I’ve been exploring alternative workflows to Adobe Photoshop ever since the company forced a subscription model on its users several years ago. For all its bugginess and performance problems, I keep coming back to it, because it still spits out the highest quality images for my purposes. But some of the competition is nipping at its heels.
There have been some misfires in these experiments. I tried to make Canon’s Digital Photo Professional part of my workflow for a bit, and while it was great with Canon cameras, that was about it. I tried Capture One, and the interface was too different for me to feel thoroughly comfortable. But there was always one piece of software I’ve used on and off again for years that has always been so close to being there: Affinity Photo.
As far as interface goes, it’s about as close to Photoshop you can get without copyright infringement, which creates a built-in level of understanding right off the bat. This has always been the case. What’s held me back over the years has been raw conversion that hasn’t quite been up to par with Adobe Camera Raw.
Recently, my MacBook Pro suffered the dreaded flex cable issue that caused the screen to go dead, and so, I was forced to revive my 2011 MacBook Air for duty. Since I was out of Adobe Creative Cloud licenses for my computers, I decided to again give Affinity Photo another go with a family photoshoot. With Adobe Photoshop, I’ve always been happy with the level of detail and color I would get from Adobe Camera Raw. I haven’t always been able to do that with earlier iterations of Affinity Photo. Determined, I sat down again and armed myself by watching a sizable chunk of Serif’s video tutorials on the software. My, what a difference a few years makes: I was able to get more pleasing color right out of the box in Affinity, and while detail is just a hair less clear than Photoshop (literally) the difference is only apparent if you’re pixel-peeping to the extreme. Can you tell which software produced which photo?
For the record, this photo was shot with a Nikon D750, and so, raw conversion might differ depending on what camera’s files are being converted. In this instance, the photo on the left (Photo A) was done in Adobe Photoshop and the right is Affinity Photo (Photo B).
Worth Another Look?
As a backup computer, this is a super-budget editing setup, but with Affinity Photo, I’m able to cull my photos using Adobe’s (still-free) Bridge and then edit individual photos in the non-Adobe software, all for $50, paid only once. With the ability to even install my Nik Software plugins in Affinity, for the first time, it feels like I’m not giving up anything by going without the Creative Cloud. While it’s now a pretty good solution for raw photo editing, on a pixel-level editing of JPEG files, Affinity definitely fits the bill, and so, if you’re looking for a viable solution to editing photos that doesn’t sacrifice quality, it might be time to give Affinity Photo another look.
Do you use other software to forgo Adobe’s subscription service? Leave your thoughts about what you’re using in the comments below.