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The Best Premium and Free Photo Editor Software Options

5 minute read

By Lesley Harrison

Photo editing apps have come a long way since the early days of Photoshop. Today’s apps are easier to use, more powerful and more affordable. If you want to make use of Adobe’s fancy filters and plugins, you still need to get a Creative Cloud subscription. However, many plugins are cross-compatible with other programs, and you can replicate a lot of Photoshop’s best looks with other, more affordable programs. Read on for a list of some of the best free and premium photo editing programs that home users and professional photographers can utilize to create stunning images quickly and easily.

There’s No Need to Pay a Fortune for Photo Editing Software

One common misconception is that if you want to do professional photo editing, you need to spend a lot of money. This may have been the case in the past, but today you can pick up free or affordable graphic design and photo editing apps that offer professional features. Sites such as AlternativeTo can help you find open-source alternatives to the most popular big-name software packages.

Top 10 Photo Editing Programs

The best photo editing program depends on your current skill level, the hardware you’re running it on and your photo editing goals. Premium tools, such as Photoshop and Lightroom, are powerful, but if all you want to do is spruce up some images for social media, you can get by with PiZap or Canva. These tools run well even on older hardware and give you access to some impressive photo editing features in their free tiers.

1. Adobe Photoshop

Best for: Graphic Designers
Price: Monthly Fee (from INR 1,655.60)

Photoshop is probably the best-known image editing program, and it’s been an industry leader for a long time. Today, you can purchase a monthly subscription to the Adobe Creative Cloud to get access to Photoshop and other tools in the Adobe suite. Photoshop is a powerful program that’s ideal for editing layered images and doing detailed graphic design work. However, it has a much steeper learning curve than its current rivals.

2. GIMP

Best for: Those looking for a free alternative to Photoshop
Price: Free

GIMP is a free, open-source alternative to Photoshop. It has a large library of plugins that replicate many of the most popular Photoshop features, and skilled users can achieve impressive results with it. As with Photoshop, however, GIMP is a complex program, and it can be confusing for newcomers. There’s a large community of users, however, so it’s relatively easy to find help, either in the form of forums or tutorial videos that explain the program’s quirks.

3. Adobe Lightroom

Best for: Managing large photo libraries
Price: Monthly Fee (from INR 797.68)

Lightroom is Adobe’s dedicated photo editing solution. Because it’s designed purely for photos, it has a more streamlined interface than Photoshop. Lightroom makes it easy to touch up, crop and edit photos. It includes a useful tool for managing media libraries and has some quick and easy features for color correction, blurring, sharpening and other frequently used effects. Adobe offers an affordable Lightroom + Photoshop subscription package, too.

4. Skylum Luminar AI

Best for: Versatile photo editor and organizer
Price: Tiered pricing

Skylum Luminar AI is an easy-to-use, affordable package that sits somewhere between Lightroom and Photoshop in terms of features. It offers a wide choice of preset workspaces for editing various types of photos. One thing that sets Luminar AI apart from many of the other premium packages on this list is the pricing. While the program costs money, it’s a one-time fee for ownership rather than a monthly subscription. If you expect to do a lot of heavy-duty photo editing, this may be an attractive way of buying your software.

5. Canva

Best for: Social media enthusiasts
Price: Free tier available

Canva is available as an app for Android and iOS plus as a browser-based tool. It’s an incredibly easy-to-use package for graphic design and basic photo editing. It’s aimed at people who want to make eye-catching banners or fun social media posts, offering drag-and-drop options for adding stickers, captions and frames to images. Canva doesn’t replace dedicated desktop apps for serious photo editing, but if you just want to put a sepia effect on a fancy dress photo, it’s more than up to the job.

6. Paint.NET

Best for: Plugin support and familiar Windows interface
Price: Free

Paint.NET was originally designed to be an upgraded version of Microsoft Paint, but it’s grown to become so much more than that. Paint.NET now offers plugin support and sophisticated photo editing options. It’s definitely up to the task of casual photo editing. The interface is a little dated, and the program doesn’t have a Linux or MacOS version. However, it remains popular with Windows users thanks to its familiar interface and its generally reliable and stable performance.

7. DxO Photolab

Best for: RAW support and flexible export features
Price: Approximately INR 20,000

DxO Photolab is a relatively new entry into the list of alternative photo editors. It features RAW support and allows you to save files in a wide variety of formats. DxO Photolab has a lot of options for colour correction, filters and customisable profiles to save you time and help you get consistent results. This package is available for both Mac and Windows users. A native Linux version isn’t available at this time, but the Windows version likely runs well enough under WINE.

8. Corel PaintShop Pro

Best for: Touch-ready for tablet PC use
Price: Tiered pricing available

Historically, Corel packages were considered a “cheap alternative” to professional graphic design packages, but that’s no longer the case. PaintShop Pro now offers a great user experience with its touch-friendly interface and easy-to-use options for effects and filters. The package even offers interactive tutorials to help would-be photo editors come to grips with some of the more powerful features. A 30-day trial and regular discounts are available.

9. Adobe Photoshop Express Editor

Best for: Photo editing on the go
Price: Free tier available

The Photoshop Express Editor is a browser-based version of Photoshop Express. Mobile app versions of the tool are also available. This free editor boasts an impressive list of filters and tools. However, it’s not suited for professional photo editing because you’re limited to saving your photos in JPG format. If you’re just hoping to touch up a photo to post on a blog or website, however, it’s a great solution.

10. PiZap

Best for: Browser-based editing on the fly
Price: Free tier available

PiZap is a free, online photo editor designed to let you edit photos and share them on social media with just a few clicks. It features built-in integration with Google Drive, Dropbox and several social media sites, so you can upload a photo, make changes, then save or share it all from within your browser. The free version is surprisingly flexible. High-quality file exports, however, require you to pay for the premium package.

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