Taking great photos is only half the battle. You’ll also need proper image editing software for cropping, coloration tweaks, layering, and other features to achieve your ideal composition. Below, we’ve showcased some of the best software on the market, ranging from beginner to advanced skill levels.
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By keeping everything within your web browser, Shutterstock’s Editor tool allows for amazingly fast cropping and filtering. Free to Shutterstock members, the intuitive software provides a range of preset image sizes, which are optimized for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and many other popular platforms.
From there, you can choose from 10 distinct filters, including the monochrome “Carbon”, the punchy and saturated “Nickel”, and the subdued “Titanium”. When you’re happy with the edited stock photo, you can download it directly from Shutterstock’s servers. This is the perfect introduction to photo editing.
Built for the average consumer, Pixlr’s suite of user-friendly photo tools give you instant access to hundreds of effects, borders, and stylish overlays. Available for desktop and mobile, Pixlr’s creative blending, masking, and selection features are a dream for Instagram fans. Pixlr’s essential tools are free, but the Pro membership has enough extra features to make it competitive with fully-fledged editors.
Available for Mac, Acorn is a powerful bridge between beginner and advanced editing software. The deceptively stripped-down interface still lets you employ smart guides, soft brushes, blend filters, shape processors, and much more. However, it’s built to ease in novices, with clean toolbars and other clever design cues. For hobbyists and aspiring pros, Acorn is well worth the investment.
Intermediate / Advanced
Part of Adobe’s Creative Cloud, the pro version of Photoshop is the industry standard for image editing software. With an extensive and customizable toolbar, support for 3D models, in-depth layering features, and a lifetime’s worth of effects to explore, the possibilities for creativity are endless. In fact, there are so many Photoshop concepts and techniques that the program does present a fairly steep learning curve. However, if you’ve already gained some experience with more straightforward programs, this will just feel like a logical continuation of that skillset.
Built for Windows, PhotoPlus is an affordably priced alternative to PhotoShop, with many of the same features. However, the interface is a little less intuitive for new users, so it may take a while before you grasp how to accomplish certain effects. The latest version boasts a re-designed crop tool, a surface blur effect for smoothing skin tones, and robust HSL (hue, saturation, and lightness) controls.
Mac users also have a few quality options besides PhotoShop, and Affinity Photo ranks among the best. Designed for professional photo editing, the $50 program is packed with features including advanced lens corrections, histograms and scopes, selective overlays, and a darkroom’s worth of tools. If you’re looking for a rock-solid photo editor, and don’t need the integration that Adobe’s software suite provides, Affinity Photo is an excellent choice.