Adobe Lightroom has made its reputation as the best editing software for many professional as well as enthusiast photographers around the world who love shooting in RAW format. The software has all the bells and whistles you could want from an advanced photo editor. Everything from basic exposure and contrast control to advanced masking and selective editing is present in Adobe’s photo editing giant. Combine that with a robust cataloging system and you have a winner as far as most professionals are concerned.
However, during recent years, a lot of excellent photo editing software has been released which offers the same, if not better in some cases, level of control that Lightroom does. Many such editors also come at a lower, one-time, price unlike Lightroom’s recent move to a monthly subscription model, making Lightroom a less attractive offering to people who are new the photo editor software.
Why Lightroom Alternatives Are Important
You may be wondering, if Lightroom does all that you need it to do, why should you even consider using a different program? A lot of it boils down to the fact that Lightroom asks users to pay a monthly fee to use it. This kind of a payment model may seem okay at first, but when you consider that you’d be paying potentially thousands of dollars to use it over a lifetime when you could instead buy something for under a hundred dollars once and be good with it, then it starts seeming unnecessary. Sure, most one-time payment options ask for a small additional price to upgrade to the newer models but you may not always need to upgrade, and even if you do, the price still remain well under what Lightroom would cost over a number of years.
So, without further deliberation, let’s take a look at some of the best Lightroom alternatives, either because of their lower price or better usability, that you should know of.
The first and closest Lightroom alternative anyone can start using in an instant is Luminar. This program started off as a Mac photo editor, but later started supporting Windows as well. As soon as it had launched, it was praised for its amazing ease of use, highly intuitive interface with unique elements like customizable workspaces, and very affordable price tag.
Now, the newest version of Luminar has also added a library system which might just be the one thing that Lightroom had and Luminar didn’t. With this new addition, Luminar has become one of the best photo editing software that you can use without paying an immense price.
Admittedly, Aurora HDR is more of
With Aurora HDR as a Lightroom alternative, you will have access to advanced tone-mapping algorithms, various presets, and a whole host of advanced tools that help create the best possible HDR photos. What’s more, it also comes as an actual plugin for Lightroom itself which means you can enhance Lightroom’s capabilities without needing to jump into another program!
Capture One Pro
Capture One is a software that is already used by many as an alternative to Lightroom. It offers almost all the controls that Lightroom offers to pro users, with some of its own as well. The interface is fairly clean, however not very easy to get used to. There are presets, selective adjustments, masks, and everything you could want to create great photos. Capture One also has a cataloging system, which is why many use it as a Lightroom alternative. However, Capture One is quite expensive as well even despite its one-time payment model. But if you don’t mind paying the high price, it’s one of the top Lightroom alternatives available today.
If you want a free Lightroom alternative in the form of a photo editor for Mac, then Apple Photos is a solid choice. This photo editing software comes bundled with Mac computers and offers a lot of control over photo editing. It can handle exposure, contrast, white balance, highlights, shadows, colors, and more with ease. It’s also not a slow program and runs very well on Apple’s systems. You won’t get very advanced features like selective editing or layers, but if you want a semi-advanced image editor, this one is a good alternative to Lightroom.
If you’re looking for a cross-platform photo editor for pc and mac as a Lightroom alternative, then Affinity Photo is also a good choice. It’s a fully-featured photo editor that not only does photo editing but also boasts some Photoshop-like features such as digital painting tools, layer control, focus stacking and more. For photo editing, Affinity Photo can handle RAW files, make HDR photos, stitch panoramas, and much more that could appease any professional looking for the best Lightroom alternative. However, for new photographers, this might be a little too complicated and full of tools to use comfortably.
Perhaps the best free Lightroom alternative on this list is DarkTable. Its layout is similar to
Another free alternative to Lightroom, RawTherapee might fit the bill for the beginners among you. Its one and only focus is to provide photographers the ability to process their RAW files. It doesn’t have too many fancy bells and whistles, or even advanced features like a cataloging system, but it is free and can help beginner photographers edit their RAW files with ease.
Exposure from Alien Skin
Exposure X4 is the newest version of the software that aims to become an alternative to Lightroom. Its strength lies in the fact that it has a strong library feature and can import images from various sources in parallel to one another. This import process makes it easier to quicker for photographers to add multiple images to their library. The RAW editing features here are strong too. Exposure control, color corrections, high-quality presets – everything is present. However, what makes Exposure X3 not the best Lightroom alternative is the fact that it has noticeable lag while working with RAW files from certain cameras.
Corel’s AfterShot Pro 3
Another photo editor for PC, Corel AfterShot Pro 3 is considered one of the best Lightroom alternatives by many. While it can be used for all basic edits to exposure, color, white balance, noise, sharpness etc., its true strengths lie in its UI design that is suitable for widescreen displays, its very competent batch editing, and its easy integration with Photoshop allowing you to send your photos directly to Photoshop for final touches. On the flip side, however, AfterShot Pro 3 suffers from lackluster localized editing, and a high price tag especially for extra presets that you might want to use.
Cyberlink Photo Director 10
If you would like a photo editor software that can do all that Lightroom can do, then Photo Director 10 might be the choice for you. It’s one of the most capable Lightroom alternatives out there because of an easy-to-use interface, later control, and a lot of help to get used to the various features. It’s aimed more at people who may be new to photo editing software and its new focus on AI tools helps such users make better photos. But if you have an older, slower computer, then you might want to look elsewhere or be okay with slow performance.
Gentlemen Coders RAW Power
For those looking for a strong photo editor for Mac, RAW Power is one of the very good Lightroom alternatives for the purpose. As many users of Apple’s computers would know, the company replaced its excellent Aperture editor with the new Photos app which comes as a pre-installed Mac photo editor. To fill the gap between Aperture and Photos, RAW Power is here with a solid reputation. It can either be used as a standalone RAW editor, allowing you to do most of the stuff you’d want from such a software, or as an extension to Photos. This combination of RAW Power with Photos is what can be the best photo editor software as a Lightroom alternative on Mac.
Zoner is a Windows photo editor that aims to help make great photos with ease. It boasts features like automatic editing, easy selections for localized editing, layer control, a Filter Brush to give you creative freedom, batch editing, Smart Sharpen and Smart Blue, and advanced noise reduction among many more. It’s clear from these claims that Zoner can be a good, if not the best, Lightroom alternative for people using Windows. It may not have Lightroom’s presets but it does have enough to help enthusiast photographers. But, like Lightroom, Zoner also has a subscription-based payment model which is something that puts many users off.
An open-source photo editor that is hailed as the best free photo editing software by countless around the world, GIMP has all it needs to be a free Lightroom alternative. GIMP has everything from basic exposure editing to advanced layer controls and brushes to make your photos look like pieces of art, just like Photoshop. It also has a vast online community that’s always trying to help others and make GIMP better every day. Despite all of that though, the software remains a very complicated one to get used to and requires quite some time to understand. It may be Lightroom’s free alternative like you’ve never seen before, but be ready to spend a lot of time learning to use it properly.
Topaz Studio is yet another photo editor that does most of the things you’d expect such a software to do. Some highlight features of the editor are over thirty filters, healing capabilities, slider controls to edit exposure, contrast, and highlights, and color correction tools. Topaz Studio also has a similar interface to most editors so it’s easy to start off with. While it may not be the best alternative to Lightroom unless you don’t need advanced controls, it still is a capable editor for getting started with editing.
Getting back to possibly the best Lightroom alternatives, On1 Photo RAW is a great all-in-one editor that aims to find its way into the hands of seasoned photographers. It has all the tools you could want, including great masking tools, quick rendering of final images, a very quick panoramic preview option, and newly added HDR features that help create very good HDR images, unlike in Lightroom. However, despite these great additions, On1 Photo RAW remains a little sluggish at times which is something that needs to be improved for it to become the best alternative to Lightroom.
DxO Optics Pro 11
Dxo Optics Pro 11 is deemed by many as the best photo editing software because it is easy to use, has a ton of editing features, and a RAW conversion system like few others. Why people would consider this as the best Windows photo editor is because of the amazing lens correction algorithms it has. The software is known for its automatic control over chromatic aberration, distortion, and vignetting for a multitude of cameras and lenses. The only thing that really keeps this Windows and Mac photo editor from being the best alternative to Lightroom is its lack of selective adjustment capabilities.
Photo Pos Pro
If you don’t want what is necessarily the best free photo editing software but rather Adobe Lightroom’s free alternative that lets you edit photos and do other fun stuff like making posters and business cards too, then you should take a look at Photo Pos Pro. It is Adobe Lightroom’s free alternative but only if you want basic functionality. It is not slated to the the best editing software or the best of Lightroom alternatives, but rather a quick and easy way to edit your photos. The Pro version of the software isn’t free though, so make sure to try it out first to see whether it’s worth your money or not.
And with that, we conclude our list of the best Lightroom alternatives you can use to get your photo editing done. All of the program listed here have their own strengths and weaknesses, but the software that becomes a Lightroom alternative for you really depends on what you use Lightroom for. If you want to give up using Lightroom because of the monthly fees, then the best alternative to Lightroom would be something like Luminar that offers similar control for a low, one-time price. If you want something completely free, then DarkTable might be the Lightroom alternative for you. And if you want your Lightroom alternative to do much more than just RAW editing, then programs like GIMP will be worthwhile.
But before you spend your money on any of the mentioned programs, be sure to give them a try once because what might look good on paper as the best alternative to Lightroom might not fit your style of editing or have that one tool you can’t live without.