What Are the Best Alternatives to the Adobe Photographer Plan?

What Are the Best Alternatives to the Adobe Photographer Plan?

Adobe ruled the waves for image processing. However, evermore people are jumping that ship in favor of alternative methods. Most have similar functions, and each has its advantages and disadvantages. If you are thinking about changing, here are some alternative combined digital asset management, photo development, and editing options.

This article is a brief introduction to the various programs out there. When choosing what you need, there is a balance to be achieved between cost and functionality. All these packages include DAM (digital asset management) and raw development. Not all include advanced image editing, although most raw developers have some degree of local adjustments and simple tools like spot removal and graduated filters. Some features are common to many programs, but not all: HDR processing, panorama stitching, focus stacking, sky replacement, watermarking, and time-lapse creation. Some come with integrated AI-based noise control and sharpening. Others rely on external plugins to do those functions.

I am also writing this for desktop (or laptop) editors. Consequently, I only concentrate on computer-based programs and not comparing the cloud services that some offer, nor the phone and tablet apps.

I'll mention the unique selling points of each, but this isn't an in-depth review. If you want a DAM program, they all work. If you want raw development, then they all do that too. Some allow advanced image editing, while others require you to open a different program. The workflow of each is unique too. Therefore, making direct comparisons is difficult.

Similarly, because they use different raw engines, each gives distinct looks to the photos it processes. Also, these programs handle individual brands' camera raw files differently; a program that works well and offers excellent results for me and my camera might not cut the mustard for you and yours. Only you can decide whether the workflow and the resulting look are right for you.

Photoshop showing layers adjustments.

Performance is also a difficult thing to judge. That's because you will hear anecdotal evidence about any program that runs slowly on someone's computer. For example, if I open Lightroom Classic at the same time as Firefox, my computer grinds to a halt. Both programs otherwise run happily, and not everyone experiences this glitch. One of my colleagues has speed issues with Capture One, and someone commented on my recent review of ON1 that they had problems with that, whereas I don't have issues with either. With the complexity of these programs, combined with the vast number of variations in our computers and the programs loaded on them, someone will inevitably experience glitches and shout about it in the comments. You may or may not share the same issues.

The important message here is to check the program has the features you need, and download the free trial to ensure it works for you before spending your money.

Comparing costs is very difficult. Firstly, several manufacturers offer two or three levels of functionality at different prices. Some require an external program to edit the images, which adds to the cost. Some have bundled extras when you buy from them. Then it's usually cheaper to upgrade from a previous version than buy a program for the first time. This seems odd to me because you would think the manufacturers would be dropping the initial price to entice new customers. Furthermore, there are perpetual licenses, where you effectively buy the program, and subscriptions, where you rent it.

The order in which these are presented does not correspond with any recommendation scale.

Adobe Photography Plan

Adobe's Creative Cloud Photography Plan is still considered the industry standard. Between the programs included in the plan — Photoshop, Lightroom, and Lightroom classic— it does most things a photographer might want to do. A wide range of plugins are available for Photoshop to give it the functions it lacks, and Lightroom catalog is the standard by which others are measured.

Although it is not the most expensive option, at just under $120 per year, there are far more cost-effective options.  

Adobe Lightroom Classic

Photoshop's entire gamut of facilities is far greater than any photographer needs. After all, it is aimed at graphic artists, architects, and graphic design professionals, not just photographers. Consequently, it is a complex and sometimes complicated program that takes time to learn. There are things that other programs do better, such as sharpening and noise reduction, and there are external programs and plugins that can be used to cover those —buying those adds to the cost, of course.

Photoshop Elements

There is a cut-down version of Photoshop: Photoshop Elements. It comes with its Organizer, a very simplified catalog tool. It started as a good introduction to manually controlled image development and editing and has evolved into an automated tool for those who want to short-cut that process. Its emphasis is now on single-click filters and adjustments that add and remove elements from a photo. However, manual adjustments are possible, and these can be guided for those learning editing skills.

Although it has many automaed features, making it easy for beginners to use, some advanced features like layers are available, although these are limited in comparison to Photoshop.

It's still popular with those who create scrapbook layouts, but for accomplished photographers, its limitations, including its reduced raw development feature, might be a step too far. However, it has some interesting features, such as animating part of a still image.

Unlike the Photographers' Plan, which is subscription-only, Photoshop Elements can be bought outright. But at $99.99 for a program upgraded yearly, you are losing a lot for less than $20.

PhaseOne Capture One Pro

Capture One's USP is its outstanding raw results, and many think its color rendering is superior to anything else. Its tethering capabilities for studio use are strong too, supporting a more comprehensive range of cameras than Adobe's offerings. However, it is comparatively expensive; it has recently introduced a subscription package that costs more than the Adobe Photographer Plan. Furthermore, it doesn't include a fully featured editor. Nevertheless, many top photographers use it because of the image quality. A perpetual license is $299, and its recently introduced annual subscription is $179, or $24 per month.

A screenshot of Capture One.

Capture One includes DAM. Professionals who use it rely on an external editor to carry out tasks that are impossible with the raw file.

DxO PhotoLab 6

DxO PhotoLab 6 is another highly praised DAM and photo-processing package. Its users like the results. It claims its USPs include image quality and especially its optical corrections. It also uses DeepPRIME denoising technology, which has a well-earned, excellent reputation. PhotoLabs claims innovative creative tools, intuitive local adjustments, and powerful digital asset management.

DXO Photolabs 6.

The Elite Edition is only available as a perpetual license with no subscription at $219. There's a cheaper, cut-back Essential Edition. More details of this software are available here.

ON1 Photo Raw 2023

ON1 Photo Raw is probably the best-featured package I am mentioning here. It has its extensive editing suite—called Effects—integrated into the same program as its DAM and raw development tools, so there is no time-wasting jumping back and forth from one program to another. It comes with AI noise reduction, sharpening, and image resizing. Furthermore, if you are migrating away from Adobe, it is possible to import the catalog and an approximation of the LR C adjustments into it. The basic raw development sliders will seem familiar to LR users.

One powerful feature of ON1 is its integrated NoNoise AI.

On1 Photo Raw is far more accessible than other programs I have mentioned. Adjustments can be achieved either with a single click preset or by manually using more complex adjustment layers, which are easier to understand than adjustment layers in Photoshop, so it suits image developers of all levels. Plus, the raw development results are superb.

Its specialties include portrait retouching, noise reduction, sharpening, and image resizing, but there is much more to it than that.

On1 Photo Raw 2023 is available with a perpetual license and a subscription. Some of the functions are also available as plugins for other programs.

At the time of writing, ON1 Photo Raw 2023 was discounted from $99.99 to $74.99 for the perpetual license. There are two subscription packages with extra facilities from $89.99 to $179.99 per year. My recent review of it is here.

ACDSee Ultimate 2023

ACDSee Ultimate 2023 is a versatile, no-nonsense tool. Like ON1, it allows you to import your Lightroom Database. It's also fast, and the workflow is smooth. It lacks some of the advanced features of ON1. There isn't AI noise reduction, for example, but it is possible to add external editors like ON1 No Noise or Topaz Denoise. However, its AI-based facial adjustments are a good choice for portrait photographers. There are cut-down, cheaper versions of the software, but the Photo Studio Ultimate starts from $89 per year, or a one-off payment of $149.99, discounted to $109.99 until December the 21st, 2022.

Coral AfterShot Pro 3 and Paintshop Pro 2023

Like jumping from Lightroom to Photoshop, one has to switch between two programs as it is a combination that gives you DAM in Aftershot Pro and powerful one-click editing tools in Paintshop Pro. It comes with a very basic raw converter, but for more precise raw adjustments, you will need to buy Coral Aftershot.

Coral's raw converter that is included with Paint Shop Pro is very basic.

Its big claim is that it is four times faster than Lightroom. It is another file management system with a library. It works with Linux too, which not many others do.

Paintshop Pro's automated adjustments work well.

At the time of writing, Paintshop Pro Ultimate was discounted from $99.99 to $79.99. AfterShot Pro is also discounted from $79.99 to $47.99

On a Tight Budget? There Are Free Options

Lightzone is worth considering as a Lightroom alternative if you are on a tight budget. Sadly, the website has been taken down, but the latest version is available on GitHub.

When coupled with an external editor, such as the free GIMP or Paint.net, then it's worth considering.

Users of Photoshop will find GIMP familiar.

Many photographers cut their editing teeth on GIMP, which is free. For Windows users, the excellent and free Paint won the Microsoft Store App Awards in 2022.

Similarly, DarkTable is another free, open-source photography workflow and raw development application.

A Quick Word About Affinity Photo 2

Although not a DAM program, it would be remiss of me not to mention Affinity Photo 2. It has recently been launched. Many photographers I know have ditched Photoshop in favor of this feature-packed editor. I reviewed it here recently. It is discounted until January 25th, 2023, from $69.99 to $40.99.

My Conclusions About the Different Programs

Although I said this is not a review of the programs, having downloaded and tried them all to write this article, I have formed an initial opinion, although I haven't tested them all to destruction.

If, like me, you rarely do more than process raw images, for image quality, both Capture One and DxO PhotoLab 6 share first place. I'd heard many good things about both but hadn't tested them, and it surprised me how good they were. I could quickly get better results from them than using Photoshop.

The downside is the price tag. They don't have fully-featured editors; if that is what you need, then buying Affinity is an excellent complement to them

The most bang for your buck comes from ON1 Photo Raw. The array of tools available and the results are superb, plus the price is reasonable. It does everything I need as a photographer and swiftly switches between modules. It also can be used by everyone from the novice to the expert.

As I said at the start, these are subjective viewpoints, and you might find that a different program works better for you. Any of these programs might suit you, depending on your priorities. Some will want to stick with Adobe because of the vast number of tutorials, while others will find the workflow of ACDSee suits their needs.

Ivor Rackham's picture

Earning a living as a photographer, website developer, and writer and Based in the North East of England, much of Ivor's work is training others; helping people become better photographers. He has a special interest in supporting people with their mental well-being through photography. In 2023 he became a brand ambassador for the OM System

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I have been using AFFINITY PHOTO since its 1st launch and now it's Version 2. It is an independent RAW processor and full editing system. Purchase price is £60 or less, currently £39.99.
Plenty of tutorial support.

Although Corel needs to be corralled up and taught how to make programs that are stable... the correct spelling is COREL and not Coral.

I hadn't noticed that Word had auto-incorrected it!

All of these alternatives listed above are a better value than Adobe.

Pay once and use them for years and years instead of “low monthly payments“ for the rest of your life.

When I look at a program for its features and support, Price is the last thing I would consider. I don't think there are as many budget-conscious end-users as one might think there are. Value has many different meanings, not just price. To me, Adobe has the best all-around Value Period!

I also look for things besides price. That is why I use DXO- it is a fabulous RAW developer with the best lens corrections and noise reduction.

And it does not lock me into the financially destructive habit of another “low monthly payment for the rest of my life”.

All the companies that offer subscription services like Adobe, Microsoft, Netflix, etc don’t do it for the benefit of consumers. They do it because it extracts the largest amount of money possible from people.

If you like a company’s product and do understand how much it is really costing that is fine. But no one should kid themselves that subscription services are cheap because they are not.

Ivor, you do the photo community a disservice by omitting darktable (yes, all lower case), (darktable.org), from your list of alternatives. Version 4.2 is about to be released before year's end for Linux, Windows and Mac. There is admittedly a steep learning curve, but that said, darktable is a very worthy alternative to Lightroom and Adobe's constantly reaching into one's pocket for more of the user's cash.

--- "Adobe's constantly reaching into one's pocket for more of the user's cash."

If memory serves me right, Adobe has been charging $9.99/mo for the last 10 years and you get Lightroom + Photoshop + cloud storage . They tried to reach more of the user's cash once by doing away with the $9.99 and raising (I think $19.99/mo. or something like that), but, was hit me a major backlash so they just stuck with the $9.99. While other software get more expensive, Adobe has not raised their price for about a decade, at least for the basic individual version.

--- "darktable is a very worthy alternative to Lightroom"

I'll have to try that out. But, from what I'm seeing on Youtube, it's slow and not user intuitive. It's for people who like to tinker with their images. I speculate high volume photographers will not be a fan of this software. For many, time is money.

Given that you pay $9.99 a month as long as you are using it then from one perspective they are raising the total price you pay every month by $9.99.

No. That's makes no sense, at all. Given a time period (monthly, yearly, etc), raising means there's a difference [increase] from one amount to the next. Since there's no change, it's charging. :D . Think of car, home, and insurance payments, etc. No one is going to say their bill or rent is going up every month. Right?

I said from one perspective.

My initial payment for my software was fixed and that is all I have spent.

Over the course of 10 years the amount you have spent has gone up 120 times.

Yes, your rate of being charged has stayed the same but the amount you have spent has skyrocketed.

That is a fair analysis of your expenses.

And it will keep going up as long as you keep using the service.

And until I buy new software my expenses won’t go up.

When you enter into the subscription plan you know the full payment for a year and have the option to pay it all at once or make monthly payments. No different than if you purchased your software on a credit card and paid it over time or all at once.

--- "My initial payment for my software was fixed and that is all I have spent."
--- "And until I buy new software my expenses won’t go up."

I highly doubt you will go 10 years without updating software. If you do/are, you're more of the exception.

Just as an example, if you were to pay retail for Capture One of $299 every 2 years, that's $1495 vs $1200 for Adobe in the course of 10 years. Even if you manage to buy at %50 off every 2 years, that's $750, saving $450 vs Adobe in 10 years. You're only saving $45...a year.

--- "Over the course of 10 years the amount you have spent has gone up 120 times."

Incorrect. It's 10, not 120. Big difference.

And, yes, apparently, many are willing pay for the latest updates, features, convenience, and slew of tutorials and is one of the industry standard software. If it's not for you, more power to you. Just put that $45 a year savings back in your pocket.

I mean, if one were really that strapped for cash, each camera manufacturer have their own raw conversion software. And, then, couple that with the free editors out there. Bada bing, instant free. Can't get any cheaper than that. :)

The first piece of software I bought was Elements with some free stuff for $80. I used that for six years which would have cost me $720 if I had the Adobe subscription. That is $640 in savings in six years, over $100 per year,

I have had DXO, ACDSee and Pixelmator that I have been using five years that has also saved me hundreds of dollars.

And you talked about things in terms of 9.99 a month so yes, in that context you have made 120 additional payments.

But this is not the real point.

The point you are missing is I am not talking about just this one thing. If Adobe was the only subscription people had that would be a minor ding. But people have all sorts of subscriptions for all sorts of things that automatically extract money from them every month.


To quote:

“More than half of consumers (54%) underestimate how much they spend monthly on subscriptions by at least $100, according to a survey commissioned by market research firm C+R Research. For 24%, the difference was $200 or more.“

And 42% are paying for subscriptions they no longer use!

I am not saying we shouldn’t have any subscriptions but these things are clearly getting out of hand.

More than half of people are spending at least $1200 more a year on subscriptions than they realize and more than four out of 10 are spending money on ones they simply don’t need.

That is what I am talking about.

--- "I have had DXO, ACDSee and Pixelmator that I have been using five years that has also saved me hundreds of dollars."

So, that's about another $400 expenditure. In a 5 year time frame with all your software purchases, you only saved $24 a year.

--- "And you talked about things in terms of 9.99 a month so yes, in that context you have made 120 additional payments."

Your argument is so flawed it's not even funny. $9.99 is less than your initial costs of $80 + $400. Second month comes along, $20 (rounded) is less than your initial costs. Third month comes along, $30 is less than your initial costs. So on and so on. You keep sensationalizing the "additional" payments. It would take 4 years of $9.99 to match what you have paid. In those 4 years, you get updates and new features. Holy cow. Smh lol

Is this you? https://52frames.com/photographer/4869 . You literally could just shoot SOOC JPG and be done and happy with it. Save yourself $480 of software. There's nothing in these images that would indicate an editing software is necessary.

--- "The point you are missing…"

No, the point you are missing is you need not concern yourself how people choose to spend their money. Do you not agree?

Wow, you are disturbed about this enough to cyberstalk me. I will discuss that later.

This what I am talking about, not just Adobe. Here it is again since you didn't get the point the first time

But this is not the real point.

The point you are missing is I am not talking about just this one thing. If Adobe was the only subscription people had that would be a minor ding. But people have all sorts of subscriptions for all sorts of things that automatically extract money from them every month.


To quote:

“More than half of consumers (54%) underestimate how much they spend monthly on subscriptions by at least $100, according to a survey commissioned by market research firm C+R Research. For 24%, the difference was $200 or more.“

And 42% are paying for subscriptions they no longer use!

I am not saying we shouldn’t have any subscriptions but these things are clearly getting out of hand.

More than half of people are spending at least $1200 more a year on subscriptions than they realize and more than four out of 10 are spending money on ones they simply don’t need.

That is what I am talking about.


My point is subscriptions and "low monthly payments" aren't cheap.

A $1900 top of the line Samsung or iPhone cost $82 per month in my state on a 24 month payment plan. And just when you get that paid off a new phone comes out. No doubt about why Apple and Samsung are some of the world's largest companies.

The top of the line Disney+ package with Live, YouTube TV, and all the other most popular video and music streaming services will set you back $220 a month. I am not counting things like History Vault or the Broadway Channel in this, just the biggest of the big.

Let's not forget $35 a month in add-ons to you cell phone service.

And of course, people have to pay an extra $20 a month to double the speed on your home internet. People have got to have the fastest service possible, right?

And of course, Adobe, Microsoft and probably some other software subscription. Figure $30 for that.

And don't forget about your Amazon Prime membership.

And then there is the $100 per month in subscriptions cost most people don't realize they have.

Add that all up and it is $500 a month

$500/month X 12 months X 10 years=$60,000 over 10 years.

Adobe is just one small symptom of a much bigger problem for people.

Now I also want to make clear we do have expenses and these things can have value for people.

But that they are affordable is complete nonsense. Companies create subscription services to maximize profits. They do not do it for the customer's benefit.

Absolutely, people have the right to spend money as they wish as long is they can do it without being a burden to others such as requiring taxpayer assistance or taking money from a charity that should be helping the misfortunate versus helping people that just made bad decisions.

I have spent $300 Microsoft Office in the last 11 years versus the "affordable" $10 per month. That has saved me $1000. I have spent $320 on post-processing software in the last 11 years. That again has saved me $1000.

Both of these were easy and quick decisions with significant long term payoffs. As things like my VOIP phone service for my landline and my eBay image hosting service have gone up I have cancelled them. The value just wasn't there.

And no, I am not claiming to be a financial genius. I just can do math and I realize why companies do subscriptions-to paraphrase Newton- a consumer that is paying is paying monthly will stay paying monthly.

I freely admit I have some paid subscriptions. I don't know how much you have cyberstalked me but I like some of the new Start Trek series so I do subscribe to Paramount+. But I don't kid myself it isn't costing me.

Now to get back to you cyberstalking me. Please stop doing it and please stop making ignorant ad hominem attacks on my post processing skills. How well you or I post-process is irrelevant.

This is my last post on this matter.

As you might know from your cyberstalking of me, my mom passed away this year and it might not surprise you that this is a rough Christmas for me. While I realize you probably will keep proselytizing that "low monthly payments for the rest of your life is the key to financial success" I wish you and everyone a joyous holiday season.

Cyberstalk? Again, with your sensationalizing. Dude, relax. You posted a link to your site:


Eddie, we all know that clicking a link that someone has posted is not cyber stalking. The fact that that guy said you were cyber stalking him is just weird. What a whacked thing for someone to think!

I did not say clicking on a link was cyberstalking. You have made a straw man argument.

Here is an article about cyberstalking.


They define cyberstalking:

“When it comes to cyberstalking, those who engage in this behavior use a variety of tactics and techniques to harass, humiliate, intimidate, and control their targets.”

When your friend went out of their way to make an ad hominem attack on me in an attempt to embarrass me that was a textbook example of cyberstalking.

And they didn’t just click on a link. That link was in an article about tripods. My best of analysis of what they had to do is:

1. They clicked on my name to take them to my posting history
2. They started browsing through my history to find information on me
3. They probably clicked on a link or two that was a dead end in finding information on me
4. They finally clicked on the link to my photos
5. They spent at least a few minutes looking at my photos although they could have just skipped that since their point was to try to embarrass me
6. They copied the link
7. They came back here and posted it
8. They asked the rhetorical question it was me to show how clever they were in finding stuff about me on the internet
9. Then they engaged in an ad hominem attack against me to try to embarrass me since they had no rebuttal to my facts about how many people are spending how much on subscriptions and how no one in surveys really knew how much they were spending on subscriptions.

That is is way more than clicking on a link. That is cyberstalking.

To use your phrase it is “whack” to defend someone that engages in ad hominem attacks with a straw man argument.

And Tom, none of these attacks change the fact that people aren’t aware of how much they spend on subscriptions and that it cost them tens of thousands of dollars over the years. Heck for some people it even costs them over $100,000 over their lifetimes.

100% of people surveyed didn’t know how much they were spending on subscriptions. You have 0% chance of disproving the fact that people are spending more on subscriptions than they realize.

So why not give it a rest guys? Goodbye.

great article Ivor. Well written and easy to ready. Thank you.

Thanks Peter

Great article, informitive reading.

Personally if I had to forego my Adobe set it would be ON1 Photo Raw 2023 for me.
My initial trials with it in the past 2 weeks has simply given me many head nod moments.
I like Infinity Photo but I think ON1 team has it for me.

I have ON1 Photo Raw too. It's also a superb program, and will be comparing it soon in a future article.

Another important question we gave to ask ourselves is with the contraction of sales the camera industry is facing how many of these softwares will still be around in five years?

That's a fair point. I would not like to speculate which will be here. All we can do is use what is best for us now, depending on our priorities. Of course, they may also get bought up by another company and products merged


That's a really, really great point!

For some of us, it would be a life-changing nightmare if the photo editor we are used to using got discontinued (or drastically changed) at some point in our lifetime.

I try to make sure that whatever I buy and use --- whether it be a car, a water heater, a camera, a computer, or a table saw --- that it comes from a manufacturer that has the best chance of lasting as long as I live, so that I never have to face a situation where I find it difficult, expensive, or impossible to find parts or service, or to find a wide selection of compatible accessories.


There's no guarantee that any brand will survive, no matter how big they are. ToysRUs was older than me, Copaq Computers were a huge name in computing, Palm owned 2/3rds of the World's PDA market, Lord and Taylor were the USA's biggest department store; they've all gone. Rollei, Minolta, and Yashika cameras were huge and have long since disappeared. Remember when everyone had a Nokia phone, now they are few and far between.

Toyota is a hugely successful car manufacturer, but then even they can be hit. Their operating profit fell 42% to 578.6 billion yen ($4.24 billion USD) in the company's first fiscal quarter ending in June 2022 and their operating profit margin fell to 6.8%, down from 12.6 percent in 2021. Pontiak, Packard, Plymouth, Hummer, Mercury, and more have all gone.

Who is next? Nikon's share of the camera market is plummeting. In 2020, Canon's profit margin was 6% in December 2020, and it was 27% in 2007. Whatever you go choose, it's not going to be safe.

From a software development point of view, I don't think it matters so much. If Adobe suddenly folded, all the JPEG images resulting from images I developed in Lightroom are still there, as are the raw files that I can process in a different program. And the same goes for any other software.

You bring up good points, Ivor. As consumers, we have no absolute guarantees of a company's or a product's longevity. All we can do is to select the company or product that we think has the best chance of lasting the longest.

Years ago I opened my first bank account with Cheltenham Bank, a small local bank that my family had done their banking with for years. Then about a decade later, First Union bought up Cheltenham bank. Then several years after that Wachovia Bank bought up First Union. Then a few years after that Wells Fargo bought out Wachovia.

If I had known better, or done my homework, I would have just gone with Wells Fargo in the first place, and saved myself the hassles of changing account numbers, branches being closed or consolidated into fewer branches, having to get a new ATM card every time the bank changed ownership, etc., etc., etc.

I think this banking thing taught me a thing or two, and I am now more thoughtful and more careful about what I buy. I look years down the road and ask myself, "what will be easier, what will give me the best shot of fewer hassles?"

I used to be a big Capture One fan but if they hold to their word and don't offer upgrade pricing on their perpetual license going forward then they have likely lost me when I get a new camera. I tried On1 and didn't like the workflow at all. I want to like DxO but as I am trying it again I am having a huge problem with control points. Specifically when I use a control point for anything it looks great on the monitor but when I export it to TIF the radius of the control point has drastically reduced which makes that feature unusable for me. e.g. if I increase luminosity it can look like a nice subtle dodge while in DxO. When I Export to TIF it is a small harsh circle of dodge. Ultimately I think the game has shifted even more to Adobe for me.

Their FAQ about the licensing changes states that they do not intend upgrades to becomes more expensive for people who only want to upgrade with new features once a year. If you want access to new features faster then you can upgrade ad interim with some as-of-yet-unspecified "loyalty discounts"...

Regarding DxO, their noise reduction is great. First class. The rest of their editing features -- some of it is good, but some are indeed not as good. Shadow recovery in DxO is also not nearly as good as in CaptureOne for instance.

Colour reproduction is not quite the same either.

But overall it is quite a capable program.

I'm sure many of us navigate to our suite of choice based on our needs and budget along our photography journey. For me, that began with Photoshop Elements, eventually shifting to Affinity Photo and Capture One Express. Now I use Capture One Pro 21 almost exclusively, with the "old" Affinity Photo V1 on hand for composites and macros. I'll likely upgrade to C1 23 and AP v2 at some point. I'd like to explore some of the options you've listed - and others, like Luminar Neo - but what I have works well.

Nikon shooters can use NX studio

Yes, all the camera brands have their own software.


I really appreciate the overall tone of this article. I especially appreciate that you speak of Adobe as a viable choice, instead of nit-picking and finding fault with it because it is widespread and popular. It is nice to see each editing program discussed in a fair way with no obviously apparent bias.

The editing program I use for 95% of my needs is one that you did not mention, Apple's program "Photos" that comes already loaded onto Apple computers. I think it also comes on iPhones and Apple tablets, as well. This program is far more useful than many people realize.

Photos is a RAW converter, and updates are so fast and frequent that whenever a new camera comes out, Photos is immediately able to process its RAW files. I know that even with some of the more well known programs, there have been times when users have to wait a few weeks or even a month or two before their program will include RAW conversion for the newly released camera body. It would really upset me so so much if I bought a brand new camera and wasn't immediately able to convert and process the RAW files on my program of choice.

I don't think Photos does or can work on Windows-based computers, so it's really only a viable option for those who use Apple computers. I have found it to be extremely intuitive and super easy to learn. And it does everything I need an editing program to do for 95% of my photos. For the remaining 5%, that need some heavy cloning, I need to use Photoshop Elements, as Photos is only capable of very minor cloning duties.

I should note that Photos came already loaded onto my new iMacs when I bought them, and Adobe gives me their software for free because of my relationship with them. So I am not actually paying directly for any editing program.

Here’s an interesting hack…
Even after you cancel the Adobe Photography plan you can still use the Catalog module in Lightroom!
You can export images and even create new catalogs and import new images.
You can’t edit the images, but you still get a full DAM for free each month.
If you need to edit an image you can do that in an external program, such as Affinity Photo which lacks a built-in DAM.

I've done that in the past, but it required going from the catalog to the browser before opening into an external program.

Admittedly I have been a Lightroom user since it's launch back in 2007. Being able to have a program that I know is going to be familiar and supported year after year has a value to me and my business that I don't mind paying for. That being said, I had no idea there where so many alternatives out there, that is awesome to see as competition helps to push the industry forward. Great article, I enjoy the balanced approach!

people have different needs but for advanced photography Adobes 10 dollar package is a steal. Capture One is a single program and they now icharge three times the price! Affinity photo is a great option if you don’t need Lightroom functionality. The Mac have a system and with a plug-in like Affinity photo or Raw Power you can manage. I suppose. Apples photo is so easy it’s a little bit complicated, but I think it could be a nice way to manage photos too.

Worth noting: DxO offers a big discount to users upgrading from the two most recent versions. If you bought DxO PhotoLab 5 in 2021 for $219, you can upgrade to PhotoLab 6 for just $99. So you could argue that you're getting two years of their most recent software for $318 — $13.25 per month. If having the most up-to-date version isn't critical, that monthly cost quickly becomes lower, AND you have the option of deciding when to spend your money — quite the luxury if you need to watch your monthly outgoings as the cost of living increases.

If a two-year cycle feels adequate, you could have bought PhotoLab 4 in October 2020 for $200 and you can upgrade to PhotoLab 6 any time until PhotoLab 7 (presumably autumn 2023) for $99. By the time PhotoLab 8 comes out (presumably autumn 2024), your monthly cost would be close to 299/48 = $6.23. Slap Affinity Photo on top of that and it's still a decent saving over the Lr/Ps. bundle.

Feel free to correct me on the maths. Not my strong point. 😆

Agreed on 2 year cycle. For me it is more than adequate for pretty much any software I use and I have been at this for literally decades. There have been times I have purchased an upgrade sooner than every 2 but >2 is far more normal for me. I don't "need" the latest greatest. I need stable and predictable.

DxO has great noise reduction, first class. But the quality of shadow recovery leaves something to be desired and colour reproduction is not on par with DxO either.

CaptureOne remains my overall favourite for features, ease of use, and quality of the output.

I'll review DxO later on. Everything I have tested so far for this series of articles performs differently with different camera brand raw files.

For your information, my experience with DxO is with Canon and Fuji APS-C cameras. Shadow recovery with DxO had issues witih both brands of cameras; when it comes to colour it is mostly with the Fuji that I found the DxO colours lacking in comparison to CaptureOne.

I keep saying this for years now, anyone can have Photoshop and LR for free, just use their portfolio as a website and there you. LR, PS, web hosting and 100GB cloud storage for just $9.99. A better deal than Squarespace :)

But $9.99 is not free. So how can someone use LR and PS truly free, without paying anything at all to Adobe?

Well... if you pay to host your website, it's free.

At 9.99 a month, that is a preposterously expensive price to pay for the hosting of a photo website. I can't imagine overpaying by so much just to get the included editing tools. I would not be suggesting to people that they go this route.

I just started using a program called RADIANT PHOTO. I am able to process an image in seconds rather than minutes with this program. This program is the closest thing to a one-click solution than any other program I've used. It even improves on my PS processing.


One click?

How in the world does the program know all of the things that you want to do with the image? How does it know what color balance you are going for? How does it know what objects you want to clone out and which objects you want to add or extend? How does it know which of the supporting elements you want to de-emphasize and which you want to showcase?

How could any program possibly know the artist's intent for any given image, when our intent for each individual image is different than our intent for any other given image?

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