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# 22 Best Photo Editing Software for PC in 2021 (Free and Paid)

In this article we take a quick look at 22 top photo editing programs for the PC, free and paid.

## Getting Started With Photo Editing on Windows

### What You Need To Edit Photos

Most people need at least two or three photo programs to complete their workflow: a file organizer to get and sort photos, a raw image converter to interpret the data from cameras, and a raster image editor (one that works with pixels). For a long time Adobe's Lightroom and Photoshop were the standard combo for Windows users but new alternatives now present plenty of interesting options: There are lots of neat ways process your photos without an Adobe subscription and we look at some combinations below.

### Review Notes

In the interests of running this part of the website I try out new photo suites from time to time to see what the alternatives are like, but I haven't performed any standard testing beyond my own idiosyncratic photographic processes. Nevertheless, I am happy to say that there are a few new, fun, intuitive, high-quality, and affordable photo editing programs worth your consideration.

I haven't covered every detail and this list is not exhaustive. I haven't mentioned all the programs available out there, just the ones I have used or tried. I have tried to capture in a few words what each program can do and who it's for, but, obviously, there is more to each of them.

This review was sponsored by AMS Software and features their software, PhotoWorks. However, beyond commissioning the article AMS has not told me what to write; these are my opinions.

## 22 Best Photo Editing Software for PC

### Capture One

Capture One is a powerful, professional alternative to Lightroom, offering high-quality RAW processing and file organization in one suite. This is a stable, long-running program; I first used a version of Capture One nearly a dozen years ago. Combine with Affinity Photo, Pixeluvo, PhotoWorks, or one of the other raster image editors on this list for a complete photo toolkit. $20/month subscription,$10 when used with a Fujifilm, Sony, or Nikon camera.

### Photoline

Photoline is a professional raster image editing program with a few features not offered elsewhere, like support for specialized colour-spaces. I own a copy of this software and use the 32-bit per channel option to make high-quality film scans. Like Affinity Photo, Photoline accepts Photoshop plug-ins. €59.

### Darktable and GIMP (Free)

I want to recommend Darktable and GIMP, but I do so with reservations. While both programs are clearly very capable in the right hands, and I want to use a free, open-source photo editor, after trying a few times over the years to get into each of them I just can't get past the intimidating interfaces. I'll try again when they eventually release GIMP version 3.0. (And please, change the insulting name already!)

### PhotoScape X (Free Basic Version)

A lightweight photo viewer and surprisingly powerful free editor, which includes batch functions, RAW support, other goodies. An unusual interface. Paid version unlocks more features, but the free version just might be enough for you. $0 or$40.

### Paint.net (Free)

Similar to GIMP in features, but easier to navigate (in my view, anyway). Includes layers and controls like hue, contrast, curves, saturation and levels. Supports plugins for extended features. Free.

## Suggestions

I've included notes on Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, but, figuring that if you are reading this you are considering other options, left them for last. For me, the reasons to look elsewhere come down to two things. Lightroom does not actually need many new features; it's already a mature program. Adobe does add some pretty amazing new features from time to time but, for me, who doesn't actually use half of them, it's hard to justify the continuing expense. And, because of the way the Lightroom catalogue system works, the photo files themselves are not inter-operable with other programs to the degree I'd like (though work-arounds exist).

### A Low-Cost Alternative

I've also covered Bridge and Camera Raw: one easy, affordable, old-school setup is to use Adobe Bridge to organize your files and Adobe Camera Raw for processing your raws — both are a free download if you have older Adobe software — plus whatever image editing program meets your budget and needs. This is what I am doing now. I am also currently experimenting with a combination of digikam and RawTherapee, the open-source organizer and raw developer, respectively (both free).

### For Professionals

In my view, Capture One is the most direct Lightroom alternative, and Affinity Photo the closest Photoshop analogue. If you're switching, that's probably the most comfortable combination. It's not the most affordable, though, with C1 at $10-$20 per month. If you do complex retouching and image manipulation or have plug-ins, check out Affinity Photo.

### For Everybody Else

Otherwise, and if you have an older computer (like me), check out Pixeluvo and PhotoWorks, both are affordable and suitable for low-spec machines.

If you're just getting into it, play around and combine the software below in your own way. PhotoWorks, Topaz Labs, Luminar, PhotoDirector, and DxO Photolab all have power enhancement features and AI-boosted workflows.

## Try Them All

OK! There's an overview of options for photo editing on the PC. All of these programs offer a trial version; if it sounds interesting, give it a go. They all go on sale, too.

Did I miss your favourite? Let us know in the comments below.