Adobe's Lightroom software is arguably the most popular way to organize and manipulate large photo libraries, but it's not the only option in town. Adobe's move to monthly subscriptions instead of prepayment has left many users in the dark. Fortunately, there are a number of Lightroom alternatives available, ranging from free apps to comparatively expensive (and powerful) programs.
There are various other software options that photographers can use to edit their images, each with their own strengths. Check out our list of Lightroom alternatives for an inexpensive and easy-to-use tool to use today.
At a glance:
Best Lightroom alternative: Skylum Luminar
- Photoshop-like layers
- Unique A.I.-based tools
- $ 69 perpetual license
- Other organizational tools, including keywords
- Better automatic masking tools
- $ 10 per month including Photoshop
While Skylum Luminar has long been a popular RAW photo editor, it didn't become a Lightroom alternative until 2018 when it added digital asset management. Now the program includes both tools for organizing and editing images, keeping the original RAW files untouched. Thanks to its focus on artificial intelligence, there are even some options that Lightroom doesn't offer.
Luminar can import and organize images quickly and includes culling tools such as flags, stars and color labels. The most common organizational tool missing is the option to add keywords. This will make it easier to find photos later if you take the time to tag them first.
While Luminar has many of the same editing tools as Lightroom, the program starts off with a greater focus on presets and one-click edits that can help newbies become familiar with the software. Despite the requirement for presets, the advanced editing tools are retained if you prefer a hands-on approach.
In some ways, Luminar has more tools than Lightroom. The last time we took Luminar for a test drive – before the cataloging feature was added – one of our favorite tools was the option to add sunbeams and when done correctly the effect was realistic. Luminar also has an artificially intelligent digital polarization filter, a sky amplifier and a detail amplifier. The latest version uses A.I. to automatically swap skies and turn the normally complex task of editing portraits into a series of sliders.
While Luminar has a handful of unique tools – especially those made with A.I. – There are a few things that Lightroom does even better. Lightroom's range masks make local edits easier, and the Healing Brush tool seemed to work faster too. With the mix of digital asset management and A.I.-based tools you won't find anywhere else, Luminar is a great Lightroom alternative. The program costs about seven months for a Lightroom / Photoshop subscription, but is a one-time purchase. Thanks to the new Flex plug-in, Luminar can also be used in conjunction with Lightroom.
Best free Lightroom alternative: RAWTherapee
- Mac, Windows and Linux
- No imports necessary
- Other organizational tools
- More local customization tools
- $ 10 a month, along with Photoshop
- Free accompanying mobile app
RawTherapee is to Lightroom what GIMP is to Photoshop. The program is an open source RAW photo editor (read: free) with a number of features similar to those of Lightroom. Like other RAW processors, RawTherapee is non-destructive and always keeps your original RAW files.
While RawTherapee lets you browse folders containing RAW images, it doesn't provide the same level of organization as Lightroom. Opening a folder in RAWTherapee will automatically add the images to the program. This means there is no import process, but there are also no collections to organize photos. RawTherapee users instead use a folder structure to organize files, while Lightroom users can use both a folder structure and catalogs that don't change the location of the original file. (Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic differ in the way they manage original files, with Lightroom CC keeping everything in one place. The albums and folders created in the app do not correspond to the actual folders in your computer's file system.)
While organizing files varies greatly, the open source program has many of the same editing tools as Lightroom. Basic options like adjusting exposure and sharpening, as well as advanced tools like curves and color grading, are included. However, many of Lightroom's local customization tools, such as the Healing Brush tool, are missing.
RawTherapee is organized in workspaces based on tabs. While Lightroom Classic also uses tabs, most photographers only stay in the Library and Development modules, while Lightroom CC leaves out modules entirely in favor of tool windows. With RawTherapee, color adjustments are on one tab and sharpening is on another. And like most of the less popular Lightroom alternatives, RAWTherapee doesn't have that many tutorials to learn about the various features of the program.
Best all-in-one Lightroom alternative: On1 Photo RAW
ON1 Photo RAW
- Photoshop-like layer editing
- Stacking the focus
- Face recognition tools for retouching
- Perpetual license
- Can be faster
- Cloud editing
- More powerful catalogs
ON1 Photo RAW was developed by a small Oregon-based company and combines a Lightroom-like digital asset management system with Photoshop-like still image editing tools. The program includes many, if not all, of the same tools as Lightroom, but also includes several features that Adobe users typically use Photoshop for, such as: B. Levels.
On1 Photo RAW also doesn't require importing images – the program automatically detects images that are stored on your hard drive. While this takes the import step, it also takes the flexibility out of it, as Lightroom catalogs are easier to back up thanks to Adobe's cloud storage. (And how much time this really saves is debatable. After all, you still have to copy pictures from the card to your computer, while importing them straight into a program eliminates that extra step.)
The editing tools between the two programs are similar. Unlike Capture One Pro (below), On1 RAW still includes HDR and panorama tools. It even offers focus stacking which Lightroom users would need Photoshop for. While Photoshop is included in the Creative Cloud Photography Plan, sending a photo from Lightroom creates a redundant copy. The original RAW is still there, but you cannot redo any of your RAW adjustments to the version edited in Photoshop. On1 Photo RAW also has a portrait editing tab, which automatically detects the various elements of a face to make portrait retouching easier.
On1 Photo RAW does not completely replace all of Photoshop's features – Photoshop can also be used for graphic design – but includes some of the most popular tools that photographers use without using two separate programs. Many say that Lightroom is the faster of the two programs. However, On1 Photo RAW 2020 focused on speed improvements as well as options for batch editing photos.
On1 Photo RAW also lets photographers unsubscribe, which costs about $ 100 for a perpetual license, with discounts on future software updates. If you like the subscription, the company also offers a subscription for $ 130 per year that includes the software as well as study materials.
Best professional Lightroom alternative: Capture One Pro
Capture One Pro
- Improved studio-focused features like tethering
- Layer-based editing
- More customization options
- Can be easier to learn
- HDR and panorama merge
Capture One Pro is photo editing software developed by medium format camera company Phase One. As you'd expect from such a camera company, this RAW editing program offers a number of high-end tools. Many Capture One Pro users state that the software offers more tools for studio photographers – tethering works better, images can be organized into sessions rather than catalogs, and annotations allow photographers to sketch notes right on the photo.
In terms of functionality, Capture One Pro is very similar to Lightroom, but it may have even more tools than the industry standard from Adobe. One key difference is that Capture One Pro uses layers that offer some Photoshop-like functionality. Other differences are more subtle – both use color tools, but Capture One Pro uses a color wheel, which tends to be more flexible than Lightroom's sliders. Many advanced users find that Capture One's RAW processing is slightly better than Adobe's, at least for the first starting point. The feature list isn't entirely skewed in favor of Capture One software due to the lack of Lightroom's HDR and panorama tools.
While most Lightroom alternatives try to reach new users at a cheaper price, Capture One Pro doesn't. The subscription costs twice as much – though not quite as much when paid for annually – or can be purchased directly for $ 300. However, the versions designed only for Fujifilm or Sony cameras are cheaper at $ 219 for a perpetual license (free express versions are also available that include optimized functionality). Perpetual licenses do not include updates like a subscription, but updates are discounted for users with an earlier version.
Best Lightroom alternative for local editing: DxO PhotoLab
- More local customization tools
- Automatic adjustments for a faster start
- Nik Collection Tools
- Powerful RAW processor
- More robust organization
- HDR and panorama merge
- Creative cloud and mobile app
- Includes Photoshop
Thanks to the relatively recent addition to photo libraries, DxO PhotoLab can now be seen as a complete Lightroom alternative rather than an add-on tool. Like many competitors, images are not imported into a catalog, but DxO PhotoLab offers tools for organizing the files found on your hard drive, as well as tools for finding and reading photos.
What sets DxO PhotoLab apart is the RAW processing. DxO specializes in image processing and recently acquired the Nik collection to further improve this. DxO PhotoLab automatically reads the data in the image and makes adjustments as it is imported, including corrections based on the lens and camera used, what the company calls smart lighting, and noise reduction algorithms. This provides a quicker start for working with RAW files.
Photographers using DxO PhotoLab praise the program's sharpness and noise reduction algorithms. Another highlight of the program are local adjustments with the Nik Collection U-Point technology, which in some cases can replace complex masking, although there is also a brush tool for masking.
However, DxO PhotoLab is not as well organized as Adobe Lightroom and does not have some tools such as HDR fusions and panoramas. Lightroom is also coupled with Photoshop, a mobile app, and cloud storage. However, DxO PhotoLab does not require a subscription and costs between $ 129 and $ 199.
Best Lightroom and Photoshop alternative: Corel AfterShot Pro
- Easy to use
- Fast imports
- Other organizational tools
- Other editing tools
- Modern interface
AfterShot Pro creates this list because it can do many of the same changes that it can do in Lightroom. If you need to do color adjustments, cropping and incorrect retouching, and batch edits, AfterShot Pro can do it for you. The program even includes some local adjustment tools that use layers, which Lightroom doesn't. However, Lightroom does offer users a few more tools and can handle some changes like lens corrections and perspective distortion just a little better than AfterShot Pro.
Another small flaw for AfterShot Pro is the organization. AfterShot Pro organizes your photos neatly, but it can't keep up with Lightroom's handy geotagging feature. Finding the shot you want in AfterShot Pro isn't too difficult. It's just not that convenient. Plus, Lightroom feels a little more sophisticated with its modern, easy-to-use interface and intuitive organization tools.
While AfterShot Pro lacks some of the features we love to use, it is an inexpensive, easy-to-learn program that also pairs well with PaintShop Pro, making it a little more versatile. AfterShot Pro is a great choice for users looking for decent alternatives to Lightroom and Photoshop while keeping the programs separate. The latest version of AfterShot Pro will cost you around $ 80However, this number can fluctuate as the developer releases new updates and upgrades.