The new decade brings even more competition to the granddaddy of all image editing programs – Photoshop CC. Adobe’s move to subscription-based software has many users frustrated, despite the vast offerings of apps to cover every conceivable need for photographers, movie makers and graphic artists.
But despair not, friends, for there are worthy – and far less-expensive – alternatives to the Adobe empire, and you won’t be locked into recurring charges. There are even free photo editors from third-party manufacturers and from the major digital camera manufacturers.
GIMP continues to lead the pack for Photoshop alternatives as a free and open-source software package. It has awesome capabilities, and if you are willing to put in the time to learn the program with the documentation that can be downloaded with it, you’ll have a completely current editing program that will do everything you could possibly ask for.
Other free programs include Nikon’s image browser and editing programs, NXi and Capture NX-D, respectively; Canon’s Digital Photo Professional; and Sony’s Imaging Edge programs – Edit, Remote and Viewer.
The Nikon and Canon programs allow the photographer to “see” the focus points used in any images taken with their cameras. Both Apple and Windows have native image browsers (viewing software) and photo editors built into their operating system software – Apple’s “Photos” and Microsoft Windows 10 Photos.
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For a one-time fee, many Photoshop alternatives offer some stellar options, replete with excellent tutorials and support forums. Among the best are the following:
Affinity Photo, which offers some unique and very useful editing features which, in the author’s opinion, are far easier to use than comparable adjustments in other editing programs. Merging images in a focus stack has always been cumbersome, if not somewhat confusing. Affinity streamlines the process. Its other unique feature is the directional lighting adjustment, which allows the user to place light “sources” anywhere in an image with infinite adjustments for intensity and spreading the light.
Luminar (Skylum Software) is now on its fourth update, and what an update this one is! Masking and replacing sky is a nice way to add a little balance and depth to landscapes, or even portraits. Luminar 4 offers a “one-click” approach, with advanced options to fine-tune the new sky, with color temperature, placement and numerous other adjustments that give the resulting image a natural, unmanipulated look.
Finally, of the three editing programs this author finds as worthy competitors to Photoshop, there’s DxO PhotoLab 3, which arguably has the best RAW converter currently available. DxO is the company that tests digital cameras and lenses, and has a long history of creating the editing program for exacting photographers. And the company recently picked up, and updated, the fabulous NIK plug-in collection, rounding off what was already a highly competent program.
There are many other very good post-processing programs for photographers and graphic artists, and the aforementioned ones are favorites of this author as both a practicing photographer and as an educator of photography. It would be well worth your time and energy to download trial versions of the program(s) that you find of interest.
Get busy – it’s a new decade ahead!
Dr. Photo – aka John Keller – operates a full-service photography studio and gallery at Studio 5 in the Mission Arts Building in Lincoln, teaches introductory and advanced courses in digital photography, cell phone and tablet photography and editing at Doane College in Lincoln, and for the OLLI program at UNL. He also offers single and group digital photography and editing lessons. Email your digital photography and computer questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.