Today, there are a handful of options for professional photo editing software. Taking great photos is half the battle — the right software can help with layering, resizing, coloration tweaks, and many other editing features to improve your final image.
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Before deciding which software is right for your needs, we recommend asking yourself a few questions:
- Will the program be easy enough for me (and my team) to learn?
- Does the program guide you through the entire workflow, from uploading photos to final edits?
- How advanced are the effects capabilities?
- What image formats does the program accept, and is it easy to export your projects to social media?
- If I get stuck, does the program have adequate tutorials and help functions?
Below, we’ve outlined five of the best editing programs on the market today. They meet the above criteria and create a pleasant editing experience, no matter your skill level.
Photoshop is the undisputed titan of professional photo editing software. It’s so ubiquitous that people say “I’ll Photoshop it later” when referring to editing work. Part of Adobe’s Creative Cloud, the software includes in-depth layering tools, support for 3D graphics, a rich toolbar, and plenty of visual effects to play with. With so much functionality, the creative possibilities are virtually limitless. However, the basics of Photoshop are fairly easy to learn. When it comes to professional photo projects and integrating with a larger creative team, this software is hard to beat.
Corel PaintShop Pro
For years, PaintShop Pro has been positioned as a low-cost alternative to Photoshop. The Windows-only software isn’t as popular as it once was, but it still packs a lot of functionality. Built for casual photographers and experienced editors, PaintShop Pro allows you to manage, adjust, and edit images from the same window. With the Manage tab, you can arrange your photos into virtual albums; the Adjust tab is a fast way to add effects; and the Edit tab provides a wide assortment of layers, masks, and selection tools.
Similar to PaintShop Pro, Serif’s PhotoPlus software is a Windows-only editing tool that doesn’t require a subscription. The one-click presets are perfect for novice editors, and the Print Studio feature allows you to print multiple images without needing to upgrade to a pro version. It’s a little less intuitive than other programs, but with a redesigned crop tool, powerful HSL (hue, saturation, and lightness) controls, and a surface blur effect for skin tones, PhotoPlus is worth the initial learning curve.
PhaseOne Capture One Pro
Competitive with Adobe’s Lightroom software, Capture One Pro allows you to import images into a well-organized database and then apply non-permanent edits. Your original photos are always kept intact, so you can try out a variety of different effects and export them as separate files. With excellent conversion quality, a strong editing interface, and layer-based adjustment tools, it’s a great complement to traditional photo software.
Of course, we can’t leave out Mac users. Affinity Photo offers amazing value for its $50 price, with a long list of professional photo editing features. These include selective overlays, advanced lens corrections, histograms and scopes, and countless other tools. For users that don’t need Adobe’s Creative Cloud integration, Affinity Photo provides more than enough editing power.