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2016
Best

Photo Editing Software Reviews

reviews & comparisons

Photo Editing Software Review

Why Buy Photo Editing Software?

The top performers in our review are Corel PaintShop Pro, the Gold Award winner; Adobe Photoshop Elements, the Silver Award winner; and ACDSee Pro 9, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a product to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of 10 products.

Photo editing software comes in handy for several applications. It's not just helpful in the photography industry. Whether you are a graphic designer making a living designing logos and websites or a hobbyist photographer who likes to dabble in digital editing, there is software available to meet your needs.

With digital cameras becoming more affordable, whether part of a smartphone or the latest DSLR, photography is quickly growing in popularity. In the age of social media and "selfies," it has never been easier to share your life moments and creative art with the world.

Depending on the picture editing software you choose, you have myriad features at hand. Each one can help you create renderings and digital art, touch up photos, and much more, enabling you to take your hobby or profession to the next level. Ideal for restoring old family photos, posting pictures to social media and creating original works of art, versatile photo editors offer a wide array of creative tools and features.

Most photo editing programs are available in a few different formats. Typically, you install photo editing software on your computer, accompanied by an in-depth user guide that introduces you to the many features and options available. Some programs are available as a digital download after purchase and may include the option to buy a physical copy of the disk to have on hand. There are also programs that are entirely cloud-based, requiring no installation at all. These types of photo editors are ideal for users who need maximum accessibility and a portable solution they can take on the go and access from any location.

Most photo editing programs are compatible with PCs running Windows, with some also available for Macs. However, it is important to carefully check the specifications and system requirements of the individual program you choose to ensure it is compatible with your setup. Most programs require or highly recommend anywhere between 128MB to 4GB of available hard disk space and 100MB to 4GB of RAM for installation and use. If you don't have enough space, or it's too close to your capacity, the program won't run properly and you won't be able to take advantage of its features.

There are programs designed for beginners through advanced super-users. With the purchase of many programs, the manufacturer offers technical support, including email and phone assistance, FAQs and tutorial videos. While some programs are more intuitive and easier to learn than others, it is important to note the features and capabilities of the program to ensure it can complete the tasks you need it to perform. Many times, there are additional plugins available, from either the manufacturer or third parties, which take the software even further in its capability.

Photo editing software typically comes with a one-user license with purchase, although several programs offer multiple licensing for businesses that require installation on several computers. Other manufacturers offer pay-as-you-go, with a monthly fee for a cloud-based solution. A program hosted entirely online is ideal if usage is minor or you'd rather not make a big upfront investment. Online options are also a good choice when you want access to updates as soon as they become available without having to purchase a newer release.

What Is the Best Photo Editor for You?

When determining the best photo editing software for you, it's necessary to evaluate the features and, more importantly, what you plan to use the software for. Graphic artists may require a professional program that offers more advanced tools. Whereas if you're just looking to edit family photos and create online galleries to share with friends, an easy photo editing software with a simple interface will suffice.

Photo Editing Software: What We Tested, What We Found

Two key components to look for in photo editing software include how easy the software is to use and how quickly it can perform tasks. To test the effectiveness of each software, we found control images and performed common editing tasks on them – for example, resizing, cropping or adjusting the color of an image. We evaluated how easy it was to perform tasks, how quickly the software applied the edit and how the image quality was affected. We used those figures to calculate a score that reflects how easy the software is to use.

The software workspace plays a role in how quickly we found the editing tools. Ones that were clean and user-friendly helped us edit quickly. Aside from each software interface, there was little variation between the performance of each software. Each program’s photo editing tools produced similar results. They all performed each edit quickly and with similar quality.

To determine which photo editing software will work best for you depends on the level of editing you plan on doing. We created an ease-of-use score that takes into account the interface, type of tools and the speed at which the software completes tasks. We awarded software that offers automatic edit options. In addition to an easy-to-use program, you want one that offers all of the tools you need. Whether you are simply editing personal photos or manipulating images to create art, you can use our comparison chart to view which tools each software has.

We found that our Gold Award winner, Corel PaintShop Pro, offers a wide range of features that helped us perform both simple edits and more complicated tasks. Thanks to the user-friendly interface and a plethora of support options, we were able to transform our photos with ease.

Top Ten Reviews seeks, whenever possible, to evaluate all products and services in hands-on tests that simulate as closely as possible the experiences of a typical consumer. The manufacturers had no input or influence over our test methodology, nor was the methodology provided to any of them in more detail than is available through reading our photo editing software reviews. Results of our evaluations were not provided to the companies in advance of publication.

What Else Is Important in Selecting Photo Editing Software?

If you're new to editing, support services and instructions are important to ensure you learn the tools at hand and have help available when necessary. Understanding the technical requirements of the program before purchasing a product will spare you added costs of having to upgrade your computer setup or having to purchase a different software package if the one you chose is not compatible.

Support & Documentation: Essential Information When Learning a New Program
Support is essential, especially when you're floundering with a specific feature or task. Many photo editing software companies offer a support forum where users can interact with each other and ask specific questions, often getting multiple responses in a short amount of time. Good tech support is also essential, especially if you're just getting started with a new program. Some popular technical support options include live chat, phone support and email. Many programs also have user manuals, text and video tutorials, and a FAQs section to further assist you. It's important to ensure the photo editing software you choose has the support and documentation necessary, according to your skill level and needs.

Most of the photo editor programs we reviewed received a good score for support and documentation. Corel PaintShop Pro and Adobe Photoshop Elements were the top scorers, while Photolightning offered the least amount of support in the lineup. Photolightning's manufacturer only offers support via email and provides users with few FAQs. There are also limited instructions to get you familiar with the tools and features of the program.

Photo Editing Software: What Programs Work for Whom

We've touched base on the numerous features and benefits that come with many photo editing programs. The type of program that works best for you depends on your individual needs. Some programs are created for growth, designed for beginners through advanced levels, while others are strictly beginner or advanced. Whether you are a beginner or a pro, there is a photo editing program catered to your creative needs.

What Is the Best Photo Editing Software for Beginners?

When just starting out with photo editing, a basic photo editor that is easy to use is ideal. Learning the foundational skills in editing prepares you for using more advanced software in the future. Some photo editing programs are solely for a certain skill level, while others accommodate a range of skill levels within one program.

One easy photo editing program is Serif PhotoPlus X8. It has integrated help features as well as extensive instructions and video tutorials to help you get started. This makes the program easy to use, no matter where your skill level lies. Integrated sharing tools allow for direct upload to social media sites such as Flickr and Facebook with a single mouse click. Organizing your files is also easy with this photo editing software program's intelligent photo library, offering a photo tagging and rating system. Another great feature is Google's Map of the World, which shows you exactly where you took your photos.

PhotoPad Photo Editor is also among the easiest programs to use in our top 10 list. This simple program may have an outdated design, but the toolbox has several basic editing tools you can use to transform your photos. With a typical interface, the program allows for basic features such as layers, text effects and editing. However, the organizing system lacks several features, making it difficult to locate photos quickly. This is an ideal photo editing program for a beginner looking to complete the most basic photo edits. This program has the lowest overall score in our list, mostly due to an organizing system that lacks features and is missing editing tools.

What Are the Best Advanced Photo Editors?

More advanced users and professional photographers need image editing software that offers efficient workflow and delivers professional, high-quality results. Advanced programs have a steeper learning curve yet deliver the best results once you have them mastered.

One of the best professional photo editing software options for more advanced users is Corel PaintShop Pro X8. It offers professional tools and a fast workflow. Although it is only compatible with Windows operating systems, Pro X8 has a user-friendly interface. This advanced photo editor provides excellent organization and sharing tools, including the Find People facial recognition feature, photo mapping and direct integrations with photo-sharing sites such as Flickr. The professional photo editor also offers over 50 different formats for saving photos, including JPG, GIF, PICT and PCX. Additionally, PaintShop Pro X8 provides users with a host of customer service and support options, including email, phone, live chat, built-in tutorials and how-to videos as well as FAQs and a community forum to collaborate with other users.

Pre-loaded with over 175 fonts and 67 creative filters, Xara Photo and Graphic Designer 11 is another ideal option for advanced users, specifically in the graphic design realm. This advanced photo editor has a steep learning curve compared to other similar photo editing programs; however, it is versatile and delivers powerful design and editing capabilities. One dynamic feature of the program is its intuitive background removal tool, which is ideal for removing unsightly background objects or cropping out photo-bombers. Although it requires some patience and practice to master, Xara Photo and Graphic Designer 11 does offer tutorials and videos to assist in learning the program.

Photo Editing Software: Our Verdict & Recommendations

The top three performers in our photo editing software review include Corel PaintShop Pro X8, Adobe Photoshop Elements and Serif PhotoPlus. The clear winner, with almost a perfect score, is Corel PaintShop Pro. Delivering professional tools, this easy-to-learn program scored the Gold Award spot.

Ideal for beginners, hobbyists and professionals, Corel PaintShop Pro allows for quick and easy photography edits with high-end results. With a multitude of instructional videos and tutorials to guide you along, users of any skill level quickly learn the toolbars and menus within the program. With a score of 10 out of 10 for editing tools, and perfect 10s across the boards for organizing, sharing, importing and output capabilities, and help and support, Corel is the frontrunner in photo editing software. It delivers excellent value and is fun to use. Whether you are creating a family photo album, designing a new business logo or professionally editing a portrait session, Corel PaintShop Pro X8 streamlines workflow and delivers quality results.

Coming in a close second, the Silver Award winner is Adobe Photoshop Elements. This powerful product, designed for users of all skill levels, scored a perfect 10 for editing tools. With three editing modes, including Quick Edit, Guided and Expert, the program adapts to your skill level. With another perfect 10 for its sharing capabilities, Photoshop Elements has the ability to upload your photos directly to the social media site of your choosing, including Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and SmugMug. Overall, this friendly photo editor grows as you do and is an ideal option for beginner photo editors who would like to quickly advance their skill set.

Serif PhotoPlus comes in as our Bronze Award winner. Although it has a steeper learning curve compared to Adobe and Corel, Serif is one of the best photo editing programs. There are plenty of video tutorials and software guides to help get you started. Offering slightly fewer editing options than our Gold and Silver award winners, Serif offers excellent sharing capability, with one-click uploads to social media pages such as Facebook and Flickr. The most expensive of the three, Serif PhotoPlus is most ideal for the experienced photo editor or a beginner with a lot of patience to learn.

Photo Editing Software: Wrapping It Up

With hundreds of options to choose from, picking a photo editing program can be a difficult decision. There are free programs, web-based programs and software you install on your computer. Some programs are subscription based, while others are one-time install purchases. Whether you are a novice photographer looking to make minor edits to photos or a professional looking to produce high-quality images for your clients, there is a photo editor designed for your skill level and needs.

Considerations to take into account include how much editing you plan to do, the types of tools you need, file formats you might work with and your skill level. You also need to take a look at your computer system and ensure it has the technical specifications to run a photo editing program, as some require a lot of RAM and hard drive space for operation. Or you may want to consider a cloud-based program that runs on a month-to-month subscription with immediate access to program updates. Once you have considered these important items, take a look at our Photo Editing Software Review for detailed scoring and an excellent comparison of the top 10 programs, including a pricing comparison. If you're looking to learn more about the programs and photo editing in general, check out our articles on photo editing software.