So, you probably got yourself an expensive camera that shoots high-quality JPEG or RAW photographs. However, you are not used to editing photos on a PC – you’re more conformable with the learning curve of the photo editing tools on your phone. But you still want to edit like a pro. If the photography industry behemoths – Photoshop and Lightroom scares you, then here are some easy to use alternatives.
1. Photoshop Express
Photoshop Express is probably the best way to start learning to edit. If you know little or nothing about image processing/editing and you want to learn using Photoshop or Lightroom in the future, then Photoshop Express is the best place to start. It is free, available on Windows, Android and iOS and you can unlock premium features just by creating an Adobe account – for free.
The editing setting is divided into two major sections – filters and adjustments. Filters are pre-defined adjustments and the selection is not as diverse as in Instagram. However, the adjustment section is at par with Lightroom. Photoshop Express is also one of the few programs that provide decent noise reduction settings. It also allows all the adjustments that one would get in the Basics panel on Lightroom. It is a powerful RAW processor and provides output files of good quality.
Although many may find the name quite childish, RawTherapee is a free and powerful RAW photo editor. RawTherapee allows non-destructive editing – meaning you can undo as many times as you want, or edit without affecting the original image. It comes with all the controls and colour handing one would expect from a professional editing app, including multiple algorithms for reducing noise.
It’s also really fast. Since both Photoshop and Lightroom are industry standard programs with tons of features, they are also very heavy on the system. RawTherapee, on the other hand, is quite nimble in its performance.
Moreover, RawTherapee is an open source program and therefore you can also expect forks of this program with better features in the future.
Darktable is another free and open source, raw editor. Also, Darktable is available on a wide range of operating systems. Darktable is extremely powerful, it at par with Lightroom when it comes to the range of features. You can edit and print professional quality images from Darktable directly, just like in Lightroom. Darktable brings together a bunch of open source modules to process and edit RAW photographs under one single roof and gives it a professional looking UI.
All these make Darktable one of the more recommendable Lightroom alternatives. If you are carrying a lightweight and low powered Windows tablet when you are travelling, you can use Darktable instead of Lightroom to edit photos on the go. It is just that versatile.
4. Digital Photo Professional
If you are using Canon cameras, then you can use Digital Photo Professional, commonly called DPP to edit the Canon RAW files or CR2 files. DPP can also be used to edit JPEG files from any source. DPP does not have a large number of tools at its disposal to edit or correct images, but DPP is great at making quick corrections.
If you like your photographs to look natural without filters or any extra effects, then you should opt for DPP. DPP is lightweight, comes with a built-in file manager. A similar program is also offered by Nikon, called Capture NX-D. Other camera manufacturers also have these programs that can be used for quick edits offering high quality natural looking images.
LightZone is another open source RAW processor that allows “zone mapping”. Zone mapping in LightZone is a local editing feature that allows you to adjust parts of the image selectively. LightZone is not the most polished RAW processor out there, but if you are on the hunt for a Lightroom or Photoshop alternative, then you should have a look at LightZone.
6. On1 Photo RAW
On1 Photo RAW is not a free tool. It does come at a premium price. However, On1 Photo RAW can be a complete replacement for Lightroom. One of the areas where it can absolutely outperform Lightroom is in performance. Lightroom has always been quite laggy. Photoshop’s performance has not been very good either. One1 Photo RAW has to offer almost everything Lightroom does, along with some features of Photoshop, in a much more user-friendly package.
7. DxO PhotoLab
DxO PhotoLab is purely a RAW processor with some local editing features. It is also a commercial program that starts at a price of 129€ for the Essential Version. Where DxO stands out is its number of patented technologies that are used to process RAW photos. RAW photos are generally dull and being dull, provides much more freedom during editing.
DxO PhotoLab leverages this to give you crystal clear photographs without much work.