With the price of DSLR cameras and lenses, photography can be an expensive hobby or trade, and the cost certainly doesn't end with software. Once the photographs are shot, it's time to process the images, and there is a number of software to get the job done. However, some are more expensive than others, and it all depends on a photographer's specific needs. DigitalCameraReview has compiled a list of the top photo editing software to help you decide which one is best for you.
Starting with the obvious, Adobe Photoshop is a tried and true resource for photo editing. This is a good option for photographers, designers, and illustrators who need to manipulate images and video for professional use as well as for the web. It is one of the most well-known photo editing services that exists for photographers and designers, but it comes with a steep learning curve. To add to the confusion, Adobe used to release a new version of Photoshop annually, with an updated user interface with new features added into the mix. However, Adobe's newest Photoshop releases come in the form of Creative Cloud, a pay by month/year subscription service. New users might want to take time to view tutorials or even take a class to use the service to its full potential. Even pro users occasionally need refreshers when updating from an older version of Photoshop to a new iteration. While anyone can learn Photoshop, beginners or amateur photographers may not want to bother, but there are other options from Adobe to suit anyone's needs. Photoshop CS6 is currently available for $689.99 on Amazon, making it one of the most expensive options on this list. Adobe's Creative Cloud can be purchased in several configurations. The popular combo of Lightroom/Photoshop went on sale several months ago for $10/month, but there is no indication if or when that will happen again.
Photoshop Elements 12
Dubbed by Adobe as, "easy photo editing for the rest of us," Photoshop Elements is a user friendly option for anyone that doesn't need the amount of features offered in Photoshop. Users can create Photoshop level effects with one click buttons, and the program includes three user experiences for varying levels of experience. With quick edits, users can apply one step effect, or they can opt for a guided experience that will provide assistance. Once users get the hang of the software, they can move up to expert mode, which allows for a little more freedom when editing photos. Photoshop Elements is a fraction of the cost of Photoshop, available for just $69 at the time of this writing.
Adobe Lightroom 5
Adobe may dominate this list of paid editing software, but it's because they've been in the game for a long time and have become the industry standard for professionals. While Photoshop is focused on designers and professional photographers, Lightroom is aimed strictly at photographers, stating it delivers "everything but the camera." It is a comprehensive program that allows users to organize, edit, print, and share images taken on a camera ranging from a DSLR to a smartphone. The software features tools that are useful for photographers including an advanced healing brush, radial gradient, photo book creation, and location-based organization to group photos by location. Users can also download effect packages from third party providers, to create the look and feel they want to achieve, without having to adjust individual settings. Lightroom helps professional photographers get images out to clients fast and efficiently, no matter how many shots they took at an event or photo shoot. Compared to Photoshop, Lightroom 5 is significantly more affordable, priced at $104.52 on Amazon at the time of this writing.
Corel Paintshop Pro X6
Corel is cheaper alternative to Photoshop, at just $59.99 on Amazon compared to $689.99 for the latest version of Photoshop CS6. With Corel, users can quickly adjust the contrast, brightness, saturation, white balance, levels, with one touch buttons. It also includes layers, easy to use retouching settings, smart selection functions, auto-correction tools, and more. With Corel Paintshop Pro, users can edit RAW files and HDR images, with features that will appeal to beginners as well as pros.
DxO Optics Pro 9
DxO Optics Pro lets photographers adjust the lighting of images in the processing stage, with more intelligence than simply brightening a photo. It frees up photographers to shoot in low light, and then adjust the brightness of the shot on their computer afterwards. This means photographers can shoot in low light, at high speeds, and then clean up the noise without worrying about distortion. The software will even recreate missing parts of an image using similar parts of the photo nearby, kind of like a clone tool. It is great software for action photographers or those who like to shoot in less than ideal lighting situations or at high ISO settings. The standard edition, which supports entry-level and mid-level digital cameras, is currently available for $99 and the elite version, which supports high-end cameras, is available for $299 at the time of this writing. Users can determine if they need the standard or elite version on the DxO website.
DxO Viewpoint 2.0
DxO Viewpoint is a great companion for photographers that wish to correct issues arising from a len's barrel including perspective and pincushion distortion. It works as standalone software, but it is also compatible with Adobe Photoshop Elements, Apple Aperture, Adobe Photoshop CC, and Lightroom 5 as a plug-in. Photographers that shoot with wide angle lenses are often victim to optical distortions, and this is what DxO aims to correct, with tools that allow users to easily correct volume deformation on image edges as well as convergent lines with an 8-point mode. DxO focuses less on the photographic elements of a photo such as saturation, contrast, and white balance, but instead helps users realign the framing and horizon of an image. It is compatible with a number of professional photo editing software, making it a good companion to your favorite programs. DxO Viewpoint 2.0 is currently available for $49 at the time of this writing.
DxO Filmpack allows users, at its most basic definition, to apply filters to photos. However, these aren't your Instagram filters; Filmpack offers high quality image reproduction. For example, with DxO Filmpack, users can reproduce images in black & white with analog standards. There are a host of other filters included in the software, including lomo, Fuji FP 100C, Kodak T-Max 400, Afga Precisa 100, and more. Users can capture the grain and color strength of analog photos with the ease of their digital cameras, without worrying about loss of quality in the processing stage. DxO Filmpack is available for $49, and will work as standalone software, but is also compatible with Adobe Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Lightroom, Apple Aperture, and DxO Optics Pro as a plug-in.
Mac users are most likely familiar with iPhoto, but Apple Aperture takes it to the next level with more features and functionality to edit and manage photographs. Users can enjoy the ease of familiar iPhoto features to organize, share, and print photographs with the added bonus of sophisticated editing tools. With Apple Aperture, users can add plenty of processing effects, correct white balance, and use intelligent one step enhance features. It also features 15 brushes for spot editing, including dodge, burn, blur, and smoothing. Users can share and print photos, create slide shows, photo books, and travel maps using the Aperture software. Apple Aperture is available for $79.99 for Macs running OS X 10.6.6 or later.
While most editing software is tailored for desktop use, Camera + offers iOS users a comprehensive photo editing app that also serves as a camera app for iOS devices. Within the app, users can take photos using features that the native iOS camera does not offer. It includes a grid as well as a separate function for focusing and exposure. This means, users can separate the focus and exposure so they can make sure a subject is in focus, but set the exposure to a different area of the photo to balance the brightness and contrast. It also features a host of editing features including brightness, contrast, saturation, a number of filter effects, and more. The only downside is that the iPhone and iPad apps are offered as separate downloads, rather the one app that can be used on both devices. The Camera + iPhone app is available for $1.99 while the iPad version is $4.99 in the Apple App Store.
PicSay Pro is a comprehensive editing app for Android users to fix up an image with options to adjust sharpness, pixilation, red-eye, and various color adjustments. It also features filter effects, frames, stickers, and other fun editing features for smartphone users. With color splash, users can create black and white images where certain objects show up as colored in the photo. It also supports pressure-sensitive drawing for devices with a stylus, as well as compatibility with most Android tablets. PicSay Pro is available for $3.99 in the Google Play store.