In this post, we are taking a look at the best photo editing software for PC in 2022. But rather than listing every photo editor on the market, I’m going to recommend the best photo editing app for each use case. So, let’s jump to it.
Table of Contents
- Best Photo Editing Software for Free.
- Best Photo Editing Software for Beginners
- Best Photo Editing Software for Features
- Best all-in-one Photo Suite
- Best Photo Editor for HDR
- Best of the rest
- Recent Posts
Best Photo Editing Software for Free.
My favorite free photo editor is Fotor. Unlike other ‘free’ photo editors, Fotor does not exist to grind you down into buying a premium version.
Furthermore, Fotor is actually pretty good. For instance, you can use it to edit raw files as well as JPEGs. And it features all the usual tools such as Brightness, Contrast, and Saturation. Alternatively, you can rely on Fotor’s range of Scenes and Effects for instant one-click results.
However, it does not take long to run into Fotor’s limitations. For instance, you can’t apply noise reduction or a tone curve. Nor do you have access to modern luxuries such as Sky Replacement and Layer-based photo editing.
The best alternative to Fotor is Lightroom Free. However, whilst Lightroom Free is powerful, it’s also more frustrating. This is due to ever-present reminders designed to grind you into buying the premium version. Read Lightroom Free Review.
Then there’s a range of free open-source alternatives such as Darktable and GIMP. Darktable has potential and is also compatible with Linux. However, the last time I tried Darktable, I found it to be too unstable for reliable use.
Overall, Fotor is unconditionally free, entirely stable, and functional enough. But if you have a bit of money lying around, I recommend Luminar Neo. Read Best Free Photo Editors for PC.
Best Photo Editing Software for Beginners
The best photo editor for beginners is Luminar Neo. With traditional photo editors, you craft results using tools such as Tone Curves, White Balance, and selective masks. But effects-orientated Luminar Neo is different.
For example, Luminar Neo has a Foliage Enhancer, Skin Blemish Remover, and Sky Enhancer. And if all that sounds too much like hard work, you can choose one of its outstanding Presets and process your photo with a single click. All of this means you do not need to know anything about photo editing to edit your photos with Luminar Neo. Read Luminar Neo Review.
However, it would be a mistake to confuse Luminar Neo’s accessibility for simplicity. On the contrary, Luminar Neo is as effective as any photo editor out there. And with tricks such as Sky Replacement, Background Blur, and Face AI – Luminar Neo can do many things other photo editing apps cannot.
But despite its excellence, Luminar Neo is one of the cheapest photo editors on the market. As a result, it is an absolute no-brainer for beginners and experts in a rush. Buy Luminar Neo | Read Luminar Neo Review
Best Photo Editing Software for Features
Not to mention Panorama Stitching, AI Noise Reduction, and tethered shooting. Then there’s Timelapse, AI-powered image resizing, and Focus Stacking. And its Sky Replacement and Portrait Enhancement tools are pretty good too.
As you can see, ON1 Photo Raw is insanely well specified. But the downside of such a feature-rich photo editor is a steeper learning curve. Even with my experience, it took me about an hour to get the grips with ON1 Photo Raw.
But once you know your way around, ON1 Photo Raw is easy enough to use. And thanks to its boat-load of presets and effects, a quick result is never far away.
The obvious alternative to ON1 Photo Raw 2022 is Capture One Pro. Compared to ON1 Photo Raw, Capture One Pro is nicer to use. However, Capture One suffers fewer features and is significantly more expensive. Read ON1 Photo Raw Review | Download ON1 Photo Raw 2022
Best all-in-one Photo Suite
ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate is the best value all-in-one photo studio I have used. For less than one year’s subscription to Lightroom, you get, perhaps, the best photo management tool in the business. Features include tagging, smart searches, face recognition, and geotagging.
You also get ACDSee Ultimate’s Develop mode – my all-time favorite photo editor. Not only does it have nice features, but in terms of ergonomics and workflow, ACDSee Ultimate is the best photo editing app I have ever used.
Yet ACDSee Ultimate features a second layer-based photo editor. In this mode, you can access adjustment, text, and vector layers. Whilst it’s not on Photoshop’s level (what is?), it is more than sufficient for a little graphic design.
ACDSee Ultimate’s most immediate rival is ACDSee Professional. Unlike Ultimate, Professional does not have access to layer-based photo editing.
However, Professional does have everything else including Ultimate’s outstanding photo management and Develop mode. Therefore, you might be better off saving some money and choosing ACDSee Professional instead. Read ACDSee Professional Review
Then there’s Lightroom. Whilst I like Lightroom a lot, you’ll never stop paying for it. Ever. And having used both, I’m not sure Lightroom is worth the premium. Download ACDSee Ultimate | Read ACDSee Ultimate Review
Best Photo Editor for HDR
The best Photo Editor for HDR is Aurora HDR. Aurora HDR can work miracles, even if you’re working with a single photo.
Furthermore, Aurora HDR’s generous supply of Presets makes HDR easy. And for those of you looking to fine-tune your results, there’s pretty much every manual adjustment you can think off and then some.
But most of all, Aurora HDR is reliable. Out of all the HDR photo editors I have tested, Aurora HDR is the best when it comes to image alignment and motion compensation.
The most obvious alternative is Affinity Photo. Affinity Photo’s HDR is second only to Aurora HDR. But unlike Aurora HDR, Affinity Photo is a fully-fledged photo editor. Therefore, Affinity Photo is a better option if you’re looking for a photo editor with HDR. ON1 Photo Raw’s HDR comes in third place. Download Aurora HDR
Best of the rest
I adore Capture One Pro. In terms of traditional non-AI-based photo editing, it’s the nicest to use. However, it is insanely expensive compared to its rivals whilst suffering from fewer features.
Affinity Photo is incredibly competent, well-priced and a good choice for HDR, Focus Stacking, and Astro stacking. However, it lacks the glorious AI-based trickery of Luminar Neo and ON1 Photo Raw. Nor can it match ACDSee Ultimate or Professional as an all-around photo studio.
As for Lightroom, it’s very good and produces nice results. But so do many other cheaper photo editors. Then there’s the mighty Photoshop. Needless to say, Photoshop offers the largest creative envelope if you have the skills to exploit it.
Photo editors have come a long way in the last few years. What were once premium features can be had for free. And thanks to AI-powered photo editing – traditionally complex photo editing techniques have been dissolved into single clicks.
It’s for this reason that I find it so difficult to recommend the old guard. For instance, you no longer need Capture One Pro to produce Capture One Pro-grade results. Nor do you need to be an advanced photo editor to enjoy advanced photo editing.
Of course, the diminishing returns of Photoshop remain critical for some. But for the rest of us, there’s never been a better or cheaper time to edit photos.