16 Software Editing Programs for Every Skill Level

September 24, 2019

By Greg Scoblete

Capture One 12
Version: 12.1

What’s New: Grids tool, improved support for Fujifilm camera owners (including file rendering and tethering), extended AppleScript functions, improved overlay controls, enhanced masking functionality
Platforms: Windows, Mac

Details: With version 12, Phase One is making its RAW editor and tethered shooting platform compatible with third-party plugins for the first time. It’s also significantly upgrading its masking tools. There’s now luminosity masking for creating masks based on the brightness of pixels in an image, which can be applied from one image to another. A Linear Gradient mask lets you adjust the size, shape and symmetry of masks for more precise mask adjustments. Finally, there’s a new Radial Gradient mask tool that creates a fall-off effect and can be adjusted and moved just like the Linear Gradient mask.

Price: $299

Alien Skin Exposure X4
Version: 4.5

What’s New: LUT effects and LUT importing, movable light leak overlays with lens flare and haze, redesigned copy photo tools, photo sizing on export, configurable keyboard shortcuts
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Photoshop, Lightroom

Details: Exposure’s vast collection of film-like effects make it a go-to source for photographers looking to quickly and easily apply presets to images. Beyond that, it’s grown increasingly capable as a photo organizer with features like smart collections and support for tethered shooting. 

Price: $119

CyberLink PhotoDirector 365
Version: Spring 2019

What’s New: FaceMe AI facial recognition engine, snap alignment, new Frame packs, GPS logging, layer filtering, new keyboard shortcuts
Platform: Windows

Details: In the crowded field of photo editing apps, PhotoDirector distinguishes itself with a few novelties, such as the ability to import videos and brush over parts you’d like to remain in motion while the other areas of the video become static. You can also take snapshots of faces from video clips when all the eyes are open and people are smiling. The software is among the more capable when it comes to editing 360 stills with the ability to straighten them, create “tiny planet” images and isolate panoramic images from larger 360 files. 

Price: $44/year

Serif Affinity Photo 
Version: 1.7

What’s New: Pen and dial support for Surface devices, HDR/EDR monitor support, 2x faster RAW file loading, sub brushes, 32-way symmetry support, new HSL adjustment layer, new filter effects
Platforms: Windows, Mac

Details: This Photoshop alternative supports pixel-level editing with 100 percent file compatibility across Windows, Macs and iPads. It supports PSD importing and exporting with unlimited layers, as well as a 32-bit workflow for HDR images, focus merging for highly-detailed macro images and brushes (including the ability to import .abr brush files). 

Price: $40

Skylum Luminar 3
Version: 3.1.2

What’s New: “On This Day” feature to view past images taken on the same date, improved memory card importing, support for Nik Collection plugins, Accent AI 2.0, photo organizer

Platforms: Windows, Mac

Details: With the third edition of Luminar, Skylum has built an image organizer and improved its AI-powered quick fixes. Accent AI is an all-around one-click fix, while AI Sky Enhancer focuses improvements on (you guessed it) your skies. Luminar supports non-destructive RAW editing, layers, masking and more. 

Price: $85 

DxO PhotoLab 2
Version: 2.3

What’s New: ClearView Plus haze removal tool, direct access to Nik plugins and folder indexing
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Lightroom

Details: PhotoLab, formerly OpticsPro, packs a ton of image science into an inexpensive package. DxO leverages precise measurements of thousands of camera and lens combinations to create tailored image corrections. It also incorporates local adjustments using the UPoint technology it inherited with the purchase of Nik software. The Elite edition of the software packs all the goodies—such as powerful de-noising and anti-moiré tools—while the Essential version will cost less.

Prices: $129 (essential), $199 (elite)

ON1 Photo RAW 2019
Version: 2019.5.1

What’s New: Ability to undock browse module, edit histories, selective syncing, hierarchal keywords, text tool enhancements, Apple Photos support, new layer workflow, AI quick masking
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Photoshop and Photoshop Elements, Lightroom Classic

Details: Photo RAW 2019.5.1 delivers a slew of new features to improve photo editing and organizing. Of particular note is a new portrait retouch feature that automatically identifies faces and applies corrections. The UI has been redesigned to make all of the software’s modules accessible as tabs. If you’re considering migrating from Lightroom, ON1 offers an AI-powered tool that helps you migrate your collections while preserving edits and other non-destructive settings.  

Price: $80 

Nik Collection 2 by DxO
Version: 2.0

What’s New: 42 presets, high-resolution monitor support, U Point editing for RAW files

Platforms: Adobe Photoshop and Elements, Lightroom Classic, DxO PhotoLab 2 Essential, Skylum Luminar

Details: Now that DxO has ownership over the Nik plugins, they’ve introduced the first major update to the seven titles in years. The new presets include 10 new recipes for Color Efex Pro, 12 new presets for HDR Efex Pro, 10 presets for Silver Efex Pro and 10 new tool combinations for Analog Efex Pro. The number of programs that can host the plugins has also grown to include DxO’s own PhotoLab and Skylum’s Luminar.

Price: $149

Corel PaintShop Pro Ultimate
Version: PaintShop Pro 2020

What’s New: SmartClone, Refine Brush, touch-enabled photography workspace
Platform: Windows

Details: The latest update to Corel’s photo editor offers a clone tool that can merge elements from multiple images as well as a new Refine Brush tool to improve the accuracy of selections. The software includes extra apps like PhotoMirage animation software and AfterShot RAW editing. 

Price: $99

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate

What’s New: Facial recognition slider, improved tagging and dehaze, color LUTs, preset import and exporting, new develop mode brushes, luminosity selections, customizable keyboard shortcuts
Platform: Windows

Details: With Photo Studio Ultimate, you get a powerful digital asset manager and RAW editor all in one. Recent improvements include facial recognition tools that let you identify an individual once so the software can find and tag all instances of that face in your collection. Monochrome photo editing has been improved with the ability to increase or decrease the contrast of each individual color and specify the brightness range that the contrast adjustment will target.

Price: $80 or $89/year

Adobe Photoshop CC
Version: 20.0

What’s New: Multiplatform support for PSD editing on iPads, frame tool, new Content-Aware Fill workspace, multiple undo
Platforms: Windows, Mac

Details: Adobe’s flagship photo editor is getting smarter with the integration of the company’s Sensei AI platform. Sensei flexes its muscles in the updated Content-Aware Fill workspace, which lets you remove objects in an image while the software intelligently fills in the missing pixels. The program’s masking functionality is enhanced with a new Frame Tool, which lets you create rectangular or elliptical frames (or any shape you convert) to mask images. The frames are placed as Smart Objects so they’re scalable non-destructively. 

Price: $10/year

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom
Versions: 8.3.1 (Classic), 2.3 (Lightroom)

What’s New: Homescreen update for mobile users with interactive tutorials, shared albums, texture editing, defringe tool, copy-and-paste batch edits for Android users
Platforms: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android

Details: The most recent Lightroom updates furthers Adobe’s twin ambitions to make Lightroom more accessible and more functional across a range of devices. Interactive tutorials guide a user step-by-step through specific edits, showing them which sliders were adjusted using a number of sample images. Lightroom Classic users receive flat-field corrections as a built-in tool (it was formerly a plugin). The Auto mode has also been enhanced to make one-click fixes more effective. A new texture slider lets you smooth or accentuate fine details (skin pores, hair, etc.) depending on your needs. 

Price: $10/month

Anthropics PortraitPro Body 3
Version: 2019

What’s New: Faster body selections, Warp Fixer, enhanced tutorials
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Photoshop (as a smart filter), Lightroom, Photoshop Elements

Details: A complete solution for retouching and editing bodies, the latest update to Anthropics’s body retoucher adds deep learning and image-recognition technologies to make automatic body selections in a fraction of the time it took to make manual selections in version 2. It features a new Warp Fixer that lets you adjust bodies without distorting the background image. Using the plugin, you can adjust a subject’s build and height, contour their body, correct their posture, smooth skin and remove blemishes, and even adjust facial expressions and facial lighting. 

Price: $60

Topaz AI Bundle
Version: Summer 2019

What’s New: Topaz Adjust AI 
Platforms: Windows, Mac

Details: The AI bundle consists of five programs that derive their imaging power from the use of artificial intelligence. The newest member of the suite is Adjust AI, an all-purpose auto-tuning program for making quick edits. In addition to Adjust AI, there’s Sharpen AI, DeNoise AI, Gigapixel AI, and JPEG to RAW AI. Sharpen AI sharpens image information without sharpening noise, as well as improves out-of-focus images and reduces blur caused by camera shake. DeNoise AI removes image noise while preserving image detail. Gigapixel AI is able to increase image resolution by up to 600 percent, realistically. JPEG to RAW AI removes compression artifacts, improves details, and enhances dynamic range in JPEG files. The software is able to convert a JPEG to a DNG file so you can apply the full range of RAW file controls to the image rather than the limited controls available to a JPEG file.

Price: $250

Pixelmator Pro
Version: 1.3.4

What’s New: Match Colors to apply colors from one image to another, free transform, portrait masks, new keyboard shortcuts
Platform: Mac

Details: Like many programs, Pixelmator got its start as an editor but is maturing into a more comprehensive imaging program with organizing and editing tools. Its latest iteration lets you copy and paste objects into a photo and quickly match the color of its surroundings. You can import and use Photoshop brushes for detailed retouching and tap several AI-powered fixes including ML Enhance for one-click corrections. 

Price: $40 

Zoner Photo Studio X
Version: Spring 2019

What’s New: Faster RAW loading, enhanced RAW+JPEG handling, AI-assisted face retouching, new deformation tools, new video-editing tools, faster contact sheet loading
Platform: Windows 

Details: A multi-purpose editor that supports RAW processing, non-destructive photo editing, layered editing, presets and retouching. It can edit videos and supports cataloging images for Lightroom-like organizing. You’ll get 20GB of free storage with your subscription. 

Price: $37/year 

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