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Best Photo Editing Software
How to Choose Photo Editing Software
We initially tested nine photo editing programs for over 80 hours to determine which software was the most intuitive and offered the best editing capabilities. Corel PaintShop Pro was the best photo editor in our review. It allows for quick and easy edits with high-end results. With a multitude of instructional videos and tutorials to guide you along, it allows users of any skill level to quickly learn the toolbars and menus within the program. With easy organizing, sharing, importing, exporting, and help and support, Corel is the frontrunner in image editors. It delivers excellent value and is fun to use.
Affinity Photo is perfect for more advanced photo editors looking for an inexpensive program without a subscription. This software supports high resolution files, including RAW and PSD. The interface is designed like most advanced photo editing software, which will 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 in our comparison. However, you can always purchase photo organizing software in addition to Affinity Photo.
CyberLink's PhotoDirector is a great program for beginners since it features many basic and advanced tools. The program is also organized in an easy way for beginners to find, learn about and use tools. There are also dozens of online tutorials to help you make the perfect special effects. This program isn't compatible with PSD files, which allow you to save the separate files of your projects. It also doesn't have any vector graphics tools.
How We Tested, What We Found
In order to find the best photo editing software, we consulted with professional wedding photographer Lisa Stewart as well as John Yoo, CyberLink's Director of Sales, to see what they look for in photo editing software. Additionally, we used Amazon reviews to find highly rated programs.
In our testing, we used the same set of images and edited them on each of the programs. Our testers were skilled editors with backgrounds in photography and graphic design. We evaluated how easy it was to resize, crop and adjust the color of an image. How quickly the software applied the edits and how the changes affected image quality were also very important. We then calculated a score that reflects how easy the software is to use. While we initially started testing nine programs, only seven were good enough to make the final cut.
What Else Is Important in Selecting Photo Editing Software?
Lisa Stewart, professional wedding photographer, says that one of the most important features of photo editing software is the ability to make presets: "If you do the same type of edit often, you can push one button rather than go through every step, every time." This is especially helpful if you are planning to edit large quantities of photos on a regular basis.
The key to understanding any photo editing software comes from using the available tutorials and help options. It's important that you find manufacturers offering technical support, including email, live chat and phone assistance along with FAQs and tutorial videos.
Beginners and intermediate users wanting to improve should look for simple programs that allow them to work in layers. Programs like Zoner Photo Studio are organized into different sections to help you find the tools and features you need without getting overwhelmed with options. This program also has plenty of help tools to assist you in learning both simple and advanced editing tricks.
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. However, unless you plan on using your software on a daily basis and on a professional level, a single-payment option should fit your needs.
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 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.
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.
What Is the Best Photo Editing Software for Beginners?
When you’re 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 designed specifically for a certain skill level, while others accommodate a range of skill levels.
Adobe Photoshop Elements 2018 has powerful editing tools that are designed for users of all skill levels. With three editing modes, including Quick Edit, Guided and Expert, the program adapts to your skill level. Photoshop Elements lets you upload your photos directly to the social media site of your choice, including Facebook, Flickr and Twitter. This intuitive photo editor grows as you do and is an ideal option for beginner photo editors who want to quickly advance their skill set.
What Are the Best Advanced Photo Editors?
Advanced users and professional photographers need professional image editing software that offers efficient workflow and delivers professional, high-quality results. Advanced programs have a steeper learning curve for the novice, yet they deliver the best results once you master the application.
Affinity Photo is one of the best programs for more advanced users. It not only offers cutting-edge tools, but it also creates them at a professional level. Be aware that this program does not come with photo organizing software. Corel PaintShop Pro is another great option for experienced editors as it gives you access to HDR tools, several filters and plenty of adjustment layer tools to work with.
Adobe offers the most advanced photo editing tools with programs such as Photoshop and Lightroom. Another powerful professional photo editor is Phase One's Capture One Pro 10, which, although initially expensive, doesn’t require a subscription. These programs give you more control when editing color, brightness and image resolution. The effects you can make with these programs are truly stunning. To learn more, head to our professional photo editing software review.
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.