Best Photo Editing Software of 2017

Rebecca Spear
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We thoroughly tested each program by manipulating the same set of photos to see how each program handled the edits. The programs all scored differently based on how intuitive the software's interface is. We also evaluated the photo organizing system to see how well the system helped us find and arrange our photos. Our testing helped us identify Corel PaintShop Pro 2018 as the best photo editing software in our review. Its user-friendly interface and advanced editing tools are good for both beginners and seasoned graphic designers alike. The photo organizing system helps you arrange your photos in a variety of ways so you will be able to find the images you need quickly.  

Best Overall

Corel PaintShop Pro 2018

This software's basic and advanced tools can help you make professional-level photo edits to your images. The variety of photo organizing options allows you to create a system that makes the most sense to you.
Best Value

Affinity Photo

It doesn’t include a photo organizing system, but this program has some of the most powerful editing tools you’ll find in software you can buy without paying a subscription. It has a steeper learning curve for beginners, but it can help you become a pro.
Best for Beginners

CyberLink PhotoDirector Ultra

The editing and photo organizing interfaces are clean and easy to maneuver. It is a good program for beginners to learn on, but it also has the advanced editing tools that will satisfy a more experienced editor.

Our Test Results

Product
Price
Overall Rating
9.5
9.1
8.4
8.3
7.8
5.4
5.4
Editing Tools
10
9
9.3
9.3
6.5
9.8
7
Organizing
10
8.3
10
10
10
Import & Export Options
7.5
10
5
7.5
7.5
7.5
10
Help & Support
10
10
7.3
1.5
7.3
5.8
Post Directly to Social Media
Direct to Email Attachment
N/A
N/A
Online Photo Galleries
N/A
N/A
Printing Project Resources
N/A
Image Optimizing for Web
PDF Document
N/A
PSD
N/A
GIF
Animated GIFs
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
RAW Support
Layers
N/A
Background Removal
Selection Tools
Shape Tools
Ease of Use Score
100%
95%
85%
90%
80%
95%
80%
Painting & Drawing Tools
Color Management
Live Chat
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
Video Tutorials
User Forum
N/A
Phone Support
N/A
N/A
FAQs
N/A
Adjustment Layers
N/A
Creative Filters
86
98
93
38
60
57
75
Highlights/Shadow Adjustment
Vector Graphic Tools
N/A
N/A
Lens Distortion Correction
N/A
Batch Processing
N/A
Panoramas
N/A
Layer Masks
N/A
Create HDR Images
N/A
N/A
Windows 10
Windows Vista
N/A
N/A
Beta
N/A
Windows 7
Windows 8
File Browser
N/A
Create Albums
N/A
N/A
Built-in Organizing System
N/A
N/A
Rating System
N/A
View EXIF Information
Advanced Image Search
N/A

Why Trust Us 
For the past nine years, we have reviewed photo editing software to find the best programs available. We spent over 85 hours in the last 12 months using these editing programs to manipulate photos. Our testers are skilled editors with backgrounds in photography and graphic design. We used the same set of photos so we could compare each program's editing capabilities against each other. 


We contacted John Yoo, Head of Sales at CyberLink, to see what he finds most important for any photo editing software. He told us, "The basic functions – crop, adjust exposure, contrast, white balance, noise reduction – all of these features are not only important but the software needs to be able to adjust these accurately and easily." We completely agree.


Programs that completed edits in a quick, intuitive fashion while truly enhancing the photos received higher scores in our review. Programs lacking main features or offering them in a clunky fashion scored lower. Since tutorials and forums are such an important part of learning the photo editing process, programs with better instructive and help features scored higher. 


We also evaluated each programs' help features and organizing abilities to determine which offered the best options overall. We paid attention to each program's ease of use to see which were best for beginners to learn on. Since file compatibility is such an important part of the editing process, we scored programs higher if they accommodated the main photo file types: JPG, TIFF, PNG, GIF, PSD, PDF and RAW.

How We Tested
We used the same 12 photos in each of the programs we tested to see how well each one performed basic and advanced edits. We began by using the most basic editing tools like cropping, red eye removal and filters before moving on to more advanced editing tools like using mask layers to adjust hue, tone and brightness, or creating HDR images. We compared the final images from each program to see which software performed editing tasks the best.

Some programs provided the same level of editing finesse but forced you to go through several unnecessary steps before completing a task. For this reason, we scored clean, simple and well-organized interfaces higher. This year's best photo editing software, PaintShop Pro 2018, beautifully creates basic and advanced image enhancements through an easy-to-use interface.

If the program you want requires a subscription, make sure you understand the payment schedule. For instance, find out if the $20 payment is due quarterly or monthly.

If you are a beginner wanting to become a more advanced editor, make sure you purchase a program that allows you to work in layers. 

Many photo editing programs have switched to subscription payments, however there are a few programs out there that still offer one-time payments. Typically, subscription programs are better if you plan on editing on a daily basis and you want the most updated software to do it. One-time payment programs might become outdated in a couple years, but the basic editing tools will still be there for you to use at no additional cost.

Most professional photographers prefer to work with RAW images since it gives them more control over brightness, color and overall image quality. PSD is another popular file type since it saves the individual layers of your photos so you can edit them at any time. If you plan on becoming a serious photo editor, it is best to learn to work with these files.

If you take a lot of photos and plan on editing them on a regular basis, it can really help you save time if you get a program that offers batch processing. For example, if you wanted all of your photos to be a little brighter, you can use batch processing to quickly brighten all of the photos you select instead of taking the time to do it individually. This feature is commonly found in the photo organizing section of photo editing software.


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