If you ask pro photographers which raw photo editing software they use for their work, a majority of them would name Lightroom as their top choice. It’s not to say that other competitors aren’t good but rather that Lightroom has developed a very high reputation for itself over the many years of its dominance in this market. It not only brings good quality but also comes from a tech giant, which means it’s supported 24/7 and is updated with new features regularly.
Despite those great things though, many new photographers who are getting serious about their photo editing process are looking for free Lightroom alternatives, since many of these free raw photo editors offer a lot of what Lightroom does and that’s quite enough for a number of people who don’t want the most advanced features. If you’re one of these people, this is the right place for you. We have compiled a list of the best free Lightroom alternatives that you can give a try before deciding whether Lightroom is a necessity for you or not.
As far as Lightroom’s free alternatives go, RawTherapee is a solid choice if you don’t want all the bells and whistles of Lightroom but rather just need a free raw photo editor. The software has a clean interface and allows for non-destructive editing that is something very important for anyone who is serious about their photo editing.
With RawTherapee, you can easily adjust the exposure, contrast, white balance, and much more in your photos which is why it’s a very good free alternative to Lightroom. If you want to edit your photos further, then the software can export your files to another free program, GIMP, that provides many more tools for you to work with.
Ever since LightZone has become open source, it’s been one of the best free photo editors you can use if you’ve wanted a free Lightroom. As soon as you open an image in LightZone, you have access to multiple styles that you can add to your raw photos right away. These range from Soft Skin Tones to Bright Scene, covering everything from portraits to landscapes.
After you applied your style, you can delve into one of the many advanced controls to work on the exposure, noise reduction, and white balance of your photos among other things. LightZone is such a good free Lightroom alternative because it lets you work in ‘stacks’, which are like layers in Adobe’s programs. This means that you can easily turn a stack on or off to see its effect or add or remove stacks for quick and easy editing.
IrfanView isn’t really a complete Lightroom alternative for free because it doesn’t really allow any raw editing. What it does allow you to do is preview your raw images in numerous formats – something that most photo viewers can’t do. The software also opens a number of other formats apart from the usual jpeg and png. It’s a great piece of software that is free to use and will help you preview images quicker.
It can also help you save images in 21 different formats and edit those images lightly before you save them. All in all, IrfanView can’t compete with advanced free Lightroom replacements but it can definitely make it easier for you to view raw files without the need for another free photo editor.
Usually, Lightroom’s free alternatives come with lesser features but Darktable is a magnificent exception to that. It’s a free raw photo editor that has so many features that first-time users can get quite overwhelmed by them. However, once you start using it you start realizing that it is a great Lightroom alternative that you don’t have to pay a penny for.
The overall method of processing images is similar to Lightroom. You have multiple tools that are categorized into different tabs. You can use sliders to adjust each tool’s effect on your images and then save the image into a format you like. Overall, the final edits made in Darktable are slightly underexposed than those of Lightroom’s with the same settings, but the settings can be adjusted as you like.
5. Chasys Draw IES
Chasys Draw IES is not a single program but a collection of different ones that work together to create an advanced image editing suite. With this suite, you can work with animations, file conversion, icon editing, and image stacking as well as raw photo editing.
The raw editing portion of the program isn’t as advanced as Lightroom, so it’s not a complete free Lightroom replacement but if you don’t want all the advanced control that comes with Lightroom then Chasys Draw IES brings a lot to the table when it comes to image processing.
When talking about the best free Lightroom alternative, one cannot skip over the infamous GIMP. This free photo editor has existed for a very long time and has been preferred by many over Adobe’s Photoshop as well as Lightroom simply because it doesn’t cost anything to use and is packed with image editing features.
Perhaps the only thing that kept GIMP from becoming a true Lightroom alternative was its complex interface. However, with the new 2.10 update, GIMP completely refreshed its design that made it much easier to use. The new version also comes with better image processing as well as new tools that are designed to make it the best free Lightroom alternative available.
Pixlr is another strong free Lightroom alternative unless you require a free raw photo editor. Pixlr was designed to provide a number of fun and useful photo editing tools that people could use for free. It has a web version that is crammed with features from those that help you adjust exposure to those that can turn your photos into digital art.
The interface is clean and easy to use, with the ability to undo and redo actions as you please. It may not be the best free alternative to Lightroom but Pixlr sure brings a lot of flexibility when it comes to creative photo editing.
For a Lightroom alternative that’s free, it’s important to have a layout that makes the program easy to use. That’s because most people don’t like putting up with a badly designed program even if it’s free. That is why Paint.Net has been on the list of free Lightroom alternatives for a long time. The software is great for some creative photo editing thanks to its filters and the impressive variety of plugins you can use with it.
The one thing that perhaps keeps it from becoming the ultimate free alternative to Lightroom is the fact that it doesn’t support non-destructive or raw editing. This means that the changes you make to your photos will lead to a slight loss in quality. But if you don’t mind that because you’re not going to print your photos, then Paint.Net is one of the best free photo editors you can use today.
9. InPixio Photo Clip
InPixio Photo Clip is a free photo editor that you can use to quickly and easily make basic adjustments to your photos. With it, you can adjust the exposure, saturation, contrast and color balance of your photos. It also has a radial focus tool that you can use to make everything around a subject go blurry, sort of like creating a faux bokeh. It’s not a perfect way to adding bokeh to your photos but can be a fun effect to play around with.
Overall, InPixio Photo Clip is a good Lightroom alternative if you want fairly basic control over your photos for posting online or sharing with others. However, it can’t replace Lightroom as a free raw photo editor because it doesn’t support raw editing. For basic editing though, it’s one of the better free Lightroom alternatives available today.
10. Photo Pos Pro
For a complete image editing suite that also lets you create collages and design business cards, give Photo Pos Pro a shot. It comes with a lot of adjustment tools ranging from color correction to gamma control. The layout is well-designed, and you’ll feel comfortable with using it after a little while. The program also lets you work in layers so it’s easier for you to combine different effects. You also get access to filters and effects to quickly edit photos creatively. These various things combine to make Photo Pos Pro a strong contender as a free Lightroom alternative.
However, do keep in mind that while Photos Pos Pro might be a good free Lightroom alternative, it’s not a completely free photo editor if you want advanced tools. For that version of the software, you’ll have to subscribe to the Pro model, in which case Lightroom might be the better choice overall.
Coming in with a number of advanced photo editing tools like the clone stamp, paint brush and more, PhotoScape is a very strong free alternative to Lightroom. It’s a completely free raw photo editor that lets you do a lot with your files. From resizing them to changing the color balance, there’s a number of actions you can perform with PhotoScape for free that you would have to pay money for if done with Lightroom. PhotoScape also has a batch editing feature for working quickly, a Splitter tool to cut a photo into various pieces, and a Face Search option that lets you look for similar faces to that in your photo, on the internet.
All of this makes PhotoScape a truly capable free Lightroom alternative that should cover most, if not all, of the needs that you’re buying Lightroom for.
12. Topaz Studio
What makes Topaz Studio Lightroom’s free alternative is a combination of features, ease of use, and flexibility in the way to adding plugins. The whole software lets users adjust their images how they see fit, using a plethora of ‘adjustments’ and other tools to fix exposure, imperfections, and the colors of your images. The free photo editor also comes with some texture effects that can significantly change the way your photos look. You can even add plugins like B&W Effects, DeNoise, and In Focus to achieve all manner of things, something that many of Lightroom’s alternatives that are free don’t allow.
All in all, Topaz Studio is a very strong free Lightroom replacement. And if you want access to even more adjustments, you can always go Pro and pay by purchasing a license.
Picktorial isn’t a free raw photo editor, but it’s a low-cost Lightroom alternative that has a lot to offer to professional photographers who don’t want to get stuck with Lightroom’s subscription model. The software comes with all the tools that an advanced photo editor would be expected to have. On top of those, it also has many advanced Retouch tool which allow you to do pretty much anything you’d want with a retouching tool. Picktorial goes head to head with Lightroom because it also allows for selective adjustments. This is a feature that pro photographers almost essentially want their Lightroom alternative to have as it makes editing complex scenes that much easier.
So, for those of you looking for a free Lightroom replacement, Picktorial isn’t the right choice but for those looking to pay once and get a highly capable software, it’s something to be considered.
14. Apple Photos
There are many people who want a simple, easy-to-use, and free photo editor for tweaking their images before they post them online. For those people, at least if they use a macOS computer, there’s good news in the form of Apple Photos.
Apple Photos is a built-in app on macOS computers that provides some pretty extensive photo editing and management features, making it a great free Lightroom alternative for many. It’s not just a photo viewer but rather one of the best free photo editors you can use without having to even download one. The many adjustment tools most people want are present here, including Exposure, Contrast, Highlights, and Shadows. Other than these settings, you can also work with Curves and Levels to get more control over your photos. All of this combined with the capable photo management features makes Apple Photos a very worthy free Lightroom alternative for all Mac users.
15. Gentlemen Coders RAW Power
Rounding things off, we have RAW Power by Gentlemen Coders. This Lightroom alternative isn’t free but the amount of control it provides to pro photographers makes it worth the price. Many free Lightroom alternatives are missing the ability to edit raw files and that is where RAW Power comes in. It lets you make non-destructive edits to your photos, ensuring that you get an image with the best possible quality.
However, there are many paid editors out there that do the same. The reason we have included this one on this list is that it can bring its raw editing capabilities to Apple Photos. This means that by spending a little money, you can enhance a Lightroom alternative that’s otherwise free into something that becomes a true replacement to Adobe’s offering. RAW Power’s own interface and controls are very well-developed too, making sure that photographers aren’t bogged down during their editing process. So, if you’ve wanted to use Apple Photos as a perfect free Lightroom alternative, adding the flexibility of RAW Power to it will help you do much more with it.
And with that, we come to the end of this list of Lightroom’s free alternatives. The purpose of this guide is not to say that Lightroom isn’t great but rather that there are many free alternatives to Lightroom that can help you do the specific kind of work you need to do. For example, if you are considering getting Lightroom to edit jpeg images, it doesn’t really make sense to pay so much when you can use something free to do the same work. Therefore, it’s always good to be aware of all of Lightroom’s free alternatives that exist before you make any decision that involves paying up.