Adobe Lightroom has long been the staple of image editors and photographers that require non-destructive editing and batch processing for fast workflows. However, over the years the competition has become stronger and there are now some legitimately excellent editors that not only stack up well against Lightroom but outperform it in some areas.
While it’s true that people like what they like, those who are thinking of a change, want to consolidate software applications (i.e. Lightroom and Photoshop), or are new to image editing might want to take a look at these Lightroom alternatives before they throw their money at Adobe.
Some software programs offer the ability to edit with Artificially Intelligent features, have enhanced organization tools, and include layers-based image edits in a way that Lightroom just doesn’t do right now. It’s important to bear in mind, though, that not all software is available for both Mac and PC, and while all of these programs are available for a one-off fee, some have subscription plans with a wider set of features.
From professional to beginner there’s something for everyone, whether you need a guided walkthrough or want to jump straight in at the deep end. There’s image editing software at all price points, too! So take a look below at what might work best for you.
Best Lightroom alternatives in 2021
Capture One Pro 21 has an enormous array of editing, organizing, and processing features for an image editor. Traditionally used in professional photo studios it’s a worthy option for anyone who wants a program to take care of everything photo-related. Its slick interface, suite of features, and fast processing speeds make this one of, if not the best image editing software in the world.
A little trickier to use for beginners, it’s aimed at intermediate and professional users who need the option to shoot tethered, add keywords, and utilize a hardware-accelerated engine. It is more expensive than many of its contemporaries but there are two subscription packages plus a one-time purchase option designed to appeal to a wider audience. There are also cheaper Nikon, Fujifilm and Sony editions.
More suited towards the beginner image editor, Photoshop Elements has various skill level modes that help teach those new to image editing how to use the software. The Guided Edits tab is a kind of walkthrough where users opt for specific templates. It then restricts visible tools and lists them out in a step-by-step fashion to assist users with the editing of their own photos.
While its editing layout is vastly different from Lightroom, it does have its own Organizer application which emulates Lightroom’s catalog and collections-based organization. File directories are displayed on the left side of the window and cataloging images in the software won’t make changes to files stored locally on the hard disk. There’s also a “People” option which allows for automatic tagging of portraits for quick recall.
Considering PhotoDirector 365’s low price point you’d be forgiven for thinking that it lacks in editing ability, too. Take a quick whizz through the workspace and you’ll find that it has a good suite of editing tools and features that match competitors so that you don’t miss out. It even has a selection of Artificially Intelligent editing features for creative effects, though the intelligent masking isn’t that great, even on its own sample images.
It’s ideal for content creatives like graphic designers who want to make quick changes to photos and prepare them ready for use, but hardcore users or professional-level editors might find it a bit limiting.
ACDSee Photo Studio 2022 not only competes with Lightroom as a good non-destructive batch processor and image organizer, but it adds layers-based editing into the mix to make the leap from Photoshop easier too. It synchronizes images across devices using the ACDSee Mobile app too, so you can keep images with you when on-the-go.
ACDSee Photo Studio 2022 also works with third-party plug-ins to extend its usability, ideal for users that need to expand or have a favorite plug-in. People mode, powered by Artificial Intelligence, cleverly analyzes images for faces for tagging making it quicker to find photos of friends, family, or clients.
It's only available for Windows computers, though ACDSee has now released Photo Studio Mac 8.
Perceived as a more stripped-back image editor, Corel’s Paintshop Pro 2022 sets itself apart from competitors with its easy-to-use AI features which often give simple, one-click edits that enhance photos.
The software is distinctly cut into thirds: Photography, Essentials, and a Complete mode that seem most suited to touch-interfaces, new users, and more advanced editors respectively. The Pro and Ultimate editions pack even more features in, and it processes raw files, High Dynamic Range imagery, and even has 360 camera support for adventurers and real estate photographers alike. Though it is a little slow to process and it’s Windows-only, its emphasis on AI and staggered user levels make it more accessible than Lightroom for beginners.
Once overlooked by photo editors, ON1 has really pulled up its socks and included some brilliant new features with its latest version of Photo RAW 2022. These include Sky Swap AI for autonomous sky masking, NoNoise AI which delivers extraordinary noise reduction, and the Line Mask Tool for manual cut-outs. Browsing images is now easier thanks to customizable viewing information. Time-lapses can now be created from a collection of stills and there’s a favorites pane to speed up organization. ON1 has also remastered the exporting and image conversion and it natively runs Photoshop plug-ins.