The best photo-editing software is improving at a faster rate than ever before. Because of intuitive AI, mundane tasks that once took hours will now be done in just one click so there's never been a better time to update your photo-editing software.
But what is the best photo editing software in 2022? Creatives will know that Photoshop used to be the go-to tool, with little in the way of competition, but a whole host of different options have entered the market – both paid-for and free. Some are simple programs, perfect for quick tweaks to images, and others are sophisticated tools designed for professional image editors.
In this guide, we've outlined our favourite software for a variety of budgets and operating systems. These include tools you can use on your phone or tablet (though if that's your jam, you'll want our dedicated list of the best photo apps). In the cases where we've tested the software ourselves, we've linked to the full reviews so you can learn even more (see how we test software for more on our testing process).
If you've chosen your software, you may want to check out our guide to the best laptops for photo editing. But for now, let's dive into the best photo-editing software on sale today.
Top 3: best photo-editing software
Photoshop: Download a free trial for PC, Mac or iPad (opens in new tab)
Photoshop is the best photo editing software overall, and a seven-day trial lets you try the latest release for free. There's no obligation to buy, but you can convert to a paid subscription during the trial or after.
Affinity Photo: Subscription free! Just $54.99/£47.99 (desktop) or $21.99/£19.49 (iPad) (opens in new tab)
This very capable Photoshop alternative from Serif comes at a one-off price; no subscription needed. This photo editing software provides impressive tools for digital painting, raw editing, retouching and more.
PhotoDirector 365: $49.99 / £49.99 per year (opens in new tab)
CyberLink PhotoDirector 365 offers all the features you'd expect from a top photo editing tool at a very reasonable price. A great way to get high-level editing features such as levels and colour adjustment for less.
The best photo editing software right now
There's a reason that the name Photoshop has because synonymous with digital image editing. It is quite simply the best piece of photo-editing software around, with features and functionality that far exceed any competitors. Adobe has been boosting Photoshop extensively with each iteration, and lately we've seen more and more AI-powered tools that make it even more slick and streamlined.
Now, you can smooth over skin, remove artefacts, even edit facial expressions and much more, all with the touch of a button. In our full Photoshop 2022 review, we were hugely impressed with the neural filters and how streamlined they are. We particularly appreciate the Skin Smoothing functionality for portrait shooters, as well as Super Zoom, which lets you crop right into a specific part of an image, then resizes the result with automatically filled-in detail.
Plus Photoshop is about to get even better. Adobe recently previewed a new Photo Restoration Neural Filter, designed to help users bring old or damaged photos back to life by detecting and eliminating scratches and other minor imperfections in seconds. Even better, some aspects of restoration can be turned on and off within the filter. And as with all Creative Cloud tools, subscribers will get this and all other updates for free.
Photoshop can also be further enhanced beyond what's in the initial interface – check out our guides to the best free Photoshop brushes and free Photoshop actions for more on that. The software also synergises well with other Adobe offerings. For example, photographers will pair it with Lightroom for smooth image management, while a motion designer might pair it with After Effects.
You can only get Photoshop via subscription, which doesn't come cheap. Hunting for the best Adobe Creative Cloud discounts can be a good way to soften the blow a bit, and you have the option of subscribing to Photoshop alone, a specific bundle for photographers, or the full Creative Cloud.
Not keen on subscriptions, and prefer to pay a one-off price? Then check out Affinity Photo. It's the best single-purchase photo-editing program you can get right now.
It's not just a cheap equivalent to Photoshop, but a viable alternative. It's got professional-standard editing features, and it can handle RAW editing, HDR Merge, panoramic stitching, focus stacking, batch processing, 360 degree image editing, non-destructive layers-based editing and smart objects. It can also handle PSD files without an issue, so if you're sick of Photoshop's running costs and want to jump ship, you'll still be able to work with all your in-progress files.
As we noted in our review, Affinity Photo doesn't quite pack in the high-end Photoshop features like its cutting-edge neural filters, but there is still a lot to impress. We particularly rate the Personas, which are essentially customised toolsets for different jobs, designed to put everything you're going to need for particular tasks at your fingertips.
Affinity Photo is available for Windows, Mac and as a dedicated iPad app. Its maker, Serif, also has a graphic design package (Affinity Designer (opens in new tab)) and a desktop publishing app (Affinity Publisher (opens in new tab)). As with Adobe's software suite, you can transfer projects between these programs without difficulty, making for a smooth workflow. While it doesn't include an equivalent to every single feature you'll find in Photoshop, it's pretty close, making it exceptional value.
For more details, see our Affinity Photo review.
While Photoshop is a very powerful image-editing tool, it is quite complex, and has a daunting learning curve. Not everyone needs that – some people just want a simple photo-editing interface that's easy to use, and for such people, we'd recommend checking out CyberLink PhotoDirector 365.
In our full review of CyberLink PhotoDirector 365, we were hugely impressed by the various AI-powered features that have been added into the latest version. Landscape photographers in particular may appreciate the AI sky replacement tool, which lets you seamlessly swap out a drab sky in an image for one with a little more drama to it. There's also automatic body shaping, tools for editing skin and faces, as well as lighting and animation effects.
The intuitive interface is easy to get to grips with. It's a little rough around the edges – use it long enough and you'll start to notice little glitches, types and other things that show a slightly lack of polish. But the fundamentals of CyberLink PhotoDirector 365 are strong, and if you want a budget-friendly option for photo editing, this is a great choice.
For more information, see our CyberLink PhotoDirector 365 review.
The new Luminar NEO is ideal for those of you who are used to making the odd tweak in mobile apps like Instagram, but want to want to take your photo editing skills to the next, desktop level. First off, the interface is super easy to use and excels in its intuitive design, and though the more professional photo editors will still be looking at the top three on this list, they may still be interested in the three canny AI tools that Luminar NEO has to offer.
When we tried it out, we were impressed by the best of these AI tools – the Remove powerlines tool. We tried it out on a dozen photos and it smashed it every time. The next AI tool is Sky Replacement, and when we used this, it was as simple as selecting a chosen sky and then a single click later, the finished image is created. Lastly, the AI crop tool automatically isolates the subject of the photo and crops it to create a more friendly composition. Overall, it's well worth the one-off payment for this fun photo editing software.
Given that Luminar is based in Ukraine, you might expect the software not to have had much attention recently. However, the reverse is true: astonishingly, the team have this month added one-click background removal for portraits. The new tool can manage even complex hair selections, and is claimed to take out as much as 90% of the work.
For more on the software as a whole, read our Luminar NEO review.
Need to edit your photos as quickly as possible? Skylum Luminar AI is a great choice. This photo editing software is firmly focused on speeding up the process, so photographers can spend less time editing and more time creating.
As the name suggests, the software uses artificial intelligence to suggest editing options that can enhance photos of different styles. It can suggest the best templates to improve images and has tools that can be used to tweak skies, accents, skin, faces and even eyes. There are specific tools for portraiture, landscapes, fashion, architecture, nature, and black and white photographs.
At a very reasonable one-off cost, this AI-based software for MacOS and Windows is certainly worth checking out. For more details, check out our tutorial on how to edit photos with Luminar AI.
InPixio Photo Studio is another middleweight photo editing software that's easy to use, and features some clever AI. Currently on version 11, its background eraser and cutout tool are particularly well designed, and there's also a cool sky replacement tool, although the results are not always the most realistic.
With a intuitive interface, this is among the most accessible yet full-featured photo editors for beginners, and makes it easy to perform basic edits very quickly. With the Pro version, you also get inPixio's Photo Maximiser for enlarging, and Photo Focus for sharpening; two job-specific tools that can be used separately.
Want to make edits right in your web browser? Whether you're on a mobile or desktop device, we recommend Pixlr X and its sister app Pixlr E. Both are very easy to use, and there's nothing to download.
The free plan is perfect if you just want to use these tools occasionally. However, you will have to wait for ads to load, which can slow things down. Alternatively, subscribe to a paid plan and the ads disappear.
Pixlr X allows you to make non-destructive edits to your images, and brilliantly can be used within Dropbox, which makes it a great addition to your toolkit for collaborative work. With a Photoshop-like interface (albeit much simpler) it offers a good range of adjustments and filters. Pixlr E, meanwhile, offers the same classic photo editing tools, with the addition of some extras for the pros.
Corel PaintShop Pro has been the budget alternative to Photoshop for Windows users for more than two decades, and it's still going strong. Supporting layers and allowing you to edit in both raster and vector image formats, as well as aping some of Photoshop's more advanced capabilities such as content-aware move, gradients, and filters, it has a lot to offer anyone who does photo-editing as part of their day-to-day job.
The latest version includes new smart AI tools, including the Frame tool (which quickly masks raster images to fit in specific shapes), AI Background Replacement, AI Denoise, which removes noise from a picture, and AI Portrait Mode, which lets you select a subject and add background blur. It also adds support for the HEIC and HEIF file types used on iPhones.
While Adobe Lightroom has a lot of good photo editing tools, at heart it remains a tool for organising images. For that reason, it's a great choice for anyone working with large numbers of photos, such as photographers and designers, who'd normally use it in tandem with Photoshop.
Lightroom helps you to organise your work by letting keep all of your photography in one place, edit it and share it from anywhere. You can store images on your computer, iPad, iPhone or Android device and even transfer photos automatically from your phone into Lightroom as you take them.
And that's not all. It can also handle complicated image management jobs that Photoshop isn't designed for. For example, it makes light work of day-to-day enhancements and RAW files. Syncing is automatic, so when you make an edit or flag an image as a favourite in one place, it updates everywhere else too.
While it's primarily an organisational tool, though, it does have decent photo editing capabilities, and these are constantly being added to. For instance, since the update in June 2022 you're able to adjust the intensity of presets that you apply to your photos and videos. Lightroom has also benefited from a new Red Eye Removal tool, powered by AI, and the introduction of ‘Adaptive Presets’: these use Adobe’s AI sky or subject masking tools to apply presets specifically to these areas, rather than the whole image. Lightroom also now supports video editing.
Check out our Adobe Lightroom review to learn more about the software.
If you're just getting started with image editing, full Photoshop may be a bit too much of a learning curve. Instead, you'd be better off with Photoshop Elements; a more basic alternative to Photoshop. Its handy Quick and Guided Edit modes make it great for beginners, but that doesn't mean it lacks power.
The 2021 version includes Auto Creations, a collage tool that scans and groups photos automatically or via the tagging and sorting tool Adobe Sensei. It also comes with a range of performance enhancements and upgrades. Best of all, it doesn't require a subscription: it's available for a one-off fee. On the flipside, that means you don't get it as part of a Creative Cloud subscription.
Dive in deeper with our full Photoshop Elements review.
Looking to convert RAW files? DxO PhotoLabis is the best in the business. It's a slightly complex tool to use, but it achieves impeccable results. You can browse images on your computer folder by folder, then select an image and choose from the default conversion/correction setting or a range of presets.
The software offers lens corrections that automatically compensate for the different degrees of distortion, chromatic aberration, edge softness and vignetting that are common to most digital camera lenses. The results are outstanding, although note this is a specific tool, not a general photo editor.
Fotor is a free easy-to-use photo editing and graphic design tool, aimed at amateur photographers and design enthusiasts. There are mobile and desktop apps as well as an in-browser version, and you get a full suite of tools that should cover most people's needs.
A one-tap enhance button aims to offer an instant fix, which will be loved by some and hated by others. A greater degree of control is offered via tools for resizing, cropping, rotating and straightening images. There's also a background remover and some handy retouching tools such as red-eye and wrinkle removal. There's even an HDR image creator and tilt-shift editor in case you're looking to turn your photos into something more dramatic.
GIMP is another free photo editing tool, but this one is open source. That means it will be free forever, and there's an enthusiastic community of worldwide developers behind it, who are constantly working to improve it.
The software available for Linux, Windows and Mac, and offers a broad range of tools including painting tools, colour correction, cloning, selection, and enhancement. The team has worked hard to ensure compatibility, so you'll be able to work with all the popular file formats without problems. The software also boasts a very capable file manager built in, similar to Adobe's Bridge.
Check out our GIMP review to learn more.
While Canva isn't one of the heavyweights on our list, it has some extremely useful tools. The photo-editor focuses on bringing simplicity to tasks that were previously quite time consuming, for example the one-click background remover (which will also blur the background) and auto-enhance and retouch. However, you will need the Pro version to access these tools (currently $9.95/£8.99 a month). For that, you also get access to a vast image, template and graphics library, which you can use to enhance your own photos.
That price point may not make the software worth it for those who want serious photo-editing tools, but if you're into Canva as a whole package (see our Canva review for more of what it offers), the simplicity of the photo tools are a worthwhile bonus.
Sumo Paint is another very capable browser-based image editor. It boasts all of the standard features you'd expect in a desktop tool – in fact, the Pro version for $9 a month (opens in new tab) includes the option to download a desktop version if you prefer.
Tools include brushes, pencils, shapes, text, cloning and gradients, which can all be accessed quickly from a Photoshop-like floating toolbar. Sumo Paint can open saved documents from your hard drive, making it a viable option for editing and re-editing, and its latest upgrade gives it a slick look. There are significant limitations, though. The editor appears to be RGB only, limiting its use to work designed for screens. There are No CMYK, Lab or other colour models offered.