If you asked me about the best photo editing tool a few years ago, I would have probably said, hands down, Adobe Photoshop.
In fact, not too long ago, we started using ‘photoshop’ as a verb. Just like we ‘google’ things, we could ‘photoshop’ pictures.
And let’s not forget about those ‘Photoshop fails’ compilations that would go viral now and then. Celebrities and magazines would abuse Photoshop all the time, often with catastrophic results.
There’s no denying that Adobe Photoshop was a pioneer, although it gained a lot of strong competitors in the past decade. Today there are countless options to choose from that can actually go way further.
It is not just about photo editing anymore. Professions evolved and so did their gear.
Photographers now expect their editing software to integrate all kinds of solutions that are also part of their job; organizing, sharing, and then storing the material, to name a few.
Graphic designers and illustrators, on the other hand, appreciate things like graphic design tools, templates, and automation features.
It is no wonder Adobe Photoshop started feeling rather limited, don’t you think?
These two programs have a lot in common but serve different purposes. Photoshop is used to create and edit photos or raster-based art and Illustrator is more commonly used for designing.
But the main difference between them is that Adobe Photoshop works with pixels, while Adobe Illustrator works using vectors.
Illustrator is a professional program and requires special training. It is not intuitive or user-friendly but offers excellent capabilities and jaw-dropping results once you get the hang of it.
This program's interface is consistent with that of the other products in the Adobe Suite, so if you have already worked with some of these other programs, you'll feel at home.
It is ideal for creating all kinds of graphics, art, logos, and images.
Illustrator is typically used in advertising, web developing, and printing, but you don't really have to be an actual professional to use it.
Anyone with a solid computer, a fair amount of free time, and a few bucks can start creating. But only after a few months of consistent use and training will they be able to reach their full potential.
Choose This Editor If…
If you are no expert and need simple, instant solutions, PicMonkey might be the tool for you.
This is a user-friendly online graphic tool, ideal for non-designers. It's versatile, meaning that you can do everything from creating graphics to image processing.
PicMonkey is extremely easy to use and intuitive. It requires no experience whatsoever, although it might take you a bit to get familiar with all its capabilities.
It doesn't have a free version, which is not great news for absolute beginners who are not yet willing to spend money. However, it does offer a free trial. Many users have complained that PicMonkey isn't transparent when it comes to billing and ending your trial period. They ended up being charged an unexpected amount, so you might want to read the terms carefully before buying.
PicMonkey is a great ally if you want to edit photos online instead of downloading a program. And it is not just a photo editor, but a graphic design tool as well. It allows you to work on all kinds of creations and resume your editing some other time. All you have to do is log in!
One big plus about PicMonkey is that it has a mobile version. Not all editors can offer mobile solutions that are pretty much as efficient as their desktop counterparts.
Its drag-and-drop interface is pretty straightforward. All the tools are visible at first glance, and you can access them from the toolbar on the left. It reminds me a bit of good old Paint and how easy it was to choose the colors and shapes.
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This photo editing software started as a camera equipment testing lab, so it is no wonder that it has such advanced professional capabilities.
In a few words, it allows you to apply corrections to Raw files in order to restore details more precisely. DxO Photolab offers an impressive set of manual tools to tune the appearance of your photos. Contrast, color, white balances, brightness, and exposure, to name a few.
DxO Photolab features two different interfaces. First, we have the editor, which is where the magic happens.
The second interface is the library, which compared to its competitors seems to be quite limited. Here you can browse and organize your photos.
You can browse folders on your computer and collect elements for a project, but that's about it. It allows you to search images based on keywords. Honestly, it is barely good enough to browse through your photos if you already know where to find them.
It supports modern gear like touch screens, pens, and high-resolution displays. It is capable of providing outstanding quality, lots of details, and vibrant colors. With this photo editing software, you can truly bring your artistic vision to reality.
Needless to say, this image editing tool cannot be used by just anyone. If you want optimal results, you need to know what you're doing.
The license is quite expensive, but the good news is you only have to pay once. No subscription is required.
Choose This Editor If…
Lightroom has always been a favorite among artists and photographers. Its phenomenal free mobile app became a top choice for influencers and social media characters as well.
It has incredible capabilities and an impressive set of digital photography tools. From 1-click adjustments to cut-edge advanced editing.
You can remove distracting objects, enhance the colors of your photos, and straighten skewed shots among hundreds of other possibilities. It also makes it extremely easy to store, organize and share your edits.
Lightroom is cloud-based, which means that all of your files are stored on a network of remote servers and are available on demand. Your material will be safe and easily accessible for you to resume your work whenever and wherever you need it.
My favorite thing about this tool is that it launched two versions: Lightroom, and Lightroom Classic. One for amateurs and one for professionals.
The new Lightroom is like the Classic version’s younger sibling. While Lightroom Classic keeps most of the original functionalities of this software, the new version features a user-friendly interface, perfect for a broader audience.
Choose This Photo Editor if...
Finally, we see some free photo editing software on this list. I know the word 'free' might be misleading, but you might wanna hear what I have to say about this tool before jumping to conclusions.
Its photo editor allows you to soften the noise, correct and adjust the colors of your pictures, make collages, and use gradients and brushes.
We can also mention its open-source code as a big plus. This means you can view and edit everything online and use already created code to come up with new versions of other programs.
Something pretty cool that GIMP has that others tool don't is a selection of four different themes. Dark (default theme), Gray, Light, and System. You can choose the one that suits you best!
As for the ease of use, I'd say it is halfway between PicMonkey and Illustrator. A couple of good tutorials and a little practice should do the trick. But this is exactly what makes it a tool worth mentioning.
Choose This Editor If...
Whether you are an artist, a photographer, a designer, or merely an amateur, image editing is the key to taking your material to the next level.
Any expert can tell if an image has been edited. There’s a big difference between raw files and their final version. Good photo editing software has the potential to turn a dull picture into an absolute masterpiece.
However, achieving professional-looking results is never easy. Only after spending hours wracking your brain in front of a screen will you realize that having a reliable photo editing tool is a game-changer.
It will save you time and mental health.
Got it. So, which one should I go for?
There is no right answer to that question. It will depend entirely on your needs and skills. Trust me, you don’t wanna blindly go for the most popular one, or the one your friend uses.
But if you’re clueless, this article should give you a few ideas.
Some photo editors are more intuitive than others.
Normally, the most powerful tools require special training and a fair amount of practice to reach their full potential. Editing photos using these tools often takes quite a long time, but it is generally worth it, as they offer you complete control over your work.
There are also simpler options that are much more user-friendly and suitable for beginners and people with zero knowledge.
The photo editing capabilities are, of course, much more limited. But if you are not a professional, you’re not likely to aspire to professional results anyways.
You wanna make sure your editing software is at the right level for you. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck with an overly technical tool that you probably paid a lot for and don’t even know how to use.
Say you’re a professional photographer, and you took hundreds of pictures in an event. You’re already thinking of how many coffees you’re gonna need to get through the night and finish the job in time.
If that’s your case, you should go for professional photo editing software that allows you to store and organize your material in the most efficient way possible.
Many photo editing tools have awesome features but don’t offer the space you need to collect your edits. This is a must if you work with large volumes.
Not all photo editing programs support the same formats. Some are more suitable for videos or large files, while others offer a smaller range of formats that might be enough for what you need.
For example, if you have a website, you need to be able to create images that are suitable for display on a browser or a smartphone. Formats such as JPG, GIF, or PNG are a must.
Decide how much money you are willing to invest and stick to that budget. Prices range from zero to thousands, so there’s always going to be an option that suits you financially.
It is only logical that the most expensive ones are those with the best capabilities. If having a solid photo editor will mean a significant increase in your earnings, you’ll get your investment back in no time.
If you’re an amateur and don’t expect to be making money with your creations any time soon, the smartest thing would be to start small.
Keep in mind that refunds are rare. So if you’re not happy with your choice and decide to try other photo editing software, you’ll end up spending twice as much.
The idea of this article was to select 5 completely different tools for 5 completely different types of users.
Some are artsier, others more technical. Some are aimed at professionals, others at amateurs. Some are expensive, others affordable.
My original intention was to show you that there is a photo editing tool for everyone and it relies on you to decide which one is genuinely the best for you.
Hopefully, this article gave you some valuable insight.
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