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The Best Lightroom Alternatives In 2019 | PhotoBlog

With Adobe switching to a monthly subscription-based software, a lot of our readers are asking for the best Lightroom alternative to edit photos.

Lightroom is just about perfect for photographers due to its myriad of editing tools plus the intuitive photo management feature.

To suggest the best lightroom alternatives, we had to test all the software ourselves to see how the edits performed. Plus we wanted to include a few that has the highly sought after photo management feature.

There are many Lightroom alternatives available: the best option for you will depend largely on what you shoot and how much editing you want to do.

Join us as we guide you through the best Lightroom alternatives.

1. Capture One Pro

A screenshot of the Capture One Pro interface
Capture One Pro is the industry-standard software for studio photography. Photo by Ausra Babiedaite.

Phase One’s Capture One Pro is the industry standard for high-end studio photography. It has gained that status thanks to its advanced tethering functions and full compatibility with medium format cameras.

It’s free to use for Phase One camera owners and there are two free express versions for Fujifilm and Sony camera users, albeit with some reduced functions.

Capture One’s amazing rendition of color and dynamic range, plus the possibility of buying a one-off lifetime license, make it a great choice for any photographer.

However, its complex interface may put off less experienced users, and its lack of a dedicated asset manager makes it difficult to arrange/manage an extensive image catalog.

What we like:

  • It supports a layers workflow; and
  • It contains industry-leading color and dynamic range editing.

Flaws but not dealbreakers:

  • It lacks a fully-fledged asset manager; and
  • The modular interface may intimidate less experienced users.

Price: One-time price of $299 or $180 per year. Platform: Windows & Mac.

2. Serif Affinity Photo

A screenshot of the Serif Affinity Photo image editing software
Affinity Photo by Serif offers great value for money. Photo by Ashley Hewson.

Serif’s Affinity Photo has risen in popularity as a powerful and much cheaper alternative to Lightroom.

Affinity Photo lacks the asset manager and quick processor aspects that make Lightroom a staple in streamlined workflows.

But, thanks to its amazing price point, batch processing functions, photo stitching, and stacking, and the support for 32-bit workflows, it is a great Lightroom alternative.

Those who love landscape photography or architectural photography will find it useful. However, batch processing does not quite live up to Lightroom’s capabilities.

What we like:

  • Unbeatable price; and
  • Support for 32-bit workflow.

Flaws but not dealbreakers:

  • Lacks a photo asset manager; and
  • Batch processing experience not quite on par with Lightroom.

Price: $49.99. Platform: Windows, Mac, and iPad.

3. RawTherapee

A screenshot of the RawTherapee image editing interface
RawTherapee has amazing RAW editing capabilities.

RawTherapee is a free, open-source, RAW development software.

The software is entirely community-driven, and has a dedicated multiple-language Wikipedia-style site called Rawpedia, detailing every function of the program–here is an example wiki page on noise reduction.

The software allows for extremely detailed, in-depth editing of images. For example, have you ever heard of L*a*b Color management? Or demosaicing algorithms? I hadn’t either before I tried this software.

However, although powerful, it may seem messy to beginners or those who need a polished, streamlined image editing workflow.

What we like:

  • Free software; and
  • A wide range of RAW editing capabilities.

Flaws but not dealbreakers:

  • Not intuitive; and
  • The interface looks dated.

Price: Free/Open Source. Platform: Windows, Mac, and Linux.

4. darktable

A screenshot of darktable image editing softwaree, a great Lightroom alternative
darktable has a very similar interface to Lightroom.

darktable was originally conceived for the Linux system and it wasn’t until recently that it also became available on Windows.

It is the software which has the closest interface to Lightroom out of all the programs we have listed, albeit, with a less polished design language. Plus it is free.

The image output and editing capabilities are similar to RawTherapee but are a bit more limited. However, it does have a fully-fledged asset manager and is far superior to many other commercial programs.

However, it does not run very smoothly (on Windows 10 at least) and the noise reduction tool is quite weak.

What we like:

  • Free and open-source; and
  • The best multi-platform alternative to Lightroom.

Flaws but not dealbreakers:

  • It doesn’t run smoothly on Windows 10; and
  • Its noise reduction processing is fairly weak.

Price: Free/Open Source. Platform: Windows, Mac, and Linux.

5. ON1 Photo Raw 2019

A screenshot of the ON1 Photo Raw image editing software - a great Lightroom alternative
ON1 Photo Raw 2019 offers a well-designed interface. Photo by ON1.

ON1 Photo Raw 2019 is a solid product. The interface is designed well and it has a proper asset manager, a good number of pre-sets, and it supports local adjustments and layers.

One feature that helps it stand out from the crowd is the ‘Portrait Tools’ function. This automatically searches for faces in an image, creates a mask around them, and lets you apply selective adjustments such as skin smoothing, brightening/highlights around the eyes, and whitening teeth.

What we like:

  • It is a great asset manager; and
  • Supports adjustment layer workflow, with some unique tools.

Flaws but not dealbreakers:

  • Does not run very smoothly; and
  • Poor overall sharpening and noise reduction.

Price: $99.99. Platform: Windows and Mac.

6. DxO PhotoLab Elite 2

A screenshot of the DxO PhotoLab 2 Elite 2 image editing software.
PhotoLab Elite 2 offers a comprehensive advanced search function. Photo by DxO Labs.

DxO Labs are more widely known for their lens and camera reviews, rather than their software. But they have taken their knowledge and turned it into PhotoLab Elite 2: a highly competent RAW image developing software.

The ‘PhotoLibrary’ tab is little more than a file browser, although it does feature an advanced search bar that allows you to look for images by rating, camera settings, and date, to name a few.

The ‘Customize’ tab offers a wide variety of settings, including DxO Smart Lighting, DxO ClearView Plus, and DxO Viewpoint. The inclusion of the DxO Filmpack color management functions and pre-sets, makes this a compelling option for anyone whose workflow is pre-set heavy.

However, it lacks a real asset manager function and the noise reduction/sharpening settings are aggressive, which can lead to detail loss in the image.

What we like:

  • DxO’s technologies boost editing and image quality; and
  • The DxO Filmpack color assets and controls are easy to use and customize your edits.

Flaws but not dealbreakers:

  • It lacks a real asset manager;
  • Default noise reduction and sharpening settings are aggressive and can lead to image detail loss.

Price: $149.99. Platform: Windows and Mac.

How to Choose Your Best Lightroom Alternative

The best alternative for you will depend on the type of photography you shoot.

For example, fashion photographers might use Capture One thanks to its support of medium format cameras and its advanced tethering capabilities.

Linux users, or non-professionals, might look for the best free options, to help them get started without breaking the bank.

Architectural or Landscape photographers might opt for Affinity Photo thanks to its batch processing capabilities.

All of the commercial software listed here offer free trial versions, so we recommend you try the ones you are interested in, to find the right fit for you.

A sunset portrait image being edited on a computer screen
Download the free trials of software and edit your images on them to see which is the right software for you. Photo by João Silas.

How to Test Lightroom Alternatives

Pro Tip: set aside a few RAW files in a folder to see how different software copes with editing different types of images. Include examples of the following types of shots:

  • One night scene;
  • A low light image, shot using high ISO;
  • One portrait image;
  • One landscape image; and
  • An image that contains a lot of fine detail (perhaps a macro shot).

Edit each image using the free trial of the program you are interested in. Then sit back, compare the results, and choose the best option for you.

Conclusion

So now you have a better idea of what alternatives to Lightroom are available. You don’t have to spend a fortune to get great results, so broaden your horizons and experiment–that’s half the fun.

Do you have a favorite alternative to Lightroom? Which do you use from the ones we’ve listed? Have we missed any out? Let us know in the comments below.

Lightroom on a MacBook Pro screen sat on a desk next to a cup of coffee
There is life without Lightroom. Photo by Joseph Pearson.

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