What is the best photo editing software?

For quite some time I have been looking for the best photo editing software. When I say that, I mean a stand alone photo editing package that will do everything I want, with a minimum of fuss, and of course at minimum, or at least reasonable, cost.

I think – at last – I may have found what I’ve been looking for. But before I tell you my decision, let me tell you what I have tried, and why I have rejected most of what I’ve tried.

But first – a disclaimer. I am not an expert on photo editing software, and nor is this post intended to be a review of any of the packages I mention. It certainly doesn’t cover all the options that may be considered the best – it is merely a collection of my personal thoughts on the best photo editing software – for me.

I have downloaded and tried scores of trial versions of software – free packages as well as paid versions – including all the well known ones – Lightroom, Photoshop Elements, DxO Optics Pro, On1 Perfect Suite 10, On1 Photo RAW 2017, Affinity Photo, GIMP – and more. But none of them really hooked me.

So why did I reject all the photo editing packages I trialled? Briefly here’s why:

  1. Photoshop – full version: Often regarded as the very best photo editing software, I had read too much about Photoshop’s steep learning curve and the high price so I didn’t want to go there.
  2. Lightroom: The last full version I had of Lightroom I used was version 6. I hated what I saw as the complicated catalogue system. Yes – I know others love it – but I like simple in my life. Also, when Adobe called time on the current version of LR and moved to a subscription model (along with its Photoshop versions) – that was me out. I am not a fan of the subscription  – or the cloud based – model.
  3. DxO Optics Pro: I love the lens correction feature of DxO Optics Pro, the presets and the Clearview feature – but until version 11 incorporating the NIK Collection technology came along there was no real pixel level editing capability. It was also very slow to start and run which drove me nuts!
  4. Photoshop Elements: The version I tried had a really weird organiser system that made sorting photos difficult.
  5. On1 Perfect Suite 10 and On1 Photo RAW 2017: These packages were promising, offering most of the features I was looking for but both were buggy, slow and kept crashing – again driving me nuts.
  6. GIMP: Great price – FREE – but like Photoshop comes with a steep learning curve – and remember what I said before – I like simple! Also has no file browser.
  7. Affinity Photo: Probably the most Photoshop-like photo editor according to what I have read, but comes with a steep learning curve and no image browser built in.

In the middle of 2017 I stumbled across a new photo editing package in the Apple Store that I hadn’t heard of before – Luminar, by MacPhun.

As soon as I installed and started using Luminar I loved it. It is simple to use with lots of presets and easy adjustments, but also has the power of layers and masking and all the other things well seasoned pro photographers like to come to grips with. The added bonus of Luminar is that it is inexpensive and there are versions for Mac OS and Windows.

The downside for me with Luminar is the lack of a DAM (digital asset manager) although one is promised in 2018.

At last I thought I had found my perfect photo editing software – so I bought it and started to use it in earnest.

At about the same time that I became aware of Luminar, On1 Photo RAW 2018 Beta was released. So in spite of my bad experiences with the 2017 version I downloaded a trial version and installed it and was hooked from the get go. I was immediately surprised, and somewhat amazed, that in just one version upgrade On1 Photo RAW had gone from a mongrel dog piece of software to a sleek, speedy greyhound.

Installation on my Mac was problem free, the software ran flawlessy from day one, and it was fast – considerably faster than Luminar.

On1 Photo RAW 2018 has everything I need in photo editing software:

  • It can be used stand alone (and as a plugin if necessary);
  • It is pretty easy to learn and use;
  • Tons of one-click presets to achieve quick results;
  • The power of layers and masking;
  • Erase and clone tools;
  • Lens correction;
  • HDR merge and panorama stitching;
  • 5 licenses across Mac OS and/or Windows machines;
  • And best of all for me – photo management/browse capabilities;
  • And lots lots more……

I love it – and I have only just scratched the surface of what it can do.

So for me – after initially choosing Luminar as my go to package of choice – I have settled on On1 Photo RAW as the best photo editing software package – for me!

3 Comments

  1. Haven’t tried On1 yet but I like Luminar a lot. It has it’s flaws, that’s sure but it’s easy on my old brain. I use it in conjunction with Apple’s Photos (as an extension) and look forward to next year’s DAM that’s coming.

    I’ll give ON1 a spin though…. depends on price!

    Lightroom was OUT for me when they introduced the latest iteration and their slavery system. Too convoluted too, I never got my head around the folders – catalog duplicity.

  2. Awwwww, just checked. 119$ is quite a stiff price compared to Luminar I got as an upgrade from the ’17 version for 39$.

    Guess I’ll live happily with my Luminar and accept it’s little annoyances (for example a very great but slow erase function I need to ‘clean’ my negative scans from any dust)

  3. Just one more thing, as Steve Jobs used to say… did you look at Picktorial? Very nice possibilities, non destructive edits and used your folder structure.

    I find it very powerful and easy to use

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