Adobe Photoshop has long been the industry standard in post-processing software, but it’s certainly not the only game in town. Widely regarded as the most comprehensive and all-inclusive image-editing software system on the planet, its complex, multifaceted interface can be daunting for many users due to the sheer number of tools and options. Perhaps the biggest downside to the latest version, Photoshop CC, is that you can't own it outright, because Adobe recently transitioned its iconic photo-editing application to a subscription-only model. If this doesn't appeal to you, there is a host of simpler and more specialized alternatives that may better suit your shooting style, workflow, and priorities. Here’s a roundup of cool contemporary photo-editing applications that may work better for you, or more closely match your specific needs.
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 6 (Download)
This upgraded version of Adobe’s complete photo-management and editing suite for Mac OS X and Windows is a popular go-to system for many enthusiasts and pros who already have a full version of Photoshop. Its intuitive user-friendly interface provides non-destructive editing that leaves the files uncompromised at any stage, and lets you upload, organize, and manage large numbers of folders in an easy-to-use, folder-based file structure using keywords. It has image-sharing and rich RAW file-processing capabilities, provides a new Advanced Healing Brush that makes it easier to remove oddly shaped objects, and Upright, an improved easy image-straightening system. The sixth edition also includes a pair of new Merge modes, HDR, and Panorama for seamless compositing of multiple images to enhance the dynamic range or increase the field of view in the image, and Facial Recognition Technology is now employed for accessing and organizing specific images. Overall speed of operation has also been enhanced, and Lightroom 6 also allows you to create advanced video slideshows and produce HTML-5-compatible web galleries for more dynamic image-sharing possibilities. Other new features include: a dedicated Filter Brush for more precise control when using graduated or radial filters, Smart Previews, and Develop Settings that can be saved as presets for applying your favorite looks to photos with a single click. Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 6 download is also available for the same price as a DVD.
Tiffen Dfx Digital Filter Suite v4 (photo Plug-In, Download))
This is the latest upgraded version of the unique software system that emulates the precise effects of 134 different Tiffen proprietary filters, and enables the simulation of more than 2,000 Tiffen glass filters, achieving a wider variety of production processes during post production, and now provides more than 288 film emulation presets. In addition, the fourth iteration of Dfx incorporates multi-processor acceleration that supports the latest 64-bit Mac and Windows operating systems for faster overall performance, and the plug-in version is compatible with Adobe Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Lightroom, and Apple Aperture. One of the prime benefits of Dfx v4 is its intuitive nondestructive layering system that saves intermediary correction steps and provides an ingenious effects array window that lets you select from a range of possibilities, view Custom and Comparison images side by side at any stage, and supports JPEG, TIFF, and RAW files. There are 13 unique new effects available in Dfx version 4, including: Borders (a range of pre-made borders); Cartoon (it converts image into cartoons); Curves, offering more precise control of tones, shadows, and highlights); Colorize Gradient for applying colors according to the brightness values of the image; and Grunge, which intentionally adds scratches, stains, dirt, and hair to mimic the look of damaged film. Tiffen Dfx Digital Filter Suite v4 is also available as stand-alone software for stills—JPEGS, TIFFS and popular RAW files, as well as a video/film plug-in that supports 64-bit applications of Avid, Adobe After Effects, Premiere Pro, and Apple Final Cut Pro X and Motion.
onOne Software Perfect Photo Suite 9.5 Premium Edition
The latest upgraded iteration of this popular photo-editing package for Mac OS X and Windows consists of seven distinct modules that can handle all aspects of fine-tuning, enhancing, and merging image files. Enhanced features on Perfect Photo Suite 9.5 include: a new Quick Mask Tool that determines which areas of the image you want to keep and automatically creates a mask; a new Noise Reduction utility that can selectively apply noise reduction to different part of the image, including highlights and shadows; a new Lens Flare filter for “shot into the sun” effects; a new Crop + Level tool that lets you crop freeform, choose a specific ratio, or create your own crop presets and has an improved Straighten Tool; an updated Perfect Brush enhanced to work better along soft edges and with semi-transparent subjects like clouds or hair; and a new Luminosity Masking tool that controls the precise amount of blending using the brightness of the photo.
In addition, the new version is said to operate up to twice as fast as Perfect Photo Suite 9.0[tv1] , allowing quicker previews, culling, and editing, and lets you send your chosen photos to Photoshop, Lightroom, or Aperture with a single click. Other new features: Faster Portrait Retouching to make it easier to find faces, adjust control points, smooth skin, remove blemishes, brighten eyes, etc., and New Smart Photos that lets you re-edit your photos with all previous settings intact. onOne Software Perfect Photo Suite 9.5 Premium Edition provides a host of customizable filters and hundreds of built-in presets. It’s useable as a stand-alone application or as a plug-in for Photoshop, Lightroom, Photoshop Elements, or Apple Aperture. A basic stand-alone version is also available.
Perfectly Clear 2.0 Plus In For Lightroom
Providing an enhanced degree of speed and automation, this Perfectly Clear 2.0 Lightroom-dedicated plug-in allows you to adjust all aspects of an image’s appearance quickly and easily, including color, contrast, exposure, sharpening, and noise reduction, which is now controlled by an Enhanced Noise Reduction Engine. It also provides an enhanced Beautify set of features dedicated to portraiture, and an intuitive interface that can be played with the host applications acclaimed batch-processing feature. Presets can be customized using Tweak settings, and the Split View feature and Opacity slider simplify image control and matching. It is delivered as a 4GB SDHC memory card and is also available as a download.
Perfectly Clear 2.0 Plus is also available in versions that support Photoshop—as an SD card or as a download.
Macphun Tonality Pro 1.0 Photo Editing Software
Designed to elevate your monochrome images, this Mac-only software runs on OS X 10.8 or higher as a stand-alone application, offering advanced comprehensive black-and-white image editing. It can also be used as a plug-in for Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Lightroom, and Apple Aperture. Macphun Tonality features include 16-bit RAW processing, the ability to use up to eight layers with advanced blending control, and 150 one-click preset options, including film type, blur, and lens emulations. It also provides vignetting and luminosity controls, plus a variety of other tools inspired by traditional darkroom effects. It can export to TIFF, PSDm JPEG, and a host of other file formats. Macphun Tonality Pro 1.0 allows you to add a new layer, insert a built-in or user-loadable texture via the Texture Layer Overlay panel, and brush through using the masking feature to add texture selectively to parts of the image. Dedicated features are each designed to do one thing but to do it very well. For example, Photomatrix is designed to tone-map HDR images and Tonality is designed to create ultra-high-quality black-and-white images seamlessly.
dslrBooth Professional Windows Edition Photo Booth Software (Download)
Aimed at wedding, event, portrait, and commercial photographers who want to set up a state-of-the-art photo booth, dslrBooth Professional is designed to provide efficient, intuitive operation and works with Windows 7 and 8 to automate most shooting and printing processes. Compatible with most DSLRs and virtually all printers, it provides a seamless interface for controlling capture and output technologies, and allows users to select multiple paper sizes, customize photo layouts, and add logos or graphics. Other features: Chroma Key on Blue or Green Screen, Live View Monitoring, and a choice of customizable or pre-defined layouts. dslrBooth supports printing on any paper size, provides integrated social media sharing and automatic file backup, and is optimized for Touchscreens.
Corel AfterShot Pro 2 (Download)
This upgraded version of Corel AfterShot Pro delivers enhanced speed, now supports 64-bit processing, and is compatible with a huge variety of camera brands and types, as well as Linux, Mac, and Windows operating systems. Its intuitive and efficient RAW file-editing system allows non-destructive photo editing, provides adjustments and tools for controlling composition, exposure, and color. It provides non-destructive photo editing, batch processing of large quantities or RAW files, image tagging, a catalog-based workflow, and offers a dedicated HDR module for refining the overall appearance of images with extended lighting ranges. It also offers selective editing using masking tools and multi-version editing without restrictions or compromising the original master files, and an extensive range of image library management tools for rating, tagging, and labeling images that interface with a robust search engine that can employ user-defined criteria or EXIF metadata. Other features: local contrast control for fine-tuning images, advanced Athentech Imaging Noise Removal, Red-Eye Removal, Multi-Version Editing, selective editing utilizing Layers and Regions, enhanced RAW image-editing capabilities, and an extensive range of personalized workflow options.
Hdrsoft Photomatrix Pro 5.0 (Download)
This program is optimized for creating High Dynamic Range (HDR) images from bracketed exposures of scenes encompassing a high contrast range that are shot at different exposures but are otherwise identical, resulting in a single image that captures an extended tonal range. The HDR effect can be fine-tuned for overall contrast, specific details, color saturation, micro contrast, highlights, white balance, gamma, color temperature, and more. Multiple built-in presets provide a quick selection of effects, and custom presents can be created and saved for future use. A batch-processing feature automatically generates multiple HDR images and an export plug-in integrates with Lightroom for greater workflow efficiency. Other features: Options for outputting and displaying thumbnails of custom presets, chromatic aberration, and noise correction, read/write in 32-bit HDR formats, selective de-ghosting, and tools specifically tailored for Real Estate Photography.
Topaz Labs LLC Topaz Impression (DVD)
This program works as a stand-alone or plug-in editing platform to transform photographs into unique images that resemble fine art paintings, replicating the styles of the Impressionist masters and providing the ability to create your own look with a choice of 14 different brush effects. It interfaces with Mac OS X 10.8 and later or Windows 7+ x64, OpenGL 3.2, and offers plug-in ability with Photoshop CS4+. Brush strokes, color palettes, brightness levels, and textures are adjustable to suit individual preferences, and since it works both as a stand-alone and a plug-in, a compatible host editor is not required. Other features: a choice of 47 custom presets, HSH technology that lets you adjust hue; color saturation and lightness across eight different colors, and a choice of 72 different background textures including brick, canvas, wood, rock, and a variety of paper types.
Phase One Capture One Pro 8 (Download)
Configured to deliver the operating speed required by professional photographers, this program streamlines the editing process for an efficient workflow and offers an extensive range of controls for all aspects of post production. These include dedicated Clone and Heal Repair layers, enhanced local adjustments, HDS, and black-and-white conversions. In addition, it provides full image processing and RAW conversion options, offers support for both Catalog and Session types of organization, and provides rich tethered shooting and Live View capabilities. Other features: more than 300 distinct camera profiles and individual lens profiles, lens-cast correction, soft-profiling capabilities, metadata editing capabilities, the ability to create Smart Albums and Smart Previews, advanced noise reduction using camera profiles, a dedicated film-grain emulation tool, keystone correction, and search filtering using keywords, EXIF, and IPTC data. Phase One Capture One Pro 8 is compatible with Mac OS X 10.9 or later and Windows 8/7.
Corel PaintShop Pro X7 Ultimate (DVD)
This innovative software package provides users with a suite of advanced editing tools and introduces new features such as Magic Fill Technology to make it easier to erase unwanted image areas and replace them with matching backgrounds, as well as providing an array of text- and shape-editing tools. It also supports faster 64-bit processing, comes with Perfectly Clear by Athentec Imaging and Reallusion FaceFilter3, and provides the Color Materials Palette with an extensive array of brushes, textures, and backgrounds. Other tools include: Image Dialog for choosing sizes for photos, prints, and graphics, Quick Preview enabling instant effects, faster brushes, XMP support for RAW files, HDR merge, Smart Edge, a content-ware feature to help keep your brush strokes within certain lines, enhanced batch-processing tools, and drag-and-drop layer creation. It also offers redesigned dialogs that can access eight different effects, including Selective Focus, Vignette, Retro Lab, Graduated Filter, Depth of Field, and Red Eye Removal. The Photo Mapping feature utilizes GPS data for organizing images or to place them on a map.
JPEGmini Photo Optimization Software
This ingenious and affordable photo-resizing app is designed to reduce overall file sizes to make them more manageable without sacrificing image quality, resolution, or format. It can reduce JPEG file sizes by up to 80% to free up hard drive space and shorten upload times. It uses a compression algorithm that emulates the human visual system to ensure that the appearance of the image remains the same, while removing redundancies within the image structure without causing any aliasing or artifacts. Using a two-step process, it analyzes how much compression is possible, and then, using a unique JPEG encoder, applies a degree of compression that yields a file that looks the same as the native file. It can compress JPEG files up to 28MP in size, and has been tested in accordance with the ITU BT.500 standard to perform as claimed. JPEGmini is compatible with the latest Mac and Windows operating systems and provides file size reductions from 30-50% with small files of less than 1MB, and 70-80% with files 8MB or higher.
DXO OpticsPro 10 Elite Edition (DVD)
This upgraded version of DXO OpticsPro speeds up the initial stages of post processing, and uses PRIME de-noising technology to expedite the noise-reduction process, yielding images with enhanced detail and natural color rendition. It also provides Clear View haze reduction to enhance clarity and manual or automated DXO Smart Lighting to control color, tonality, and exposure precisely, and provides intelligent sharpening to deliver crisper, more vivid images. It can also correct for a wide range of optical anomalies using equipment-specific profiles to eliminate many types of distortion, vignetting, and chromatic aberrations. Other features: powerful RAW, DNG, and JPEG processing, a dedicated anti-moiré tool, and a customizable workspace layout. White balance and dust-elimination tools can be used together within a single image, and it provides enhanced processing capabilities, as well as collaborative editing with Lightroom to speed up the workflow. DXO OpticsPro 10 Elite Edition works with the latest Mac and Windows operating systems.
DXO FilmPack 5 Elite Edition (DVD)
This new cutting-edge software is specifically designed to enable users to simulate the unique appearance of a wide variety of traditional film types accurately with digital photography, thus adding an analog element to the digital workflow. It contains a selection of 82 different film looks, including black-and-white, color negative, and color transparency films, and enables their grain structures, color balance, and general appearance to be applied to digital images. It can also process RAW image files, compensate for optical aberrations and other defects, and minimize digital noise while doing so. It also provides 18 Color Filters, plus a wide range of traditional creative effects including blurring, toning, light-leak effects, and vignettes, all of which are individually controllable. In short, DXO FilmPack 5 delivers some of the most beloved aspects of film photography within an efficient digital interface. Other features: micro-contrast adjustments, batch-processing capabilities, and plug-in or stand-alone operation.
I haven't bought Lightroom yet as I don't know how to use it. It would just sit collecting dust in my computer. We have a photography department in our local recreation department but I would need a laptop to take the class. Nobody teaches it at our local community colleges. I have been using Picasa 3 and Microsoft Live Photo Viewer as my editing tools. They are quick and easy to use and they don't cost me anything to own.
There are hundreds of youtube videos about every aspect of Lightroom.
Without sounding too snarky (and forgive me, since I know you're in the business of selling products), you'd forgotten another open-source software package in Darktable.
Seen as a Lightroom alternative, it's quite powerful. It's biggest limitation is that its not available for Windows-based systems.
You seem to have forgotten at least one :-) and it would be the one I would use if not for PhotoShop.
GIMP 2.8 open source, free, and on every computer I sit at, as opposed to PhotoShop, which is just on one computer that I sit at. I've installed GIMP on entire labs, so that middle school students can edit photos. A great program.
GNU image Manipulation Program GIMP