Photos is best suited for social media content creators who want to share and upload content frequently.
Smart search options – Apple Photos provide you complete freedom to search through your gallery. You can search images based on geotagging, name, or object. Apple’s image recognition helps you in searching for the image that you are looking for with ease.
RAW processing and easy to share – You can edit your RAW images from your iPhone/ iPad or from your Mac device. After editing your images you can share them with any of your contacts or your social media platforms with ease.
Cloud syncing – With the option of iCloud you can automatically sync your edited images. This allows you to access your contents on any of your Apple devices.
Pricing – Apple Photos is free on Mac devices and iOS platforms but can’t be used on Windows machines or Android smartphones.
DarkTable is yet another free Lightroom alternative. It is supported on Windows, Mac, Linux, and many other operating systems.
The application is available in 21 different languages and is well known for its image-processing performance.
Non-destructive editing – Thanks to DarkTable’s non-destructive editing all your original images are never altered. When you start processing your images, DarkTable creates a copy and all your editing is done on the copy of the image. In this way, all your RAW images can be repurposed for future use.
GPU accelerated image processing – Thanks to OpenCL support image-processing is fast. All DarkTable core functions are optimized so that even high-quality RAW image processing isn’t sluggish.
Intelligent Export system – DarkTable provides you different exporting options. You can export your images in different formats and resolutions and even share them over mail or different social media platforms at the click of a button.
Pricing – You can install and use DarkTable free of cost. No licensing is required. Simply select your operating system, install the right package, and get started.
8. Affinity Photo
Affinity Photo is one of the best Lightroom alternatives for Mac. Its performance is what makes it stand out from other image-processing software. It has the ability to create stunning HDR images.
It even has 360-degree editing capability. While selective editing lets you alter a portion of the image without hampering the rest of the image’s real estate.
Unlimited layering – With the help of Affinity Photo you would be able to apply unlimited layers to your images. With such freedom, your imagination is the only limitation. You can use layers along with different filters, presents, and blend modes to push your creativity up a notch.
Powerful customizable brushwork – Designers can use a huge variety of brushes to customize or create cool designs. You can customize your brushes and even combine multiple brushes while making a single stroke. You can even create your own brush configuration or import brush files from other users too. If you were wondering about putting your Apple Pencil to good use, this might just be the opportunity.
Flawless photo stitching – Creating a panorama from existing images couldn’t have been easier. Affinity Photo’s algorithm automatically adjusts and aligns different images and stitches them together to give you the best panoramic output.
Pricing – You can buy an Affinity Photo license for $24.99 for Windows and Mac platforms. While the iPad license would cost you merely $9.99.
Affinity Photo provides 90 days free trial. Click hereto download your trial copy.
9. Google Photos
Google Photos is best for use on smartphones as it allows you to edit your photos in a jiffy and share it on any platform. You can use it for free and on any device.
All you need to do is log in with your Google credentials and you can access all your photos on any device.
User-friendly search options – It is very easy to search your photos. You can search your photos on the basis of creation date, location, and even by naming the object or element present in the photo.
Quick editing – Google Photos is meant for quick editing. The application is simple and has different presets and filters that you can use to edit your image.
Easy to share – You can install Google photos on any device, and all your images would get directly synced and can be accessed anywhere. It’s also very easy to share photos on different social media platforms too.
Pricing – Google Photos is free and can be downloaded on any device. It is a cloud-based application and can be downloaded on smartphones from their respective app stores.
Lightzone is a free Lightroom alternative. You can download the latest version from their GIT repository and use it to process RAW images. It allows you to add or edit different layers and adjust color tone during post-processing.
Black and White image processing – Lightzone’s post-processing abilities can fully be exploited when you are working on black & white images. Its powerful image processor makes the black & white images pop out.
Powerful RAW processing – With Lightzone processing heavier RAW images can be done swiftly. It also does lossless image processing of RAW images.
Pricing – Lightzone is a free open-source image editor. You can download the latest version here.
Is DarkTable better than Lightroom?
Both Lightroom and DarkTable share a lot of similarities. They both have similar cataloging systems and lets you tether your camera right from the application.
They even support non-destructive image editing.
Now let’s talk about their differences.
DarkTable is free. For life. Due to its open-source nature, you can use DarkTable without requiring any license.
DarkTable also packs a lot more features than Lightroom. The statement might entice you, but you have to consult DarkTable documentation thoroughly before you memorize the steps and correct sequence for doing advanced editing.
Another feature of DarkTable that I liked was its ability to specify the focus points in an image. This feature isn’t available in Lightroom.
But Lightroom flaunts an easy-to-use interface, which doesn’t require much of a learning curve. And you can use Lightroom on your smartphones and mobile devices too.
So to quantify which is better of the two, we have rated them over a handful of criteria. Here’s how they stand.
DarkTable (Rating out of 5)
Lightroom (Rating out of 5)
Ease of use
Device support & syncing
So considering the above criteria, DarkTale appears to be a bit better than Lightroom.
Well, it’s just me, many people can feel otherwise.
GIMP vs Lightroom: Is gimp as good as Lightroom?
GIMP is a free image editing tool that works on Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms.
Using GIMP you can perform basic image editing, retouching, and add different effects to your images.
But if you are demanding more than just basic editing and want to edit RAW images, use your editing preset across many images, then Lightroom is the right option for you.
Even though Lightroom subscription is expensive, from a performance, functionality, and usability point of view Lightroom would be a clear winner.
Also, its cloud backup and mobile compatibility allow you to edit your images on your smartphones and tablets while on the move.
If I were you, I’d try out other free Lightroom alternatives like DarkTable or Raw Therapee before choosing GIMP.