The Best Photo Editing Software for 2021
This article will examine the best programs to edit photos or photo editing software if you prefer. Both paid programs and valid free alternatives often have nothing (or almost) to envy to their very expensive counterparts. Are you ready, then? Let’s begin!
Best Photo Editing Software for 2021
GIMP is probably the most used photo editing program in the world. It is open-source software available for PC, Mac, and Linux, which is now universally recognized as the best free alternative to the famous and expensive Photoshop.
Let’s be clear, for a professional graphic designer, it may be worth spending € 300 / year for the Adobe product, but 97% of the readers of this post do not need the hundreds of advanced features proposed by Photoshop (nor would they probably know how to use them), so it’s no wonder why so many people rely on GIMP for their operations.
In this 97%, among other things, we are including not only simple amateurs but also many professionals who can carry out all the advanced operations they need with GIMP.
GIMP is not just a “little program” to apply two filters and go. GIMP is complete software designed for those who already know their stuff in the field of photo editing or at least want to learn how to work with layers, textures, masks, filters, paths, custom brushes, and much, much more …
This does not mean that if all you need is a program to crop your photos, adjust brightness \ contrast, and maybe cut out from time to time, GIMP is not for you: the basic operations are still easy to do. An excellent choice for anyone who wants more than just Paint.
- Pros: Free software that has almost the same potential as Photoshop; in fact, professional software at zero cost; however, simple to use for those who only need basic functions.
- Cons: Don’t expect hundreds of Instagram-style filters. It’s not that kind of program.
Windows 10 Photos application
If you have Windows 10, the default Photos application you use to view your images can also be used to edit them. The functions are very limited to the point that we can list them all here: crop, rotation, basic adjustments (brightness, hue, etc…), some artistic filters, stop.
Simple but effective if you just need to make some cropping. Functions that, although limited, are, however, all those that ordinary people need. Windows Photos is a program designed to allow anyone, even your grandmother, to retouch her photographs.
- Pros: the simplest and most immediate you can imagine; it does not require the installation of additional software.
- Cons: if you have any more particular needs, it will not be enough; for Windows 10 only.
BeFunky is a webapp. You do not have to download anything on your PC but just launch it from the browser by connecting to the website of the same. This means that it can be used on any operating system (there are also apps for mobile devices) as long as it is connected to the internet.
It is a perfect app for the youngest and most social, designed to make your photos more spectacular (and “likeable”) with minimal effort. BeFunky basically offers 3 sub-apps:
A photo editor.
It is very simple to use. It allows you to make an infinite number of adjustments (some even quite advanced) with disarming simplicity. There are also many automatic or semi-automatic effects and filters to give a professional look to your photos or remove imperfections in a semi-automatic way. Impossible not to notice how many features are designed to make the subjects of your shots more beautiful … in short, an app to look cool on Instagram.
A collage maker.
Quite simple and self-explanatory.
A graphic designer.
To create flyers, brochures, invitations, and other typographic material.
Extremely user-friendly. However, it should be noted that many functions are only available to Premium users.
- Pros: Simple and fun to use; not only filters but also tools to implement those beauty adjustments that only a professional graphic designer would be able to apply.
- Cons: Limited free features; requires an internet connection.
Other Free Software
We could go on for hours, pointing out dozens of free photo editing software. It would make little sense because the 3 programs we have just dealt with cover all possible types of users.
Therefore, it is useless to talk about Paint or Pixlr or Krita or Photofiltre, which, however valid, do not offer anything that a GIMP or Windows Foto or Befunky does not already have.
Professional photo editing software
We could consider Photoshop Elements as a kind of “preparatory” software for Adobe Photoshop CC, the undisputed King of professional photo editing programs.
The program interface is divided into three categories (Quick, Wizard, and Expert Mode) designed to learn to master all the secrets of the software gradually. With this program, you can learn as much as you want and only switch to the expert mode when you feel ready.
Adobe, and this is known, offers the best photo editing tools on the market, and this is evident even if you consider only the one to remove unwanted parts of a photo. With no other software, you can do it precisely and accurately and with just a couple of clicks.
Also, it is one of the Adobe software that can be purchased in a single solution without necessarily having to subscribe to a fixed-term license. You pay (quite a bit) once and you don’t pay anymore. Once you have purchased the product, you will have access to over 90 active filters, dozens of tutorials, tools for HDR, removal of elements, and any other modification you have in mind. Like many other Adobe programs, this one also seems to work better when interfacing with other products from the same parent company. The photo organizing tool, for example, needs to be downloaded separately and opens in a new window.
- Pros: It is great for familiarizing yourself with the world of Adobe products, necessary crossroads to get to master the definitive version of Photoshop.
- Cons: The photo organizer must be downloaded separately, and it could be not very pleasant to jump from one program to another constantly.
PaintShop Pro 2020
PaintShop Pro 2020 offers some very useful automatic editing tools for beginners. Still, it also does not skimp on additional options that allow you to edit the image in a detailed and professional way. Among the most interesting, we point out the Smart Photo Fix, thanks to which you can compare the original image with the modified one while you make the changes.
The program interface is clean and well organized so that all commands are easily accessible. You can organize the photos by rating, keywords, people portrayed, and place of acquisition, and in this way, always and immediately find the element you need to modify. PaintShop 2019 also keeps track of Exif data to always control the exact parameters that the camera used to capture the image.
The software works very well with different types of formats, including PDF, PSD, and RAW and in this sense, it is one of the most comprehensive. But the thing that sets PaintShop Pro apart from the competition is certainly the huge amount of useful information that can be found in the FAQ and help center sections. There is even a special tool called the learning center, thanks to which you can get all the information useful for making a particular change in a few clicks. On top of that, the software also has a nice YouTube channel packed with free webinars and tutorials.
- Pros: Very easy to use program that allows you to organize photos according to many different parameters.
- Cons: There is no Mac version. It is not possible to create animated GIFs nor to post your creations directly online.
Affinity Photo offers all the useful tools for professional photo editing. It is a product known to professional photographers and graphic designers. And it is designed exactly for this category, that is, for those who do not need to edit a photograph but who need to do it professionally. Surprisingly, it is not even one of the most expensive, and it allows the one-time purchase formula instead of the very popular and for some annoying annual license.
The program’s Assistant Manager helps you create pre-sets that you can reuse in the future by customizing parameters such as those of brushes, masks, and layers. However, there is no internal system for organizing photos. Even if it is not a fundamental tool to immediately access the photos subject to modification, it is always more appreciated to have them rather than not have them.
Affinity also has a YouTube channel full of tutorials, but several guides on how to best use this program are available worldwide. It is compatible with the most common extensions (including PSD, PDF, and RAW) and is available for both Mac and Windows. Recently, a special version was also made available for iPad.
- Pros: The interface can be navigated with a certain ease and despite this, the program allows you to make even very in-depth changes. It is compatible with Mac devices, even mobile.
- Cons: Doesn’t have a tool to organize photos. It is not always easy to contact the production company when you have questions that go beyond the FAQ.
ACDSee Photo Studio
ACDSee Photo Studio puts at your disposal 60 filters to customize your photos with just one click and several extra options, among which the drawing and painting ones stand out.
Its real big flaw is that it does not work on levels like most of the competition and as one would require software that has ambitions to make professional photo retouching. This means not being able to see the different layers of work separately, which makes the world more difficult to make creations of a certain refinement. Another flaw is to ask you to take some extra and apparently unnecessary steps to finish the job before saving it. Not much of a drama, but certainly annoying.
However, if the lack of layers doesn’t bother you too much, ACDSee Photo Studio is a really great program. It features a beautiful photo organizer that allows you to separate, rate, and organize your images in a variety of ways so that you won’t have a hard time finding exactly what you are looking for in less than five seconds. The online support works just as well and there is also a nice forum where you can compare yourself with other users who will be able to give you useful suggestions practically in real-time.
- Pros: A large amount of very performing editing tools.
- Cons: It does not allow you to work on levels.