The Best Photo Editing Software For Beginners In 2021

Photography and photo editing software are as synonymous today as photography and the darkroom were before the digital age. If you’re not already using photo editing software, you should be – it’s key to helping you get the most out of your shots.

We get it, though – it can be pretty intimidating, especially if you don’t consider yourself to be very computer savvy. That’s why we’ve put together this list of the best photo editing software for beginners. We’re certain you’ll find a programme in this article that fits your workflow, experience level, and budget.

Table of contents

1. Adobe Photoshop
2. Adobe Lightroom
3. ON1 Photo RAW
4. Skylum Luminar
5. Affinity Pro

 

Adobe Photoshop

Price: £19.97 per month, or £9.98 with Lightroom as part of Adobe’s Photography package.
Platform: Mac and PC (system requirements)
Free trial: 7 days

Adobe Photoshop is the baseline against which all other photo editing software is compared.

Adobe has shaped the course of photo editing software more than any other company and established many of the features we expect to see as standard. To date, it’s the photo editing tool of choice for photographers, illustrators, and designers.

This might lead you to believe it’s too complicated for a beginner – but this isn’t the case. You can skim the surface now and get to grips with its more advanced features later down the line.

By investing in Adobe Photoshop, you’re investing in experience in the most relevant piece of photo editing software in existence. Over time, through dabbling and YouTube tutorials, those advanced features might not seem so intimidating.

Pros

  • Incredibly versatile and powerful photo editing software
  • Industry-standard
  • Ideal for photo correction or manipulation

Cons

  • Subscription required
  • You may not get the most out of it early on
  • Expensive
      

Adobe Lightroom

Price: £9.98 per month
Platform: Mac and PC (system requirements)
Free trial: 7 days

Adobe Lightroom is the companion programme to Adobe Photoshop, and it even comes in a neat bundle for the same price on the Adobe website.

The two programmes are quite different, though – while Photoshop caters more to layer-based photo manipulation, touch-ups, and digital design, Lightroom is all about refining the photos you’ve taken.

Lightroom is ideal for beginners because it’s so closely related to the art of photography. It builds on that same knowledge, so it feels intuitive and familiar. Just as you know how to get a certain photograph out of your camera, you’ll quickly learn how to get a certain photograph out of Lightroom.

Pros

  • Renowned for its non-destructive editing
  • Approachable and succinct interface
  • Trusted and used by photographers the world over

Cons

  • No layer-based editing or digital design features
  • Subscription required
  • Expensive

 

ON1 Photo RAW

Price: £95.59 – £124.98
Platform: Mac and PC (system requirements)
Free trial: 14 days

With most products, you’ll have a market leader, for which you’ll pay a premium, and you’ll have lesser-known competitors offering a comparable product for half the cost.

This is the case with ON1, which has emerged as a direct competitor to Lightroom. It even gives Photoshop’s layering feature a run for its money.

In terms of functionality, ON1 sits slightly beyond Lightroom but slightly behind Photoshop. This suits the many photographers who don’t need all of the features that Photoshop offers.

ON1 also only sprinkles in advanced photo editing features that are relevant to photographers, which means it still offers substantially more than competitors without being too bloated.

ON1 is a professional and capable piece of photo editing software. It addresses limitations in the market and presents an all-in-one editor for photographers.

Pros

  • One-off purchase
  • Functions as a plug-in or standalone programme
  • Doesn’t require you to import photos, meaning it’s responsive and quick

Cons

  • Mask/selection tools still fall short compared to Photoshop
  • Work requires a manual backup
  • Small interface text 

 

Skylum Luminar

Price: £54 – £169
Platform: Mac and PC (system requirements)
Free trial: 90 days

Skylum’s website refers to Luminar’s photo editing tools as superpowers, and it’s hard to dispute that.

Luminar can do remarkable things with your photos – from erasing objects and filling in the spaces to changing the sky and adding sun rays. Many processes are automated, with minimal need for user intervention or expertise, and the results are indiscernible from the real thing.

Luminar focuses on getting quick and effective results, distilling what might be several sub-processes in another programme into one neat slider in this one.

It’s perfect for beginners as you can improve and alter your photography in complex ways without needing to be an expert. It’s by far the most user-friendly photo editor in this article, which shows how far photo editing software has come.

There are three Luminar packages, with each adding extra licences and additional programmes like Luminar AI and Aurora HDR.

Pros

  • Lots of filters
  • Easy to use
  • Impressive and convincing automated and AI functions

Cons

  • Can sometimes be slow
  • Lacks some features
  • No sync options with other devices

 

Affinity Pro

Price: £48.99
Platform: Mac, PC, iPad (system requirements)
Free trial: 10 days

As a beginner, you’re in a unique position – you’re not weighed down by the sunk cost fallacy of another photo editing programme.

Designers and photographers have used more established programmes like Photoshop for years, and it’s hard to break the habit.

Ask some of them now, and they might say if they were starting from scratch, they’d choose something else. Affinity Photo is a strong contender for that something else. Spec for spec, it’s a genuine rival to Photoshop – and provides much better value, with free subsequent updates.

Affinity Photo contains all the photo editing functions you’d expect in a professional programme and often feels more intuitive than competitors like Photoshop. Furthermore, Affinity Photo even borrows keyboard shortcuts from Photoshop to ensure a smoother transition from one piece of software to the other.

Pros

  • One-off purchase
  • Affordable
  • Compatible with a suite of Affinity products

Cons

  • Steeper learning curve than some other photo editing software
  • No image cataloguing function
  • Fewer tutorials available than for more popular alternatives like Photoshop

 

Specialist photography insurance from Ripe Photography 

You might know we offer specialist photography insurance for your camera and equipment, but did you know that this cover extends to laptops, too? If you’re editing photos all day, you need to make sure your laptop is protected.

At Ripe Photography, we cover your camera and accessories against theft and accidental damage, whether you’re at home or out on a shoot. Better yet, you can tailor your cover to fit your exact requirements.

Get an instant online quote and see what we can do for you.

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