Photoshop is the world's go-to photo editor – so much so that the word has become verbified, like 'Hoover' or 'Google'. This might give the impression that Adobe's photo editor is the undisputed champion, but that all depends on what you use it for – for your purposes it may be a case of using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.
There are a wide range of capable alternatives to Photoshop, some of them paid-for and some free (go to page 2 for the free apps), but this list of the best photo editors wouldn't be complete without the ubiquitous Adobe application as well.
Promoted: Adobe Lightroom CC
Adobe Lightroom allows you to keep all your photography in one place, and organise, edit and share it from anywhere. Many creatives opt to use Lightroom as it can tackle the complex image management jobs Photoshop is not designed for, making light work of day-to-day enhancements and raw files.
With Lightroom you can store images on your computer, iPad, iPhone or Android device and even transfer photos automatically from your phone into Lightroom as you shoot them. Syncing takes care of itself, so when you make an edit or flag a favourite in one place, it’s automatically updated everywhere else.
Read our Adobe Creative Cloud review
01. Luminar 2018
For a Lightroom alternative at a reasonable, one-off price, the latest version of Luminar 2018 is well worth checking out. It's stuffed with tools for quick and easy photo fixes, including fast automatic corrections for lens distortion, chromatic aberration and removing fringes, as well as more than 40 non-destructive filters to enhance your shots.
Luminar 2018 also features a stack of pro tools to help you squeeze the best possible quality out of your images, including including manual lens correction, layers with blending modes, masks and a history panel, and best of all you can use your existing Photoshop plugins and also convert your Lightroom presets to its Lookup Table format.
02. Affinity Photo
We will never waver in our love for Serif's Affinity Photo, especially as it's available for Windows PCs and iPad as well as macOS, making it the subscription-free Photoshop alternative that everyone can enjoy.
The latest version boasts plenty of amazing features, including full HDR merge support, 360-degree image editing, recordable macros and batch processing, plus a tone mapping workspace that enables you to turn any image – whether it’s a standard JPG or an HDR photo – into a dramatic scene, bringing out details you never realised were there.
Read our Affinity Photo brings professional photo editing to iPad story
03. PaintShop Pro
PaintShop Pro has been the budget Photoshop alternative of choice on PC for over 20 years, and it's still holding its own. The new 2018 version promises to be easiest, faster and more creative than ever. It features ready-made project templates, a built-in screenshot function with a smart capture mode that lets you grab part of the screen, a gradient fill option and improved support for graphics tablets and styluses.
On top of the standard version, you can pay a little extra for PaintShop Pro 2018 Ultimate, which adds professional-grade raw editing, automatic photo corrections and screen recordings to the mix.
Read our PaintShop Pro X9 review
04. Photoshop CC
Photoshop CC is head-bangingly brilliant, and has too many features to summarise in this small space – but you can read more in our Photoshop CC 2017 review and explore its capabilities further in our Top Photoshop tutorials article.
There's no doubt that the latest Photoshop is a hugely impressive photo editing application; probably the best out there. But it comes at a monthly cost.
Image editing software Acorn debuted back in 2007 and has provided hobbyists and artists on a budget with a great, affordable piece of photo editing software. Features include layer styles, non-destructive filters, curves and levels, blending modes and much more.
Acorn 6 features non-destructive filters, which includes a great interface to chain filters together to create unique effects. You can even save and modify your filters after you've closed and reopened your Acorn image.
This is the basic alternative to Photoshop CC, as reflected in its great Quick and Guided Edit modes, but don't think that means it lacks power under the hood. Also, unlike Photoshop CC, Elements doesn't require a subscription.
It's now on the 2018 version, with better organisational tools, intelligent editing tools such as the ability to open closed eyes, options to print your images and features to make it easier to share images via social media.
Read our Photoshop Elements review
07. DxO Photolab
Things get a bit specific with PhotLab, but what it does, it does very well. Its results are spectacular, but it's a specialised and sometimes complex tool to use. It's arguably the best raw converter of all, but that's just about all it does.
DxO PhotoLab automatically compensates for the different degrees of distortion, chromatic aberration, edge softness and vignetting common to practically all digital camera lenses.
It's also a raw converter, and DxO has applied just as much scientific rigour to this process as its lens corrections. You can browse the 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 results are excellent. However, it would never be your one and only image-editing tool.
The Camera app that comes on the iPhone by default is not brilliant: yes, you can use it to take some decent shots, but it doesn't offer you much creative control.
This is where Camera+ excels. The app has two parts: a camera and a photo editor, and it truly excels at the latter, with a huge range of advanced features. Camera+ doesn't just limit you to editing new pics – you can quickly import your existing photos into the Lightbox where you can breathe new life into them.
Pixelmator uses Mac OS X libraries to create fast, powerful image editing tools, which allows the software to integrate seamlessly with the likes of iPhoto and Aperture, as well as iCloud. There are also built-in export tools for Facebook and Flickr.
Colour correction tools such as Hue/Saturation, Shadows/Highlights and Contrast are all present and correct, and Pixelmator supports filters and comes with a collection of 150 to play with. You can also open and save images in many of the popular formats, including PSD, TIFF, PDF and PNG.
When saving or opening Photoshop documents, layers are preserved allowing you to collaborate effectively with colleagues using Adobe's software.
10. Handy Photo
The selling point of photo editor Handy Photo is its interface, which uses the corners of the screen to cater for rotating menu options. It's all designed to keep the central area of the screen clear, allowing you to use swipe gestures to tone your effects up or down.
It's a powerful photo editor; the UI isn't for everyone, but this is an amazing price for the effects you get. The 'Move Me' tool enables you to clip out objects and move, resize or flip them.
Next page: Free photo editors