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The Best Photo Editing Software of 2017

We have reviewed this category for 12 years. In the last year, we spent over 176 hours testing and reviewing, and we considered 10 products.

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You'll find popular programs like Adobe Photoshop on this page, but if you're editing on a Mac system, check out our reviews of photo editing software specific to Mac operating systems.  

The Best Photo Editing Software of 2017
Our Ranking Photo Editing Software Price
1 Corel PaintShop Pro $47.99
2 Adobe Photoshop Elements $99.99
3 Zoner Photo Studio $95.88
4 ACDSee Pro 10 $44.95
5 Corel PhotoImpact $29.99
6 CyberLink PhotoDirector Ultra $69.99
7 Photolightning $39.95
8 Affinity Photo $49.99
9 Xara Photo & Graphic Designer $64.99
10 PhotoPad $34.99
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Photo Editing Software Review

How to Choose Photo Editing Software

The top performers in our review are Corel PaintShop Pro X9, the Gold Award winner; Adobe Photoshop Elements 15, the Silver Award winner; and Zoner Photo Studio X, 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 these 10 applications.

Photo editing software comes in handy for several uses. It's not just helpful for professionals in the photography industry. Whether you are a graphic designer making a living designing logos and websites or a hobbyist photographer who dabbles 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 software you choose, you have myriad features at hand. Each one can help you create renderings and digital art, touch up photos, and more, enabling you to take your profession or hobby 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 an array of creative tools and features.

Most image editing software programs are available in a few different formats. Typically, you install these programs on your computer. The software's user guide then 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 picture 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 programs are compatible with PCs running Windows, with some also available for Macs. However, it's important to carefully check the specifications and system requirements of the 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. Many manufacturers offer technical support, including email, live chat and phone assistance with the purchase price of the software. Additionally, they may offer 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 will 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 capabilities.

Photography editing software typically comes with a one-user license with purchase, although several programs offer multiple licensing for businesses. Other manufacturers offer pay-as-you-go pricing, 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 picture editor with a simple interface will suffice.

Photo Editing Software: What We Tested, What We Found

Two key components to look for in a picture editor include how easy the software is to use and how quickly it performs tasks. To test the effectiveness of each software application on our list, 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 these tasks, how quickly the software applied the edits and how the changes affected image quality. We then calculated a score that reflects how easy the software is to use.

Additionally, the software workspace plays a role in ease of use. Those applications that were uncluttered and user friendly helped us locate image editing tools quickly.

Aside from each software interface, there was little variation between the performance of each software application. Each program's editing tools produced similar results. They all performed edits quickly and with similar quality.

To determine which picture editor 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 additional points to 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 application has.

We found that our Gold Award winner, Corel PaintShop Pro X9, 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 manipulating photos, support services and instructions are important to ensure you learn the tools at hand and have help available when you need it. Understanding the technical requirements of the program before purchasing a product will spare you added costs (not to mention the frustration) of having to upgrade your computer setup or having to purchase different software if the program you chose is not compatible.

Support & Documentation: Essential Information When Learning a New Program
Support is essential, especially when you're floundering trying to understand a specific feature or task. Many image editing 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 to suit your skill level and needs.

Photo Editing Software: What Programs Work for Whom
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 that caters to your creative needs.

What Is the Best Photo Editing Software for Beginners?
When just starting out, 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 programs are solely for a certain skill level, while others accommodate a range of skill levels.

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 master the application.

One of the best professional photo editors for advanced users is Corel PaintShop Pro X9. Although it is only compatible with Windows operating systems, Pro X9 has a user-friendly interface, but it also offers professional tools. 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 X9 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.

Affinity Photo is a newcomer to the photo editing scene. The program supports several files, including RAW, JPG, PSD and PDF. It offers plenty of advanced editing features that the experienced editor will appreciate but will not be the best program for beginners. The interface is designed like most advanced photo editing software, which will once again help experienced editors transition to using it, but it also includes minor changes to the interface that simplify the editing process. Unfortunately, it does not come with a photo organizer, which is the only reason this image editor ranks so low on our review. However, you can always purchase photo organizing software in addition to Affinity Photo.

Preloaded with over 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 software; however, it's 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 offers tutorials and videos to help you learn the program.

Photo Editing Software: Our Verdict & Recommendations

The top three performers in our photo editing software review include Corel PaintShop Pro X9, Adobe Photoshop Elements 15 and Zoner Photo Studio X. The clear winner, with a perfect score, is Corel PaintShop Pro X9. Delivering professional tools, this easy-to-learn program scored the Gold Award.

Ideal for beginners, hobbyists and professionals, Corel PaintShop Pro allows for quick and easy 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 board for organizing, sharing, importing and output capabilities, and help and support, Corel is the frontrunner in image editors. 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 X9 streamlines workflow and delivers quality results.

Coming in a close second, the Silver Award winner is Adobe Photoshop Elements 15. 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 choice, 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 want to quickly advance their skill set.

Zoner Photo Studio X is our Bronze Award winner. 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, Zoner offers excellent sharing capability, with the ability to upload to social media pages such as Facebook and Flickr.

Photo Editing Software: Wrapping It Up

With hundreds of options to choose from, picking an image 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 or a professional, there is a photo editor designed to suit 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 review of Photo Editing Software 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.